Indian Graden Grand Canyon Hike

Hike Indian Garden (Grand Canyon) on the Bright Angel Trail

In This Guide
  • Turn-by-Turn Hike Directions & Video
  • Fitness Level and Gear to Hike to Indian Garden
  • Tips on Weather, Parking, and Planning
Distance9 miles (14.5 km)
Hike Time4-5 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Hard
Total Ascent (?)3,050 feet (930m)
Highest Elevation6,850 feet (2088m)
Fees & PermitsNational Park Entry Fee
Dog FriendlyNo
Park Website (?)Grand Canyon National Park
Park Phone928-638-7888
Stay In Touch - - -

If you had to pick a “must-do” hike in the Grand Canyon, hiking to Indian Garden on the Bright Angel Trail is the one. The trail is considered the Grand Canyon’s premier hiking trail; it’s very well maintained, safe, and spectacularly beautiful. You’ll hike down into the Grand Canyon, experiencing all the wonders it has to offer without any hardships aside from the climb back up. The trail has water stations and bathrooms, making it very beginner-friendly. And Indian Garden is an oasis in the depths of the Grand Canyon where you can relax in the shade, talk to a ranger, and have a picnic.

A shorter option is the hike to 3 Mile Resthouse. Want a longer hike? Try the hike to Plateau Point.

Don’t forget to check out my Grand Canyon hiking tips here!

How to Get to the Bright Angel Trail

The Bright Angel Trail might be the most popular trail in Grand Canyon National Park, but it’s still tricky to find. I recommend navigating to the Bright Angel Lodge, and then from there, following the maps below to the parking areas.

Use this navigation address:
Bright Angel Lodge, 9 Village Loop Drive, Grand Canyon Village, AZ 86023

If you’re using Google Maps, the actual trailhead is on there too:
Bright Angel Trailhead, 15 Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon Village, AZ 86023

Once you are in the lodge area, you can park anywhere that you don’t see a no-parking sign or staff parking sign. The parking lots are shared with visitors staying in accommodations such as Bright Angel Lodge.

Bright Angel Trail Parking
The areas in the red boxes offer parking close to the trailhead. There are always people coming and going, give the areas a look before parking farther out.
Bright Angel Trail 2
Here’s the parking lot next to the trailhead. It’s a bit hidden from casual drivers, and I usually have good luck here.
Farther Parking Bright Angel Trail
If you do need to park farther out, here are your options, all within a short walk to the trailhead.

The Blue Line Shuttle Bus is a good option to get to the trailhead if you’re parked or staying somewhere else in the park. The bus runs year-round. The Hermit’s Rest Route Transfer stop is closer to the trailhead than the Bright Angel Lodge stop, but either one will be fine.

I’ve hiked Bright Angel many times and I’ve never had a problem parking by the trailhead when I get there just before sunrise.

Bright Angel Trail 4
There are lots of bathrooms at the trailhead.
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There’s a water fill station at the trailhead on the side of the bathrooms.

Gear For the Indian Garden Hike

The hike to Indian Garden is 9 miles with 3,000 feet of climbing. It’s a “hike hike” and I recommend having proper hiking gear when doing it. That means trail runners or hiking boots, trekking poles, and at least 1 liter of water, preferably 3L. That said, if you only have fitness clothes, sneakers, and a backpack with water bottle(s), the great condition of the Bright Angel Trail and frequent water sources make it doable like this. Just don’t skimp on the water.

Taking some snacks will help keep your energy up for the trip back. If it’s hot out, try some energy gels which are easier to get down in high temperatures. You can refill your water at many points along the trail (see the directions later). Water is available year-round at Indian Garden but only seasonally at the other points. Sometimes there are water station closures, so make sure you check the alerts page before you go.

The water you see on the Bright Angel Trail (and most of the South Rim) is pumped up from Roaring Springs, 3,100 feet below the North Rim. The Parks Service has an interesting video about it here.

