South Rim Hike Visitor Center Bright Angel

South Rim Trail: Visitor’s Center to Bright Angel Trail Hike

In This Guide
  • Turn-by-Turn Hike Directions & Video
  • What to Expect on the Rim Hike to the Bright Angel Trail
  • Tips on Weather, Parking, and Planning for the Hike
Distance3 miles (4.8 km)
Hike Time1-1.5 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Easy
Total Ascent (?)-300 feet (-91m)
Highest Elevation6,820 feet (2079m)
Fees & PermitsNational Park Entry Fee
Dog FriendlyLeashed
Park Website (?)Grand Canyon National Park
Park Phone928-638-7888
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Instead of driving to the attractions on the South Rim, here’s a great easy hike that you can do instead. You’ll follow the paved Rim Trail away from the crowds at the Visitor’s Center to take in Mather Point, the Geology Museum, the Trail of Time, Verkamp’s, Hopi House, and all the Bright Angel attractions. In between the sights, the Rim Trail meanders along the South Rim, with dozens of unique vistas and viewpoints where you can take in the majesty of the Canyon. At the end of the hike, you hop on a free shuttle bus back to your car at the Visitor’s Center.

Want a similar hike that gets away from the crowds? Try the Rim Trail hike to the South Kaibab Trail.

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

Getting to the Trailhead

This hike conveniently starts right at the Grand Canyon Visitor’s Center, the first stop for many folks coming to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. If you’ve been driving for a while and just want to stretch your legs and get away from the crowds, this hike is a great option.

Here is the Visitor Center address:
Grand Canyon Visitor Center, S Entrance Rd, Grand Canyon Village, AZ 86023

There are multiple lots at the Visitor’s Center and there are always people coming and going, so if at first you don’t find a spot, keep driving around. The Visitor’s Center also a free offers shuttle bus service to all the attractions on the South Rim, so it’s a good place to use as a base.

Start Of Short Rim Trail Hike
This hike starts right in front of the Visitor’s Center building.

Gear for the Hike

This is more of an easy walk than a hike, and you can get away with everyday clothing here. If you do have fitness or hiking clothes, it will make the hike more pleasant. You should bring 1L of water with you, but if you only have a smaller bottle, there are multiple places to refill along the hike.

Weather can be extreme at the Grand Canyon. In the winter there can be snow and ice, and in the summer the temperatures can be high. Wear the appropriate clothing for the conditions. If there are thunderstorms in the area it’s best not to do this hike.

FYI >>REI 50% Clearance Sale on now

La Sportiva Spire

The La Sportiva Spire boots feel like comfortable sneakers but offer the protection of hiking boots. They’re great on everything from short hikes to longer hikes of 10+ miles. You don’t want to skimp on your feet.
Reviews & Lowest Prices: WomenMen

Opsrey Stratos Blue

I test a lot of gear, and for short to medium day hikes, travel, and everyday use, the Osprey Stratos (men) and Osprey Sirrus (women) are consistently the best. They’re lightweight, hold a hydration bladder to make drinking water easy, have lots of pockets to organize gear, and most importantly, are incredibly comfortable. Check out the reviews; they are impressive.
Reviews & Colors Here: Osprey Stratos (men) and Osprey Sirrus (women) 

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 (or Amazon).

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.

This is one of the only hiking trails in the Grand Canyon where you can bring leashed pets. Unfortunately they are not allowed on the shuttle bus, so if you do this hike with a pet, you’ll have to walk back.

Trail Maps

The Rim Trail is a wide and well maintained (and often paved) walking path that stretches a total of 13 miles along the South Rim. This hike is entirely paved and only has some small, gradual ups and downs. There are no climbs or hard parts. It’s easy to follow and there are lots of signs, so it’s a great beginner’s hike. Even if you are an experienced hiker, the trail is spectacular as it follows the rim and offers lots of great viewpoints and South Rim attractions.

Click To View Map

South Rim Trail: Visitor’s Center to Bright Angel Trail Hike 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.

Visitor’s Center to South Kaibab Trail Hike Directions

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Video Directions

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Turn-by-Turn Directions

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Start by facing the Visitor’s Center entrance and making the right toward Mather Point.
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Follow the walkway up and to the left. There are many signs pointing the way to Mather Point, the most popular vista in the park.
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Once you leave the Visitor’s Center area, the path is wide and continues to Mather Point.

Mather Point is named after Steven Mather, a millionaire businessman, conservationist, friend of John Muir, and creator of the National Parks Service. If you’re interested in learning more about the Grand Canyon, Mather, and the National Parks in general, I highly recommend watching the Ken Burns National Parks documentary. It will add a deeper appreciation to your visit at the Grand Canyon and any National Park.

