Bright Angel Trail To Plateau Point Hike

Bright Angel Trail to Plateau Point Hike

In This Guide
  • Turn-by-Turn Hike Directions & Video
  • Getting to the Bright Angel Trail & Parking
  • Gear For the Hike
Distance12.5 miles (20.1 km)
Hike Time6-7 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Hard
Total Ascent (?)3,200 feet (975m)
Highest Elevation6,850 feet (2088m)
Fees & PermitsNational Park Entry Fee
Dog FriendlyNo
Park WebsiteGrand Canyon National Park
Park Phone928-638-7888
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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.

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.

Bright Angel Trail Parking
The areas in the red boxes offer parking close to the trailhead. There are always people coming and going, give the areas a look before parking farther out.
Bright Angel Trail 2
Here’s the parking lot next to the trailhead. It’s a bit hidden from casual drivers, and I usually have good luck here.
Farther Parking Bright Angel Trail
If you do need to park farther out, here are your options, all within a short walk to the trailhead.

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.

Bright Angel Trail 4
There are lots of bathrooms at the trailhead.
Bright Angel Trail 5
There’s a water fill station at the trailhead on the side of the bathrooms.

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.

Bright Angel Trail 51
Notice that the thermometer goes to 140F at Indian Garden. The highest recorded temperature in the Grand Canyon 120F, recorded at Phantom Ranch. Take the temperature seriously; people die from heatstroke in the Grand Canyon.

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La Sportiva Spire

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Osprey Talon

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.

Garmin Inreach Mini Beacon

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.See All of My Best Gear Picks Here

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Fitness To Hike To Plateau Point

Bright Angel Trail 13
A sign at the start of the Bright Angel Trail warns hikers not to overexert themselves. Conditions in the Grand Canyon can be extreme, and the climb back out of the canyon is tough. This is not the venue to push yourself past your limits.

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.

Overview Map

Bright Angel Overview Map
This map gives you an overview of the route and landmarks.

Interactive Map

Click To View Map

Bright Angel Trail to Plateau Point Hike Map Downloads

Download the Hike GPX File

View a Printable PDF Hike Map

Fenix 6 Pro

I’m a big fan of GPS watches to follow my GPX track (which I also use as a sleep, wellness, and fitness tracker) and my current watch is the Fenix 6 Pro Solar (full review here). I load my GPX tracks onto the watch to make sure I’m in the right place, and if not, the onboard topo maps allow me to navigate on the fly. It’s pricey but it has a great battery, accurate GPS, and tons of functionality. If you want something similar without the maps and big price tag, check out the Garmin Instinct which is a great buy and does a lot of the same things.

Landmarks on Plateau Point Hike

Landmark DistanceElevationWater
Trailhead06850yes
1st Tunnel0.186708no
2nd Tunnel0.756240no
1.5 Mile Resthouse1.55730Spring to Fall
3 Mile Resthouse34750Spring to Fall
Indian Garden4.53800yes
Plateau Point6.23740Spring to Fall

3D Map

Bright Angel Plateau Point 3d Map
After a steep descent down along the Bright Angel Fault, the trail levels out a bit as it makes it’s way into the canyon to Plateau Point.

Elevation Profile

Bright Angel Plateau Pointt Elevation
The bulk of the descent and climb are between the South Rim and Indian Garden. After that it’s just a minor gradient.

Mules on the Trail

Bright Angel Trail 10
The steep gradient on the Bright Angel Trail isn’t the only challenge; you’ll have to share the trail (and yield to) mules.

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.

Bright Angel Trail 63
Time your hike right and this could be the only mule encounter you have. Here the mules are resting in the pen at Indian Garden.

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

Bright Angel Trail 65
Staying on the trail is vital to protecting the delicate landscape around the Bright Angel Trail.

A Quick Bright Angel Trail History

Blasting On The Bright Angel Trail
The Civilian Conservation Corps and Havasupai laborers improved the Bright Angel Trail in the 1930s, but the path was here thousands of years before that. You can still see holes in the cliff from the 1930s used for blasting today. Photo NPS

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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Video Directions

FYI I have a version of this video in 360/VR format. Not familiar with the benefits of 360 video? Then watch this.

