Bright Angel Campground to Bright Angel Trailhead.
Distance 16km, elevation gain 1337m, Time 6.5hrs
We were up with the sunrise, packed up the tent, had a hearty breakfast of Mountain house, must have had some coffee, and we were out of the campground just after 7:30am.
The first 2.5km of the trail are flat, as you walk along the river to the start of Bright Angel Canyon. The trail was very sandy, which made the going a little tougher than it could have been.
The hiking was very straightforward, as we followed the trail up through the rocks of the Granite Gorge. There are pros and cons to hiking up Bright Angel Canyon. One of the pros, is that since we were following a canyon cut by the flowing water of Garden Creek, you have more gradually ascents of the steep cliffs that we faced on the South Kaibab Trail. A canyon also provides more shelter from the sun, which also allows for more plant life to grow along the trail, which can also provide shade to the hikers walking by. A big con of the trail, is that you spend almost the entire hike deep in a canyon, with only occasional panoramic views of the greater canyon.
After a nice steady walk, we arrived in Indian Gardens Campground in 2hrs 20min.
Indian Gardens is almost half distance, but just under a third of the elevation. Indian Gardens is a wonderful place to take a rest and recharge for the elevation to come. It has a very nice campground that we would stay at on a subsequent visit to the Grand Canyon, but on this trip it was a lovely lunch spot.
It would take almost 4hrs to complete the hike from Indian Gardens to the Rim, as we had just over 900m of elevation to gain in a little over 7.5km. It was a very pleasant day out, and we were not in any hurry. At one point we spotted a large bird flying the thermal from the cliffs, and spent several minutes watching it sore over the canyon. We are not sure of the species, but we thought it was most likely a condor.
The energy in the group was starting to drop, and even though the final cliff was in sight, it just never seemed to get any closer. We made the decision to stop and have a hot snack of the remaining Mountain House. This was met by howls of protest, about why we were stopping so close to the end. But the mood of the group was almost instantly lifted upon finishing our hot snack, validating our decision to stop and take 30 minutes to make sure everyone had enough to eat.
We cruised steadily, but easily to the end of hike at the Rim, stopping frequently to enjoy the view and the path we had taken from the river.
We encountered more and more people as we approached the Rim. We also decided that the trail was not as in good condition as the South Kaibab, being more loose and sandy, with many awkward steps (built no doubt to prevent erosion caused by the mule trains).
Upon arriving at the car, some 6.5hrs after we started, Emily fell against the car, giving it a big hug, happy, but thankful that we had completed our hike.
We stayed in a hotel at the canyon rim that evening. Showers for everyone and a hearty meal were our rewards for a couple of amazing days hiking in and out of the Grand Canyon.