This epic hike is about 21 miles and involves steep up and down trails. For those who are really fit and have planned their trip to avoid the heat, this is one of those hikes you’ll keep reliving for years.
From the North Kaibab Trailhead on the North Rim, follow countless, snaking switchbacks into the belly of the Grand Canyon.
As you descend along the cliffside, look to the south for views of the San Francisco Peaks rising behind the flat-topped mesa walls. After 1.5 miles, the trail travels through the Supai Tunnel “a 20-foot-long hole-in-the-rock wall” then enters Bright Angel Canyon at mile 4.1.
Resthouses offering shade, water and emergency telephones are spaced in 1.5-mile intervals along the trail.
After passing the Pumphouse Residence at mile 4.8, the route continues southwest through Bright Angel Canyon, crisscrossing Bright Angel Creek numerous times, and crossing the Colorado River on a suspension bridge. Indian Garden, a small oasis on the canyon floor, appears after 17.5 miles.
The final 2.5 miles follow zigzagging switchbacks back up the canyon wall to the South Rim and the Bright Angel Trailhead.
Caution: Summer temperatures can soar into the 100s, so always carry water and start early to beat the midday heat. It’s highly recommended to do this hike in the fall or early spring when temperatures have cooled down. Also, don’t forget it is much easier to descend into the canyon than climb back up. Expect to spend at least double the amount of time climbing than descending.
If you need a park map to get a sense for where everything is and to map out your hiking routes, you can purchase one of three Trails Illustrated maps covering different areas of Grand Canyon National Park at REI.com.
For more information, go to the Grand Canyon National Park Web site: Backcountry Hiking and Getting Around.
-Mapped by Trung Q. Le
TO TRAILHEAD: Start (North Rim): From S. Lake Powell Blvd. and US 89 in Page, AZ, head southwest on US 89. In 23 miles, turn right onto US 89 ALT. In 55 miles, turn left onto AZ 67/North Rim Pkwy. (closed seasonally). Follow 41.6 miles to trailhead parking on left; End (South Rim): From S. Lake Powell Blvd. and US 89 in Page, AZ, head southwest on US 89. In 81.5 miles, turn right onto AZ 64. In 53 miles, turn right onto S. Entrance Rd. In 2.7 miles, continue straight on Village Loop Rd. Follow 0.3 mile to parking on right.
DIRECTIONS + WAYPOINTS: helping you find your way
Grand Canyon: Rim-to-Rim via North Kaibab Trail
Distance 20.92 mi
Position Format: Datum:
Point Name: GTR001: Hike south from the North Kaibab Trailhead. Ahead, descend the North Rim on a steep and snaking dirt path. Location: 36.21694, -112.05668
Point Name: GTR002: The San Francisco Peaks rise dramatically to the south behind the flat-topped canyon. Switchback descent continues. Location: 36.21541, -112.05309
Point Name: GTR003: Walk through the Supai Tunnel, a 20-foot-long hole in the rock wall. Potable water (seasonal) and restrooms are available here. Location: 36.21122, -112.04942
Point Name: GTR004: Cross a bridge over Roaring Springs. To the north, you may be able to spot the Supai Tunnel and the North Rim. Location: 36.20719, -112.04658
Point Name: GTR005: Turn around for the last views of the North Rim, then continue straight @ 3-way junction to enter Bright Angel Canyon. Optional: Turn left @ 3-way junction onto the 0.5-mile spur trail to Roaring Springs for views of water pouring out of the cliff wall and cascading down to Bright Angel Creek. Location: 36.19257, -112.03393
Point Name: GTR006: Pass the Pumphouse Residence; potable water is available here seasonally. Next, cross a bridge over Bright Angel Creek. Location: 36.18502, -112.03200
Point Name: GTR007: Cottonwood Campground: Bathrooms, potable water (seasonal), emergency phone and ranger station are available here. Continue heading southwest. Location: 36.16984, -112.04140
