for anyone who has done it before...
How long does it REALLY take (for a 29 year old in good shape) to hike from the Bright Angel Trailhead on the South Rim to Phantom Ranch, carrying minimal gear (i.e. photo equipment)
I'm digging way back here since I haven't done it in forever, but I'd guess about 5 hours? I think it's 4-4.5 miles to Indian Gardens, plus down to the river from there, so that's my best guess. Sorry I can't be more accurate, my last time was headed up not down and it was in a January blizzard, so my recollection ain't the greatest.
I've day hiked down South Kaibab trail and up Bright Angel 4 times. I would recommmend that combo due to the fact that South Kaibab is a shorter trail and makes for a quicker descent, the shuttle between the trailheads is an easy 10 minute walk along the rim, and you get the variety of doing a loop. The descent is doable in 3 hours or less, depending on how easy you want to take it easy on your joints for the climb ahead. Last time I was down there I took right at 3.5 hours from rim down to Phantom. On the climb up Bright Angel I made one short stop at Indian Gardens and made it river to rim in 3 hours and 15 minutes. It's a well worth the trip and day tripping it is an attractive alternative to dealing with the whole NPS camping permit system.
I'd think long and hard about doing it all in one day in the summer, even being in good shape. The NPS advises strongly against it, and their daily incident reports this time of year are full of episodes involving dehydration, heat exhaustion, and other serious heat-related problems.
FYI, there is no water on the South Kaibab trail, and no shade either. Coming back up the Bright Angel, there is no water and little shade between the river and Indian Gardens. There are a couple of rest stops with shade and water on the 4.5 mile segment from Indian Gardens to the South Rim.
A common strategy for those who do try it is to leave very early in the morning and get as much of it done as possible before the sun gets too high. Coming back out, you're still going to need to work hard to stay hydrated.
I just got a message from a guy who got off a raft trip down there, and for a good part of the day they were registering temperatures above 120 degrees at river level.
I would definitely agree with this guy ^^^^ I've been down the grand a few times and done a fair share of hiking. There is literally NO shade on those trails in the middle of the day and the only water you'll find is at phantom ranch. They also say that most of the incidents down there with hikers are with 18-25 yo's (so you're a little older so what) that have the invincible complex and believe they can do it far faster than they can with far less supplies than they can.
A forum community dedicated to whitewater kayaking, boating, and rafting enthusiasts. Come join the discussion about safety, routes, gear, models, styles, gear swaps, reviews, accessories, classifieds, and more!