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Phantom Canyon - Lower, AZ

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Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Northwest > North Rim
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Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Round Trip 4 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,740 feet
Elevation Gain 400 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 4-5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 6
Interest Off Trail Hiking
Backpack Connecting Only
Dogs not allowed
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51  2018-03-30 arizona_water
33  2017-05-04 BiFrost
59  2016-12-10
South Kaibab Trail
43  2016-11-24
Grand Canyon multisport backpack
4  2016-05-06
Cheops Pyramid 5206
20  2014-10-18
Cheops Plateau
30  2014-05-18 friendofThunderg
30  2014-05-17 John9L
Page 1,  2
Author Brittany
author avatar Guides 2
Routes 0
Photos 6
Trips 8 map ( 39 miles )
Age Female Gender
Location Colorado Springs, CO
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Preferred   Jun, Jul, Sep, Oct → Early
Seasons   Late Spring to Late Autumn
Sun  6:16am - 6:25pm
Official Route
2 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
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Happy in the Canyon
by Brittany

Likely In-Season!
Description below is for a non technical out-n-back from Bright Angel Creek. There is a 20 foot obstacle 2.9 miles up the canyon. Most looking for more than an out-n-back do a loop with Utah Flats.

Ribbon Schmibbon
For my 3rd trip in five months to Bright Angel Campground, I was determined to find a good day hike that is somewhat off the beaten path. Don't get me wrong, I love Ribbon Falls, but having already been there twice this year with another visit planned next month, I decided something off the beaten path would be best for this trip. The solution was... Phantom Canyon.

Phantom Canyon is a side canyon off of Bright Angel Canyon about 2 miles North of Bright Angel Campground. The opening is just past the 2nd bridge when you are heading away from Phantom Ranch on the North Kaibab trail. Of course, that bridge brings you to the opposite side of the creek, meaning you have to actually cross through Bright Angel Creek to get to the canyon. There isn't an official trail up the canyon, but there are several paths that will take you around the creek when possible. I was drawn to this canyon, because of some waterfalls I had read about.

The ranger almost talked me out of doing it. In the middle of February it goes without saying that the water would be cold. I hesitate to get in Bright Angel Creek in July when it is 115 degrees at the bottom! He said that the first pool, which is not very far in, could be up to our necks, and warned that the canyon does not get very much sun. The highs while we were down there were in the high 50s (extremely cold for a Phoenician).

Luckily, my cousin knows me well and reminded me that I would regret it if I didn't do it. So, yes, we crossed Bright Angel Creek, and walked up Phantom Creek with an air temperature of about 53 degrees when we started out. Once we were numb, it wasn't so bad. We actually opted to spend more time in the water rather than skirt around the creek and deal with the prickly desert plants.

The ranger was right and the first pool was not far in. However, it probably went up to our hips, not our necks. We were able to bypass it very carefully by scooting along a rock on the right. On the way back, that rock turned into a slide for me and I plopped right into the water... one of my more graceful moments.

Right around the corner from the first pool were the first waterfalls. It was a series of three. We spent a significant amount of time getting to each pool and taking pictures. There was a cave behind the bottom waterfall. There was a rock slide on the left that you scramble up to get to the different levels. However, it is actually possible to climb over or around to the right of the top two waterfalls.

After these falls, the canyon was uneventful, but very peaceful with Grand Canyon beauty. It was certainly pleasant, and there were one or two small waterfalls, but I was expecting a little more. Of course, I'm just happy being in the canyon, so I won't complain. Neither of us brought our GPS, so I'm not sure how far in we went.

We finally rounded a corner and the canyon narrowed significantly. We were looking forward to some excitement, but were disappointed to find a very deep pool at the bottom of a very narrow and small fall. This pool probably was up to our necks or higher. We looked for a route over some rocks to the left, but did not find anything that seemed passable without rope. However, I did some reading after we got out and if we had gone up further, there is supposed to be a route around it. To go over the small fall would have meant getting completely wet. There wasn't even a shelf where we could put our things we want to keep dry while we climbed over. We spent a good 15 minutes debating whether or not we wanted to do it, but decided against it.