The weather in the Grand Canyon can be extreme. In the winter, bitter cold, ice, and snow is not uncommon. So pay close attention to the weather for Grand Canyon Village. If there is snow, the Bright Angel Trail can be covered. In those conditions micro-spikes and trekking poles are a must. There can be ice on the upper parts of the trail.

And of course, in the summer, it gets hot. You’ll feel the heat the most when you descend into the canyon to Indian Garden. The canyon walls offer some shade at the right part of the day, but there are sections exposed to the sun, so protect yourself. The temperature rises about 5.5F for every 1,000 feet that you descend. So you can expect Indian Garden to be about 16-17F warmer than the trailhead at the South Rim. In the warm months of summer, this hike is not a good idea during mid-day.

Bright Angel Trail 51
Notice that the thermometer goes to 140F at Indian Garden. The highest recorded temperature in the Grand Canyon 120F, recorded at Phantom Ranch. Take the temperature seriously; people die from heatstroke in the Grand Canyon.

FYI >>REI 50% Clearance Sale on now

La Sportiva Spire

I try a lot of hiking boots and shoes, and there are some great options out there, but the La Sportiva Spire is the best combination of comfort, protection, low-weight, and durability. They are waterproof, and the high cuff keeps debris out without the need for a gaiter. Time tested over thousands of miles. Use them with a two-layer sock system to end blisters for good.
Reviews & Lowest Prices: WomenMen

Osprey Talon

On a medium or longer hike I recommend a pack like the Osprey Talon 33 (men) or Osprey Sirrus 36 (women) which is a little bit larger. These packs are on the upper end of the (35L) daypack range, but they only weigh a small fraction more than a pack with less capacity. Having the extra space gives you more flexibility and means you don’t have to jam things in there. I use the space for things like extra layers in the winter, extra water on desert hikes, and even a tent & sleeping bag on overnights.

Garmin Inreach Mini Beacon

If you’re not familiar with the Garmin InReach technology, it allows you to send and receive text messages where you don’t have cell phone signals. You can also get weather reports and trigger an SOS to emergency responders. Even if you don’t have an emergency, sending a quick message telling a loved one that you’re okay or are running late is well worth the cost. The Mini fits in your palm and weighs next to nothing. Read my review and see the lowest prices and reviews at REI.

Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated January 2020.See All of My Best Gear Picks Here

No company pays me to promote or push a product, all the gear you see here is gear I use and recommend. If you click an a link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps offset website expenses. There is no cost to you.

Fitness To Hike To Indian Garden

Bright Angel Trail 13
A sign at the start of the Bright Angel Trail warns hikers not to overexert themselves. Conditions in the Grand Canyon can be extreme, and the climb back out of the canyon is tough. This is not the venue to push yourself past your limits.

Grand Canyon hikes are deceiving. Unlike mountain hikes where you do the climb and then get an easy hike back down, in the Grand Canyon it’s oh-so-easy hiking miles downhill, but then you have to turn around and go back up. As the park rangers like to say, there’s no shuttle bus from the bottom of the canyon to the top. So even if you are comfortable hiking for 12-13 miles, you need to be prepared to hike over 3,000 feet on the way back out, after having hiked over 6 miles down. 3,000 feet is just over a half a vertical mile.

The best training is to hike 7-9 mile mountain trail with at least 3,000 feet of climbing. That can be tough if you don’t live near the mountains. But if you exercise regularly and are in good shape, you can approximate the effort by using a stair machine or treadmill. The approximate gradient between Indian Garden and the South Rim is around 14%, and it should take you about 2 hours. So dial in that gradient and time into your machine and give it a try. It doesn’t have to be fast, and you can pause for breaks as you normally would on the trail, but that should get you close to the effort.

It’s not uncommon to climb back out at half the pace that you descended. Most folks go down at between 2-3mph, and climb back out between 1-2mph.

Bright Angel Trail To Indian Garden Maps

The Bright Angel trail is what the Parks Service calls a corridor trail. The corridor trails are heavily used and actively maintained. The Bright Angel Trail is the most used trail in the park. It’s built with a standard gradient (overall) of 10% and has a standard width of 4 feet wide. What that means in practical terms is that, while it’s a tough trail, it’s never too steep and never so narrow that you’re walking on a precipice.

