Part TWO! If you missed Part ONE it was about the preparation, gear and fuel we used.
This post is all about the hike details and photo chronicle!
I set out with a fellow hiking junkie named Mike. We have had this one planned for some time. This is a heck of a task to complete in one day – choosing the right teammate is essential. I found a great one in Mike. Our pace was very similar and stamina as well. I trained hard for this and used it as a 3 month out training hike for my upcoming Kilimanjaro climb. Mike has done this one before but not the exact route we took.
Start by descending 4600 feet over 7 miles down the S. Kiabab trail. Once to the river cross over on Black Bridge. Traverse along the river then cross back over to the South side via Silver Bridge. From there ascend up Bright Angel Trail 9.6 miles and 4300 feet of climbing out of the canyon to complete the loop.
TIME AND STATS:
We started at approximately 8:45am on Good Friday March 29th 2013. We took our time descending the South Kiabab trail for photo’s and restroom breaks, 3 hours and some change to get down. We spent 30-40 minutes at the river having lunch and resting then headed up Bright Angel Trail to complete the whole hike in 6 hours. Our Ascent out the 9.6 miles with 4300 feet of gain was finished in a scorching pace of 2 hours and 10 minutes. We both attributed the PR we achieved to training, hydrating, and the fuel we used for the hike.
We stayed the night prior in Flagstaff AZ. to help acclimate to the higher altitude. It was a 1.5 hour drive from Flagstaff to the Bright Angel parking lot.
Both at the beginning and end of these trails, the first couple miles are full of non hiker tourists. They are unaware of hiking manners and really can cause a few problems. The cliffs are steep and many like us have been hiking for hours upon hours once we get out of the canyon. It can be very mentally challenging to traverse through these crowds.
We had a grip of food, water, electrolyte drinks and are both in extremely good hiking condition. Majority of the loopers look for a 10-12 hour total time in the canyon if doing this in one day. Consider the logistics. We were there for 6 hours and used up 90% of what we brought in supplies. We also hydrated like crazy for the 2 days prior.
There are several restrooms along the trail, usually one to two miles apart but no potable water available at all.
PARKING AND SHUTTLE:
Mike did an excellent job of researching where to park and how to utilize the shuttles to your benefit. One of the reasons we chose this over a rim to rim hike is due to the 5 hour drive it takes to get from the North Rim to the South Rim.
This hike is the same climb out, with 7 less miles of flat trail. You also can leave your car at the Bright Angel parking lot and take the shuttle bus to start your trek at the S. Kiabab Trailhead. This way when you finish your car is waiting at the Bright Angel trailhead for you.
It is about a 35 minute shuttle from one Trailhead to the other. This particular route only runs on the hour for 3 hours in the mornings. The times change per the time of year. We took the 8AM bus. Depending on the time of year or day you hike the bus can be packed. It is called the Hikers Express Shuttle Bus.
MAP AND VERTICAL PROFILE OF THE LOOP:
Myself and my friend Mike- fellow hiking extraordinaire and photographer at the South Kiabab Trailhead.
It is extremely difficult to show the steep descend on this trail. This photo while not the best photographic work ever shows the switchbacks taking you down 4600 feet over 7 miles.
We took our time and snapped many photos along S. Kiabab. The terrain was quite different along the whole trail. The S. Kiabab was very open and scenic. Great opportunities for photos everywhere.
The contrast in the canyon is amazing. Mike took this photo. Can you see me in the gap? I am wearing fluorescent pink shirt and fluorescent green pants. I look like an ant. Just goes to show how little we are in this setting, and how difficult it is to find someone who is lost without the proper emergency signaling tools.
3/4 of the way down the S. Kiabab trail you turn a corner and suddenly there it is- the muddy Colorado River. You can also see the green tree filled section in the photo- that is Phantom Ranch.