Shortly after we turned back we encountered another group of hikers who were familiar with the canyon. They said that right past the deep pool the canyon opened up and they consider this to be the end. Neither my cousin nor I brought our GPS, and I forgot to ask, but my guess is that we traveled about 1.5 to 2 miles into the canyon. It took us 2.5 hours from Bright Angel Campground (including picture time) and 1.5 hours back.

Once the canyon opens up, there is supposedly a nice alcove for camping, and a few other treks you can take. Phantom Canyon does connect to Haunted Canyon. It is also possible to access this portion of Phantom Canyon via the Utah Flats, accessed by scrambling up the wall on the North side of Bright Angel Campground.

Overall, I really enjoyed this hike. This is a great Ribbon Falls alternative in the warmer months, when a 13-mile round trip in 115-degree heat is less than appealing. However, this canyon is very prone to flash flooding and can be very dangerous in rain. If you are looking for a short and casual trip, just go to the first set of falls... which I consider to be the most spectacular part of the hike anyway. The hike will be more enjoyable if you do it with somebody who does enjoy a little bit of scrambling. Beginning hikers may not enjoy it much.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2006-02-24 Brittany
  • Grand Canyon Use Area Boundaries - Dynamic Map
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

Most recent Triplog Reviews
Phantom Canyon - Lower
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4 Day trip- Down South Kaibab with 2 nights at Bright Angel Campground and then the hike out split into 2 days on Bright Angel with a night at Indian Garden. Brought 10 guys total and had an absolute blast. Weather was perfect, and only a little ice on the trail on the hike out. Beautiful (peak?) fall color along both Bright Angel and Garden Creeks. Moonrise on day 2 and day 3 were phenomenal. Took dayhikes to Phantom Canyon and Plateau Point. Two thumbs up.
Phantom Canyon - Lower
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6 days of awesome just happened.

Jamie and I headed down SK bright and early May 1st...around noon-thirty really ;)
We ambled down to Phantom Ranch with dreams of lemonade and tecate...of which we got none. Wah ={

So after being lazy bums all day we headed up Utah Flats with 4L each of Agua. We camped as far across UF as possible and settled in with the setting sun.

The Morning of May 2nd we left camp kinda early-ish and headed west then south with the Cheops horn or pyramid dancing in our minds.
The "route" was fairly simple, "just head thataway!". So we did. Lots and LOTS of cactus, Mmmmmm...we rounded the South tip of Cheops and slowly began our ascent.

For some strange reason my mind decided to become acrophobic right as we reached the foot of he Redwall... wtf?! So I sat and talked myself out of being a wimp and up we went.

It was a BREEZE. I really did laugh at myself on the summit. *shrug*
It's all 3rd class, no climbing necessary except a few spots where, yeah, you're using your hands to find handholds and feet to find feetholds.

Left our names in the register.
(It was minty fresh! Also, Hi JJ3 and JoeyB!)

The way down and back was a cactusy cake walk. We tore down camp and continued on down to Phantom Creek where we settled into that sweet Campsite just upstream from Phantom Falls.
(On a side note, we had thought of doing lower Phantom but that knotted fix rope there gave me the heebyjeebys and we only had a short bit of webbing... Next time?!)

We explored up Haunted Cyn a ways, my left foot was getting a hotspot so I headed back early and waited for Jamie at the Overhang.

There was much rejoicing at the pools upstream from our campsite. So. Many. Frogs!!
That was the highlight of my evenings was the chorus of amphibious delight that echoed across the canyon walls!

Spotted some neat Footprints, possibly hognosed skunk.
I spent the next two days in my birthday suit along the Creek while Jamie explored all he wanted.

Base camping in the GC by a Creek is awesome, just awesome.