Overview Map

Bright Angel Overview Map
This map gives you an overview of the route and landmarks.You can also continue the hike on a relatively flat section to Plateau Point.

Interactive Map

Click To View Map

Hike Indian Garden (Grand Canyon) on the Bright Angel Trail Map Downloads

Download the Hike GPX File

View a Printable PDF Hike Map

Fenix 6 Pro

I’m a big fan of GPS watches to follow my GPX track (which I also use as a sleep, wellness, and fitness tracker) and my current watch is the Fenix 6 Pro Solar (full review here). I load my GPX tracks onto the watch to make sure I’m in the right place, and if not, the onboard topo maps allow me to navigate on the fly. It’s pricey but it has a great battery, accurate GPS, and tons of functionality. If you want something similar without the maps and big price tag, check out the Garmin Instinct which is a great buy (prices on REI and Amazon) and does a lot of the same things.

Landmarks on Indian Garden Hike

Landmark DistanceElevationWater
1st Tunnel0.186708no
2nd Tunnel0.756240no
1.5 Mile Resthouse1.55730Spring to Fall
3 Mile Resthouse34750Spring to Fall
Indian Garden4.53800yes

3D Map

Indian Garden Hike 3d Map
The hike to Indian Garden goes down the Bright Angel Fault to the oasis around Garden Creek below.

Elevation Profile

Indian Garden Hike Elevation
You go down, then you up, that’s how it works. the last half-mile or so to Indian Garden levels out a bit though.

Mules on the Trail

Bright Angel Trail 10
The steep gradient on the Bright Angel Trail isn’t the only challenge; you’ll have to share the trail (and yield to) mules.

For over a century ,mules have been hauling gear, supplies, and people in and out of the Grand Canyon. Right behind the Bright Angel Trailhead is a mule pen used on the trail. These mules take people down to Indian Garden for a day trip and to Phantom Ranch for an overnight trip. Mule trips are very popular, can be booked 15 months in advance, and fill up quickly.

As a hiker on the Bright Angel Trail, the mules can be a pain. If you get stuck behind them, you’ll be stuck behind them for a while, until the mule handler allows you to pass. Oh, and they’ll be crapping too. If you are going in the opposite direction as the mules, you should stand as close to the inside of the trail as possible and let them pass as you heed the mule handler’s instructions.

Mules aren’t aggressive, but they can bite. Keep your hands to yourself. Don’t try to pet or feed the mules.

Bright Angel Trail 63
Time your hike right and this could be the only mule encounter you have. Here the mules are resting in the pen at Indian Garden.

My tip is to leave at sunrise before the first mules leave. By the time you head back up from Indian Garden, you should pass them head-on, which is much better than getting stuck behind them on the climb out. And many times you can pass them while they’re on their break in the corral at Indian Garden.

Bright Angel Trail FAQ

Bright Angel Trail 65
Staying on the trail is vital to protecting the delicate landscape around the Bright Angel Trail.

A Quick Bright Angel Trail History

Blasting On The Bright Angel Trail
The Civilian Conservation Corps and Havasupai laborers improved the Bright Angel Trail in the 1930s, but the path was here thousands of years before that. You can still see holes in the cliff from the 1930s used for blasting today. Photo NPS

The Bright Angel Trail has been used for centuries to access the reliable water source at Indian Garden. The trail is named after the Bright Angel Fault, which provided a way to climb down the canyon walls to the water. When prospectors arrived here in the 1800s, native Havasupai were actively using the route and planting crops at Indian Garden

In the 1890s, Ralph Cameron arrived and started mining in the area. The railroad arrived at the Grand Canyon, and he realized that tourism was more profitable than mining. Cameron “registered” and improved the Bright Angel Trail, set up camping at Indian Garden and the South Rim, and then charged visitors $1 to use the trail. His claims to the area were dubious, and he was in a constant battle with the government over the trail and land. Even after the Grand Canyon became a National Park in 1919, he still fought against giving up control. In 1928 he lost the battle and the trail was handed over to the Parks Service, who improved it and made it what it is today.

