6 Tips for Surviving the Bright Angel Trail
So you want to hike the Bright Angel Trail, huh? You think 12 miles (and 4,000 ft in elevation change) in the Grand Canyon desert heat sounds like a fun challenge?
Go ahead and hike your little heart out but first listen to these tips I learned while hiking the Bright Angel Trail.
(Spoiler alert: it actually is a fun challenge if you are prepared!)
I’ll admit it, waking up at 4:30 AM isn’t always my idea of “fun” but once that afternoon sun hits, you’ll be grateful you did! I would definitely suggest not starting the hike any later than 6:00 AM. The positives of waking up early far outweigh a couple hours of missed sleep.
Your chances of heat stroke and exhaustion go down, you will beat the crowds, and you will only feel like the sun is searing your skin HALF of the time!
Fair warning, the canyon will be absolutely beautiful as the sun comes up but it will also be pretty chilly so you will want to remember to bring a jacket. Also, don’t worry about being alone on the trail as you will be met by quite a few other smart hikers getting an early start.
2. WATER IS YOUR BEST FRIEND
Make sure you stay hydrated while out in the Grand Canyon. Keeping hydrated should be your number one priority. There are about 200 hiker rescues every year on the trail and most of them are because of heat stroke and dehydration.
On the Bright Angel Trail there is a water station every 1.5 miles and about 90% of the time they are all running. I decided to save on weight and just bring a water bottle to fill up when needed. Personally, I regret not bringing a refillable Camelback because the water bottles weren’t enough even with the water stations.
3. BRING LOTS OF SNACKS
I don’t think you could ever bring too many snacks on this hike. Your body will be working really hard and will need constant replenishment. When hiking back up the Canyon in the heat of the day you will find yourself slowly dwindling and will be happy you packed some energy boosters. Suggestions for snacks are:
Peanut Butter Sandwiches
Candy (for quick energy)
Salty chips or cracker (after sweating so much- your body crave the salt!)
4. GO AT YOUR OWN PACE, STAY COOL, REST OFTEN
Guys, it isn’t a race! Hiking down will feel like a breeze and you may want to rush through it and skimp on your water breaks but just remember that you still have to hike back up! Just remember to pace yourself and don’t rush other members in your group if they aren’t as physically prepared for it as you are.
I suggest taking LOTS of pictures on your way down to help slow the pace and because you might just be too tired to appreciate all the beauty around you on your way back up.
TIP: There is a little stream by Indian Garden Campground and if you are planning to hike to the lookout, DRENCH yourself first! You’ll be so glad you did. Oh, and then drench yourself again before you start your hike back up. IT. IS. GLORIOUS.
5. BRING THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT
Good shoes, clothes, walking aides, and SUNSCREEN can make this hike so much more enjoyable!
First, don’t bring anything that you don’t mind being dyed red by the dirt. My white shoes are still red! I would also only wear shoes you have successfully hiked in before to avoid blisters and please don’t wear shoes that are too small! The hike down is pretty steep and you want to try to keep as many toenails as possible.
Bring an extra pair (or two) of socks because they will get really dusty and you’ll love changing those out for a fresh pair. I also loved having a pair of flip flops I could put on for the stream and during lunch… okay and maybe I wore them for 3 miles of the hike because my blisters were so bad.
As far as clothing goes, wear something that will protect you from the sun so that you can avoid getting sunburned. If you are prone to chafing, then bringing some vaseline could be a lifesaver!
It is also pretty rocky in some parts so walking sticks, ankle braces, or knee braces could be helpful. Poor Matt forgot his knee brace (he has a bad knee) and was wishing he had it the whole time.
6. ENJOY THE BEAUTY AND HAVE FUN!
Don’t just stare at your feet the whole time. Look up and enjoy the beauty! Take pictures! Goof off! The Grand Canyon is absolutely breathtaking and you get to spend an entire day surrounded by it.
If you follow these tips, you will live through the hike and you will have fond memories of it someday (although you might not believe me during those last couple of miles).