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Turn by Turn Directions

Bright Angel Trail 3
The actual trailhead is just past the the bathrooms and across from the mule stables.
Bright Angel Trail 6
Here’s the Brigth Angel trailhead.
Bright Angel Trail 8
Just past the trailhead is this beautiful sign that people take pictures with. If you are leaving early, take your photo before you start with the colors of sunrise. Later in the day there will be crowds here.
Bright Angel Trail 7
After you’ve gotten your photos at the rim, head down the Bright Angel Trail to begin the hike.
Bright Angel Trail 9
The pavement quickly ends and you start the long windy descent down the Bright Angel Fault.
Bright Angel Trail 76
Look at the canyon walls as you start to descend. The holes you see were used for blasting out the trail along the cliffside.
Bright Angel Trail 11
Shortly after starting you’ll pass through the first tunnel, blasted through the cliff in the 1930s.
Bright Angel Pictographs
Just past the first tunnel, up on your left, look for these ancient pictographs under the overhang. Be respectful and stay on the trail.
Bright Angel Trail 12
As you descend you can look down and see the trail unfold beneath you. You can even see the line of the Plateau Point Trail in the distance leading to Plateau Point. Just remember, you have to climb back up this to get out.
Bright Angel Trail 14
Follow the main trail and trail signs to continue on the Bright Angel Trail. There are some small (old) trials spurring off Bright Angel at various points. The Bright Angel Trail is always very easy to follow. Just look for the thousands of footprints.
Bright Angel Trail 16
There are around 100 switchbacks between the trailhead and Indian Garden. Sometimes they have stairs built in to make them easier to climb.
Bright Angel Trail 15
After about a mile in you’ll start to notice that the rock on either side of the trail doesn’t align. That’s because you’re going down a fault line. One side is getting pushed up and the other side down.
Bright Angel Trail 17
At about 0.75 miles you reach the second tunnel.
Bright Angel Trail 18
The trail is easy to follow and continues downhill.
Bright Angel Trail 19
There are some nice views of the different rock layers that Grand Canyon exposes on this section.
Bright Angel Trail 20
You’ll be able to see down below to Indian Garden, the green patch where the trail levels out.
Bright Angel Trail 21
At 1.5 miles you’ll (appropriately) start to see the 1.5 Mile Resthouse in the distance.
Bright Angel Trail 22
The actual rest-house is a small stone hut to your right up the stairs.
Bright Angel Trail 23
Once up the stairs you’ll be at the resthouse.
Bright Angel Trail 24
The resthouse is small but offers views and refuge from weather.
Bright Angel Trail 25
Just past the resthouse is a water spigot where you can refill.
Bright Angel Trail 26
Once you pass the 1.5 Resthouse there are toilets up to the right. Otherwise continue down the Bright Angel Trail to the left.
Bright Angel Trail 27
The trail continues to wind down the cliff.
Bright Angel Trail 28
Keep left on the big trail avoiding any small spur trails leading off.
Bright Angel Trail 29
The trail hugs the cliffside. This shot also gives you a good idea of how narrow the cliffside sections are. There are no narrow sections where you have to squeeze by on the side of the cliff. The trail is at least 4 feet wide in all places and there are no crazy drops.
Bright Angel Trail 30
Soon you’ll see the 3 Mile Resthouse in the distance.
Bright Angel Trail 32
If you want to visit the shelter, water, or toilets, go up to the right. Otherwise the Bright Angel Trail continues down to the left.
Bright Angel Trail 37
The 3 Mile Resthouse is similar to the last one.
Bright Angel Trail 36
The view from the shelter is great for framing shots of the canyon wall.
Bright Angel Trail 35
There’s another water spigot just behind the shelter.
Bright Angel Trail 33
Just past the shelter are the steps up to the toilets. The path to the left is an open area which used to be the terminus of a cable car system used by miners.
Bright Angel Trail 34
The toilets are up the steps.
Bright Angel Trail 38
Continue down the Bright Angel Trail through the switchbacks.
Bright Angel Trail 39
The next section of switchbacks is called Jacob’s Ladder.
Bright Angel Trail 40
After Jacob’s Ladder the trail levels out as you approach Indian Garden.
Bright Angel Trail 41
Stay to the right on the trail as you reach the beginning of Indian Garden.
Bright Angel Trail 42
Soon you’ll see the fence protecting native plants. Continue on the trail.
Bright Angel Trail 43
At the turnoff for Indian Garden, keep right on the trail to hike towards Plateau Point. If you want to explore the Indian Garden area or use the toilets, make the left here.

