A Virtual Hike in the Grand Canyon

Down the South Kaibab Trail and Up the Bright Angel Trail

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Because of the great response from my story about hiking down and up the South Kaibab in 2002, I thought I would post a set of pictures and descriptions from the two both major trails into the canyon: down the South Kaibab and up the Bright Angel.  For this very hike I made in mid-February, 2003, the weather looked very promising the day before so I bought extra film so I could shoot 8 rolls of film (back before I had a DSLR). Unfortunately, the weather didn't cooperate being fairly overcast, not conducive for "Kodak" moments. I returned on April 13th for the sole purpose of taking pictures under fairly clear skies and subsequently put together my first virtual hike in the Grand Canyon featuring 194 pictures.    Fast forward to April 4, 2008, when once again I took this hike, but this time armed with a digital SLR and this time took over 600 pictures.  Any more than that and I might as well have taken a video recorder!  

The map at the left (taken from an excellent article in the Arizona Republic, "From Couch to Canyon" shows my exact route starting down the South Kaibab to the Colorado River, onto Phantom Ranch, and then returning to the rim via the Bright Angel. The total distance for this hike is 16.7 miles!  This is the most popular route to the river and back (for good reason), and always a test of endurance and a hike that always needs to be taken seriously and not done on a whim!

I've put these pictures together in the hopes of providing a virtual hike into the Grand Canyon since I have pictures from nearly the entire trail. Many of the pictures have additional information which you can read by hovering your mouse over the thumbnail picture. But as good a any picture might be,  anyone who's been there will tell you they can't do the place justice. I'm afraid my most appreciative audience will be those who've had the privilege of hiking these spectacular trails and will get a trip down memory lane.  Having said that, over the years I've received an incredible amount of email from readers using the virtual hike as part of their planning for a future hike.  Never in my wildest imagination did I anticipate this, but since it is a reality, I have added more information to help would-be hikers. 

The topographical maps show a more detailed view of the route and they are numbered to show the approximate locations where the pictures were taken.

The Superhighways

Your tour guide, Gene.

The South Kaibab and the Bright Angel trails have been aptly called the "superhighways" into the Grand Canyon. These two trails are basically identical in terms of their raw composition. They are at least three feet wide, but almost never wider than four and are lined with rocks which help to both mark the trail and to keep hikers on it. They are maintained trails so they are closed from time to time usually because of rain damage.  Though the look and feel may be the same, there are important differences which every would-be canyon hiker should know.

The South Kaibab Trail (SK) is said to be a ridge trail whereas the Bright Angel Trail (BA) is a ravine trail. The views on the SK of the overall canyon are much better. The trail is high and there are no trees to get in the way of the view which you can clearly see in the pictures. The downside becomes readily obvious to anyone attempting a hike during the summer: no shade! Not only does the BA offer relief from a relentless sun, there is water available midway at Indian Garden. During the summer months there is also water available at the One and a Half and Three Mile Resthouses. There is absolutely no water available on the SK! Finally, the SK is steeper and almost 300 feet higher. For these reasons it is also recommended that hikers go down the SK and back up the BA.

 YES! I'm physically fit enough to click through the rest of the virtual hike. I've got enough fluids and snacks here at the monitor to make it through okay. Continue the tour...
 NO! I've had enough. Take me back to the home page. 


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