Crowd-free vistas of the Grand Canyon? You’ll find it on this out-and-back to Powell Plateau, a remote, pine-forested tableland that rises a mile above the Colorado River near the canyon’s North Rim. It’s only 2.5 miles from the trailhead to the plateau, but you’ll want to spend at least 2 days exploring the 10 miles of secluded trail along the rim. Start by switchbacking down 1 mile and 800 feet from Swamp Point trailhead to an unsigned junction at Muav Saddle. Continue straight and descend to a slightly lower saddle, then climb 900 feet over 1.5 miles to reach the plateau. (The trail is faint in places.) When you reach the rim, follow the trail south for one magnificent view after another. Campsites are plentiful in the ponderosa forest; water, however, is scarce.
CAUTION: Summer temperatures can soar into the 100s so always carry water (rangers recommend 2 gallons/day), and start early to beat the midday heat. Also, don’t forget it is much easier to descend into the canyon than climb back up. Expect to spend at least double the time climbing than descending.
PERMITS: If camping, backcountry permits are $10, plus $5 per person per day. Download application at nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/backcountry-permit.htm; then fax to (928) 638-2125.
MORE INFO: Grand Canyon National Park, (928) 638-7888; nps.gov/grca