The river trail is a brief loop starting from Bright Angel Campground that incorporates both bridges, as well as a trail segment carved into the cliffs on the south side of the river. This is a great way to cool down after a long trek down from the rim, and it gives you a chance to soak in the river and its surrounding environs.
Elevation Gained: 300′
Critters: Mule deer
After setting up at Bright Angel, I had some time to relax while Kyle was getting his stuff sorted out. After hiking down from the South Rim, the natural conclusion might have been to dose off or eat dinner or loaf around. However, I hadn’t come all that way to look at the backside of my eyelids, which I can see anytime I want. I therefore set off to wander the immediate area to see what there was to be seen.
One of the benefits that comes from starting off at the privileged trailhead that relatively few ever see in one of the natural wonders of the world is that even a brief hike is amazing by relative standards. After crossing the sketchy feeling Silver Bridge, I stood looking down at the Colorado River as it tumbled its way over rapids. The river is not visible from the South Rim, so fewer people get to see it. Yet, here I was standing over it as it roared by.
It’s worth noting that the Grand Canyon is largely the result of time and this very river. While numerous factors, including rock composition, tectonic action, and geologic pressure played crucial roles, this canyon would be nothing more than a flat, overheated plateau were it not for hundreds of thousands of years of this river gouging the canyon out one day at a time. Two of the most powerful geologic forces are water and time, and this canyon is a testament to this humbling fact.
The loop is a quick and easy hike, especially considering that there are few quick and easy hikes here. After following the trail on the opposite side of Bright Angel Campground, I joined up with the Black Bridge one more time and crossed over to the north side. From here, I shuffled along to a sand bar that actually creates a nice little beach along the river. This sand here is remarkably fine, making the sand from SoCal beaches feel like boulders.
After lounging on the beach for a bit, I headed back to the camp to re-hydrate the remarkably tasty Bare Burrito, which will henceforth become a staple on all backpacking trips. Most backpacking food I’ve tried tastes like crap, but the bare burrito is absolutely delicious, even if it is reconstituted. One day down, and four more to go with what would probably be the easiest stretch of the trip to follow with a trek up Bright Angel Canyon to Cottonwood Campground.