Of course, the native Havasupai were the ones who lost the most. Theodore Roosevelt (who rode down the Bright Angel Trail on a horse) ordered them to leave in 1901 in order to make way for the park. Some left and some stayed, but in 1928 the Parks Service forced the last Havasupai out of the Bright Angel area and onto a 518-acre reservation in Havasu Canyon. In 1975 after a long battle, the US Government created the 188,077 acre Havasupai Indian Reservation in the park. The capital, Supai, is considered “the most remote community” in the lower-48 and is only accessible by foot, mule, or helicopter.

Havasupai means “people of the blue-green waters,” referring to the color of the Colorado River, which runs through the Grand Canyon. In the early 1900s they worked as laborers here and created much of what you see at Grand Canyon National Park.

How to Hike to Indian Garden

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Video Directions

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Turn by Turn Directions

Indian Garden Grand Canyon Hike 4
The Bright Angel Trailhead is just past the bathroom and plaza area.
Indian Garden Grand Canyon Hike 6
Here’s where you start the hike to Indian Garden on the Bright Angel Trail.
Indian Garden Grand Canyon Hike 8
There’s a great sign by the trailhead where you can grab some photos.
Indian Garden Grand Canyon Hike 7
Once you’re done taking pictures, start the hike down the trail.
Indian Garden Grand Canyon Hike 9
The trail is wide and easy to follow as it winds down the cliffside.
Indian Garden Grand Canyon Hike 11
At about 0.5 miles in you’ll reach the first tunnel.
Bright Angel Pictographs
Just past the first tunnel, up on your left, look for these ancient pictographs under the overhang. Be respectful and stay on the trail here.
Bright Angel Trail 76
The holes you see along the rock wall here were used for blasting out the trail along the cliffside.
Indian Garden Grand Canyon Hike 12
At this point you’ll see the trail stretching out below you like a ribbon. Indian Garden is the green area at the bottom.
Indian Garden Grand Canyon Hike 14
Avoid any old side trails and spurs coming off the switchback, staying on the same trail.
Indian Garden Grand Canyon Hike 15
You’ll see the trail winding down the canyon wall ahead of you.
Indian Garden Grand Canyon Hike 17
Shortly before a mile in you’ll pass through the second tunnel.
Indian Garden Grand Canyon Hike 19
Past the tunnel you’ll start seeing the different layers of rock that make up the Grand Canyon. Notice how one side of the wall doesn’t line up with the other, a result of movement on the Bright Angel Fault that you are hiking along.
Indian Garden Grand Canyon Hike 21
Soon you’ll see the 1.5 Mile Resthouse in the distance.
Indian Garden Grand Canyon Hike 22
The actual Resthouse is up the steps to the right. The water, toilets, and trail are straight ahead.
Indian Garden Grand Canyon Hike 23
The Resthouse is a nice little shelter where you can get out of the sun or rain.
Indian Garden Grand Canyon Hike 25
The seasonal water source is just past the steps to the Resthouse.
Indian Garden Grand Canyon Hike 26
Shortly past the water is the turnoff for the toilets. Otherwise turn down the switchback to the left to continue down to Indian Garden.
Indian Garden Grand Canyon Hike 27
The Bright Angel Trail continues to wind down in front of you. Just remember, you have to climb back up this!
Indian Garden Grand Canyon Hike 28
Avoid the old spur trail heading up and stay on the main trail. If you are ever in doubt, just look down at the footprints and trail condition. The Bright Angel Trail should have hundreds of footprints and will be at least 4 feet wide.
Indian Garden Grand Canyon Hike 29
Even though you are going down the canyon wall, there’s no real sections on the edge. This picture shows you a typical section. The trail is 4 feet wide and beneath you is a trail switchback.
Indian Garden Grand Canyon Hike 31
At three miles you’ll reach the 3 Mile Resthouse.
Indian Garden Grand Canyon Hike 32
If you want to stop at the Resthouse, water, or toilets, they are up to the right. Otherwise the trail continues down to the left.
Indian Garden Grand Canyon Hike 37
The Resthouse structure is similar to the last one.
Indian Garden Grand Canyon Hike 35
Water is just past the structure.
Indian Garden Grand Canyon Hike 33
The toilets are just past the Resthouse structure up the stairs to the right.
Indian Garden Grand Canyon Hike 34
The restroom building is up the stairs.
Indian Garden Grand Canyon Hike 39
Continue down the switchback section called Jacob’s Ladder.
Indian Garden Area 1
You’ll pass over the water pipeline coming from the North Rim.
Indian Garden Grand Canyon Hike 40
After Jacob’s Ladder the trail levels out as it approaches Indian Garden.
Indian Garden Grand Canyon Hike 41
There’s an old interpretive sign for Indian Garden. The Indian Garden area starts on the left from here on out.
Indian Garden Area 2
Here’s a closeup of the sign. The map is handy to get a lay of the land.
Indian Garden Grand Canyon Hike 42
Go past the fragile vegetation area off to the left.
Indian Garden Grand Canyon Hike 43
At the next junction, you have a choice. You can go straight to continue to the end of the Indian Garden area, or left to the Ranger Station. I’ll give you the directions to the end of the Indian Garden area on the Bright Angel Trail, but feel free to head into the ranger or campground area and look around.
Indian Garden Map
Here’s a lay of the land around Indian Garden. The main trail heads down the right side, and the campgrounds, ranger, and other structures are in the shaded areas to the left.
Indian Garden Area 3
The ranger station is at the top part of Indian Garden.
Indian Garden Grand Canyon Hike 44
You’ll pass picnic areas and hang areas to keep packs away from rodents.
Indian Garden Area 5
Throughout this section there are several benches and picnic benches.
Indian Garden Grand Canyon Hike 46
Keep straight and head toward the end the Indian Garden area.
Indian Garden Grand Canyon Hike 45
You’ll also see hitching posts for mules and horses.
Indian Garden Area 7
When you come to the stairs down, the toilets are up on the right, and a shaded water area down and ahead.
Indian Garden Area 8
You’ll also see a lot of the stables and structures used to feed and keep the mules.
Indian Garden Area 9
When you get down to these final mule pens you’ve reached the end of Indian Garden. Take a break, explore, and get ready for the climb out.