May 6th we crawled out of bags, tore down camp, and headed up that lovely route out of Phantom Creek, passed below Cheops, crossed Utah Flats, said hello to some mule deer, slid down UF Route and we're fat and happy at Phantom around 10:30am...and there we stayed with Lemonade and Tecate happy as can be until we decided... Noon is late enough.

Then out we trotted commenting on the weather and the Buttes lit up by the sun as we went.

6 days of awesome just happened...and now...the North Rim calls to us!
I'll be spending June-September over there doing dayhikes and such for Grand Canyon Association, so if you're ever up there feel free to say hi!

Until next stay classy Arizona.
Phantom Canyon - Lower
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First off... Bagged it!!!

Day 1: Jamie and I left South Kaibab TH around 7:30am made it to Phantom by 10am.
Up North Kaibab with a stop at Phantom Creek and the pretty falls there. (Note: don't drink from phantom creek untreated!! Bleh!)
Continued on to Ribbon Falls and Upper Ribbon Falls. I climbed up into Upper Ribbon and tested the depth of the pool quickly finding it to be half a hippy deep!! Set up at Cottonwood Camp well before sunset. Watched the moon rise over One night short of being Full!

Day 2: loaded up with 6 liters of water EACH then Jamie led the way back down almost to the Ribbon Falls bridge. Not far up trail from there we took a sharp left and plowed our way up a steep ridge of shale-y hell!! The initial 300ft of this ridge made me want to vomit especially with the extra water in my pack!
After what felt like a full transformation into a bighorn sheep we began a rather "easy" traverse deep into this side canyon. Shortly in you'll come across some cairns that cross the drainage and lead you up up up closer to the redwall! Almost there!!

The redwall break was boulders and trees and a few itty chimneys. Basically even with the bulky backpack I was having the time of my life! Very last little up climb Jamie went first and we hauled our packs up then I scrambled up smiling like a fool.
Up through the Supai to a GORGEOUS false saddle contour toward a very obvious supai break on the other side of this bowl up up up and BAM!! The most stunning campsite EVER. We arrived with 3 hours left until sunset on Brahma-Deva Saddle. Full Moon rose tonight...oh man...I might've cried. Watching the moon light up the entire canyon from way up there tucked away in this saddle between giants...

Day 3: we were lazy yesterday so opted to pack up camp and summit our Temple this morning. A scramble up the Supai the usual slip n slide up the Coconino,across a boulder field of bitey kaibab limestone then through a very convenient little coco chute with a happy beckoning pinyon pine shading our way then poof! Youre up!

A few minutes walk north into the trees and you find yourself at the least impressive summit register ever...
This was Jamie's first temple back in 2012 the register he signed has since been removed. A nalgene bottle with a crappy little notebook has replaced it. Only one other signature from 2014. Nothing exciting but oh the views were insane!!! We signed the book, cracked open our IPA (which I managed to spill shortly thereafter...luckily we both had a few swigs and he's still talking to me!) Then we were off are completing my usual exploratory summit circuit, more sliding down, rearranged our gear and packs (which we had cached near the supai break near the saddle this was our exit point toward Clear Creek.)
Down the Supai, traverse the redwall rim to another awesome redwall break on the east ish side of Brahma!! Have any of you been here?? Cuz you really should go. Its a blast! Boulders and chimneys and rabbit holes and chutes and pack lowering. Oh my!
The descent went by fast. We were in a sweet drainage that ended above Clear Creek camp in a massive Tapeats pouroff! We backtracked and followed a sheep route IP and over right onto the Clear Creek Trail. Sun had set by now but we walked on west in the last glow of daylight. We set up camp in the dark in the arms of Zoroaster Canyon. Did I mention time of my life?? Moon rise sneaking over Wotan's Throne. :)

Day 4: late start at 10am!! Made it to Phantom by 1pm. Almost 2 hours of coffee and lemonade and tons of junk food!! Ohmygod summer sausages tasted like heaven. Oh yeah remember those 6L each of water we had? Down to 1/4 liter when we got to phantom! Perfect!
Up and out bright angel followed by showers clean clothes and lots of beer tequila and burritos at Plaza Bonita!

