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Backpacker Magazine – October 2008

Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon - America's Most Dangerous Hikes

Baked or broiled?

by: Kelly Bastone


The Hike Trekking from rim to river (and back) is one of the planet's iconic journeys, an achievement nearly every Grand Canyon visitor longs to notch. Trouble is, canyon temps routinely top 110°F in summer, and that hellish heat–combined with the exertion of climbing 4,380 vertical feet over 9.5 miles–results in about 200 heat-related rescues in the park each year, most of them on the Bright Angel Trail. In fact, a spate of deaths 10 years ago prompted the creation of PSAR (Preventative Search and Rescue), a team of rangers that patrols the Bright Angel Trail, assessing individual hikers, dispensing water to the suffering, and urging the unprepared to seek safety.

Exhibit A At 120°F, brain cells burst like tiny egg sacks, spilling their thick, salty fluid in thousands of deadly hemorrhages. Before that happened, 28-year-old Avik Chakravarty–who died here in July 2005–would have experienced cramps, scorching thirst, and hallucinations. His error: climbing up in the midafternoon heat. It's one that's easy to make on the Bright Angel Trail, which departs from the South Rim's commercial cluster. That convenience attracts scores of impulsive hikers who find that going down is easy–but climbing up is torturous. "The death zone is between the river and Indian Gardens, about halfway up," says Michael Ghiglieri, a Colorado River guide and co-author of Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon. The dark grey schist at lower elevations absorbs and radiates heat like a cast-iron frying pan, so when thermometers read 110°F in the shade at Phantom Ranch, hikers endure 130°F ground temps on the trail. Most people try to escape the inferno by hurrying along, which exacerbates heat illness. Explains Ghiglieri, "People feel so hideous they keep going to get it over with, instead of resting."

Survival Plan Start hiking down in the mild temps before dawn. At the bottom, cool off in the creek. Carry lots of water–Ghiglieri recommends drinking five to six liters on the round-trip–and pace yourself on the ascent. "Don't just go steadily until you drop dead," he warns. "Rest for 15 minutes of every hour you climb." Even better, delay your return until evening, and finish your hike by headlamp.




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Reader Rating: -

READERS COMMENTS

Star Star Star Star Star
Michelle
Jun 19, 2014

I just hiked the South Kaibab Trail down to the river and then turned around after two hours rest and headed up the Bright Angel Trail!!! I made it down the South Kaibab in six hours 8:00 am to 2:10 pm but I don't think I drank enough water!!! However my bigger mistake was I ate my food too fast while I rested at the spring near the water pump where the sign highlights the beginning of the Bright Angel Trail!!! So after 2 hours rest at the spring I headed back up with my indigestion in full blast!!! That slowed me down so it took me 8 hours to get to the 3 mile rest stop!! I did pick up time once it got dark!!! Unfortunately, once I stopped and got water at the 3 mile stop my flashlight did not cast a wide enough range for me to be sure where the trail picked back!!! More importantly the wind started picking up really bad, so I decided to stop since this was my first hike of this magnitude!!! I ended up sleeping in the 3 mile bathroom because the wind was so forceful!!! I left the 3 mile rest stop around 7:00 am but my stomach was now totally shut down!!! So I decided I would keep drinking, sipping very slowly and nibble very slowly on my wheat thins and almonds!!! It took me 9 hours to walk three miles!!! I had to rest every couple of feet because my indigestion was so taxing on me!!! The nice people I met along the trail along, offering me encouragement by agreeing I should get back the way that works best for me was very helpful!!! Knowing my friends were waiting up at the top of the Bright Angel Trail also kept me going!!! So I would say as much as I read, practiced and prepared the two things I want to share is hydrate properly on the way down and if you have stomach trouble, which I have had all my life, take measures to assist your stomach in handling the strain of the hike!!! If you want to do this hike please do!!! It was my gift to myself for my 55th birthday and it was well worth it!!!

