Bright Angel Trail
|Bright Angel Trail|
Indian Garden and Three Mile Resthouse from Bright Angel Trail
|Length||8.0 mi (12.9 km);
9.9 mi (15.9 km) to Phantom Ranch via River Trail
|Location||Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, United States|
Grand Canyon (South Rim)
|Elevation change||4,380 ft (1,340 m)|
|Highest point||South Rim, 6,860 ft (2,090 m)|
|Lowest point||Colorado River, 2,480 ft (760 m)|
The trail is accessed by the mule corral, as seen here:
|Distance (mi)||Elv (ft)||Location||Trail Junction|
|0||6860||Trailhead, South Rim||Rim Trail|
|3.1||4748||Three Mile Resthouse|
|4.9||3800||Indian Garden||Tonto Trail|
|8.0||2480||River Resthouse, Colorado River||River Trail|
|9.5||2480||Bright Angel Campground (via the River Trail)|
The trail originates at the Grand Canyon Village on the south rim of Grand Canyon, descending 4380 feet to the Colorado River. It has an average grade of 10% along its entire length. At trail's end, the River Trail continues another 1.9 miles to the Bright Angel Campground and Phantom Ranch. These two trails combined are the most common method used to access Phantom Ranch by hikers and mules.
Two trails cross or join the Bright Angel Trail, the first being an intersection with the Tonto Trail at Indian Garden, leading toward the Monument Use Area to the west, and to the South Kaibab Trail 4.7 miles (7.6 km) to the east. The second is the River Trail, which officially begins when the Bright Angel Trail reaches the Colorado River at the River Resthouse (although some consider that the Bright Angel Trail officially ends after crossing the Colorado River at the Silver Bridge).
Water is available from the trans-canyon pipeline at the Mile-and-a-half Resthouse, the Three Mile Resthouse, and Indian Garden. During cooler months (usually October–April) the two higher elevation resthouses are shut off from the water supply to prevent the pipeline from freezing.
Below Indian Garden, both Garden Creek and Pipe Creek flow year-round (perennial). Water is also available at the River Resthouse from the Colorado River. All water from natural sources must be filtered, treated, or boiled prior to consuming.
Hikers can camp at Indian Garden Campground or at the Bright Angel Campground. At either site, they can stay overnight with a permit issued by the Grand Canyon National Park Backcountry Information Center. Overnight use of the campgrounds is regulated by the National Park Service, and they call for a maximum number of groups (7 to 11 people) and parties (1 to 6 people), as well as a maximum total number of persons.
Use permits are available on a first-come, first-served basis from the park's Backcountry Information Center. Requests are taken beginning on the 1st day of the month, up to four months before the requested first night of camping.
Hazards hikers can encounter along the Bright Angel Trail include dehydration, sudden rainstorms, flash flooding, loose footing, bootpacked ice, rockfall, encounters with wildlife, and extreme heat. At the Colorado River, additional hazards include hypothermia (due to the river's consistently cold temperatures), trauma (due to collisions with boulders in rapids), and drowning. Also, the trail is used by the mules to ride to the bottom of the canyon. These mules are highly trained  however the trail is not wide enough in some spots for a person and a mule; however, in many places there are areas for hikers and other travelers to seek temporary refuge from the mules. The trail also has many switchbacks, and a bad fall can result in serious injuries. Also, according to the mule tour guides for Xanterra, squirrel bites at Plateau Point are the leading cause of infirmary visits by hikers and mule riders. Feeding the squirrels is strictly prohibited and highly discouraged.
The trail was originally built by the Havasupai (Havasu 'Baaja) Native American tribe for access to the perennial water source of present day Garden Creek. The Havasupai settled seasonally in this area, now known as Indian Garden. In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt ordered them to leave the area, to make way for a park. However, it was not until 1928 that the last Havasupai left, forced out by the National Park Service.
Ralph H. Cameron, who would later become a United States Senator (R-AZ 1921-1927), settled on the canyon rim in 1890 and began improving the old Havasupai trail. It was at this time that the trail was extended all the way to the Colorado River. Once official control of the trail fell to Cameron, he named it the Bright Angel Trail, commonly referred to in its early years as Cameron's Trail, and began charging a $1 toll to access it, plus additional fees for drinking water and the use of outhouses at Indian Garden.
Ellsworth Kolb  arrived at Grand Canyon to work at the Bright Angel Hotel in 1901. He was employed as a bellboy. The next year, Ellsworth invited his brother Emery to come to the canyon as the possibility of mine work opened up. However, John Hance's asbestos mine closed before he arrived, leaving Emery unemployed.
Shortly after this, Emery discovered a photography business for sale in Williams, Arizona. He purchased the business for $425 ($9,690 in 2007 ) and moved the operation back to Grand Canyon. He and Ellsworth began taking photographs of visitors who took the mule rides down Cameron's trail, charging a fee for the pictures. The Cameron family leased a small piece of land nearby to Emery, where the two brothers set up a photography studio in a tent to develop and sell their photos.
The business was extremely profitable and after a few years the Kolb brothers built their permanent studio building on the rim of the canyon. Rock was blasted away to provide the foundation for the building, which is perched slightly below rim level.
Ellsworth left the venture in 1924, but Emery continued operating the studio until his death in 1976. The present-day Kolb Studio is operated by the Grand Canyon Association as a gift shop, art studio, and history center.
Competition with Cameron
To compete with Cameron, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway improved an existing horsethief trail in Hermit Canyon (the Hermit Trail) in 1911. In 1924, the newly created National Park Service began construction of the South Kaibab Trail near Yaki Point as an additional bypass for Cameron's tolls.
National Park Service Control
After a long series of legal battles, the trail was turned over to the National Park Service in 1928.
- "Corridor Brochure". National Park Service. Sept 2012. Retrieved 2013-06-05.
- Backcountry Management Plan, Grand Canyon National Park, Appendix G, Section C, p.39
- Grand Canyon National Park - Hiking FAQ (U.S. National Park Service)
- Grand Canyon National Park Use Areas
- Grand Canyon National Park Backcountry Use Permit Procedure
- [South Rim, LLC] (2008), Grand Canyon accommodations, activities, services - Mule Rides into the Grand Canyon, retrieved 2008-12-25
- Grand Canyon National Park Summer Hiking
- Hirst, Stephen. Havsu ‘Baaja: People of the Blue Green Water. Tempe, Arizona: Walsh and Associates, 1985
- Biggs, Patricia. "NCGHC: Havasupai". Arizona State University. Retrieved 2013-06-27.
- Kolb Brothers Bio Grand Canyon Explorer
- Friedman, S. Morgan (2007), The Inflation Calculator, retrieved 2008-12-25
- "South Kaibab Trail". National Park Service. Retrieved 2013-06-28.
- Description of the trail at HikeArizona.com, 1996-10-20, retrieved 2008-12-25
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