Last month, my husband and I kicked off a week-long, three-city Arizona road trip by hiking the Bright Angel Trail at the Grand Canyon. Sedona and Phoenix were the other road trip stops — blog posts to come! Admittedly, I didn’t love the Grand Canyon, but I’m glad I was able to visit. If it’s on your bucket list, read on for a few basics to keep in mind.
No matter which major airport you’re coming from, get ready for a 3-4 hour drive. We made a pitstop at the Grand Canyon Caverns located along Route 66, where we took a 45-minute tour of caverns located 300 feet below ground. It was a fun and educational stop — great for adults and kids! Williams, Arizona, is also a good stop along the way for lunch or dinner, with lots of non-sketchy restaurants to choose from.
Where to stay
I’m a big fan of Airbnb, but options were nearly non-existent near the Grand Canyon. The closest town, Tusayan, is full of hotels, but still requires a shuttle into the park due to heavy traffic/lack of parking unless you plan on getting there by sunrise.
We were lucky to stay in the park at Maswik Lodge. It wasn’t my favorite — rooms are old, WiFi was nearly non-existent and shower pressure was laughable — but, I was able to roll out of bed and walk just 5 minutes to the Bright Angel Trailhead. That alone made it worth it. Definitely stay at a hotel in park, but book early and be ready to pay a premium for convenience.
Hiking Bright Angel Trail
Bright Angel Trail is a bit of a “choose your own adventure,” with multiple turnaround points depending on how far you want to go. We hiked 6 miles round trip — 3 miles down into the canyon and 3 miles back up. There were bathrooms at the 1.5 and 3 mile marks, which I appreciated! It’s worth noting that the Bright Angel Trail guide on the NPS.gov website doesn’t say there’s a toilet at the 3 mile mark, but there definitely is.
Bright Angel is a good, challenging hike with lots of switchbacks. The path is mostly solid dirt with some rocks. There was a bit of ice near the top left over from winter. I wore hiking shoes and never felt unsteady, but think sneakers would be fine, too.
My 3 gripes about the trail:
- The best views are at the top before you start hiking.
- It’s easy to underestimate how hard the hike up will be after expending energy hiking down. Overall, I found the hike harder than Observation Point at Zion National Park — despite it being 2 miles shorter.
- Many hikers had poor etiquette (e.g. not giving those ascending the right of way). I attribute this to the Grand Canyon attracting inexperienced hikers.
Overall, am I glad I did the hike and saw this natural wonder? Yes.
Would I visit again? Probably not.
Have you been the the Grand Canyon? What was your experience like? Let me know in the comments!