Star Star Star Star Star
Michelle
Jun 19, 2014

I just hiked the South Kaibab Trail down to the river and then turned around after two hours rest and headed up the Bright Angel Trail!!! I made it down the South Kaibab in six hours 8:00 am to 2:10 pm but I don't think I drank enough water!!! However my bigger mistake was I ate my food too fast while I rested at the spring near the water pump where the sign highlights the beginning of the Bright Angel Trail!!! So after 2 hours rest at the spring I headed back up with my indigestion in full blast!!! That slowed me down so it took me 8 hours to get to the 3 mile rest stop!! I did pick up time once it got dark!!! Unfortunately, once I stopped and got water at the 3 mile stop my flashlight did not cast a wide enough range for me to be sure where the trail picked back!!! More importantly the wind started picking up really bad, so I decided to stop since this was my first hike of this magnitude!!! I ended up sleeping in the 3 mile bathroom because the wind was so forceful!!! I left the 3 mile rest stop around 7:00 am but my stomach was now totally shut down!!! So I decided I would keep drinking, sipping very slowly and nibble very slowly on my wheat thins and almonds!!! It took me 9 hours to walk three miles!!! I had to rest every couple of feet because my indigestion was so taxing on me!!! The nice people I met along the trail along, offering me encouragement by agreeing I should get back the way that works best for me was very helpful!!! Knowing my friends were waiting up at the top of the Bright Angel Trail also kept me going!!! So I would say as much as I read, practiced and prepared the two things I want to share is hydrate properly on the way down and if you have stomach trouble, which I have had all my life, take measures to assist your stomach in handling the strain of the hike!!! If you want to do this hike please do!!! It was my gift to myself for my 55th birthday and it was well worth it!!!

Star Star Star Star Star
Michelle
Jun 19, 2014

I just hiked the South Kaibab Trail down to the river and then turned around after two hours rest and headed up the Bright Angel Trail!!! I made it down the South Kaibab in six hours 8:00 am to 2:10 pm but I don't think I drank enough water!!! However my bigger mistake was I ate my food too fast while I rested at the spring near the water pump where the sign highlights the beginning of the Bright Angel Trail!!! So after 2 hours rest at the spring I headed back up with my indigestion in full blast!!! That slowed me down so it took me 8 hours to get to the 3 mile rest stop!! I did pick up time once it got dark!!! Unfortunately, once I stopped and got water at the 3 mile stop my flashlight did not cast a wide enough range for me to be sure where the trail picked back!!! More importantly the wind started picking up really bad, so I decided to stop since this was my first hike of this magnitude!!! I ended up sleeping in the 3 mile bathroom because the wind was so forceful!!! I left the 3 mile rest stop around 7:00 am but my stomach was now totally shut down!!! So I decided I would keep drinking, sipping very slowly and nibble very slowly on my wheat thins and almonds!!! It took me 9 hours to walk three miles!!! I had to rest every couple of feet because my indigestion was so taxing on me!!! The nice people I met along the trail along, offering me encouragement by agreeing I should get back the way that works best for me was very helpful!!! Knowing my friends were waiting up at the top of the Bright Angel Trail also kept me going!!! So I would say as much as I read, practiced and prepared the two things I want to share is hydrate properly on the way down and if you have stomach trouble, which I have had all my life, take measures to assist your stomach in handling the strain of the hike!!! If you want to do this hike please do!!! It was my gift to myself for my 55th birthday and it was well worth it!!!

Star Star Star Star Star
Michelle
Jun 19, 2014

I just hiked the South Kaibab Trail down to the river and then turned around after two hours rest and headed up the Bright Angel Trail!!! I made it down the South Kaibab in six hours 8:00 am to 2:10 pm but I don't think I drank enough water!!! However my bigger mistake was I ate my food too fast while I rested at the spring near the water pump where the sign highlights the beginning of the Bright Angel Trail!!! So after 2 hours rest at the spring I headed back up with my indigestion in full blast!!! That slowed me down so it took me 8 hours to get to the 3 mile rest stop!! I did pick up time once it got dark!!! Unfortunately, once I stopped and got water at the 3 mile stop my flashlight did not cast a wide enough range for me to be sure where the trail picked back!!! More importantly the wind started picking up really bad, so I decided to stop since this was my first hike of this magnitude!!! I ended up sleeping in the 3 mile bathroom because the wind was so forceful!!! I left the 3 mile rest stop around 7:00 am but my stomach was now totally shut down!!! So I decided I would keep drinking, sipping very slowly and nibble very slowly on my wheat thins and almonds!!! It took me 9 hours to walk three miles!!! I had to rest every couple of feet because my indigestion was so taxing on me!!! The nice people I met along the trail along, offering me encouragement by agreeing I should get back the way that works best for me was very helpful!!! Knowing my friends were waiting up at the top of the Bright Angel Trail also kept me going!!! So I would say as much as I read, practiced and prepared the two things I want to share is hydrate properly on the way down and if you have stomach trouble, which I have had all my life, take measures to assist your stomach in handling the strain of the hike!!! If you want to do this hike please do!!! It was my gift to myself for my 55th birthday and it was well worth it!!!

