On January 31, 2017, Dan and I backpacked from the South Kaibab trailhead to Bright Angel campground. We descended almost 5,000 feet, which is plenty of time to repeatedly smash my feet on the ground under the groaning weight of a TWENTY FIVE POUND pack. That must be a record or something. Hah. Complaining aside, my legs woke me up every hour overnight to remind me of their displeasure. This included a two hour awake period starting at 3 AM, so I finished one of Paulo Coehlo’s books – Zahir, maybe? They all kind of run together after the Alchemist.

Eventually I fell back asleep until 7 AM. We woke up and ate cold, backpack-crushed pumpkin muffins for breakfast. Then we packed up for a hike along the Clear Creek Trail.

Grand Canyon Clear Creek Trail
Bright Angel Creek

First we looked around the hallowed Phantom Ranch. It popped up so often in my research of the Grand Canyon. Phantom Ranch is THE place to stay if you can afford the luxuries of the only crumbly cabin/lodge system in the Grand Canyon (below the rim). It is one of the hardest reservations to secure in the National Park System. Built in 1922, its 11 cabins and 4 dormitories accommodate 92 overnight guests and can sell out within two hours the day they become available, 13 months in advance [O.A.R.S.]. Socialites and celebrities of the 1920s considered Phantom Ranch to be a fashionable destination and getaway. That was during the Great Depression right? I think any form of shelter was fashionable.

From Phantom Ranch we hiked along Bright Angel Creek until we reached the Clear Creek Trail. If you are staying at Phantom Ranch or Bright Angel campground in the winter, this trail is a great “rest day” activity. It stretches 9 miles long so you can choose your own out-and-back length. And emphasis is on winter activity because it is south facing and consequently is in the sun from sunrise to sunset. In summer, temperatures at the bottom of the canyon can exceed 100 F. But in January it was a balmy 50 degrees!

The trailhead for the Clear Creek Trail is a half mile north of Phantom Ranch. After leaving Bright Angel Creek, the trail abruptly climbs up a few long switchbacks. Within a half of a mile we reached Phantom Overlook, which offers great views of Phantom Ranch from ~500 feet above.

Clear Creek Trail Granc Canyon

Soon after we saw the Colorado River in all of its glorious-ness

Grand Canyon Clear Creek Trail
A view of the Colorado River, looking west.
Clear Creek Trail Grand Canyon
Annnd a view to the east.

After 1.5 miles we were on top of the Tonto plateau, and the trail leveled out. We were rewarded with views of Zoroaster Temple looming above as we headed east.

Clear Creek Trail Granc Canyon
Zoroaster Temple.

After about 2 hours of hiking and a decrease in the magnitude of views [spoiled?], we turned around and made our way back to Bright Angel campground.

Clear Creek Trail Grand Canyon

The January sun was surprisingly intense. I kept thinking about how hot it felt at 55 degrees. I can’t imagine double the temperature in the summer. Shall we revisit this gem?

Grand Canyon South Kaibab Trail
A serious situation.

Anyways, down we went.

Clear Creek Trail Grand Canyon
I liked this section of the hike.

Clear Creek Trail Grand Canyon

We got back and chugged some water and sunbathed at the beach.

Bright Angel Campground Colorado River
Sunbathing in a fleece pullover.

Then we made a slightly better dinner of freeze dried chicken curry, watched the stars come out, and read for 3 hours until it was a more acceptable time to pass out – 9 PM. I started a fantasy trilogy that Dan had on his Kindle – The Wretched of Muirwood. It’s a pretty quick, fun read.

The end.



  1. Beautiful place. Great photos. The best part is I don’t have to take the punishment of a hike with a 5,000 ft elevation change.

  2. Thanks for this post. I had been wondering about good day hikes once down in the Canyon. Was there snow at the rim/on the trail? Sadly, we had a reservation at the dorms at Phantom Ranch this past October but my hubby got really sick and we had to cancel. I hope we can get back.

    • ashleyoutside Reply

      Ah I’m sorry to hear he got sick! Hopefully you can go back soon!

      It was cold and snowy at the top but once we descended a couple thousand feet it was surprisingly warm and snow-free. Camping was very nice 🙂

  3. Pingback: Grand Canyon Winter Backpacking: Bright Angel Campground to Bright Angel Trailhead • Ashley Outside

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