99°F
weather icon Partly Cloudy

Bright Angel Trail footpath offers strenuous, positive Grand Canyon experience

Every hiker who has heard of it dreams of walking the Bright Angel Trail, the famous footpath that snakes from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon all the way to the Colorado River on the canyon floor, with spectacular scenery almost every step of the way. If you’re going to hike it, May is one of the best months to do so, with average daily highs at 72 degrees on the rim and in the 80s about halfway down, at Indian Garden.

While many backpackers travel the entire trail down to the river, shorter segments of Bright Angel Trail are great for more leisurely, one-day hikes. (Nobody should try to hike to the river and back in a single day.)

Depending on the time you have and your physical abilities, there are three day-hike destinations you might choose: 1½-Mile Resthouse is about three miles round trip; 3-Mile Resthouse, at about six miles round trip; and Indian Garden, which is nine miles round trip. You will lose 1,131 feet, 2,112 feet and 3,060 feet in elevation, respectively, making it strenuous hiking on your return to the rim. Figuring it will take twice as long to hike back up as to descend, allow enough time for an error in calculation, and carry a flashlight or headlamp even if you think it is only a day hike.

The Resthouses were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps from native stone in 1935 and 1936. They all have shade, toilets and resting benches. Drinking water is usually available this time of year, although the pipes break once in a while, so plan on carrying all the water you need just in case.

The trailhead is at an elevation of 6,820 feet and is just west of the Bright Angel Lodge near the Village/Hermits Rest shuttle transfer station. The trail was first worn by prehistoric hunters and gatherers followed by miners in the 19th century. Now it is used each year by thousands of hikers, backpackers and mule trains taking visitors down into the canyon.

The beginning of the trail is fairly steep, and there are extreme drop-offs, so this isn’t a good one for small children. It is also a hot and sun-exposed trail, except at the resthouses, so you will need sunscreen, a wide-brim hat, protective clothing and good hiking boots. Trekking poles come in handy, and an early morning start for this hike is imperative.

Just a few hundred yards down the trail, you will come to the first of two small man-made tunnels you will pass through. After passing through the first one, look up on the left cliff wall for a shallow alcove. This is called Mallory’s Grotto. Climbing up into it isn’t allowed, but from the trail, you’ll be able to see red pictographs, some of which appear to represent elk. These are thought to have been painted by ancestors of the Havasupai Indians, who reside in the western Grand Canyon.

Indian Garden is the farthest destination you should attempt to reach on a one-day round trip. There you will find a small manned ranger station, campground and picnic area. You need to acquire a permit in advance to stay at the campground. There are plenty of mature deciduous trees and even a spot you can sit, soak and cool off in Bright Angel Creek before your return to the rim. Watch your backpacks, as there are lots of inquisitive squirrels.

You might encounter a mule train while hiking this trail. Unless the wrangler instructs you to do otherwise, stop hiking and stand quietly on the uphill side of the trail and wait for them to pass by.

