There are some great day hikes to do from the Phantom Ranch/Bright Angel Campground area. Below are some of the hikes that I love to do when visiting the area, listed in shortest distance first.
Phantom Ranch Walking Tour
Perhaps one of the easiest and most interesting things you can do is to take the Phantom Ranch Historic Walking Tour. The park has a brochure (Phantom Ranch Walking Tour Brochure – PDF) that details the history of the buildings, bridges, prehistoric sites and other places of interest. It’s a wonderful way to enjoy the area and get to know more about the fascinating people who have been there before you and made it the place it is today.
This hike takes you across the Black Bridge, follows the Colorado River downstream for approximately one mile, and finally crosses the Silver Bridge back to the north side of the river and your starting point.
To begin, head back towards the Colorado River from Phantom Ranch/Bright Angel Campground and then upstream to the Black Bridge on the South Kaibab Trail. Once you cross the bridge, you’ll start heading up several switchbacks until you reach a trail junction with the River Trail. Turn right at this junction and follow the trail downstream. The River Trail will follow the Colorado River in a gentle downhill grade and has gorgeous views for the entire distance. This loop is a great way to keep yourself loosened up after hiking or riding in from the rim. Check the Phantom Ranch area map to see an overview of the hike.
Clear Creek/Phantom Overlook
Another great hike in the vicinity is along the Clear Creek Trail. The trail is accessed by hiking about 0.25 mile north of Phantom Ranch on the North Kaibab Trail and turning right at a trail junction. The sign for the Clear Creek Trail isn’t right at the junction, so be sure to keep your eyes open for the turn. At this point, the trail begins its ascent. Gradual at first, the trail becomes much steeper as it makes its way to the Tonto Platform. One of the things that makes this trail so great for dayhikes is that there are wonderful “destinations” at several points along the way.
About 3/4 mile from the junction is a wonderful destination for those interested in a shorter hike some great views. It is called Phantom Overlook because it looks directly down onto Phantom Ranch and the Bright Angel Creek drainage. When the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built the trail in the 1930s, they constructed a bench made of slabs of the local Vishnu Schist right at this point. The bench is unique and a great place for a group photo!
Take a few more steps up the trail past the CCC bench and you’ll see a narrow path off to your right at the edge of a rock outcrop. It doesn’t look like it would be worth the few steps, but don’t let looks fool you. Just ten steps off the main trail is one of the most fabulous views in the canyon! From this vista, you can see the all the switchbacks of the South Kaibab Trail, as well as a view that encompasses everything from the rim to the Colorado River.
If you continue on the Clear Creek Trail, you will come to another overlook where you can view both the Black Bridge of the South Kaibab Trail and the Silver Bridge of the Bright Angel Trail along with a long stretch of the Colorado River and the Inner Gorge. This is a great spot for photographs!
And last, but not certainly not least, there is the longer hike to the beautiful waterfall at Ribbon Falls. To get to there, walk north 5 ½ miles on the North Kaibab Trail and watch for a signed junction with a spur trail to the left. If the water flow is low, as in early summer—and you have Tevas or other water shoes—you can follow this spur and cross the creek to access Ribbon Falls via a shortcut. However, if water is running pretty fast or murky, it is best to continue on over the hill and cross via the bridge over Bright Angel Creek. Hiking sticks are recommended if you plan on fording the creek instead of crossing over the bridge.
If hiking during the hot months of summer, be sure to get an early start to avoid the worst of the heat in the first 3.5 miles of the trail known as the Box. The Box gets extremely hot and retains the heat until late into the evening due to the sun shining on the surrounding black Vishnu Schist rock. It literally feels like an oven and can make a person quite ill if they are not properly prepared. It is a good idea to soak your clothing, especially when hiking back later in the day. Plan on spending several hours at least, so bring plenty of food and water (or water treatment) for the entire day. Ribbon Falls is one of the loveliest spots in the Grand Canyon, so if you have the energy and are prepared for it, I highly recommend this hike. The elevation gain is only about 1200 feet in 5.5 miles, making it one of the most gradual inclines in the Canyon.