Lots of information and warnings about doing the whole trail to the river and back...take heed..unless you are someone like Ranaulf Fiennes!! But the hike and back to either the 1 1/2 mile mark...or for me the 3 mile mark is a great way to get below the rim..and certainly after the first rest stop..the crowds!! Prepare with lots of water and energy snacks..and good shoes/boots. Poles are helpful too if like me your knees are getting old. The descent is steady and on a well marked/ maintained trail. Good views and a great hike. The two rest areas had water taps, restrooms and rangers so lots of support. I was tempted to go onto the Indian Garden (an further 3 miles and 1000ft descent)..but mindful I already had over 2000ft of ascent to get back to the top.. I thought better of it. The ascent again is steady..but relentless.. Don't let the east descent fool you. Allow at least twice the time to return (well if you are a normal walker like me) I was lucky as it was a cool day and a good breeze so ideal walking weather. I imagine on hotter days you need to double check your capabilities.
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