Star Star Star Star Star
Cassy
Dec 10, 2013

My Husband and I did this hike on our Honeymoon in the end of August 2012. We are both in good shape, but knew for fact we couldn't do the whole thing. I think we got to the bathrooms down there before we turned back and WOW! was that a workout I will NEVER forget. I do not recommend anyone do this unless they are experienced in hiking and have prepared for it. Overall it was a fun and exhausting experience.

Star Star Star Star Star
Cassy
Dec 10, 2013

My Husband and I did this hike on our Honeymoon in the end of August 2012. We are both in good shape, but knew for fact we couldn't do the whole thing. I think we got to the bathrooms down there before we turned back and WOW! was that a workout I will NEVER forget. I do not recommend anyone do this unless they are experienced in hiking and have prepared for it. Overall it was a fun and exhausting experience.

Star Star Star Star Star
Cassy
Dec 10, 2013

My Husband and I did this hike on our Honeymoon in the end of August 2012. We are both in good shape, but knew for fact we couldn't do the whole thing. I think we got to the bathrooms down there before we turned back and WOW! was that a workout I will NEVER forget. I do not recommend anyone do this unless they are experienced in hiking and have prepared for it. Overall it was a fun and exhausting experience.

Star Star Star Star Star
David
Sep 15, 2013

A friend and I hiked down the South Kaibab trail to the river and then came back up via the Bright Angel Trail in the middle of September. There are signs all over the place telling you not to do it but as long as you take enough water and are in good shape ( able to hike a long distance ) you can do it. We had been practicing for about a year and were doing 24 mile hikes before we attempted this one. We started at 6:30am and made it to the river in just over 2 hours. It was about 65 degrees up top when we started and by 8:30 am it was high 80's to low 90's. We didn't hang out at the river for long because we were getting baked. Coming back up the Bright Angel Trail, my 3L camelback went dry about a half mile before we made it to Indian Gardens and I had to switch to my 1L backup canteen ( which I assumed I wouldn't need ). Re-filled the camelback at Indian Garden and that was plenty to get back up. It's a slow climb coming back up and it was a challenge even for someone who'd been practicing for a year.

Star Star Star Star Star
Eric
Sep 03, 2013

Me and a bud just completed this trail in one day last month. I'm 18 he's 17 the hike was in August. We hiked all the way down to the river during the day, then waited for the night, then hiked all the way back up. We arrived at the top around 9AM.

I would recommend doing it this way because you avoid the heat on your way back up, that gap between camp and the river is really not that bad at night. My buddy realized that he forgot some of our supplies when we reached camp and we wound up re-hiking half way down and coming back up AGAIN, so we nearly did it twice that night. Honestly it wasn't that hard, plus there really aren't that many insects at night and all the animals seem to go to bed (aside from the froggys). Bring a good flashlight (actually everyone should) and truthfully you'll save yourself a lot of sweat.

Plus, the canyon is freaggin awesome at night! it looks straight out of a lord of the rings movie as my friend joked (perfect analogy his name is sam)

Next, with the canyons heat we also found camping gear to just be a waste of time, honestly this may sound wrong to some of you guys but I'd say if your trying to accomplish it in a day your better off just carrying a nice fluffy pillow or hammock then a tent. It's so hot you can sleep outside comfortably, (Get two-four hours of sleep then leave to take advantage of the night). Having as little as possible on your back will win your support in the long run, the water carrying process will prove to be tedious enough.