To summarize: BAGGED MY FIRST TEMPLE WHOOOO! And best canyon trip ever by far.
Phantom Canyon - Lower
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Cattle Route
The Old Cattle Route runs from the North Kaibab Trail, south of Ribbon Falls, to about the middle of Phantom Canyon. Some believe it was used to get cattle to Phantom Creek from the North Rim for grazing, while others say surveyors used it to access Phantom Creek in order to study it as a water source for the South Rim.

My morning started down the Bright Angel Trail and then up the North Kaibab about 4 miles until Willow Springs (the last bridge as you exit the "box"). On the west side of BA Creek is a large broken piece of white Tapeats sandstone laying on a dark ridge. Below this I picked up a faint trail leading up to the ridge. Once high up in the Vishnu Schist, I contoured around the first major drainage below the Tapeats and then climbed up a break in the Tapeats to gain the Tonto platform. From here I worked my way around a 2nd drainage, Johnson Point, a 3rd drainage, Sturdevant Point, a 4th drainage and then dropped down into Phantom Canyon. I passed two springs along the way. I ended up right between the popular camp in Phantom and the falls. I believe the last section is also used as a bypass for the falls, as this section was well-cairned.

There is only a few short sections of this route where a faint trail is visible. Most of it is just cross-country over the Bright Angel shale. Just image the Tonto trail but with no trail and an overload of hedgehog and prickly pear cactus.

Phantom Canyon - Lower
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A pretty standard intro to the Grand Canyon courtesy of 9L. My previous experiences in the canyon had only been your standard rim to rim to rim marathons and a few other longer day hikes. We left Happy Valley road exit around 5:50 which sealed a very late canyon start time on what would eventually shape out to be a pretty warm day but a great day overall and eventually an excellent first trip to the canyon.

We were boots on ground at South Kaibab TH after 9:30 and making our way to the rim and down by about 9:45 in the morning. The hike down was quick and a little warm, but pretty standard. John gave a detailed description of each layer of earth, pointed out a few lesser known routes and introduced me to terms, like, red walls, the whites, and all the colorful names attached to all those temples and massive rock features, like, Isis, Zoraster, Brhma and Cheops. Seeing some of those land forms that a select few crazy HAZers have been scaling lately, really put into perspective the magnitude of those hikes.

Phantom Ranch, was well Phantom Ranch the usual assortment of legitimate hikers and backpackers mixed among those who had hiked down with a bottle of Aquafina to their well stocked cabins for the weekend, and the steady stream of rim runners of course. We took an extended break at the ranch and then made our way up the spur/use trail leading to Utah Flats.

Utah Flats was very warm, in fact, someone at ranch claimed 107 degrees, but I cant confirm. I was by no means falling out at this point, but I was certainly pretty fatigued as we snaked our way along the top of the Phantom Canyon drainage, until the point where we would drop in.

After finally reaching Phantom Canyon, the day got exponentially better. There were no people, we had a pristine spot, there was time for rest and relaxation and John was able to address some "safety concerns" we had had earlier in the day.

I know to the canyon enthusiast and hardened veterans our day two itinerary was nothing earth shattering. However, I can honestly say it was one of my more fulfilling hikes in a long time, and for me really nothing short of spectacular. Phantom Canyon was a blast, the pools of water started off freezing, but were welcomed by the end, we were able to keep all essential items dry, the canyon was beautiful and although short, it really proved to be a quite the gem overall.

I am not going to lie, I had a lot of anxiety for some reason about the climb out after our little canyoneering experience, however, it proved to be pretty tame. We hit up a section of the Old Bright Angel and John took me to a couple of ruin sites along the way, was very happy to mark my first two ruin's sites in the canyon. We left Indian Garden(s) near 2:30 and had to make sure we did not take too much time the rest of the way, as our last stop on trip would be and introduction to the B.C.O before closing time at five.

