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Backpacking Trip
Grand Canyon National Park
October 15-19, 2004
by Chuck Parsons
Tim McAlpin, Sharon Strong, Bruce Fisher, Chuck Parsons, Steve Cronin, Dave Self

Six intrepid Arizona Trailblazers gather on a cool and breezy fall morning at the South Kaibab Trailhead, anxious to start our descent into the Grand Canyon. Our destination is Bright Angel Campground, located on Bright Angel Creek about a quarter mile from Phantom Ranch.

View of Colorado River from Skeleton Point.

First view of the Colorado River, making its way through the canyon, from Skeleton Point on the South Kaibab Trail. Even though we are still a very long way from the river, we can hear the faint roar of the rapids far below us, as the great river continues to carve its way ever deeper into this vast chasm known as the Grand Canyon.

Bright Angel Campground sits nestled in the cooling shade of towering cottonwood trees right at the edge of Bright Angel Creek. What a welcome site this peaceful oasis is, after making the grueling seven and a half mile hike down the steep and sometimes torturous South Kaibab Trail. We fall into peaceful slumber at night to the sounds of the winds rustling gently through the tall cottonwoods and the soothing murmur of Bright Angel Creek tumbling and cascading over the rocks and boulders in its creek bed, as it makes the final part of its journey before emptying into the Colorado River, about a half-mile downstream.

The campground is also about a quarter mile from Phantom Ranch and its adjoining Cantina, which we frequent from time to time to quench our thirst.

Bright Angel Campground
Inner Gorge and Kaibab Suspension Bridge

View of the Inner Gorge from the Clear Creek Trail, about 1000 feet above the Colorado River. The trail intersects the North Kaibab Trail 0.3 miles north of Phantom Ranch and runs for 8.7 miles east to Clear Creek.

The black bridge in the distance is the Kaibab Suspension Bridge, which most hikers coming down the South Kaibab Trail use to cross the Colorado River. It is also used by the mule trains ferrying supplies and people to and from Phantom Ranch.

The Clear Creek Trail provides many such spectacular views of the inner canyon.

Bruce Fisher (left) and Dave Self (right) pause for a moment before crossing the Silver Suspension Bridge, the second of the two foot bridges that span the Colorado River near Phantom Ranch and Bright Angel Campground.

We have broken camp and are just warming up for the long and grueling trek out of the canyon and back to the top of the South Rim – 9.3 miles and 4,400 vertical feet of elevation gain on the Bright Angel Trail.

We can feel a slight swaying of the bridge, as we walk across and gaze down on the swiftly flowing waters of the mighty Colorado rushing beneath our feet.

Bruce and Dave on the
Silver Suspension Bridge.
Colorado River from the River Trail.

Some of the very best views of the Colorado River can be found along this stretch of the Bright Angel Trail, often referred to as the River Trail.

It runs parallel to the river from the Kaibab Suspension Bridge to Pipe Springs, where the trail turns sharply away from the river and begins its long ascent back to the top of the South Rim.

This classic “S” turn in the Colorado River can be found about halfway between the Silver Suspension Bridge and Pipe Springs.

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Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club, Phoenix, Arizona
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updated April 26, 2020