Bright Angel Trail to Plateau Point Hike
|In This Guide|
|Distance||12.5 miles (20.1 km)|
|Hike Time||6-7 Hours (Total)|
|Total Ascent (?)||3,200 feet (975m)|
|Highest Elevation||6,850 feet (2088m)|
|Fees & Permits||National Park Entry Fee|
|Park Website (?)||Grand Canyon National Park|
|Stay In Touch||Newsletter - Instagram - YouTube - Facebook|
The Bright Angel Trail to Plateau Point hike takes you on the Grand Canyon’s most popular hiking trail to the peaceful and scenic Plateau Point, offering stunning views of the Colorado River. It’s a tough hike, but the Bright Angel Trail is the safest and most well-maintained trail in the park. Regular water stations, park rangers, and shelters make this hike manageable without being a desert expedition. This guide arms you with everything you need to know to hike to Plateau Point successfully.
For the best experience all around, I highly recommend doing this hike at sunrise. In addition to all the incredible colors, you’ll avoid the crowds of people and have your best chance of not getting stuck behind mules.
Don’t forget to check out my Grand Canyon hiking tips here!
How to Get to the Bright Angel Trail
The Bright Angel Trail might be the most popular trail in Grand Canyon National Park, but it’s still tricky to find. I recommend navigating to the Bright Angel Lodge, and then from there, following the maps below to the parking areas.
Use this navigation address:
Bright Angel Lodge, 9 Village Loop Drive, Grand Canyon Village, AZ 86023
If you’re using Google Maps, the actual trailhead is on there too:
Bright Angel Trailhead, 15 Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon Village, AZ 86023
Once you are in the lodge area, you can park anywhere that you don’t see a no-parking sign or staff parking sign. The parking lots are shared with visitors staying in accommodations such as Bright Angel Lodge.
The Blue Line Shuttle Bus is a good option to get to the trailhead if you’re parked or staying somewhere else in the park. The bus runs year-round. The Hermit’s Rest Route Transfer stop is closer to the trailhead than the Bright Angel Lodge stop, but either one will be fine.
I’ve hiked Bright Angel many times and I’ve never had a problem parking by the trailhead when I get there just before sunrise.
Gear For the Plateau Point Hike
Bright Angel Trail to Plateau Point is a “hike hike” and I recommend having proper hiking gear when doing it. That means trail runners or hiking boots, trekking poles, and at least 1 liter of water, preferably 3L. Taking some snacks will help keep your energy up for the trip back. If it’s hot out, try some energy gels which are easier to get down in high temperatures.
You can refill your water at many points along the trail (see the directions later). Water is available year-round at Indian Garden but only seasonally at the other points. Sometimes there are water station closures, so make sure you check the alerts page before you go.
The water you see on the Bright Angel Trail (and most of the South Rim) is pumped up from Roaring Springs, 3,100 feet below the North Rim. The Parks Service has an interesting video about it here.
The weather in the Grand Canyon can be extreme. In the winter, bitter cold, ice, and snow is not uncommon. So pay close attention to the weather for Grand Canyon Village. If there is snow, the Bright Angel Trail can be covered. In those conditions micro-spikes and trekking poles are a must. There can be ice on the upper parts of the trail.
And of course, in the summer, it gets hot. You’ll feel the heat the most when you descend into the canyon to Plateau Point. The canyon walls offer some shade at the right part of the day, but in general, the hike is exposed, especially the section from Indian Garden to Plateau Point, so protect yourself from the sun. The temperature rises about 5.5F for every 1,000 feet that you descend. So you can expect Plateau Point to be about 16-17F warmer than the trailhead at the South Rim. In the warm months of summer, this hike is not a good idea.
I try a lot of hiking boots and shoes, and there are some great options out there, but the La Sportiva Spire is the best combination of comfort, protection, low-weight, and durability. They are waterproof, and the high cuff keeps debris out without the need for a gaiter. Time tested over thousands of miles. Use them with a two-layer sock system to end blisters for good.
Reviews & Lowest Prices: Women – Men
On a medium or longer hike I recommend a pack like the Osprey Talon 33 (men) or Osprey Sirrus 36 (women) which is a little bit larger. These packs are on the upper end of the (35L) daypack range, but they only weigh a small fraction more than a pack with less capacity. Having the extra space gives you more flexibility and means you don’t have to jam things in there. I use the space for things like extra layers in the winter, extra water on desert hikes, and even a tent & sleeping bag on overnights.
If you’re not familiar with the Garmin InReach technology, it allows you to send and receive text messages where you don’t have cell phone signals. You can also get weather reports and trigger an SOS to emergency responders. Even if you don’t have an emergency, sending a quick message telling a loved one that you’re okay or are running late is well worth the cost. The Mini fits in your palm and weighs next to nothing. Read my review and see the lowest prices and reviews at REI.
Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated January 2020.See All of My Best Gear Picks Here
No company pays me to promote or push a product, all the gear you see here is gear I use and recommend. If you click an a link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps offset website expenses. There is no cost to you.
Fitness To Hike To Plateau Point
Grand Canyon hikes are deceiving. Unlike mountain hikes where you do the climb and then get an easy hike back down, in the Grand Canyon it’s oh-so-easy hiking miles downhill, but then you have to turn around and go back up. As the park rangers like to say, there’s no shuttle bus from the bottom of the canyon to the top. So even if you are comfortable hiking for 12-13 miles, you need to be prepared to hike over 3,000 feet on the way back out, after having hiked over 6 miles down. 3,000 feet is just over a half a vertical mile.
