Grand Canyon Backpacking - South Rim - South Kaibab & Bright Angel Explorer

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

Spend three days backpacking along two of the Grand Canyon’s most treasured trails: South Kaibab and Bright Angel.

Grand Canyon National Park holds some of the most dramatic and breathtaking scenery found on the planet, yet only 1% of visitors descend below the rim to explore its heart. For those in search of a deeper canyon experience, three "corridor" trails (including South Kaibab and Bright Angel) offer spectacular options for backcountry exploration. We spend three days traveling these iconic routes in search of the most epic views and hidden oases Grand Canyon National Park has to offer.

Traveling along the South Kaibab trail, we enjoy panoramic views from Ooh Aah Point, Cedar Ridge and the Tip-Off before reaching the Colorado River, where generations of fearless adventurers have left their mark on canyon history. Before our journey back up the Bright Angel trail we visit historic Phantom Ranch, then spend the night under the shady cottonwoods of Bright Angel Campground.

After crossing the Silver Bridge we’re then off and up the Bright Angel trail. Our journey back to the South Rim follows in the footsteps of more than 10,000 years of human history, and our guides are passionate stewards of canyon legend and lore. They heighten our experience by sharing the rich natural and cultural history of Grand Canyon National Park while we make our way along Bright Angel to the oases of Garden Creek and Indian Garden campground.

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.

Open trip gallery
See all trip photos

Trip Highlights

  • Backpack two of the most iconic trails within Grand Canyon National Park
  • Hike along the shores of the legendary Colorado River
  • Pay a visit to historic Phantom Ranch
  • Sleep under the stars at renowned Bright Angel and Indian Garden campgrounds
  • Learn about the cultural and natural history of the canyon from expert guides


This trip is rated Vigorous [4]. Participants will carry daypacks weighing 30–35 pounds throughout the trip. Participants will be hiking up to 7 miles each day with elevation gain/loss of up to 4,780' (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 for even very fit hikers. 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

Descend spectacular South Kaibab trail to Bright Angel campground

Meet your guides and fellow backpackers at 6am at our host hotel in Old Town Scottsdale, Arizona. We’re then off on a 3–4 hour van ride 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 South Kaibab trail. The South Kaibab is the shortest trail into the heart of the canyon, and while snaking down to the Colorado River it offers unobstructed views from Ooh Aah Point, Cedar Ridge and The Tip Off. Once at the floor of the canyon we have an opportunity to explore a wide variety of highlights, such as The Black Bridge, Phantom Ranch and Boat Beach. Finally, after a full day of adventure we enjoy a hearty meal before curling up for a night of rest at Bright Angel campground. Light breakfast, lunch and dinner included.

Backpacking: 7 miles, Elevation loss: 4,780'; Van transfer: 3–4 hours

Day 2

Travel the Bright Angel Trail to Garden Creek and Indian Garden

After a peaceful night's sleep and a hearty breakfast, we break camp, don our packs, and set out for another full day of outdoor adventure. Today we cross The Silver Bridge and traverse the Colorado River until reaching the mouth of Garden Creek. Our guides share their extensive knowledge of the flora and fauna found within the canyon walls while we keep our eyes peeled for whiptail lizards, bighorn sheep and the endangered California Condor. Tonight’s campsite is within the Indian Garden campground, near perennial springs that have provided water to the Havasupai Indians for centuries. All meals included.

Backpacking: 4.7 miles, Elevation gain: 1,320'; Optional hike to Phantom Ranch and/or Plateau Point: 1–6 miles

Day 3

Celebrate our journey with a delicious lunch along 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. Finally, 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.