Peak(s):  Grand Canyon - 7,260 feet
Antelope Canyon - 4,000 feet
Date Posted:  03/25/2013
Date Climbed:   03/21/2013
Author:  dehrlich101
 South by Southwest - Arizona  

Grand Canyon
South Kaibab Trail DOWN and the Bright Angel Trail UP

Date: Thursday, March 21, 2013
Start time: 5:30 AM
Colorado River: 9:00 AM
End time: 2:00 PM
Elevation Gain ~ 4,380 Ft
Elevation Loss ~ 4,780 Ft
Milage ~ 16.5
Company: Kaitlin
Resources: A Virtual Hike in the Grand Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park Website, Summitpost and Nat Geo Map #261

We road tripped out to California last week for a wedding on Jalama Beach, Santa Barbara. On the way back we took our time and explored our neighboring state to the Southwest, Arizona. We had originally planned to stay overnight in the Canyon at either the Bright Angel or Indian Garden Campground but we found that we were much to late to get the permits that would allow us to do so. It is recommended that you apply for your permits as early as possible, it sounds like at least three months out is recommended. Information about Backcountry Hiking/Permits can be found on the parks website Click here for more information The park down right discourages people from attempting to hike from the rim to the river and back in one day. But we decided to go for it anyways because of the cooler spring temperatures, physical ability, and the availability of water along the route. (I would not recommend hiking to the river and back in one day during the summer months, and for someone that is not physically fit. It is a longgggg hike in and even a longer hike out!) If you do decide to go for it, be sure to bring plenty of water and food, water filter (Pipes routinely break in the winter and water is not always available) and start early.

The buses begin running at 4:30 am from the Mather Campground, and will return every half an hour. Take the Blue Route bus to the Vistor Center, and transfer to the Orange Route Bus to the South Kaibab Trailhead. More transportation information here. We woke up at 4:00 am, make some breakfast burritos, and caught the Blue Route bus at 4:45 am. They dropped us off at the Visitor Center, and we waited for the Orange Route bus to come around. We arrived at the South Kaibab Trail at 5:30 am, and started down in the dark.

Topo map of the route

Google earth view

The cold wind that morning kept us going quickly down the trail, with only the west facing aspects of the trail blocking most of the wind. We arrived at the ooh ahh point while it was still dark, which was disappointing because some of the pictures I had seen at the visitor center made it look like it was worth seeing.

The sun started rising around the time we first had a glimpse of O’Neill Butte. O’Neill Butte was named after Buckey O’Neill who was a jack of all trades in Arizona in the late 1800’s. While in Arizona he ran his own newspaper, practiced law, and served as a district court recorder, probate judge, superintendent of schools, and a tax assessor before the age of 30. Later he became the Mayor of Prescott and later the Sheriff of Yavapai County. Buckey promoted development of the Grand Canyon by convincing businessmen to finance a railroad to the South Rim, which eventually became the Grand Canyon Railway. Buckey’s cabin still stands on the South Rim next to the Bright Angel Lodge. More information about Buckey O’Neill Link.

South Kaibab TH

O'Neill Butte

South Rim Sunrise

O'Neill Butte aplenglow

The long way down


Land of shadows

Mule train

Soon we encountered the first people of the day. First was a trail runner on a light jog to the river and then back up Bright Angel and two strings of burros packed with supplies with their wranglers.

The trail is remarkably well done and was in great shape for the amount of use that it gets, there were several rest areas along the way with bathrooms. On the South Kaibab trail there is no water sources until the Colorado River. It is on the North side just after crossing the Black Bridge by the Raft Beach. While filling our water we met a group of people who were on a 21-day raft trip down the canyon. If you’re planning on a day hike of the canyon be sure to top off your water supply at this point.

Kaitlin and I sat by the Indian ruins and ate some food, and rested for a while before starting the return trip up the Bright Angel Trail. There were many people at the bottom of the canyon who had spent the night at the Bright Angel Campground and Phantom Ranch. We along the river to the Silver Bridge and crossed the Colorado River once again. The trail then heads north for a while along the river, before turning south then the up hill hike begins.

Colorado River

Black Bridge

Ancient Indian Ruins

Rafters on a 21 day float

Path leading to Bright Angel

Silver bridge

Kaitlin soaking her feet

Tricky buggers

Beginning of Indian Garden

Along the trail the foliage is surprisingly green because of the steam that runs along the trail for most of the way back up. When we arrived at Indian Garden rest point we rested for a while and ate some food. There was water, and restrooms at this point. Beware of the squirrels that lurk in this area, for they will steal any food that you set down or motion in their direction. As luck would have it we saw two of our friends who we were traveling with at Indian Garden and started back to the Trailhead together.