The best training is to hike a 12-13 mile mountain trail with at least 3,000 feet of climbing. That can be tough if you don’t live near the mountains. But if you exercise regularly and are in good shape, you can approximate the effort by using a stair machine or treadmill. The approximate gradient between Indian Garden and the South Rim is around 14%, and it should take you about 2 hours. So dial in that gradient and time into your machine and give it a try. It doesn’t have to be fast, and you can pause for breaks as you normally would on the trail, but that should get you close to the effort.
It’s not uncommon to climb back out at half the pace that you descended. Most folks go down at between 2-3mph, and climb back out between 1-2mph.
Bright Angel Trail To Plateau Point Maps
The Bright Angel trail is what the Parks Service calls a corridor trail. The corridor trails are heavily used and actively maintained. The Bright Angel Trail is the most used trail in the park. It’s built with a standard gradient (overall) of 10% and has a standard width of 4 feet wide. What that means in practical terms is that, while it’s a tough trail, it’s never too steep and never so narrow that you’re walking on a precipice.
Bright Angel Trail to Plateau Point Hike Map Downloads
Download the Hike GPX File
View a Printable PDF Hike Map
Landmarks on Plateau Point Hike
|1.5 Mile Resthouse||1.5||5730||Spring to Fall|
|3 Mile Resthouse||3||4750||Spring to Fall|
|Plateau Point||6.2||3740||Spring to Fall|
Mules on the Trail
For over a century ,mules have been hauling gear, supplies, and people in and out of the Grand Canyon. Right behind the Bright Angel Trailhead is a mule pen used on the trail. These mules take people down to Indian Garden for a day trip and to Phantom Ranch for an overnight trip. Mule trips are very popular, can be booked 15 months in advance, and fill up quickly.
As a hiker on the Bright Angel Trail, the mules can be a pain. If you get stuck behind them, you’ll be stuck behind them for a while, until the mule handler allows you to pass. Oh, and they’ll be crapping too. If you are going in the opposite direction as the mules, you should stand as close to the inside of the trail as possible and let them pass as you heed the mule handler’s instructions.
Mules aren’t aggressive, but they can bite. Keep your hands to yourself. Don’t try to pet or feed the mules.
My tip is to leave at sunrise before the first mules leave. By the time you head back up from Indian Garden, you should pass them head-on, which is much better than getting stuck behind them on the climb out. And many times you can pass them while they’re on their break in the corral at Indian Garden.
Bright Angel Trail FAQ
- Do I need a permit for the hike? You don’t need any permit to hike the Bright Angel Trail as a day hike.
- Can I camp on the trail? You can’t just pitch a tent and camp on the Bright Angel Trail, but you can camp at Indian Garden with a (hard to get) backcountry permit.
- Is the Bright Angel Trail dangerous? The Bright Angel Trail is statistically the safest trail in the park. Heat exhaustion is the most common danger on the trail, so make sure you prepare accordingly. There are no animals that will attack you, and mules won’t kick you off the trail. You probably have a better chance of falling by bumping into another hiker.
- Can I explore off of the trail? No, please stay on the trail and respect the fragile environment. Do not take any bones or organic material that you may find. Do not approach any wildlife you see.
A Quick Bright Angel Trail History
The Bright Angel Trail has been used for centuries to access the reliable water source at Indian Garden. The trail is named after the Bright Angel Fault, which provided a way to climb down the canyon walls to the water. When prospectors arrived here in the 1800s, native Havasupai were actively using the route and planting crops at Indian Garden
In the 1890s, Ralph Cameron arrived and started mining in the area. The railroad arrived at the Grand Canyon, and he realized that tourism was more profitable than mining. Cameron “registered” and improved the Bright Angel Trail, set up camping at Indian Garden and the South Rim, and then charged visitors $1 to use the trail. His claims to the area were dubious, and he was in a constant battle with the government over the trail and land. Even after the Grand Canyon became a National Park in 1919, he still fought against giving up control. In 1928 he lost the battle and the trail was handed over to the Parks Service, who improved it and made it what it is today.
Of course, the native Havasupai were the ones who lost the most. Theodore Roosevelt (who rode down the Bright Angel Trail on a horse) ordered them to leave in 1901 in order to make way for the park. Some left and some stayed, but in 1928 the Parks Service forced the last Havasupai out of the Bright Angel area and onto a 518-acre reservation in Havasu Canyon. In 1975 after a long battle, the US Government created the 188,077 acre Havasupai Indian Reservation in the park. The capital, Supai, is considered “the most remote community” in the lower-48 and is only accessible by foot, mule, or helicopter.
Havasupai means “people of the blue-green waters,” referring to the color of the Colorado River, which runs through the Grand Canyon. In the early 1900s they worked as laborers here and created much of what you see at Grand Canyon National Park.
How To Hike to Plateau Point
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Turn by Turn Directions
The fertile land at Indian Garden (around Garden Creek) has been cultivated since 300AD. Western tourists starting arriving in the 1890s and as you know, the last natives were moved out of here in 1928. Today there is a ranger station, toilets, picnic areas, a campground, and water.
Hiking Back To the South Rim
You’ve got over 6 miles under your belt, but the hard part is yet to come. Unless you’re going to float down the river, you’ll have to walk back up to leave the inside of the Canyon.
Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.