Deborah Wall is the author of “Great Hikes, A Cerca Country Guide” and “Base Camp Las Vegas: Hiking the Southwestern States,” published by Stephens Press. She can be reached at deborabus@aol.com.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Local Videos
Fremont Street Experience is counting down to reopening - Video
A countdown clock is running for the reopening of the Fremont Street Experience in downtown Las Vegas on Friday afternoon, May 29, 2020. (Elizabeth Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CrossFit Apollo reopens after COVID-19 shutdown - Video
CrossFit Apollo gym co-owner and a member talk about their first day back, Friday, May 29, 2020, after gyms and fitness centers were closed during the coronavirus shutdown. (Glenn Puit and Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gym owner Rob Martinez talks about reopening.
Rob Martinez, owner of The Gym Las Vegas, talks about reopening his gym under Phase Two of Nevada's reopening plan. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas gyms reopen.
Desiree Ford talks about getting back to the gym after Nevada moves into Phase Two of its reopening plan. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CrossFit gym reopens
Chad Cole, co-owner of CrossFit Apollo, talks about the reopening of his gym as Nevada moves into Phase Two. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Train carrying decommissioned nuclear reactor passes through Las Vegas - VIDEO
The train carrying a decommissioned nuclear reactor vessel from Southern California is passing through Las Vegas on Thursday afternoon. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MountainView Hospital protest
Nurses at MountainView Hospital in Las Vegas hold a protest Thursday morning over what they say are planned layoffs and pay cuts by the hospital’s owner, HCA Healthcare. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
COVID-19 testing site moves to UNLV Tropicana parking garage - Video
New Clark County COVID-19 testing site at UNLV Tropicana Avenue parking garage opens Wednesday and includes pediatric and walk-up testing. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Motorcyclist killed in crash in southwest Las Vegas - Video
Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Travis Smaka confirmed a motorcyclist was killed in a crash with another vehicle at Durango Drive and the 215 Beltway just before 9 a.m., Monday, May 25, 2020. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas man runs 100-mile marathon for veterans on Memorial Day - Video
Pete Madredes ran a 100-mile marathon at Exploration Peak Park in Las Vegas to raise money for Mission 22, a nonprofit that supports veterans with mental illness. He started Sunday morning, May 24, and ended Memorial Day morning. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Neon Museum reopens after coronavirus shutdown - Video
The Neon Museum reopened Friday night, May 22, after it shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Working at home with kids
Educators Jessica Houchins and Christopher Houchins discuss their work life merged with their parenting life during quarantine, at their home in Henderson on Thursday, May 14, 2020. (Elizabeth Page Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
6.5 earthquake in western Nevada - Video
A 6.5-magnitude earthquake damaged U.S. Highway 95, which was closed west of Tonopah near Coaldale, on Friday, May 15, 2020. (Nye County Sheriff's Department)
Southern Nevada Health District discusses contact tracing
Devin Raman, senior disease investigator at SNHD, explains how contact tracing works, noting how local clusters of disease are tracked.
Cowabunga Bay Prepares For Patrons
The management and staff at Cowabunga Bay in hopes of opening soon are implementing coronavirus safety measures to ensure patrons are happy and safe.
Pickleball courts coming to Sunset Park - Video
Clark County officials broke ground Tuesday on a championship pickleball tournament complex at Sunset Park, expected to open by next spring. (Clark County)
Great-grandmother meets great-granddaughter through window
A global pandemic couldn't keep June Watkins from meeting her 1-month-old great-granddaughter, even if it had to be through a window. Christie Jensen, the baby's mother, brought together four generations of women with her mother, DeeDee Jensen, when they brought the baby to meet Watkins for the first time ahead of Mother's Day on Sunday.
Firefighters deliver free pizza to coronavirus testers - VIDEO
The Professional Firefighters of Nevada delivered free pizza and soft drinks to Nevada National Guard members and health care workers who are performing COVID-19 testing at the UNLV School of Medicine. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas police investigate fatal crash - VIDEO
One person died at University Medical Center after a two-vehicle crash at West Russell and South Fort Apache roads, Thursday morning, May 7. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Southern Nevada Health District COVID-19 update
Southern Nevada Health District staff conduct a video briefing to provide updates about the public health agency’s COVID-19 response in Clark County.
Greg Zanis, the cross maker, has died - VIDEO
Greg Zanis was the Illinois carpenter who built and erected the 58 simple white crosses in the shadow of the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign that turned into a focal point for a city’s grief after the Route 91 Harvest festival shooting in 2017. He died on Monday, May 4, 2020. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Seniors, people with disabilities getting special shopping hour at Costco - VIDEO
Costco will implement new rules Monday that, in addition to requiring face masks, will allow seniors 60 and older to shop from 9-10 a.m. weekdays. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Henderson Coalition for Responsible Government protest
Henderson Coalition for Responsible Government protest. (Julie Wootton-Greener/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Desert Oasis students celebrate senior prom with parade - VIDEO
Desert Oasis High School’s senior prom was supposed to be held Saturday, but it was canceled when schools statewide were closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Henderson winery reacts to Sisolak's economic plan - VIDEO
Governor Sisolak's reopening plan is easier said than done for the only winery in Clark County. Grape Expectations is trying to figure out how to open up shop when they are three businesses in one. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Locals rush to reopened tennis courts
Daniel Nunez and Sarah Germain made immediate plans to go to their local tennis court, Darling Tennis Center, when they received an email that the facility would open on May 1.
Allegiant Air employees deliver snacks and drinks to food pantry - VIDEO
Allegiant Air donated food items to the Vegas Community Pantry in Las Vegas. The snack and drinks are commissary items that Allegiant planned to serve to passengers who were flying to Las Vegas for March Madness. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Health care workers protest over unsafe working conditions - VIDEO
Healthcare workers from Service Employees International Union (SEIU) gather at Southern Hills Hospital to protest unsafe working conditions at Las Vegas HCA-affiliated hospitals and demand that OSHA intervene. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
COVID-19 Q&A - VIDEO
You had questions, and we've got the answers! Renee Summerour sits down with Dr. Brian Labus, epidemiologist with the UNLV School of Public Health and member of the governor's medical advisory team, and RJ health reporter Mary Hynes to answer viewer questions regarding the coronavirus spread in Nevada. (Renee Summerour/Las Vegas Review-Journal) THIS WEEK WE COVERED A LOT OF TOPICS: 1. POSTPONED MEDICAL/DENTAL PROCEDURES 2. GOV. SISOLASK ANNOUNCES TO EXTEND STAY-AT-HOME ORDER 3. THIS THE STAY AT HOME ORDER PART OF THE "ROAD TO RECOVERY PLAN"? 4. WILL THERE BE A MASK REQUIREMENT STATEWIDE? 5. DOES WEATHER PLAN A ROLE IN THE SPREAD OF COVID-19? 6. WHERE IS NEVADA THIS WEEK ON ANTIBODY TESTING? 7. MYTH: AIR CONDITIONER CAN CAUSE CORONAVIRUS 8. IS IT SAFE TO GO BACK OUTSIDE? BEACHES? HIKING? ETC?
Fire at strip mall in east Las Vegas - VIDEO
Firefighters battle a blaze at Nellis Plaza at 1000 N. Nellis Blvd. in east Las Vegas, Wednesday, April 29, 2020. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas City Hall marks Israeli Independence Day - VIDEO
Las Vegas City Hall’s lights turned blue and white Tuesday night to mark Israel’s 72nd Independence Day. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Lines move quickly through CCSD food distribution sites - VIDEO
Individuals pick up packaged meals from Clark County School District food distribution sites on Tuesday morning, April 28, 2020: Basic Academy of International Studies in Henderson and Kelly Elementary School in Las Vegas. (Elizabeth Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Neighborhood rallies behind grad amid the coronavirus lockdown
Riley Lynn Thacker's mom put a sign in their yard to congratulate her daughter completing her senior year and neighbors followed suit. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST
Bryce Canyon even more magnificent in wintertime

Most visitors come from late spring to fall, but if you venture to the Southern Utah park this time of year, you’ll find the colors seem more vibrant and the overlooks and trails are crowd-free.