Speaking of which, PACK WATER. And I mean like, everyone should be carrying their supply, and back up supply, then some. The biggest mistake we made on our trip is we had more food then we needed, and just barely enough water. We used up every last drop of water on our way up to camp from the river, and were lucky not to have had any less (although there's running river water everywhere but it tastes terrible.) If your going to do what we did I'd say 10 bottles worth of water for every person and don't discard your empty bottles, you'll need refills. There are clean water supplies along the way BUT NOT AFTER THE CAMPGROUNDS, so beware. As far as food by the way we weren't really that hungry, truth is one day without a great meal won't kill ya, I'd say pack light and smart, 1 1/2 boxes of granola bars per person will probably be sufficient.

Final thing, plan. Not just before, but also when you get there. The weather could be different then what you anticipated. Honestly a quick visit to the visitor center won't kill you, have a look around, talk to people coming up the trail (and congratulate them) and figure out what's ahead. Also rest at the many rest houses on the way, I know your group might not want to, but theres a map inside and great information on the rest of the trail that you might not know about, so take a look, it might totally change your mind about continuing.

Or it might not...

Star Star Star Star Star
Eric
Sep 03, 2013

Me and a bud just completed this trail in one day last month. I'm 18 he's 17 the hike was in August. We hiked all the way down to the river during the day, then waited for the night, then hiked all the way back up. We arrived at the top around 9AM.

I would recommend doing it this way because you avoid the heat on your way back up, that gap between camp and the river is really not that bad at night. My buddy realized that he forgot some of our supplies when we reached camp and we wound up re-hiking half way down and coming back up AGAIN, so we nearly did it twice that night. Honestly it wasn't that hard, plus there really aren't that many insects at night and all the animals seem to go to bed (aside from the froggys). Bring a good flashlight (actually everyone should) and truthfully you'll save yourself a lot of sweat.

Plus, the canyon is freaggin awesome at night! it looks straight out of a lord of the rings movie as my friend joked (perfect analogy his name is sam)

Next, with the canyons heat we also found camping gear to just be a waste of time, honestly this may sound wrong to some of you guys but I'd say if your trying to accomplish it in a day your better off just carrying a nice fluffy pillow or hammock then a tent. It's so hot you can sleep outside comfortably, (Get two-four hours of sleep then leave to take advantage of the night). Having as little as possible on your back will win your support in the long run, the water carrying process will prove to be tedious enough.

Speaking of which, PACK WATER. And I mean like, everyone should be carrying their supply, and back up supply, then some. The biggest mistake we made on our trip is we had more food then we needed, and just barely enough water. We used up every last drop of water on our way up to camp from the river, and were lucky not to have had any less (although there's running river water everywhere but it tastes terrible.) If your going to do what we did I'd say 10 bottles worth of water for every person and don't discard your empty bottles, you'll need refills. There are clean water supplies along the way BUT NOT AFTER THE CAMPGROUNDS, so beware. As far as food by the way we weren't really that hungry, truth is one day without a great meal won't kill ya, I'd say pack light and smart, 1 1/2 boxes of granola bars per person will probably be sufficient.

Final thing, plan. Not just before, but also when you get there. The weather could be different then what you anticipated. Honestly a quick visit to the visitor center won't kill you, have a look around, talk to people coming up the trail (and congratulate them) and figure out what's ahead. Also rest at the many rest houses on the way, I know your group might not want to, but theres a map inside and great information on the rest of the trail that you might not know about, so take a look, it might totally change your mind about continuing.

Or it might not....

Star Star Star Star Star
Eric
Sep 03, 2013

Me and a bud just completed this trail in one day last month. I'm 18 he's 17 the hike was in August. We hiked all the way down to the river during the day, then waited for the night, then hiked all the way back up. We arrived at the top around 9AM.

I would recommend doing it this way because you avoid the heat on your way back up, that gap between camp and the river is really not that bad at night. My buddy realized that he forgot some of our supplies when we reached camp and we wound up re-hiking half way down and coming back up AGAIN, so we nearly did it twice that night. Honestly it wasn't that hard, plus there really aren't that many insects at night and all the animals seem to go to bed (aside from the froggys). Bring a good flashlight (actually everyone should) and truthfully you'll save yourself a lot of sweat.