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When you get to the big intersection, go straight through. You’ll pass over this big circular medallion honoring all the tribes that call the Grand Canyon their home. The medallion was funded by donors to the Grand Canyon Conservancy.
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Welcome to the chaos that is Mather Point. Brave the crowds to enjoy one of the best vista points on the South Rim. Don’t worry; we’ll leave the tour bus crowds behind shortly.
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There’s one spot on the left side of Mather Point where you can see the Colorado River a mile below.
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After you’ve had your fill of insanity, exit Mather Point to the right.
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You’ll get some nice views of the next vista point.
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Keep heading up the ramp and along the rim.
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Soon you’ll be on the Rim Trail. We’ll be following this all the way to Bright Angel. Head straight along the path, following the rim. The crowds will thin out shortly.
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There’s another vista point to your right that has sone sections without fences. Be careful.

Use extreme caution when near the edge. Don’t go off the trail right to the edge unless there is a railing. Don’t take selfies on the edge. You might think most deaths occur from hikers deep in the wilderness, but that’s not the case. More people die on the South Rim. In 2019 three people ignored warnings and fell from the edge of the canyon in one week. There’s nothing dangerous about this hike or visiting as long as you follow the rules. If you go off the trail and start taking selfies, who knows?

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We’re heading to the Bright Angel Lodge. Also note the vista point on the right. You’ll be passing by dozens of these along the hike.
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Keep following the paved Rim Trail as it skirts the road. Instead of sitting in a line of cars, you’re enjoying the park as it was intended, on a hike.
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Keep to the right when the trail splits. Notice how the crowds have disappeared.
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Keep heading straight / right on the trail. The side trails to the left head to parking areas.
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Around here you’ll encounter your first viewfinder. The notches on the dial fix the finder in on certain targets.
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From this viewfinder you’ll be able to see the Colorado River peaking through the slots of the canyon.
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Soon you’ll be at the Yavapai Museum of Geology. Continue your hike through the museum.
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The geology museum is worth spending some time at. The exhibits will give you an overview of how the canyon was formed and what the different layers of rock are. There’s also a gift store and bathrooms here.
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Continue out of the museum and along the Rim Trail.
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At the split you can go either way.
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After the split comes back together you’ll arrive at the beginning of the “Trail of Time,” an interpretive exhibit along the Rim Trail that explains the geology of the Grand Canyon as you stroll. You can pick up a brochure here too.
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The Trail of Time has more viewfinders to explain the different rock features.
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There is also a series of bronze medallions in the ground that show your progress on a timeline of natural evolution. Each meter of the trail represents 1 million years of geological history.
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There are also rock samples along the trail that highlight the geology of your point on the timeline.
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And again, you’ll get dozens of great vista points along the hike here.
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The last gap in the cliffs is the Bright Angel Fault, location of the Bright Angel Trail. You can also see the buildings at Bright Angel up on the rim. That’s the end of the hike.
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Keep heading down the Rim Trail, which gets a bit smaller here but is still paved and easy to follow.
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Another split. Keep hiking to the right. You have about 1 mile to go until you reach the Bright Angel area.
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One of the nice things about doing this hike is that you’ll be exposed to views that people just visiting the roadside stops don’t get (like this one).
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Soon you’ll start to see more people as you approach the attractions around Bright Angel.
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The first attraction is Verkamp’s, a store that dates back to 1898. John Verkamp set up shop here selling supplies and gifts to early tourists. He had this building erected in 1905 and it was in operation until 2008. Today it serves as a visitor center and gift shop. If you want to take a look, go for it and then return to the trail to continue the hike.
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Right next to Verkamp’s is the Hopi House, also built in 1905. The structure is modeled on a native Hopi pueblo and served as a place for local artisans to live, create, and sell their goods to visitors. Today it’s a gift shop focusing on native art.
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Continue past the historic El Tovar Hotel, built at the end of the railroad line in 1905 to accommodate guests to the Grand Canyon. Its architectural style would become the basis for building in many other National Parks. It still runs as a hotel and is an option if you’re looking for a place to stay. And if you’re a National Lampoon’s Vacation fan, it’s where Chevy Chase robs the cash register at the hotel.
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Continue hiking past the other lodging options at Bright Angel.
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Back to the crowds! Continue on the trail past the shops and food options.
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Soon you’ll get some incredible views of the Lookout Studio, built in 1914 as a scenic overlook.
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If you want to checkout Lookout Studio, do it and then come back to the trail. So many gift shops…
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Keep left to continue on the Rim Trail. You can also make the side trip to Kolb Studio, which has photo and art exhibits. And yes, it also has a gift shop.
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Continue along the Rim Trail to reach the Bright Angel Trailhead area which has water and bathrooms.
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When you reach the mule pens on the left, the Bright Angel Trailhead is on your right. You can take mule trips down to Indian Garden but they get booked up far in advance.
Indian Garden Grand Canyon Hike 8
There’s a great sign by the trailhead where you can grab some photos.

That’s the hike! Wasn’t that better than driving? From here you can get a shuttle bus back to the Visitor’s Center (more below), explore Bright Angel and grab a bite, or maybe do a short hike down the Bright Angel Trail.

Getting The Shuttle Bus

Bright Angel Bus Stop
The closest stop to the end of the hike is the Hermit’s Rest Transfer Station. Make sure you get the blue bus, not the red one. If you walk around the Bright Angel area some more after the hike, there are a few stops in the area.

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

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