Dedication Ceremony For New Bright Angel Trailhead At Grand Canyon National Park On May 18

Work was still underway in this view looking east from the trailhead, past the historic corral (right,) to shade structure and restroom additions. NPS photo.

Hikers who are beginning or ending a trip on the Bright Angel Trail at the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park can soon do so in a much more pleasant and attractive setting. The park and the Grand Canyon Association will dedicate the renovated trailhead for the Bright Angel Trail with ribbon cutting ceremony at 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 18, 2013.

Located in the heart of Grand Canyon Village, the Bright Angel Trail was one of the first entryways into Grand Canyon and follows a route originally built by the Havasupai people. One of the oldest and best-known trails in the National Park system, it was first popularized to the burgeoning tourist community by a businessman named John Cameron in the early 1900s. Historic Kolb studios, home to the Kolb brothers’ photography business, is located overhanging the Bright Angel Trail and is also currently undergoing reconstruction.

There haven't been a lot of changes in the area around the trailhead for many decades, and the start of the trail could be a bit hard for many visitors to find. The traihead is located in the midst of the busy Bright Angel Lodge and Cabin area, and there was no convenient or comfortable place for people to sit to either enjoy the view or prepare for hikes.

Thanks to the trailhead renovation, the experience in the area will be greatly improved for both hikers and all park visitors using this popular spot on the park's South Rim. The project encompasses a 3.5-acre area at and surrounding the Bright Angel Trailhead. The renovation is focused on creating an accessible and comfortable area for visitors that complements existing historic buildings, including the Bright Angel Lodge and Rim Cabins designed by Grand Canyon architect Mary E. J. Colter in the 1930s.

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The new sign will provide a great place for photos. NPS photo by Michael Quinn.

Grand Canyon National Park is now visited by nearly 4.5 million people a year, and several thousand of those visitors pass through the Bright Angel Trailhead area on a typical summer day. The area is used by day and overnight hikers, mule riders, shuttle bus riders and rim walkers, and visitors park in this area to access lodging, visitor services and the trailhead itself.

According to a park spokesperson, "The new design for the area includes a paved parking lot for approximately 87 vehicles around the Bright Angle Rim Cabins; new restrooms and a plaza area with shade structures where visitors can rest or prepare for their hike; a new accessible path from the shuttle bus stop to Kolb Studio; reconstruction of two stone walls; burial of the overhead electrical and phone lines; removal of an underground storage tank; and an etched rock sign for the Bright Angel Trailhead, so visitors can find it and celebrate it!"

Private Donations Were Key For The Project

The project was funded with support from private donations and federal funding that comes from park entrance fees. “We are greatly appreciative of the donor support we received for the Bright Angel Trailhead Renovation project,” says Susan Schroeder, Executive Director of Grand Canyon Association. “This area of the park is so meaningful to many people in many ways from the exhilaration of climbing out of the Canyon after a long hike to the simple pleasure of enjoying the expansive canyon view with your family.”

Grand Canyon National Park and the Grand Canyon Association are thankful to Stewart and Ellen Horesji, Arizona Public Service, William and Elizabeth Sweeny and Rick and Frances Rockwell for their generous contributions. The Bright Angel Trailhead will now be a place of celebration and enjoyment of Grand Canyon for generations to come.

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Stone mason Brad Quinn, rock cutter Andy Dufford and stone mason Shane Becker, stand behind the new Bright Angel Trailhead Sign, just after the letters were sandblasted and stained on March 1, 2013. NPS photo by Michael Quinn.

Even a short walk down part of the Bright Angel Trail is an iconic Grand Canyon experience, and thousands of hikers and mule riders make the round-trip from the Rim to the Colorado River. That makes the trailhead a classic photo op location, but until now, there wasn't a great spot for one of those scrapbook or Facebook images.

A Unique Sign for a Famous Location

That's changed with the addition of a new sign, which consists of a 9-foot x 5-foot x 12-inch sandstone slab. The slab weighs approximately 3 tons and has two ‘bookend’ boulders on either side. Each of the bookend boulders was sawn and chiseled to create a slot to help support the slab vertically, and the slab is also supported by a concrete foundation. The boulder on the east side of the sign also serves as a bench. “Bright Angel Trailhead” is sandblasted into the slab, which is sited to capture a background view of the canyon. There is space behind the sign for hikers to pose for that keepsake photo.

“Constructing these much needed accommodations at the Bright Angel Trailhead to bring it up to modern standards has been a dream in the works for over a decade,” says Dave Uberuaga, Grand Canyon Superintendent. “With funding available through the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act and generous donors this, we are proud to finally complete this project.”