Plus, the canyon is freaggin awesome at night! it looks straight out of a lord of the rings movie as my friend joked (perfect analogy his name is sam)

Next, with the canyons heat we also found camping gear to just be a waste of time, honestly this may sound wrong to some of you guys but I'd say if your trying to accomplish it in a day your better off just carrying a nice fluffy pillow or hammock then a tent. It's so hot you can sleep outside comfortably, (Get two-four hours of sleep then leave to take advantage of the night). Having as little as possible on your back will win your support in the long run, the water carrying process will prove to be tedious enough.

Speaking of which, PACK WATER. And I mean like, everyone should be carrying their supply, and back up supply, then some. The biggest mistake we made on our trip is we had more food then we needed, and just barely enough water. We used up every last drop of water on our way up to camp from the river, and were lucky not to have had any less (although there's running river water everywhere but it tastes terrible.) If your going to do what we did I'd say 10 bottles worth of water for every person and don't discard your empty bottles, you'll need refills. There are clean water supplies along the way BUT NOT AFTER THE CAMPGROUNDS, so beware. As far as food by the way we weren't really that hungry, truth is one day without a great meal won't kill ya, I'd say pack light and smart, 1 1/2 boxes of granola bars per person will probably be sufficient.

Final thing, plan. Not just before, but also when you get there. The weather could be different then what you anticipated. Honestly a quick visit to the visitor center won't kill you, have a look around, talk to people coming up the trail (and congratulate them) and figure out what's ahead. Also rest at the many rest houses on the way, I know your group might not want to, but theres a map inside and great information on the rest of the trail that you might not know about, so take a look, it might totally change your mind about continuing.

Or it might not....

Star Star Star Star Star
AZ Marine
Jul 30, 2013

Just did Bright Angel Trail from rim to the river and back as a day hike. Although my buddy and I did this and enjoyed it, I wouldn't recommend this for the average hiker. We took military style assault packs with 3L hydration bladders, a couple electrolyte fortified drinks, snacks and protein bars, and extra clothing like socks, change of clothes, and rainproof windbreakers. Footware needed will be different for everyone and depends on what you're trying to do. We had boots on, mine were Goretex lined and came in handy while crossing several areas with ankle deep water but my friends were just regular ones and he did fine by exercising more care choosing a dry path. If you're just going about half way down to Indian Gardens, you probably would be just fine with a pair of decent sneakers with some good tread on the soles. Some people were hiking with Vibram Five Fingers "toe shoes" or other barefoot runners but they were fitness freaks and lean machines that looked like they do sit-ups while they sleep. There were many people near the top that were wearing flip flops or similar flimsy shoes and I know these hurt, broke, or were a miserable choice for their wearers. Water is offered at the top 1.5 mile mark, the 3.1 mile mark, and at the Indian Gardens area but anything below that should be treated before drinking. During July and August, the possibility of afternoon storms is high because of Arizona's monsoon season. We hiked about half the trail in wet weather which was beautiful but made for some extreme heat when the sun came out. Be prepared for that. Something I would recommend to any first time Grand Canyon hiker woul be to leave early, drink lots of water starting the day before, take your time and remember to take meal(s) with you to keep your energy up. Pack according to the season and don't bite off more than you can chew. My buddy and I are both Marines and in pretty good shape but still found the steep parts of the last couple miles strenuous on our upper thighs. The burn was worth it though. Bright Angel Trail made for lots of fun and some great pictures and we're already planning another trip into the canyon.

Star Star Star Star Star
Dr Phun
Apr 20, 2013

It's not tha bad at the right time of year with a little common sense. Most people shouldn't try to do out and back in the same day. Be especially careful in the summer months. I did it in May when it was 30 degrees at the top in the morning and 100 degrees at the bottom when we got there. I don't want to imagine what it would be like in July.

Your condition and expereience makes a difference. We met a nice family at the phantom ranch and hiked out with them. They had an elderly relative with them from Austria. He lived in the mountains there. No joke, he was wearing khakies, a sweater and loafers and we didn't have a chance of keeping up with him.