There are resting stops along the trail on the way back at 3 miles and 1.5 miles. Bright Angel was an enjoyable trail back to the rim because it is not as steep at South Kaibab, and has 300 feet less elevation gain due to erosion from Bright Angel Falls. Kaitlin and I arrived at the South Rim again around 2:00 pm, and waited at the bus stop for our friends to arrive to go back to the Campground for a much needed shower.


Almost out

The end!

Antelope Canyon Page, AZ - Chasing Sunbeams

The next day we woke up at 5:00 am, packed up camp and drove to Page, AZ to see Antelope Canyon. Antelope Canyon is not a technical canyon, I included it because I thought some of you would enjoy the photos.

On February 20, 2013 there was a landslide that took out a large portion of US 89A about 25 miles from Page which is the most direct route. The department of transportation has a detour that follows US 160 then to SR 98 as an alternate to the closed highway. There is a dirt road that goes though the Navajo lands that they are planning on paving soon, that will become the main detour until US 89A is fixed. AZDOT Flyer

To access Antelope Canyon you must be guided because the canyon is on Navajo Land. We used the Adventurous Antelope Canyon Photo Tours, who did an excellent job. Our group consisted of only 5 people (Several of the other groups we saw consisted of 30+ people)

Entrance to the Canyon

Sunrise over Monument Valley







Sun Beam by whiskey_dan, on Flickr

Wave by whiskey_dan, on Flickr

The Bear by whiskey_dan, on Flickr

Heart of the Canyon by whiskey_dan, on Flickr

Tumble Weed by whiskey_dan, on Flickr

The light by whiskey_dan, on Flickr

Hope you enjoyed the report!


Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions
I Man

03/26/2013 11:41
Awesome man. Great pics and lots of effort put into this TR! I cannot wait for more desert this season.
Run like an Antelope 8)


03/26/2013 14:19
Glad to see some other canyon reports. Looks like I'm not the only one avoiding the snow.


Very nice!
03/26/2013 16:37
I did this same loop hike about 14 years ago, and you did it on my birthday! Thanks for the memories! An excellent report! You put a lot of effort and documentation into this. Yes, it is an extremely enjoyable hike! Mid-March is one of the best times to visit with everything in full bloom down there, various brush and cacti. I was also amazed to see so many redbud trees in bloom along Bright Angel and in the Havasupai area. Never thought of them as being SW flora as we have many of them here in IA. Beautiful Antelope shots! Thanks for the wonderful post!


Looks like a blast!
03/26/2013 15:21
Great photos as well.


03/26/2013 16:08
photos of Antelope Canyon! Thanks for posting.


The river is very different
03/26/2013 18:41
We did the same route in late October...but spent the night at phantom ranch. This brought back some great memories. But the river is completely different. In late fall it is a beautiful green color as opposed the muddy brown in these photos. Didn't realize the spring runoff would have started already.


03/26/2013 20:42
Thanks for putting this up. I may have to road trip to Pasadena this spring, and I'll be looking for something along the way!


03/26/2013 22:33
Wow that trail screams to be ran!! Nice pics Dan and thanks a lot of solidifying my desire to go down there.

You and Furthermore keep tempting us with those holes in the earth that go the wrong direction.


03/26/2013 23:50
You've done an amazing job expressing what it is I love so much about Arizona...I really need to get back and do both of those trips one of these years!


03/27/2013 21:55
I Man, Furthermore, Mongoose, Screeman57, gcoldewey, and ChrisinAZ - Thanks for your comments, glad you enjoyed the photos and report!

Mtnhub - Happy belated birthday! I am glad you enjoyed the report and that it brought back some memories.

bergsteigen - On your way to Pasadena also check out Sedona, AZ! Beautiful area with a ton of hiking. We did Trail #45 Sterling Pass to Vultee Arch, its an easy 5 miler.. but well worth the stop.

Fireonthemountain - Abe, aren't those holes just upside-down mountains? It was a good change of pace going the other way. I believe you'd enjoy running the canyon, bright angel has just enough of a slope to be challenging but still very enjoyable. Can't beat the views!


04/05/2013 03:47
Those Antelope canyon shots are great!

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