Point Name: GTR008: Turn left @ T-intersection. The trail on the right crosses Bright Angel Creek and leads 0.2 mile to a grotto with Ribbon Falls. Location: 36.15907, -112.05223
Point Name: GTR009: Look northwest for views of Ribbon Falls; trail winds to the southwest. Location: 36.15673, -112.05354
Point Name: GTR010: Cross the Bright Angel Creek on a footbridge. This is the first of five bridge crossings in the next 3 miles. A grassy, marsh surrounds the trail. Location: 36.14064, -112.06657
Point Name: GTR011: Cross another footbridge over Bright Angel Creek. Location: 36.13602, -112.07168
Point Name: GTR012: Cross a footbridge and continue hiking southwest. Location: 36.13268, -112.07377
Point Name: GTR013: Cross Bright Angel Creek on footbridge. This is a good area to filter water; drop your packs, refill water bottles, and relax on the shores of this small rushing creek. Location: 36.11546, -112.08653
Point Name: GTR014: Cross the last footbridge over Bright Angel Creek. Location: 36.11406, -112.08615
Point Name: GTR015: Continue straight on the North Kaibab Trail @ 3-way intersection. Clear Creek Trail enters on the left. Ahead, the trail leaves the Bright Angel Canyon. Location: 36.11063, -112.09163
Point Name: GTR016: Trail passes through Phantom Ranch. Refreshments are available at the general store. You can also find potable water (seasonal) and bathrooms. Look across Bright Angel Creek to the west for the Trans-Canyon Telephone Line, a nationally registered Historic Place. Next, reconnect with the North Kaibab Trail just past Phantom Ranch. Location: 36.10414, -112.09575
Point Name: GTR017: The trail passes 800-year-old ruins along the banks of the Colorado River. Turn right @ 3-way intersection. Potable water (seasonal) and a bathroom are available here. Ahead, the brownish-grey dirt trail transitions to a reddish color. Location: 36.09984, -112.09397
Point Name: GTR018: Cross the Colorado River on the Silver Bridge, a suspension bridge with views of the raging water below. After the bridge crossing, turn right @ the T-intersection (trail on the left leads to South Kaibab Trail). Look to the east and soak up views of both the Silver and Black suspension bridges. The sandy path ahead may slow your pace. Location: 36.09812, -112.09541
Point Name: GTR019: Continue straight @ 3-way intersection on the Bright Angel Trail. To the right, a trail leads down to the Pipe Creek Beach. Trail passes the River Resthouse and steeply climbs through the canyon up to Indian Gardens. Location: 36.09854, -112.11175
Point Name: GTR020: Continue straight on Bright Angel Trail @ 3-way intersection. Tonto East Trail enters on the left. Location: 36.08195, -112.12455
Point Name: GTR021: Walk through Indian Gardens; pass the pump station on the left and the Plateau Point Trail on the right (potable water is available here seasonally). Ahead, the trail bears left and passes the bathrooms, campsites, and eventually the Ranger Station. Stop and admire the wide variety of flora, which is unique to Indian Gardens. Location: 36.07831, -112.12708
Point Name: GTR022: 3-Mile Resthouse: Take a break at this shelter (emergency phone available). Only three miles of trail remain to the South Rim. The route continues to climb up switchbacks; views extend into the canyon to Indian Gardens. Location: 36.06555, -112.13623
Point Name: GTR023: 1.5-Mile Resthouse: There are 2 shelters here. One of them has potable water and a bathroom. Next, the trail continues to climb up switchbacks, but becomes noticeably flatter as it approaches the South Rim. Location: 36.06068, -112.13873
Point Name: GTR024: Walk through a small, 10-foot tunnel. Location: 36.05824, -112.14552
Point Name: GTR025: You have 2 options at this trail fork: 1. Bear left to crest the South Rim via the tourist walkway (mapped). 2. Bear right to reach the official Bright Angel Trailhead (not mapped). Location: 36.05746, -112.14407
Point Name: GTR026: The route ends at the Bright Angel Trailhead. Location: 36.05731, -112.14363