On Day Two of backpacking The Bright Angel Trail in the Grand Canyon, we woke up at 5am to do a day hike to Ribbon Falls, a 6 mile hike from the Bright Angel Campground. It was pouring down rain that whole day, which made Ribbon Falls look even more glorious. Ribbon Falls is about 140 ft high, and the flow of water has created a giant travertine spire below the falls, which collects at two small pools, one at the base and one at about 50 ft above the travertine. You are allowed to swim in the falls, but when we hiked here, the temperature was about 45F with rain. Too cold for a swim! You can hike up and beneath the falls. Though Ribbon Falls takes a lot of planning combined with backpacking permit in the Grand Canyon, the 2.5 hour hike from the Bright Angel Campground is well worth the effort!
Distance: 12 miles RT
Elevation Gain: 1,267 ft
Time: 4-7 hours
Dog friendly? No, dogs are not allowed below the Grand Canyon Rim
Kid friendly? No
Just past Phantom Ranch, you will see the trail sign for Ribbon Falls. From the Bright Angel Campground, the trail is 6 miles one way, and 5.7 miles one way from this sign.
Hiking in this canyon was gorge-ous! Get it? Gorgeous? 😉
From the Bright Angel Campground, you will cross a total of 7 bridges before you get to Ribbon Falls. If you hiking here in the heart of summer, be sure to get an early start to avoid the worst of the head in the first 3.5 miles of the trail, known as “The Box.” The Box gets extremely hot and retains its heat until late in the day due to the sun shining on the surrounding black Vishnu Schist Rock. It can literally feel like an oven and can make a person feel ill if not properly prepared. If you do feel overheated, a good idea is to dip your shirt or headband in the water to help keep your body cool.
Thankfully, we didn’t have to deal with the heat. The whole day it sprinkles and there was mist in the air, and it made the whole canyon look very green and beautiful.
I was really surprised how beautiful this canyon was on the way to Ribbon Falls. This isn’t what I think of when I think of the Grand Canyon!
After 4 miles or so, the canyon opened up.
Once you reach this sign you actually have two options for getting to Ribbon Falls. The first is to follow the sign for Ribbon Falls via the Bridge. This will take you up and over Asinine Hill, then down, over the bridge to Ribbon Falls. This will be challenging since you’ve already hiked 5.5 miles by this point, but its definitely doable. The 2nd option is to head left at this trail split, cut across the creek, which will also lead you to Ribbon Falls. However, you won’t be able to cross the river if the water level is high, such as in early spring or after a heavy rain. A plus is that it shorter and flat compared to Asinine Hill and the Bridge.
Ribbon Falls via Bridge.
We reached the falls in 2.5 hours, and there were only two other people there the entire time.
Hiding under an alcove to escape the rain.
Group shot under neath the falls. This is where we took a snack break and could hide out from the rain.
Beautiful photo of the upper pool by @iBoyer.
All of us really felt like this was a special place. Don’t be surprised to find that Ribbon Falls will be closed off for Native American rituals and ceremonies, as they too, consider this a very special area for the local tribes. Legend has it that women would give birth in the pool just below the falls, above where I am standing. We were really lucky to be able to visit these waterfalls. Photo by @iBoyer.
Greg leads the way as we hike back to the Bright Angel Campground. Photo by @iBoyer.
Hiking back along the Bright Angel Creek. Photo by @iBoyer.
Overview of the whole trail, starting from Bright Angel Campground.
Close up of the trail for the last mile.