We ended up doing the final 4.5 miles in about two hours on the dot and were easily able to make it to the B.C.O where I obtained my first back country permit for the Grand Canyon, Nothing too crazy, just a little five day jaunt through some outer corridor areas during the first week of June, which I am already looking very forward to.

Interesting Side Notes:

John holds his camera three feet above his head even when he is going through ankle deep water, he says to minimize splash damage.

All the people are kind of annoying on the Bright Angel, however, I found feeding off the misery of others as they crawled out was great motivation and even fueled me to a certain degree.

Finally, there is no greater satisfaction then passing (with full pack) a group of famed ultra runners completing, but certainly struggling to complete a mere rim to rim.

Disclaimer: AEG needs some work, waiting on John's finally tally, my G.P.S. decided to bounce off a couple points in northern Utah I think.

Warning: I don't want to hear one pumpkin comment from Chumley about the length of my photo-set, it was an awesome trip and my first time over night in canyon so its allowed!
Phantom Canyon - Lower
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Lee was interested in doing an overnighter in the Canyon and I was down. I recently saw the Phantom Canyon trip report from Dave and Toddak and figured it would make a perfect overnight option for us. I picked up the permits before my Tanner Trip a couple of weeks ago. We worked out the details and were on our way.

We left Phoenix on Saturday morning around 5:50am and drove up to the Canyon. We left a vehicle near the BA Trailhead and took a taxi ($12 plus tip) over to SK. We started down around 10am and cruised down taking very short breaks mostly to take pics and soak in the views. We arrived at Phantom Ranch and took a break where we hydrated and ate some food. From there we grinded up the Utah Flats Route starting around 1:40pm. It was hot! This was my first time on the route and it went really well. There is a full blown trail going up all the way to the top of Piano Alley. The trail disappears for a minute once things level off but we picked it back up again shortly afterward and followed that all the way down into Phantom Canyon.

We arrived in Phantom Canyon around 4:15pm to find the area deserted. The camp we used is right at the bottom of the trail. We settled in and got camp set up. Lee was using a tent and I was using my bivy. Afterward we took a quick walk over to the rope drop. It’s right around the corner from our camp. It looked fine and I looked forward to going down the next morning. From there we hiked about a mile up Upper Phantom Canyon. This is a really beautiful area and is very lush. I’d like to return another time with more time to explore the area. I really want to see Haunted Canyon and other areas. We returned to camp and filtered water with my sawyer mini and then had dinner. We both turned in fairly early. The long hike & heat really took a toll on us.

Sunday morning came and we both woke fairly early…6:30ish. We took our time in camp and got all of our gear situated. We had three dry bags. One large bag we borrowed from Chumley (Thanks Chums!) and two smaller bags. Lee took the large bag and I took the two smaller bags. We divided up our gear and then got packed. From there we walked over to the rope and got ourselves situated. Lee went down first while I took pics. After he was down I lowered our packs one at a time and included both of our cameras. Lee took pics as I descended. Going down the rope was very straightforward and a good rush!

Once in the creek bottom we started heading down canyon. We were greeted by two very short swims immediately after the rope drop in. The water was very chilly when we first jumped in. It was roughly 8am and it woke me up immediately! After that the canyon opens up and we proceeded down the creek. Most of the going is very easy. There were a few more swims as we descended. They were very short averaging 10-20 ft across. Nothing is overwhelming and we were having the time of our lives. About half way down canyon we noticed fresh footprints and then saw wet rock. A few minutes later we caught up to a group of three. They dropped in about halfway off some sketchy route that started from the “Antler Room”. I’ll have to see if I can find any info on this route. We chatted with them for a bit and then continued down canyon. There were a few more short swims along the way. Some can be bypassed and others are mandatory. I would guess we did six mandatory swims. They were all very short and easy. As we neared the end we ran into another group who were making a day hike up from Phantom Ranch. Finally near the end we ran into ranger Christie from the BCO. We recognized each other from my numerous trips to the BCO. It was cool seeing someone I knew down here. A few short minutes after that we walked out on the North Kaibab trail. Hell of a morning!

