Grand Canyon Backpacking - South Rim - Bright Angel Express

Trip Length 3 Days
Group Size 4?9
Activity level
Starting from
$999 for REI Members
$1,099 for non-members
Departures Jul 2020-Dec 2020

Spend three days below the rim of the Grand Canyon on this entry-level backpacking trip?perfect for fit beginners!

Considered the most famous and "easiest" of the three corridor trails, the Bright Angel trail provides the perfect introduction to both the Grand Canyon and to backpacking. This itinerary features the very best of Bright Angel, as our expert local guides lead us on an immersive trek into the heart of one of the world?s most spectacular natural wonders.

As it snakes its way down to the Colorado River, Bright Angel?s rewards start early and don?t let up. Quintessential views of Bright Angel Canyon, across Plateau Point and out to the North Rim greet us within our first few miles. Beyond, we follow in the footsteps of centuries of humans who?ve used this historic path for survival and adventure.

From soaking our toes in the refreshing waters of Garden Creek to enjoying a cold beer on the porch at Phantom Ranch, a trip along the Bright Angel trail unveils the wide variety of experiences Grand Canyon National Park has to offer.

Important permitting notes: Reservations for this trip cannot be 100% confirmed until we secure permits through the National Park Service, usually 3?4 months before your departure date.

Because of the popularity of this route, and the limited campsites available, we must allow for some flexibility of dates when applying for National Park permits. To increase our chance of permitting success, we typically plan around a travel window of one week before and one week after the listed departure dates.

Our routes and campsites may also vary depending on National Park permitting.

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Trip Highlights

  • Backpack the most iconic yet accessible routes in Grand Canyon National Park
  • Spend two nights under the stars at Indian Garden campground
  • Visit historic Phantom Ranch
  • Enjoy spectacular views of one of the world?s seven natural wonders
  • Walk along the banks of the mighty Colorado River


This trip is rated Moderate [3-4]. Participants will carry daypacks weighing 30?35 pounds throughout the trip. Participants will be hiking up to 10 miles each day with elevation gain/loss of up to 3,060' (with opportunities for additional mileage and elevation gain/loss). Most importantly, we will be traveling consecutive days in a row on rugged, uneven, steep and often exposed terrain. Participants should be prepared and train for the mental and physical requirements needed to successfully complete this trip.

Both the descent and ascent to/from the floor of the canyon are challenging. We recommend a conditioning regimen beginning at least 3?6 months prior to departure which includes hiking with as much elevation gain/loss as possible with a weighted multi-day pack, layering in as much additional cardiovascular exercise as manageable.

  • Backpacking

What's Included

Van transportation from Scottsdale/Phoenix to the Grand Canyon and return; park entry fees; all camping fees; meals as noted in the daily itinerary; gear noted under the "Included" section of the designated Gear List.


Primitive Backcountry Campsites, 2 nights

Your Adventure Itinerary

Day 1

Hike from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon down to Indian Gardens

Meet your guides and fellow backpackers at 6am at our host hotel in Old Town Scottsdale, Arizona. We?re then off by van to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Upon arrival at the South Rim our guides conduct an orientation and gear-check before we hit the Bright Angel trail. As we descend into the heart of the canyon, the trail cuts through the Redwall Limestone of Bright Angel fault, making our trip into the inner canyon possible. Along the way we catch glimpses of canyon landmarks like the Battleship, Sumner Butte, Brahma Temple and Cheops Pyramid. Our camp for the next two nights is Indian Garden, situated near the perennial springs of Garden Creek, which for centuries watered the gardens of Havasupai Indians. Light breakfast; lunch and dinner included.

Backpacking: 4.8 miles, Elevation loss: 3,060'. Van transfer: 3?4 hours

Day 2

Day hike from Indian Gardens to the Colorado River

Today we drop our heavy packs and head into the heart of Grand Canyon National Park, to what many consider the most famous destination within the canyon: Phantom Ranch. Along the way we travel along the infamous switchbacks of Devil?s Corkscrew, taking in breathtaking views while passing through two billion years? worth of Vishnu Schist. After reaching canyon bottom, we wander along the Colorado River before enjoying an afternoon break at Phantom Ranch. Once back at Indian Creek we'll have the option of an evening hike out to Plateau Point, or we can simply relax in camp. All meals included.

Backpacking: 3?10.2 miles, Elevation gain/loss: 1,254'. Optional hike to Plateau Point: 3 miles

Day 3

Complete the Bright Angel and a celebratory lunch on the South Rim

We hit the trail early to take advantage of cool morning temperatures. Our first mile of trail climbs gently, giving us a nice warm-up before we ascend Jacob?s Ladder, a series of tight switchbacks up the Redwall Limestone. A well-earned break at Three-Mile Rest House provides a great opportunity to catch our breath. The Rest House also happens to be a historic agave roasting site used by the ancestral Puebloans more than a thousand years ago. At last, after a final push, we celebrate our accomplishment with a much-deserved, highly rewarding lunch along the South Rim.

We estimate arriving back in Scottsdale at about 5:30pm today. But please note this time may vary depending on group pace, trail conditions, weather, traffic and other factors beyond our control. To be safe, do not book travel out of the Scottsdale/Phoenix area until after 8pm today. Breakfast and lunch included.

Backpacking: 4.8 miles, Elevation gain: 3,060'; Van transfer: 3?4 hours

Gear List

This gear list has been created to help you choose the best equipment for the trip. Try to bring only what is necessary, as this will help you and the field staff. The weather and other conditions at the time of your arrival will dictate what clothing and equipment you will be required to use each day and what (if anything) can be left behind. It may be a necessary precaution that you bring certain items on the list, even if it is uncertain whether or not they will be needed.

What to pack

Contact Us

Feel free to give us a call at 800-622-2236 should you have any questions regarding the gear list. The staff at our stores and Direct Sales (800-426-4840) will also be happy to help you with gear questions. Or check out REI Expert Advice , which has great information to help you prepare for your trip.