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Descent/Ascent from South Rim in November

Fort Worth, Texas
3 posts
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Descent/Ascent from South Rim in November

We are trying to decide which trail we should use. We will be hiking at the end of November. I understand that South Kaibab is generally recommended for your descent due to the lack of water/shade, while Bright Angel (even though it's longer) is used for the ascent back to the rim. Is it bad to do it the other way around (so the ascent is less miles)? We are staying overnight at the bottom of the canyon (I have a dorm spot while my other half is camping--I got lucky as we just booked it this week). Any recommendations would be appreciated!

South Jersey, USA
Destination Expert
for Grand Canyon National Park
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10,348 posts
9 reviews
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1. Re: Descent/Ascent from South Rim in November

I don't think it really matters which way you do it...I think it is all just your personal preference! I have done this hike both ways and my personal preference is going down SK and up BA! I like being on SK for sunrise to watch the colors change as the sun rises!!

South Kaibab is the steeper of the two and does require more energy I think coming up vs going down! But, if you have some knee problems you may want to go down BA! Again...personal preference!

Enjoy the hike and congrats on scoring overnight accommodations!!


Wickenburg, Arizona
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for Wickenburg
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745 reviews
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2. Re: Descent/Ascent from South Rim in November

Even though yes, SKaibab is fewer miles, it's not that much shorter, and the steeper last part can be telling. What's more,. on BA you have two chances to go inside a shelter and sit down - 3-Mile and 1.5-mile house.

Another aspect is that if you come up SKaibab, you still need top take the shuttle to get back to the village lodging. BA takes you right to Bright Angel Lodge and into the thick of things, so to speak. I prefer going up BA - but as SJG says personal preference. I like the 'less steep' and the water and the ending up in the village part of it all.

Ann Arbor, Michigan
Destination Expert
for Grand Canyon National Park
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7,244 posts
15 reviews
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3. Re: Descent/Ascent from South Rim in November

Nope, nothing 'wrong" with either trail direction. But be aware that how long it takes to hike in the GC is often a function of the elevation gain/loss and trail condition than actually mileage. It wouldn't surprise me if it takes you about the same amount of time to hike out SK as BA. The reason backpackers might choose to go down SK and up BA is to minimize pack weight on the hike out. Carrying 3 liters of water means an additional 6lb, which can make a big difference when already carrying a full pack. Hiking out BA means lots of opportunity to refill water on the way. In hot weather, you'll want to go down SK to avoid being on the trail at the lower elevations at mid-day.

Either way, I would recommend taking one trail on the way down and the other to hike out. SK is built on a ridge while BA follows a side canyon, giving it a very different character.

Los Angeles
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for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park
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4. Re: Descent/Ascent from South Rim in November

There is one (small) reason to consider going down by Bright Angel. By all accounts, it's somewhat easier. As a person with mobility issues (since childhood) who has managed to make it down to the bottom of Grand Canyon, I puzzled over this question a lot (along with my husband, who has made many trips).

Ultimately, we decided on Bright Angel, with me knowing several things about Kaibab Trail. It turned out the downhill portion was worse for me. I was told this before I went, and did not realize how true it would become. My issues don't usually involve my knees (but my knees had real problems on that trip and...I was really glad we took the less steep route downward). There were a lot of people wearing duct tape on their knees on the way back up (I took small knee braces just in case - I did have to use them).

So, having had experience of BA, I decided to use it on the way back up. I wanted to be able to carry less water, and I didn't want to face the steepness of Kaibab. Since you're looking in two different directions, the trip is still substantially different on the way back up, but psychologically, it made a big difference to "know" the terrain and know that I could do it. I just knew I could and I was smiling the whole way (one sometimes encounters some pretty unhappy people both downward and upward there). Since that time, I've hiked portions of the Kaibab, and am glad I didn't take that one all at once. I love the Bright Angel trail and feel I know its geology now, and would choose it again as my route. Variety is not always the spice of my life.

5. Re: Descent/Ascent from South Rim in November

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