Hiking Back To the South Rim

You’ve got over 4 miles under your belt, but the hard part is yet to come. Unless you’re going to float down the river, you’ll have to walk back up to leave the inside of the Canyon.

Indian Garden Area 10
Head back up through Indian Garden, either on the trail or through the camp and ranger area.
Bright Angel Trail 66
After Indian Garden the trail starts to slope upward.
Bright Angel Trail 67
And pretty soon you’re starting your 4 miles of uphill switchbacks.
Bright Angel Trail 68
At the 3 Mile Resthouse keep right to continue up the trail.
Bright Angel Trail 69
Although the climb is tough, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you reach the landmarks that you saw on your way down.
Bright Angel Trail 70
Almost there! The V in the cliff up top is where the trailhead is.
Bright Angel Trail 71
More switchbacks as you climb the last 2 miles.
Bright Angel Trail 72
At the 1.5 Mile Resthouse toilets, continue right and up the Bright Angel Trail.
Bright Angel Trail 73
Continue pass the actual 1.5 Mile Resthouse. This is your last chance to refill your water.
Bright Angel Trail 74
The last 1.5 miles can be steep and tough, but you’re oh-so close! The tunnels are good landmarks to shoot for.
Bright Angel Trail 75
Keep your eyes peeled on the heights around the trail as you climb; there are bighorn sheep in the park.
Bright Angel Trail 77
You did it! Pat yourself on the back and go treat yourself to some calories at the Bright Angel Lodge, you earned it.

Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.

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