Bright Angel Trail/South Kaibab Trails, Grand Canyon National Park

Bright Angel/South Kaibab Trails: These trails are two distinct and different trails. However, I’m going to lump these trails together for one reason: they are usually swarming with people. Similarly, I think enough has been written about them, so I’m going to keep my comments here very short.

How to Get There:

1. Kaibab Trail: During the summer, visitors have to take the “Kaibab Trail Shuttle Bus”. During the winter, look for the turn-off on the Desert View Drive.

2. Bright Angel Trail: The trail leaves from the signed trailhead in the Grand Canyon Village.

The Trails : From my experience working at two parks, and from my travels, there are certain places and things people have heard of and feel that they have to do or experience when they visit. Often, these “must-do” trails are clogged with people, leaving one to see not the natural splendor, but the back of the person in front of you, as well as the detritus (e.g., trash) that people bring with them. Equally as often, these trails don’t even have the “best” views or are the “best” trails for people to take. The result is in my opinion, tragic. People become disenchanted with the experience and the area becomes damaged from overuse. This is a textbook lose-lose situation. I’m not to sit here and say that I’ve never done things that haven’t been recommended to me. However, I will say that more often then not, when I have done “must-do” things, I have not enjoyed it for the above reasons. My advice in this situation is simple: when you’re on vacation, there is nothing that is a “must-do”. One should relax and find what they want to do. Chances are you will enjoy it better than what you were told to do.

If you absolutely are a person that has to do “must-do” things, my recommendation is as follows: go in the non-peak season. It will be less busy, and you too will enjoy it more. Peak season for the Grand Canyon is summer. The Canyon is very hot in the summer since it is in the high desert. During the summer, these two trails are packed with people. Packed is not even the correct term. During the summer, hiking these trails is like being in a herd of cattle, or a traffic jam – you pick your analogy. I will almost guarantee that there will be people in front of you and behind you. There will be people trying to pass you. There will be people you want to pass. It will be hot – and the temperature will only increase as you descend into the canyon. Yes, the views will be good. Will they be better than the other trails I’ve suggested? That’s a question of perspective. These trails are steep; perhaps not as steep as the Grandview, but still very steep in places. There is very little shade in the first several miles on both trails, and during the summer, both are very dusty. (It is, after all, the desert.)

Logistically, the Bright Angel Trail has sources for water on it in several early locations. The South Kaibab does not. In the summer, Rangers will be on one – or both trails checking to see if people are hydrated. I would recommend getting an early start should one be hiking either of these trails in the summer. Do not think that an early start will mean less people. The early start is to protect your body from the scorching heat. As noted above, if you absolutely must do these trails, I would recommend that you go in the Spring – or fall – not during peak season. These trails are still busy then, but not as busy as the summer. Regardless of what season you go, be sure to bring plenty of water.