When you are coming back up, you can tell when you are near the top because you start running into people with flip flops and no water in the last mile. I can't remember how many asked us if they were almost to the bottom.

Star Star Star Star Star
Jason
Apr 18, 2013

My brother and I hiked the Bright Angel Trail to the Bright Angel Campground several years ago and the hiked out the next day. We went to the orientation before we took off and they definitely painted a clear picture of the fact that the canyon can kill you if you don't respect it. We drank a liter of water per hour, refueling at Indian Gardens, and the only problems I had were with three of those huge squirrels at Indian Gardens that tried to take me down for a bag of peanuts I was eating. I slept under the stars that night and woke up to something warm and fuzzy on my head. Since I don't have anything fuzzy on my head to begin with, I became a little concerned. When I moved to check it out, whatever it was took off into the bushes. I was a little disappointed, because it was keeping my head warm. By far, this is one of the best hikes I've ever done. I loved it so much that I almost relocated to Flagstaff so I could do the whole canyon. One day I'll get back there.

Star Star Star Star Star
Bill
Apr 18, 2013

I have hiked the Canyon in every season. I would strongly recommend the Bright Angel trail as the best trail for exiting the Canyon because it is the least strenuous. Most well conditioned hikers can make it out using that trail. I would strongly advise against hikes to the river during the summer. The last time I did it it was 108 at the river! We left Phantom Ranch at 4:00AM the next day and were out about 10:30 with a rim temp of 70 something. The inner gorge near the river was very warm, even very early. I live in Phoenix so I'm conditioned to the heat. If you are not, stay out of the Canyon in the summer!

Star Star Star Star Star
Bill
Apr 18, 2013

I have hiked the Canyon in every season. I would strongly recommend the Bright Angel trail as the best trail for exiting the Canyon because it is the least strenuous. Most well conditioned hikers can make it out using that trail. I would strongly advise against hikes to the river during the summer. The last time I did it it was 108 at the river! We left Phantom Ranch at 4:00AM the next day and were out about 10:30 with a rim temp of 70 something. The inner gorge near the river was very warm, even very early. I live in Phoenix so I'm conditioned to the heat. If you are not, stay out of the Canyon in the summer!

Star Star Star Star Star
Keith
Apr 18, 2013

I graduated from high school in Flagstaf Arizona about 80 miles south of Grand Canyon. Have done a LOT of hiking in Grand Canyon. I read one commenter who said he never needed electrolyte supplements. A piece of advice, you will never need it as long as you USE it. It's the key to safe hiking in Summer in the canyon. Winter is usually not a problem. Someone else mentioned salt tablets. That's an old time (circa 1950's) solution to excessive sweating. Salt tablets work, just barely, IF dissolved in water first, don't swallow salt tablets undissolved. Use Gatoraide, it tastes a lot better than salt water. It's the best thing since sliced bread, ask the rescue rangers.

Star Star Star Star Star
Jim the desert rat
Apr 18, 2013

Kaibab's Law: It takes roughly twice as long to drag your ass out of the Grand Canyon as it took to stroll in.

Star Star Star Star Star
AZ Hiker
Apr 18, 2013

Day-hiking into the Grand Canyon is on many people's bucket list but kicking the bucket while hiking there usually isn't! Many people die in the canyon each year for a variety of reasons; one of them being that some hikers are unprepared for the experiences they encounter there. Sure, a lot of people hike there almost every day of the year but there are still those hikers who get lost and either barely or don't make it out alive. Read Felix! the Sugar Glider Be Safe Hike Smart (Amazon) before you hit the trail for a day-hike. Felix! teaches the reader what to pack, what to do if you get lost or scared, how to get rescued, and survival packing just incase you end up unexpectedly spending the night in the canyon. Learn how to navigate your way by paying attention to your surroundings and knowing how to use a compass. A compass doesn't need batteries or satellites and works in all types of weather but you need to know how to use it and this book makes learning how to use a compass easy. Your Grand Canyon adventure should be the thrill of a lifetime so make it more enjoyable by hiking smart and having the essentials with you!

