Grand Canyon National Park: Bright Angel Trail to Plateau Point

This 10.7-mile out-and-back dives more than 3,000 feet to a photogenic perch offering five-star views of the Colorado River and the second deepest canyon in the United States.
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This 10.7-mile out-and-back dives more than 3,000 feet to a photogenic perch offering five-star views of the Colorado River and the second deepest canyon in the United States.

From the Bright Angel Trailhead, zigzag your way down 3,195 feet to Indian Garden, an oasis smudged into a crease in the canyon wall. From the rim, nearly 100 switchbacks snake down the canyon, etched into the red rock, cutting a thin ribbon of matted red dirt. Resthouses, complete with shade, water and an emergency telephone, are spaced in 1.5 mile intervals along the trail. At Indian Garden, veer left and head out into the canyon to Plateau Point. The point, a spectacular overlook with views of the Colorado River, and the inner canyon’s depths, is worth every bit of sweat. To return, simply make a U-turn and head back up the canyon to the South Rim and one of the best ice cream cones ever, at the Bright Angel Lodge.

-Mapped by Chelise Simmons

PLAN IT

GUIDEBOOK AND MAP Hiking Grand Canyon National Park, 3rd Edition, Ron Adkison and Ben Adkison ($19, falcon.com). Trails Illustrated Grand Canyon ($12, natgeomaps.com). Plan other trips in the park using BACKPACKER's Grand Canyon National Park page.

CUSTOM TOPO MAPS Download tracks and waypoints, print or order custom topos, from the map tools menu on the web version of the trip report.

SEASON March to May and October to November. From June to September, inner canyon temps from are often above 100°F. 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

KEY GEAR Wide-brim hat and six liters of water storage.

PERMITS $10 per permit, plus $5/person per night. Apply on the first of the month four months prior to your hike date (e.g., June 1 for a hike beginning in Nov.) and fax it to (928) 638-2125

CONTACT Backcountry Information Office: (928) 638-7875 (from 1 to 5 p.m., Monday to Thursday), nps.gov/grca

STOCK UP Canyon Village Marketplace, South Rim. (928) 638-2262 http://www.nps.gov/grca/index.htm

FREE TRIP PLANNERS Get news on vacation deals and lodging at mygrandcanyonpark.com

10 Summer Hiking Essentials

Water - Plain and some with electrolyte replacement.
Food - especially salty foods. Eat twice as much as normal.
First Aid Kit - bandaids, ace wrap, antiseptic, moleskin, etc.
Map - while many trails are well-marked, maps are helpful tools.
Pack - to carry the essentials.
Flashlight/Spare Batteries - allows you to hike out during the cool of the evening.
Spray Bottle - fill with water for your own personal air conditioning system.
Hat/Sunscreen - to keep the sun off you and protect your skin.
Whistle and/or Signal Mirror - for emergency use.
Waterproof Clothing - poncho or jacket; especially usefull during monsoon season (mid-July to early September).

The South Rim: Open All Year
The South Rim is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. All visitor services: camping, lodging, and restaurants are available year round.Reservations are strongly recommended during the busy summer season. Some facilities are closed during the winter. A free shuttle bus system operates in the Grand Canyon Village area. Make your visit easier by parking your car at the Visitor Center and using the free shuttle buses to get around the village.

Market Plaza is the Business Center of the Village. Here you will find a general store and deli, a bank, post office, and cafeteria at Yavapai Lodge. Market Plaza has a large parking lot (B) and is in a central location. It is a good place to park and access the park's free shuttle system.

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 17.3

Waypoints

Supai Rocks

Location: 36.058697, -112.143784

Mountain Goat

Location: 36.057663, -112.144524

You might run into this friendly guy.

Stream

Location: 36.078525, -112.127075

Limestone

Location: 36.058197, -112.14653

Bright Angel Trail to Plateau Point

Location: 36.057899, -112.142601

Red Dirt

Location: 36.061276, -112.141716

Donkey Train

Location: 36.066826, -112.135529

Rock Formations

Location: 36.08572, -112.124725

1.5 Mile Resthouse View

Location: 36.060028, -112.137022

Beavertail Cactus

Location: 36.083778, -112.124893

View from the Trailhead

Location: 36.057918, -112.14251

Trail Views

Location: 36.093117, -112.116486

Resthouse

Location: 36.060466, -112.138841

Trail Sign

Location: 36.057755, -112.145241

Agave

Location: 36.082615, -112.125679

View of Colorado River

Location: 36.093231, -112.116104

Path Splits

Location: 36.08614, -112.124352

Cheop Point to the NW.

