Cottonwood trees line the creeks and shade the buildings at Phantom Ranch. The only modes of access to the ranch are foot trails (also used by mules) and the Colorado River. The two trails, Bright Angel and South Kaibab, offer amazing views to and from Phantom Ranch.
Bright Angel Trail
Bright Angel is the Grand Canyon's most popular rim-to-river hike, as well as the most frequented trail in the entire park. The lengthy trail can be hiked to the bottom of the canyon, although most hikers prefer to turn back long before reaching the bottom. There are two rest stations along the trail that make for good day hikes. The first station is 1.5 miles into the hike, while the second can be reached after 3 miles.
The trail begins as a steep set of switchbacks descending through the Coconino, Hermit, and Esplanade strata, before reaching a tree-lined spring at Indian Garden. This is the site of the third rest station, featuring a ranger cabin and primitive campsites for those who want to spend the night. Back country permits are required for overnight camping inside the canyon, and may be obtained at the Back Country Information Center.
From Indian Garden, the trail forks: the left branch continues for a few miles towards Plateau Point, which provides excellent views of the inner canyon gorge and the Colorado River. The right fork continues down towards the river, traveling alongside it for a short distance before reaching Phantom Ranch.
Learn more about the Bright Angel Trail.
South Kaibab Trail
Considered to be more scenic than Bright Angel Trail, South Kaibab Trail is one of the easiest and fastest rim-to-river routes. The trail spends most of its length traversing a narrow ridge, affording virtually unobstructed views in all directions. From the trailhead, the path slopes down into Pipe Creek, a narrow ravine that eventually opens up to reveal the trail as it traces a ridge with scenic views. These first 1.5 miles of the trail are very busy during the summer, and the NPS has installed pit restrooms at the ridge, making it an ideal goal for half-day hikers.
Visitors can continue the trail’s slow descent down the ridge. The trail winds around O'Neill Butte before dropping steeply along switchbacks towards the Tonto Plateau. Here the trail temporarily levels out, reaching a point named The Tip Off, where another set of restrooms are available. The path once again becomes steep as it winds down into the canyon's colorful inner gorge. A short tunnel gives access to the South Kaibab suspension bridge crossing over to the north side of the Colorado. A short hike leads to the end of the Bright Angel Trail and Phantom Ranch.
The NPS warns about the dangers of trying to make both the hike down to the river and the return trip to the rim in the same day, but fit, experienced hikers should be able to manage if they pace themselves.
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For more information about Phantom Ranch or to make reservations please visit grandcanyonlodges.com/phantom-ranch or call 1.888.29.PARKS (888.297.2757).