We got up before sunrise on Day 2. Even though we planned the trip to avoid the hottest weather, the forecast was for it to be over 100 on the canyon floor both days of our trip. Even if you plan everything carefully the weather can be unpredictable. So our plan was to get up the canyon wall as far as we could before the hot weather hit. We ended up being blessed with clouds and shade most of both days so the heat ended up not being a big problem.
It is a short hike from Phantom Ranch and the Bright Angel campground to the Colorado River Crossing. There are two walking bridges across the Colorado River. They are named very simply the Black Bidge and the Silver Bridge for obvious reasons. You can see the Black Bridge from quite a distance. The Silver Bridge is lower and not visible until you get closer. If you are taking the Bright Angel trail up to the South Rim, which is what I would recommend, you will be crossing on the Silver Bridge. The Black Bridge is older, built in the 1920s (Black Bridge history and construction facts). The Silver Bridge was built in the 1960s and carries both people and water across the Colorado River. I assumed all the water pipelines in the Grand Canyon were bringing water down from the rim to thirsty hikers, but in fact as I learned while doing research on the Silver Bridge, the water is actually pumped up to the South Rim from Roaring Springs (Silver Bridge history, construction facts, and the water pipelines). Once you get across the river you hike along the Colorado for over a mile, slowly climbing upward. After a full day of descending the climbing felt good at the start of the day. The hike up Bright Angel trail is flat only for a few stretches, it is heading upward most of the way. By the end of the day taking my boots off and putting on sandals felt great, and having a beer at the North Rim Lodge felt even better. As the Bright Angel trail turns south take a good look as the river will not be prominently visible again.
From that point on you are again in more narrow canyons as you climb toward the Indian Gardens campground. This was fortunate as the sun was still low in the east so we were blessed with shade on an unseasonably hot day until we had climbed to higher and cooler altitudes. On this part of the trail there is a stream running beside you, but water near the trail is not as constant as it is on the way in from the North Rim.
One other difference is the occasional passage of a mule train carrying either duffels or passengers. All you have to do is look down at any point to see the evidence that mules use this trail a lot! Not having to carry the extra 15lbs that the mules carried for each of us made it worth it though. Below Indian Gardens the scenery is nearly as changing as on the North Kaibab trail, and just as spectacular.
Once you get past Indian Gardens it seems like the scene is an almost unchanging view into the main canyon. The only change is that you are climbing higher so the angle changes (slowly) until it is the familiar view from the South Rim visitors center. I’m not complaining though, that view is what draws so many to the Grand Canyon.
Climbing slowly upward seems constant from Indian Gardens on. There are some brutal stretches of apparently unending switchbacks. Although we were higher up and the temperature was reasonable, we were also in the sun for much of the time. I took a lot less pictures, we talked less, and we just trudged along for much of the upper Bright Angel trail. As you get closer to the top you’ll come to the occasional rest area with the opportunity to fill your water.
There will also be many more people. You’ll know that you’re close to the end when they look and smell as fresh as you did at the start of your descent the day before.
Unfortunately you’ll also see some people who bit off more than they could chew. The descent is much easier than the climb and you’ll see several people with a single small water bottle a few miles from the rim struggling to get back to the top. Don’t hike down from the rim without knowing what your limit is and be sure to bring enough water. A water bladder is the best way to go.
Toward the top the view is very familiar, but the view of trails far down into the canyon have a lot more meaning to you than they have in the past. The hike was challenging, but well worth the aching feet and calves. I do expect I will do this hike again some time. If I go again I will probably spend two nights at Bright Angel campground and explore more of the area around Phantom Ranch and along the Colorado River. My younger son will be ready for a hike like this in a year or two, and I have other people who have expressed an interest in going if we do it again. I will also plan further out and ensure that I get reservations at the North Rim lodge the night before the hike so that we can take the shuttle from the South Rim and avoid the extra 5 hours of driving after the hike.
We stayed at the South Rim lodge the night after the hike and enjoyed the bar, a good dinner, and a great breakfast. A bed never felt so good. If you’re thinking of doing this hike all I can say is plan well in advance, do it at the right time of the year, use the duffel service, prepare yourself physically, and go for it!
Decided to add a few more “Day 2” pictures. Also remember you can click any of the pictures in the post to see them full size.
Previous Post (Day 1): Grand Canyon Rim to Rim (2010 – Day 1 – North Kaibab Trail)
I hiked the same trail in June 2014! See all of my planning and hiking post for the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim: Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Hike Posts (Oct 2010 and June 2014)