Californian Condor

Location: 36.05788, -112.1427

These condors are rare, but their numbers are growing. In 2008 there are aproximately 50 in northern Arizona.

Trailhead Sign

Location: 36.057934, -112.142456

Toilet

Location: 36.060449, -112.139103

Wildflowers

Location: 36.067608, -112.13382

1.5 Mile Resthouse

Location: 36.060418, -112.138937

Lizard

Location: 36.077435, -112.128021

Indian Gardens

Location: 36.074585, -112.128792

View of 3 Mile Resthouse

Location: 36.060531, -112.138739

Squirrel

Location: 36.05785, -112.146339

Trail Junction

Location: 36.07843, -112.127022

Switchbacks

Location: 36.062107, -112.14003

3 Mile Resthouse

Location: 36.065441, -112.136238

Indian Gardens

Location: 36.077396, -112.12809

Rafting Tour Below

Location: 36.093262, -112.115959

Looking NE up the Colorado,

Indian Gardens Campground

Location: 36.076, -112.128616

Shady Bench

Location: 36.077026, -112.128357

Donkey Train

Location: 36.060583, -112.138658

Plateau Point Sign

Location: 36.093185, -112.116287

GCP001

Location: 36.057945, -112.142357

Directly next to the Kolb Studio, begin descending into the depths of the Grand Canyon along the Bright Angel Trail.

GCP002

Location: 36.057758, -112.145294

Unlike most hikes where the trail is hidden by ridgelines, valleys, and canyons, this out-and-back is mostly visible, snaking thousands of feet below in a small ribbon of matted red dirt etched into the canyon wall.

GCP003

Location: 36.058193, -112.14653

Hiking into the Grand Canyon is a geology lesson. The top layer, roughly 250 million years old, is known as Kaibab Limestone and is sandy to the touch.

GCP004

Location: 36.060388, -112.139023

Continue left @ 3-way junction. Immediately to your right is the 1.5 Mile Resthouse with water, bathrooms and an emergency telephone. At this point the trail has dropped 1,065 feet into the canyon.

GCP005

Location: 36.062118, -112.140152

Descending down the nearly 100 switchbacks to Indian Gardens, it is impossible to not be overwhelmed with the size and sheer beauty of the deteriorating red rock walls.

GCP006

Location: 36.061264, -112.141754

On the left is a large rock shaped like a shark's tooth.

GCP007

Location: 36.065441, -112.136246

Three-Mile Resthouse: Water, shelter and an emergency phone are available starting in May. Indian Gardens, the next opportunity to get water, is now only 1.6 miles below. Optional: Follow the small path behind the resthouse for a stunning view of the canyon.

GCP008

Location: 36.066818, -112.135559

Depending on the time of day, donkey trains may pass on the trail. To allow safe passage, stand on the uphill side of the trail and do not agitate the animals (or riders for that matter).

GCP009

Location: 36.067638, -112.133797

As the trail begins to flatten out, the rock walls transition from Mauv Limestone to Bright Angel Shale. Depending on the time of year, spring wildflowers may also line the trail.

GCP010

Location: 36.074596, -112.128799

An oasis in the middle of the canyon, Indian Garden has shade, water, and a rest area.

GCP011

Location: 36.076019, -112.128616

Continue straight @ 3-way junction. The trail to the left leads to Indian Garden Campground.

GCP012

Location: 36.077015, -112.128372

Shade and water can be found here.

GCP013

Location: 36.077396, -112.12809

Veer right @ Y-junction; bathrooms and benches flank the trail.

GCP014

Location: 36.078423, -112.127029

Turn left @ 3-way junction and cross over a small stream. The trail winds through more vegetation.

GCP015

Location: 36.083771, -112.124825

During springtime, pink and yellow cactus flowers dot the landscape adding a splash of color to the otherwise dusty, red rock. Summer Point is also visible jutting up to the northeast.

GCP016

Location: 36.086147, -112.124344

Veer right @ Y-junction, heading northeast toward Plateau Point. The Bright Angel Trail is visible to the right a few hundred feet below.

GCP017

Location: 36.093128, -112.116486

Fill up your water bottles here before the final push to Plateau Point.

GCP018

Location: 36.093269, -112.115997

Plateau Point: From this vantage point deep inside the heart of the canyon, views extend across the Colorado River to distant mesas and plateaus. After basking in the view, turn around and retrace the trail to the canyon's rim. Depending on the time of year, the heat can rise into the hundreds, so make sure to drink plenty of water.