Once you are almost down you see the Black Bridge. You have 3 choices here:
1. You can cross the Black Bridge and go to Phantom Ranch
2. Cross the bridge and traverse on the North side to officially cross the river then come back along the Silver Bridge down the river to connect with Bright Angel Trail
3. Stay on the South side to catch Bright Angel trail- but WHY would anyone not want to cross these awesome bridges!
Crossing Black Bridge to the North side of the Colorado River
On the North side of the river before the crossing back over Silver Bridge there is a house. I am assuming it is for the park rangers and such. I would LOVE to rent that puppy!
Crossing back over Silver Bridge to get to the Bright Angel Trailhead
Before getting back on the Bright Angel Trail we stopped along the river for some photo’s and lunch. We spent about 30-40 minutes here refueling and soaking it all in. There are sandy beaches and rafters docking all around.
Mike and I at our lunch spot with full bellies getting ready to tackle the climb out. He scoped this spot out last time he was down here as a perfect place to snap some photos. This photo was also taken by Mike.
Here it is the SHIRTLESS not TOPLESS photo I promised haha! My friends tell me taking some photos of what all this clean eating and mad training is doing to my body is a must to show a personal testimonial. This was as far as I was willing to go haha! Sara, I promise we will have some fun and get some bikini shots soon. Maybe. 😉
Hydrated, rested, fueled and time to get back on the trail. This sign was worth a photo. HIKE SMART!!
Here we begin our 9.6 mile 4300 foot climb out of the canyon.
The start of Bright Angel trail is through sand that feels and looks like a beach. I can imagine in the dead heat of the summer how hot it would be right here.
Bright Angel Trail was very different from S. Kiabab. It was so scenic but in a very different way. It was much more lush, green and dense. The views were not as spectacular as the S. Kiabab in my opinion but the Indian Gardens and plant life along this trail were breathtaking. There were a few waterfalls along the way.
We saw 3 groups of Burro’s hauling either loads or people in and out of the canyon. They have the right of way so we step to the side and allow them to pass. They bite I hear so keep your hands to yourself!
This is about 3/4 of the way up Bright Angel Trail. It is insane to look back at the trail you just covered. I didn’t get many photos along this trail. It is very mental for me to do an ascent of this kind after already tackling such mileage I really have to focus and crank it out.
It was PACKED with non hikers and tourists the last 2 miles of the climb. It was very challenging to deal with the people not having a clue how to behave on the trail. Many people were carrying large packs and had been hiking for days. The people at the top had no clue what it was like to be dodging and ducking after a trek of that nature.
Point is, be careful- watch the kids and others around. You’re tired, hot and it can be dangerous. I was bumped into several times even though I was staying to the far right.
DONE!!! SWEET VICTORY! Mike was to the top about 5 minutes before me. We clocked our ascent at 2:10. Insane. Both totally shocked and in awe of what we had just accomplished.
Our car was about 1/4 mile walk away from the trailhead where we left it that morning. We went back to the car, layed out Mike’s yoga mat and got cleaned up while doing some major stretching. We hit a convenience store for some cold drinks and headed to Flagstaff. Mike dropped me at my car and we both drove back to Phoenix that same day.
WHAT A DAY. I am so incredibly fortunate to have the ability and opportunity to do this trek. It was one of the best days in my hiking career. I would love to do many other things in the canyon but checking this off my list was a priority. What a glorious check mark it was.
The entire time I was in the canyon it never truly sunk in where I was and what I was seeing- it is so overwhelming in so many ways. It is so difficult to take in all the elements, scenery and the challenge of the hike. I feel like my eyes saw a lifetime in that 6 hours.
“The wonders of the Grand Canyon cannot be adequately represented in symbols of speech, nor by speech itself. The resources of the graphic art are taxed beyond their powers in attempting to portray its features. Language and illustration combined must fail.” -John Wesley Powell
The information contained on this web site is not to be considered a guide, instead it is my report of the trails I have done so that you may have a general idea of what to expect on the hikes. I take no responsibility nor assume liability for inaccuracies, errors, omission, or incompleteness of any information.
You are responsible for using your judgment in interpreting and using this information to safely enjoy your own outdoor pursuits. Each trail has its own potential hazards, each needs to be evaluated for each person based on that person’s personal fitness level and other considerations.
Boy Scouts motto: Be Prepared!!