Grand Canyon Backpacking, Part 1

The first leg of our backpacking trip was fairly easy – a 0.4 mile walk to the Bright Angel trailhead and 4.8 mile descent to Indian Gardens. This is probably the most popular section of trail in the entire park, so we had to do a bit of maneuvering to get past certain overweight tourists with our cumbersome packs.

Cliffs along Bright Angel

Bright Angel trail

This is something we’ve noticed at all the national parks we’ve visited. The short and easy trails are always packed with out-of-shape Americans (95%+), while the more strenuous backcountry trails are heavily populated with athletic Europeans (50%+). We honestly hear as much French and German on the longer hikes as we do English.

Escaping the sun

After a couple short rest stops, we arrived at the Indian Gardens campground around 4:00pm. We took a few minutes to select a campsite (complete with picnic table and ammo boxes for food storage) and set up the tent, then walked another 1.5 miles to Plateau Point.

Indian Gardens camp (1st night)

Hiking to Plateau Point

Plateau Point serves as a nice “mid-way” viewpoint in the canyon, ~1500’ above the Colorado River and ~3000’ below the South Rim. We spent a little time taking pictures and scrambling on rock formations, then started walking back to camp.

Daredevil Allison

Climbing up to a vantage point

View of Indian Gardens (oasis) and South Rim

On the way, I noticed a rattling noise a few feet from where Allison was walking. After some cautious poking around, I successfully located a small rattlesnake hiding in the tall grass. We hastily retreated back to camp. I killed it with a rock and cooked it for dinner.


Our new backpacking stove really did pay for itself that first night – hot Ramen noodles taste even better after a long day of hiking.

Cooking dinner

Since our campground for the following night was only 4.7 miles away, we decided to sleep in. By “sleep in,” I mean that we rolled out of bed at 6:30am and were the very last people to vacate the camp. For obvious reasons, most hikers prefer to start early in the desert.

Preparing to descend Devil's Corkscrew

View from bottom of canyon

The section of trail between Indian Gardens and the Bright Angel campground is sometimes referred to as “Devil’s Corkscrew” – several miles of jagged switchbacks leading down to the Colorado River. We played tortoise and the hare with an out-of-shape jogger for most of the way (yep, the tortoise won), and crossed the river around 9:30am.

Arriving at the Colorado River

Crossing the river

One of the advantages to arriving early was that we were able to occupy a choice campsite along the creek. After wolfing down some peanut butter sandwiches and tuna, we dropped our packs and left for a short day hike.

(Continued in separate post)

Published in: on June 7, 2011 at 11:35 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Glad to read a new post! We have been looking forward to continuing your journey with you.

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