Grand Canyon National Park

South Rim to Phantom Ranch to South Rim

August 2011

I finished flight testing in Yuma on Saturday, 30 July and headed north to the Grand Canyon immediately after work.  I made it to Williams, Arizona that evening, and to the South Rim Village the first thing the next morning on 31 July. I went straight to the back-country office for campground reservations, and was able to get reservations at Bright Angel campground for 1 August, and Indian Garden for 2 August.  I then headed over to the Bright Angel Lodge to get dinner and breakfast reservations at Phantom Ranch.  I carry all my camping and cooking equipment when I hike, but the breakfast and dinner hiker's stew at Phantom Ranch are too good to pass up.  I also made hotel reservations at Bright Angel Lodge for the day I would be hiking up from Indian Garden.

I spent the day on the South Rim, including visiting the newly remodeled visitor center complex at Mather Point.  Mather Point used to be too busy, with the parking lot always packed and overflowing right on the rim. With the rerouting of the main road away from the rim, the parking lots moved away from the rim, the walking paths added between the visitor center and Mather Point, and the resurfacing and restructuring of the Mather Point overlooks, the whole complex is much nicer and enjoyable.

I visited a bunch of spots along the South Rim, and made it as far as Grandview Point before returning to the South Rim Village for dinner and to camp in the South Rim campground that evening.


On Monday morning, I left my car in the parking lot at Bright Angel Lodge near the Bright Angel trailhead, and caught the park shuttle to the South Kaibab trailhead at Yaki Point.  The hike down the South Kaibab Trail was just a fun as my previous hikes on that trail, with fantastic weather and beautiful views the whole way.  I made it to Bright Angel campground and Phantom Ranch by mid-day, and walked along Bright Angel Creek and the Colorado River until dinner at the canteen at Phantom Ranch.  After all the dinner servings are done (there are several), the canteen opens for everyone to buy snacks, talk, play cards, read, and generally relax.


Panorama Point panorama, Inner Gorge

After a good night's sleep in my tent and an early hearty breakfast at the Phantom Ranch canteen, I headed out, with Indian Garden as my destination.  Again, the weather was great and the early start got me to Indian Garden in time to rest through the early afternoon heat.  After setting up camp and eating dinner, I walked out to Plateau Point for sunset, which everyone who ever stays in Indian Garden must do.  I always recommend it to other hikers, and no one has ever been disappointed yet with the incredible views at sunset from the middle of the canyon.


Plateau Point panorama, Tonto Plateau

I was up early again the next morning, and this day would be my last within the canyon on this trip.  The vertical gain from Indian Garden to the South Rim is 3000 feet over 4.5 miles, but if you take it slow and steady, it is enjoyable with better and better views as you climb.


I made it to the South Rim, dropped my pack in my car (waiting right where I had left it) and checked at Bright Angel Lodge to see if my room was available for check-in.  It was still early, so I had to wait for a little while, but had lunch at the Bright Angel Lodge restaurant while I waited.   I checked in, took a shower, and rested my legs a bit, before going back out for more exploring.  I went back to Mather Point and a few other spots for more photos, and then caught the shuttle bus over to Hopi Point for sunset.  A thunderstorm moved in and there was some very cool lightening over the canyon that evening.


After a great long night sleeping in a real bed in my room, I walked along the rim for a bit, enjoying the views and morning air.  I finally had to leave the Grand Canyon for this trip, and headed south. As I was driving out, I passed a mule train full of people just starting their adventure into the Grand Canyon.  I spent a few hours in Sedona on the way to Phoenix, where I would catch my flight home.