Grand Day Loop

  • S Kaibab, First light, from near Yaki Point (2) - © William Mackesy
  • Bright Angel, Looking up, afternoon light - © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • S Kaibab, O"Neill Butte, with trail - © William Mackesy
  • S Kaibab, Ridgetop trail to O"Neill Butte - © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • S Kaibab, Trail to O"Neill Butte - © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • S Kaibab - © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • S Kaibab, Zig-zags below Skeleton Point - © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • Tonto, Inner plateau - © William Mackesy
  • Across to N Rim - © William Mackesy
  • Phanton Ranch area, N Kaibab, from Tonto Trail - © William Mackesy
  • Tonto, Inner plateau - © William Mackesy
  • Inner plateau, N rim in distance - © William Mackesy
  • Tonto, North wall from inner plateau - © William Mackesy
  • North Wall from Inner Plateau - © William Mackesy
  • Tonto, North wall looking to N Rim - © William Mackesy
  • Near Indian Garden - © William Mackesy
  • Mule train to the bottom - © William Mackesy
  • Inner plateau near Indian Garden, Plateau Point trail - © William Mackesy
  • Looking back to Bright Angel Trail above Indian Garden, Plateau Point trail - © William Mackesy
  • Inner canyon from Plateau Point - © William Mackesy
  • Inner canyon from Plateau Point - © William Mackesy
  • Looking up at Bright Angel, afternoon light - © William Mackesy
  • Bright Angel, down the canyon, afternoon light - © William Mackesy
  • Bright Angel, switchbacks Switchbacks - © William Mackesy
  • Bright Angel, Across the Canyon, late light - © William Mackesy

Key information: Grand Day Loop

  • Is this the best day walk in the Grand Canyon? Walkopedia thinks so.
  • Descend the South Kaibab Trail to the Tip-off. Traverse from the Tip-off to Indian Garden on the brilliant Tonto Trail, climb back to the rim on the Bright Angel Trail.
  • Demanding!

Walkopedia rating

  • Walkopedia rating96
  • Beauty37.5
  • Natural interest18
  • Human interest5
  • Charisma37.5
  • Negative points2
  • Total rating96
  • Note: Negs: Crowding in places

Vital Statistics

  • Length: Up to 16 miles
  • Maximum Altitude: 2,510m
  • Level of Difficulty: Strenuous
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Bright Angel, Looking up, afternoon light - © William Mackesy

WALK SUMMARY

The Grand Canyon is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, a World Heritage Site, and geological heaven. It is hard to overpraise the canyon’s raw, outlandish shapes and formations: they are justly famous. The sheer size of the Grand Canyon is astounding. Up to 1,830m (over a mile) deep, 450km long and up to 25km wide, it is the one against which all other canyons are measured.

Is this the best day walk in the Grand Canyon? Walkopedia thinks so. 13-16km of visual rapture.

Descend the South Kaibab Trail to the Tip-off. This is the better descent, as the trail follows a ridge most of the way down, so has superb and wide views, whereas the Bright Angel’s views are narrower, canyon-framed ones.

Traverse from the Tip-off to Indian Garden on the brilliant Tonto Trail, which is beyond delightful, a generally level meander around the slopes, and above the side canyons, of the Tonto platform, above the sheer inner Colorado canyon. This was probably the best bit for us – you feel at times like you are on a massive plain between huge escarpments, rather than in a canyon, such is the vast scale of the Canyon, and the size of the Tonto platform, and its northern equivalent.

If you think you have the legs, do make the level, 3 mile round trip to Plateau Point, for dramatic and magnificent views of the Colorado river.

Then it is the long ascent of the Bright Angel Trail back to the Canyon Village. This is good for an afternoon climb, as, being deep in a side canyon, it gets shady relatively early. It is a long climb, on an endless series of switchbacks, but well constructed and straightforward for what it is.

This is an upside-down walk: most of the time, one climbs first, with fresh legs, and comes back down with grumbling ones; this is vice versa. We have to say, these beautifully constructed and maintained trails are, in ours experience, some of the least painful ways anywhere to gain/drop significant height. We barely noticed our limbs after descending some 3,500ft in 2.5 hrs on the South Kaibab to the Tip-off, and climbed the Bright Angel from Indian Garden pretty easily (considering) in 3hrs with tired legs.

Walkopedia walked this route in 2.5 hrs to the Tip-off; 2 hrs to Indian Garden; 1 3/4 hrs, including lunch, to/from Plateau Point; and 3 hrs + a bit back to the rim. 10 hrs in total including breaks at junctions.

The South Kaibab and Bright Angel are the most famous of all Grand Canyon trails and commensurately crowded, especially near their tops, so, if you are an experienced walker and like (relative) solitude, you will need to prepare mentally. The Tonto is refreshingly underused.

This is tough walking in hot, dry conditions. Come fully prepared, including carrying plenty of water. Remember that you have to get back to the rim: “Descending is optional; ascending is compulsory”, as the signs say, approximately. Dropping on to the Colorado river is not recommended as a day walk.

The Cicerone guide has good information on these walks. Find these and other books on Amazon.

See our Grand Canyon page for much more on the canyon, and detailed practical information.

WILLIAM MACKESY'S ACCOUNT
of this walk

Drew, our driver-guide, drops us at the road barrier, and we walk the 10 minutes to the South Kaibab trailhead. As we reach the rim, a fierce wind whips up: rising dawn air.

The world below us is quiet and dim. The first light is just touching the upper ridges and buttes in a glorious incandescence.

Check watch:7.20am. We plunge. The early trail snakes down the hard pale limestone  cliffs below Yaki Point, coming out into the full glory of the canyon, and the golden early light, at the well-named Oo-ah Point. 

We are now on Cedar Ridge, with marvellous views.....

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Other accounts: share your experiences

Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.

Tonto, Inner plateau - © William Mackesy

Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.

Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

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Inner canyon from Plateau Point - © William Mackesy...
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