Star Star Star Star Star
Parish
Mar 30, 2013

We took a fantastic road trip that culminated (on Aug 18-my boyfriend's 50th bday) with a hike into the Grand Canyon. We called the ranger's station months in advance and did everything they suggested. We spent months preparing by doing practice hikes (especially in the heat) on difficult hiking trails (like Government Canyon) wearing exactly what we would be wearing in the Grand Canyon; broke in some excellent boots in the process. We wore army surplus fatigue pants, long-sleeved cotton shirts (the cotton helps retain your body sweat and stay cool in the dry climate), boony hats, 8-inch lace-up (to protect against snakes and scorpions) gortex boots (for in the event of a flash flood-luckily there wasn't one), neck coolers (which we soaked in the springs periodically on the way back up),and fingerless cycling gloves (for a better grip on our poles and to avoid blisters).
We brought extra socks and changed them at the half way point (to avoid blisters and heat rash). We each had a fully loaded day pack with 100oz camelbaks, four bottles of gatoraid, nuts, peanut butter sandwiches, tangerines, dried fruit, beef jerky, pretzels, etc.... We also carried army surplus rain ponchos that could be used to make a temporary tent shelter in the even of rain (August is the monsoon month). Of course we carried a steripen, first aid kit, sunblock, chapstick, utility knives, small hand held LED flashlights with extra batteries, clip on LED flashlights, a blacklight flashlight (to detect scorpions and black widow spiders (two types of scorpions in the Grand Canyon; the smaller of which is the more deadly), emergency dry rations, etc.... My pack weighed about 20lbs and my boyfriend's pack weighed about 40; but I weigh 100lbs and he weighs 170. We also carried a couple of 1 liter bottles of water to give to anyone that might need it (a lot of idiots hike this trail).
We made our way to the South Kaibab trail head at 5:00am (coyotes were howling all around, but we never saw any) and got to Phantom Ranch by 10:am. We stayed hydrated, drinking water every few minutes even though we weren't thirsty. Every 45 minutes, we stopped and rested for 15 minutes, ate some food even though we weren't hungry, took some photos, laid down and put our feet up. It was a wonderful hike down. We felt great! We picked up some sack lunches (you must call ahead and reserve food at the ranch); anyone can do it, you don't have to reserve a cabin nor a camp site. You can reserve breakfast, lunch (sack lunches), and dinner (either steak or vegetarian chili). After lunch, we waded in the creek and then took a nap before dinner. The steak dinner was really good, but we are light eaters and probably could have split one (they are huge). After dinner, we filled up our water bladders at the spring tap and waded in the creek some more (the 60-odd degree water feels amazing in contrast with the 130 degree oven of the bottom of the canyon in August). We slept until 2:00am, got up and hiked up Bright Angel Trail. We did it the same way that we did the South Kaibab, lots of breaks, adequate hydration, etc.... Even with a half-moon it was pretty dark (the stars were amazing, wish I could have photographed them), so we clipped the LED lights on our hat brims and used the hand-held flash lights to periodically check the trail further ahead. The clip on LED lights provided some added entertainment...tons of moths were fluttering all around us; one must have had a wing-span of 4-6 inches-about the size of a small bat. All the moth activity soon had bats zooming all around us. The giant moth wasn't around long ;o)
We got to the Indian gardens as the sun was coming up; it was beautiful! Got some great pictures of mule deer feeding on the foliage and the mule supply team headed down to the ranch. BTW, if you're hiking at night and worry that you may deviate from the trail, just follow the smell of mule poop and you'll be fine ;0) That was a running joke on the hike out.
We got to the top around noon; so when they say 5 hours in and 10 hours out, they aren't kidding. When we got back to the car, our legs were fatigued and they shook as we stepped into the car. We are in really good health. We exercise daily; run, bike, swim, weights, martial arts, pilates, yoga.... You definitely need to be fit to hike it or any other lengthy trails especially with dramatic elevation changes.
But, no, Bright Angel isn't a dangerous trail, not even in high summer (except for the possibility of flash flooding), as long as you are prepared and do it smart. I was surprised to see it on the list. I would have thought South Kaibab would be more perilous as it has no water stations and is much more steep, but it is less traveled than Bright Angel, so I guess that's why. Bright Angel is kind of like a dog, its not generally the dog's fault if someone is attacked....

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