Late Post. Grand Canyon SK-PR-BA Hike

Dec 10, 2016. Grand Canyon. South Kaibab-Phantom Ranch-Bright Angel.

The Adventure – Goal. Hike from South Kaibab trail down to Phantom Ranch and up to Bright Angel trail. This is my first hike down the canyon, with information and knowledge gathered from the web.  This is a good source of information for GC backcountry hiking – Backcountry Hiking Brochure (PDF).

The Gear.

  • Mizuno Merino Wool + Midlayer Jacket
  • Baselayer Pants + Mizuno Pants
  • Beanie + Neck Gaiter + Gloves + Hand Warmers
  • Hoka trail shoes + Drymax socks
  • UD vest with 50 oz bladder (H2O) + 2 bottles (Tailwind)
  • 3 servings of Tailwind in ziplock bags
  • 2 Nut bars, 1 bag of trailmix
  • Trekking Poles
  • Trail crampons (not used)
  • Headlamps (not used)
  • First Aid Kit (not used)
  • Extra shirt, light rain jacket, extra hand warmers (not used)

The Adventure – Details.
After an egg white omelette breakfast at Maswik Lodge cafeteria, I walked to the Bright Angel bus stop for the the 8:00AM Hikers’ Express bus to South Kaibab Trailhead. Weather forecast was sunny, with temps in the village area at about 30s in the morning. It was just me and 4 guys (doing an overnight hike) on the bus that day. We arrived at the trailhead before 8:30AM.

I started at 8:30AM from the South Kaibab Trailhead. The distance from the SK Trailhead to Phantom Ranch is ~7.4 miles, with an elevation drop of ~4780 ft. It is a well maintained but steep trail, without any water source this time of year. I jogged/speed-hiked the trail down skipping the urge to take pictures because I wanted to make sure I’d reach the bottom with enough time for the hike back up. There’s a popular phrase in Grand Canyon for those hiking the corridor trails – Going Down Is Optional, Coming Up Is Mandatory. Only when I saw the Colorado river and the black suspension bridge connecting the South Kaibab and North Kaibab trails that I took some pictures. I crossed the suspension bridge at 10:30AM, with ample time to reach Phantom Ranch.

Can you see the suspension bridge?

View of the Colorado river (left) and the suspension bridge (right) from the SK trail

Can you see the mule train?

Looking back after crossing the suspension bridge. Can you spot the mule train? (upper left)

I reached Phantom Ranch 10 minutes later. The temp at the canyon was about 60F. I removed my jacket and the baselayer pants and refilled my 2 bottles with my pre-packed Tailwind. Water is available in Phantom Ranch. Bright Angel Campground is ~0.4 mile across Phantom Ranch, separated by the Bright Angel creek. At 11AM, I left Phantom Ranch, crossed the Bright Angel campground, and headed towards the Bright Angel trail.

Phantom Ranch to the start of BA Trailhead is ~9.9 miles – longer than SK-PR, but not as steep, with a water source in the Indian Garden campground.  This information from the NPS website provides detailed information about the trail distances – Backcountry Trail Distances

There is another bridge crossing the Colorado river on the Bright Angel trail, sometimes referred to to as the white bridge (as opposed to the black bridge connecting SK and NK trails). The first 2 miles in the Bright Angel trail is nearly flat following the Colorado river. It then goes back to the trail on the mountain side. While the SK trail provided open views of the ridges and the canyon, this part of the BA trail provided close up views of the mountain walls. It feels like you are traversing the ‘carved’ section of the mountain.

I reached the Indian Ground campground past noon, and with lots of time to spare, I did an extra trip to Plateau Point, a 1.5 mile flat trail from Indian Ground campground. This trail is visible from some viewing points in the South Rim. It’s different at Plateau Point – you get a 360 view, both horizontal and vertical, from the ‘middle’ point of the Grand Canyon.

Panoramic view from Plateau Point

Panoramic view from Plateau Point

A view of Indian Garden Campgound / Bright Angel Trail from Plateau Point

View from Plateau Point trail – Indian Ground Campground and South Rim.

Purple cactus! Only in Plateau Point!

Added bonus. Purple cactus at Plateau Point trail.

Water is available in IGC. Refilled my water bottle and continued on with the hike. A group of hikers was resting and enjoying lunch at IGC. The trail becomes steeper and steeper as it gets closer to the South Rim. I started to see more hikers on this part of the trail, most of them probably doing an out-and-back hike from BA Trailhead to IGC. The last mile+ leading up to the BA trailhead was icy. From the website information, this is the part of the trail that’s almost always covered with snow and ice come winter time. Saw some hikers having difficulty going down because they had no traction. I advised one hiker who was sliding that it was not worth the risk to go down with those shoes – one false slide and you’d be part of statistics.

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Bright Angel – Snow-turned-Ice

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Bright Angel – Icy trail

I reached the Bright Angel trailhead at 3:40PM. Covered 21.56miles, including the trip to Plateau Point, in 6:40 hours.

Epilogue. Grand Canyon at the South Rim is already magnificent. It’s enough to give you chills. Hiking down the corridor trail is an added bonus to those who decide to do it. Seeing the different rock layers up close and being able to touch the mountain walls give a different perspective of this natural wonder. And once again, Thank You for letting me experience this.

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View from the South Rim – Sunrise Dec 12, 2016.

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