Take a Short Day Hike into the Grand Canyon

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Don’t have time for an all day hike but want to experience going down into the canyon? Or maybe you’re not an experienced hiker or are just out of shape. Then consider going down to the Mile-and-a-Half Resthouse, the first major stopping point along Bright Angel Trail.

Bright Angel Trail
Switchbacks and Canyons

Interesting Facts on Bright Angel Trail:

  • Bright Angel Trail is located at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, Arizona.
  • Full Length: From the Rim to the Colorado River below it’s 8 miles. To Phantom Ranch about 10 miles.
  • Trail Head: Is a little ways past Bright Angel Lodge off of the Rim Trail.
  • Parking: Anywhere around Bright Angel Lodge. Or you can park at one of the bigger lots further down and take the park’s free shuttle bus on over
  • Elevation Change: 4,460ft (1360m) from the Rim down to the Colorado River.
  • Temperature Changes: It’s said there’s a 5.5 degrees change every 1,000ft. It can be quite cool at the rim, but hot at the river.
  • Restrooms and drinkable water are available at some rest points during certain months out of the year. Check with the National Park website for up to date information on that.

Stopping points along the full trail include:

  1. 1.5 Mile Resthouse
  2. 3 Mile Resthouse
  3. Indian Garden Campground (4.8 miles and the halfway point)
  4. River Resthouse(8 miles)
  5. Bright Angel Campground(9.5 miles)
  6. Phantom Ranch* (9.9 miles)

*Phantom Ranch is a place to stay at overnight but requires reservations way in advance. Doing the whole trail and going back up in one day is NOT recommend.

Things to Note Before you go on the 1.5 Mile Hike:

  • Bring plenty of water even though it’s only a 1.5 miles, no matter what time of year it is! Arizona has a very dry climate, and even if it’s cooler out, you’re going to get thirsty. Some snacks are good too if you get hungry. We hiked mid morning and brought sandwiches so we could eat lunch once we got to the rest house.
  • There are outhouses at the 1.5 Mile Resthouse, but no running water.
  • Depending on the time of year it may be chilly at the top of the rim, but get warmer as you go down, even just the 1.5 miles, so wear layers that you can remove and pack in your bag. For October weather, I recommend a lightweight shirt, jacket or hoodie, and comfortable hiking pants.
  • As with most places out west, it can be very sunny in certain parts, so also bring a hat to keep the sun off your head, and sunglasses for your eyes.
  • The trail took us about 1.5 hours going down, and another 1.5 hours going back up, but we really took our time and stopped to take lots of photos. It was easy on the way down. The only hard part about this whole hike was being out of shape going back up. However if you go at a slow place and just take your time you’ll be fine!
  • What time to start the hike depends on the time of year. When we went it was early October, so the weather was just right. Not too hot or cold, so it was ok that we went mid morning and early afternoon. If you’re hiking in the summer heat however, you might want to keep this a morning hike when it’s cooler out and there’s shade on the trail.


What to expect on the hike:

It was early October when we went, and the sun was shining brightly outside that day, but at the rim the wind blew and it was on the cold side starting out. I had the hood of my winter jacket pulled up over my head and wished I had brought gloves with me. Not that they would last too long, since I just about always had my camera out, taking pictures everywhere. How could you not? The landscape and views out here are amazing!

The trail heads at the Grand Canyon are all clearly marked, with plenty of signage. You won’t get lost!

The reddish orange trail was pretty wide, with small stones of gravel dirt. It was an easy walk going down as the incline was gradual with switchbacks, and even some wide stairs in places.

The first cool thing we encountered was one of these arches cut through the cliff side(there are several going down). Luckily there weren’t a lot of people on the trail either! But the ones we did pass by were both young and old, a lot of variety in age really. Even if you’re not into hiking, you can go for a nice “walk” down this trail until it gets a bit rough for you. Although the only really rough part we encountered was going back up. If you’re not in shape be prepared for some heart pounding, lung pumping cardio! Even though it’s only 1.5 miles, it’s a 1,100ft elevation change.

You can see Indian Garden in the middle of the picture, where the gree trees and a stream runs through.

As we walked further down, the canyon rim started to tower over us, getting higher and higher.  Down below we were able to see Indian Garden (the halfway point for the whole trail from rim to river), where there was lush green trees growing in the middle. Many Havasupai native people used to live at Indian Garden and farmed the land there until the last was forced out by the park service in 1928.

These ground squirrels are super cute and come up close to you! But beware, they bite! And will steal your food! The Park Service warns against them, so please don’t feed them!
The camouflage pretty well among the rocks!

The Grand Canyon is really full of life. This cute little ground squirrel dashed out from the rocks and crossed our path many times. We stopped for a while to take pictures of him as he rummaged through a plastic bag left on the trail, and were able to get really close.

There were these beautiful blue Pinyon Jays flying around from bush to bush.

Pinyon jays also flew among the bushes and trees. They’re a beautiful bright blue with some lighter grays mixed in. Was hard getting a good picture as they flitted around so fast. Other little sparrow like birds few by us as well as some chipmunks.

At the 1.5 Mile Resthouse
You can see the restroom building on the left side of the picture.

We made it to the Mile and a Half Resthouse after about an hour and half of a leisurely walk down the trail. It was definitely warmer at this point. They say the temperature changes 5.5 degrees per 1,000ft down.
There were many people around using the Restrooms. It was decent if you have to use it. No running water of course, so outhouse style, but there were 3 stalls if I remember correctly so you shouldn’t have to wait in line too long if there are other people there. The Resthouse itself was up a little flight of stone stairs off the trail, and was empty at the time. Not much to see other than a covered shaded area to sit down in if needed. Yup, a resthouse!

A point several hundred feet past the Resthouse

We were getting hungry by this point, and walked a little past the Resthouse, down a couple more switchbacks to where we saw a promontory jutting out a ways. It was in the glaring sun, but we had our floppy hats and sunglasses, and the view here was terrific! Finding some flat rocks to sit on we put our bag down and got our or sandwiches to eat some lunch.

You’ll definitely want to keep an eye out and watch your bag, and food, if you eat anywhere on the trail. The ground squirrels LOVE it when you do, and try to get close to pick off what they can.

On our way back up we were in for a surprise. We were about halfway back up the trail when a few older hikers came down to pass us and one of the ladies in the group gave us a heads up, “Watch, there’s a mule train coming up ahead!”. Wow we were going to see the mules on the trail! Shortly after that we heard the clopping sound of hooves and moved over to the side near the cliff. I got my camera out and snapped away!

It’s amazing how the mules just walk on the trail with those huge packs on their back like it’s nothing.
On the left side of the trail here is where you stand to the side when the mules come to pass you.
Almost back to the top!

We had a beautiful day and such a great time on the trail. I can’t wait to go back and do the full hike all the way down to Phantom Ranch!

If you’re looking for other easy going stuff to see at the Grand Canyon, check out the Tusayan Ruins and Museum, and Desert View Watchtower.

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6 thoughts on “Take a Short Day Hike into the Grand Canyon”

  1. This is perfect for a short hike into the canyon. Sometimes people can only get to the area for a short amount of time and this will help with that. I love your photos of the animals and they make me miss my home country so much!

    • Thanks! It is an amazing place if you love to hike; great scenery and trails for both non-hikers to very experienced ones.


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