After we were back on official trail we cruised on down to Phantom Ranch and took a long break at the Canteena. We unpacked all of our gear and got it resituated. I was surprised how dry the contents of our packs were. I guess the short swims didn’t give the water enough time to really soak in. The dry bags really helped as well. After our long break, we started the hike up BA. Along the way we took a detour up Old BA where I showed Lee the ruins. We then cut over to the ruins below Plateau Point. From there it was the grind up BA. We were back on the rim around 4:20 and then over to the BCO. After that we made the ride back to Phoenix but made a quick stop at NiMarco’s in Flag for pizza and the golden bbq wings. Damn those wings are yum!

This was another solid trip into the Canyon! I loved Phantom Canyon and would definitely “hike” the route again. Thanks Lee for driving and good times backpacking with you!
Phantom Canyon - Lower
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After a quick carcamp under the flight path of Tusayan International, Todd and I got an early start Sunday morning and were on the South Kaibab by 4:50am. The SK was quite windy in the upper elevations, especially near Ooh Aah point. Almost got blown off trail twice and had to seek refuge for a minute behind a wall. Only saw 4 others on trail.

We arrived at the bowels of the canyon to find there had been a pipeline break and no water available at the "rockhouse" bathroom and cabin users had no showers (oh the huge manatee). Oddly the spigot in front of PR canteen was working though so we tanked up.

We picked up the trail to Phantom Canyon from BACG site #1 and knocked out Piano Alley and Utah(not)Flats and then climbed down into Phantom Canyon. Along the way we ran into two guys who had just spent three days in Phantom, one night at the first camp and two nights at Hippie Camp.

We took a short break at the top of Phantom Falls and then found a nice rope rigged on creek right so fortunately we didn't have to set up our own rope and harnesses. That ended up being the only technical spot in the canyon. Entering here puts you right into ankle deep water and it wasn't long before we hit the first of 4 swims (I'm a wimp so I bypassed 2 of them but the other 2 were mandatory) and it was shockingly cold! After the first narrow part, the canyon opens up for a while and then alternates several times between open and narrow. Lots of negotiating easy down climbs and attempts at skirting pools, trying to stay dry. A really fun trek! I think it took us about 3 hours to go from the down-climb, through the canyon and then to arrive at Bright Angel Creek.

It was a mostly uneventful hike out up the Bright Angel Trail, with some high wind conditions again from the corkscrew until about Indian Garden. Thanks for driving and letting me tag along, Todd!

Grand Canyoneering has this hike listed as 27 miles but I only got 25 when drawn out on route manager, even with an extra trip to the canteen and walking from the TH to the bus stop near the mule barn.

mostly just hedgehog cactus
Phantom Canyon - Lower
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Took a side trip into Phantom Canyon during our 2 night stay in Bright Angel Campground.

Very pretty little canyon. The waterfall is not very far in. The canyon is a little bit overgrown, but easy to follow.

The staff down at Phantom Ranch said that farther into the canyon the water pools get deep and you have to swim. Even farther in there is a rope or rope ladder to access the upper part of Phantom Canyon.

We didnt make it that far this time, but maybe next time.
Phantom Canyon - Lower
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Awesome side trip off the N. Kaibab trail - not another person in there. I'm sure most people walk right past it to get to Ribbon Falls. Just guessing at the total distance into the canyon. I stopped when the brush started getting pretty thick. The big waterfall (actually set of 3 waterfalls) is not too far in. The canyon can flash flood (2 people died there in '97) so if there's any chance of rain on the N. Rim or Inner Canyon check with rangers ahead of time.

Map Drive
Paved - Car Okay

To canyon trip
From the Bright Angel Campground head North on the North Kaibab trail. After about two miles, and the second bridge crossing, you will see the opening of Phantom Canyon on the West side of Bright Angel Canyon. You will have to cross Bright Angel Creek.
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