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.

Bright Angel Trail 44
You’ll pass by the campground as you continue on the trail. These poles are for hanging your food away from rodents.
Bright Angel Trail 45
Continue past some benches and picnic areas. The post on the right is used to tie up mules.
Bright Angel Trail 46
Depending on the time of year, Garden Creek might be flowing next to the trail as you continue down the trail. Stay to the right.
Bright Angel Trail 47
Eventually you’ll reach the end of the Indian Garden area. To the right are toilets, to the left is the Bright Angel Trail.
Bright Angel Trail 48
When you get down to the last stretch of Indian Garden, you’ll be heading to the left to join the Plateau Point Trail.
Bright Angel Trail 49
There’s a water station on the right where you can refill.
Bright Angel Trail 51
Make the left at the trail sign and thermometer.
Bright Angel Trail 52
Once you make the left cross Garden Creek and make the right to head down along its bank.
Bright Angel Trail 53
Follow the trail which can get a little overgrown in this section along the creek.
Bright Angel Trail 54
The trail starts to wind down toward the Tonto Platform, the plateau that separates the inner gorge and river from the upper canyon. Garden Creek disappears down to your right, and across the creek the Bright Angel Trail continues down toward the Colorado River and Phantom Ranch.
Bright Angel Trail 55
The trail quickly turns to desert again as it moves away from the creek.
Bright Angel Trail 56
Keep right at the junction with the Tonto Trail.
Bright Angel Trail 57
Pass the water tank and continue on the trail.
Bright Angel Trail 58
Shortly after the water, the metal fence at Plateau Point comes into view.
Bright Angel Trail 59
And here you are, Plateau Point!
Bright Angel Trail 60
Plateau Point offers some of the best views down to the Colorado River, 1300 feet below.
Bright Angel Trail 61
And that’s it. After your photos you just hike out the way you came in.

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.

Bright Angel Trail 62
Luckily the first part of the return is relatively flat. You’ll be climbing up through the gorge ahead.
Bright Angel Trail 64
Go straight through Indian Garden the way you came through. This is a good place to make sure you have enough water.
Bright Angel Trail 66
After Indian Garden the trail starts to slope upward.
Bright Angel Trail 67
And pretty soon you’re starting your 4 miles of uphill switchbacks.
Bright Angel Trail 68
At the 3 Mile Resthouse keep right to continue up the trail.
Bright Angel Trail 69
Although the climb is tough, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you reach the landmarks that you saw on your way down.
Bright Angel Trail 70
Almost there! The V in the cliff up top is where the trailhead is.
Bright Angel Trail 71
More switchbacks as you climb the last 2 miles.
Bright Angel Trail 72
At the 1.5 Mile Resthouse toilets, continue right and up the Bright Angel Trail.
Bright Angel Trail 73
Continue pass the actual 1.5 Mile Resthouse. This is your last chance to refill your water.
Bright Angel Trail 74
The last 1.5 miles can be steep and tough, but you’re oh-so close! The tunnels are good landmarks to shoot for.
Bright Angel Trail 75
Keep your eyes peeled on the heights around the trail as you climb; there are bighorn sheep in the park.
Bright Angel Trail 77
You did it! Pat yourself on the back and go treat yourself to some calories at the Bright Angel Lodge, you earned it.

Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.

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