The Grand Canyon has been on my bucket list for years. As a kid I would dream about some day visiting this magnificent canyon that everyone has raved on about. After dreaming and talking about it non stop I finally made the decision to plan an ultimate Arizona road trip. But I got unlucky and had to change my plans due to me contracting the flu. I went to the ranger station and asked for advice and they pointed me to hiking to Plateau Point. Plateau Point Grand Canyon is the perfect spot to see the Colorado river and the bottom of the canyon without having to hike to Phantom Ranch. Plus if you have a permit to Indian Garden Campground (which we did) you can view the sunset without the crowds. We were sold on this idea and then we were off to experience this viewpoint.
Let me warn you though that this hike is a strenuous all day hike. But, if you can achieve it, you will get one of the best views in the Grand Canyon. So keep reading on for the ultimate guide to Plateau Point Grand Canyon.
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This map has two different layers. One layer shows the information on the Bright Angel to Plateau Point Grand Canyon hike, while the other layer shows above the rim accommodations. You can turn on/off each layer.
This PDF shows the elevation at Grand Canyon National Park provided by the National Park Services. I always used this PDF to get a feel for the elevation of all the locations. There is also more information on the trail and map here.
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What to Bring
Below is the list of equipment we brought on the trail with us. I have linked all equipment to the equipment we own and 100% recommend. Make sure to check out my ultimate camping post for a thorough guide to the camping equipment I use.
For a Day Hike
- Sunscreen: This is a no brainer. There are areas on the trail where there is no shade. Slather some on right before the trek. >Buy Sunscreen
- Hiking Boots/Shoes: If you use tennis shoes you can easily hurt your toes hitting a rock by accident (Trust me I have done it so many times before). >Check Out My Hiking Shoes
- Hiking socks: Having the correct socks helps you prevent getting blisters. Smart Wool is probably my favorite brand out there. I also love how they now have pink socks too 🙂 >Buy Hiking Socks
- Refillable water bottle: I always bring a Hydroflask on all my adventures. They are on the heavier side but I know for a fact they will not break. I have had a few cheap water bottles break on me before. There is no room for error at the Grand Canyon. >Check Prices Now
- Lots of water: The Grand Canyon is HOT. Bring a ton of water!
- Sunglasses: Like I said it can get pretty sunny.>Check Out These Sunglasses
- Snacks: The best snacks are jerky, nuts, energy bars. Cliff Bars are great for hiking. This article lists some great ideas on food for the Grand Canyon!
- Trekking Poles: This is an optional product, but they really help with the knees. The poles I have listed are known to be one of the best in the market. >Buy The Trekking Poles Here
- Camera: I have linked the camera I used to take pictures of the Grand Canyon. The Sony A6000 is a great camera for people that want to start improving at travel photography. >Buy Sony Camera Here
- First Aid Kit: This is one of the first things I bought when I first started backpacking and camping. It is super portable. >Buy This Awesome First Aid Kit Here
- Day Pack: The REI bag I have linked, we have had for seven years now, and it is still going strong! >Buy This Great Quality Backpack
- Good hiking pants: These are probably the best hiking pants that I have found. They keep you dry in the crazy weather and they are durable. >Buy my hiking pants here
- Breathable sweat-wicking shirts
- Sports Bra: For women.
- Jacket: Only in the winter >Buy My Favorite Jacket
- Base Layers: This is only needed in the winter. If you get chilly like me this is necessary! I have been using Smartwool for years now and they are my go-to base layers. >Buy the bottoms here, >Buy the top here
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If Camping Inside the Rim
- Everything in the Day Hike List Above and,
- Backpack (50 – 65 Liters): I feel like the backpack is the most important equipment for this trip. If you have a low-quality backpacking pack, it can really hurt your back. One of my first backpacks didn’t give me any support and I was always in pain during my backpacking trips. The Osprey (which I have linked) is known to be one of the best makers of backpacks out there. >Buy my Awesome Backpack
- Tent: The tent can be one of the heaviest items you will be carrying. I just bought this new Nemo 2 Person tent and it is so small and light! >Buy The Nemo Backpacking Tent
- Jet Boil: This is a portable mini stove that will boil water for you. This is great if you are bringing dry food >Buy My Jet Boil
- Propane for Jet Boiler: This can be bought at Walmart on the way to the Grand Canyon.
- Sleeping Pad: A sleeping pad is pretty much a small, packable inflatable mattress. The pad you take with you on this trip should be lightweight. I have tried many types of sleeping pads (cheap ones, light ones, comfortable ones), and the one I have linked is probably the best one in the market for backpacking. It is my husbands sleeping pad and it can be used all year long. >Check Out My All-Time Favorite Sleeping Pad
- Dry Food: Dry food is the perfect food for when you are backpacking. All you have to do is add boiling water. Let me warn you that most dry food doesn’t taste amazing, but it is good enough after a long day of hiking. >Check Out Some Of My Favorite Dry Food
- Spork: A spoon and fork in one. >Buy A Spork Now
- Headlamp: A headlamp is an absolute must! It is a lot more portable and easier to use than a flashlight. >Buy A Headlamp Now
- Pillows: Pillows can take a lot of room, so I recommend buying an inflatable one. The one I have linked, I have had for five years now, and it is STILL going strong. >Buy The EXTREMELY Packable Inflatable Pillows
- Sleeping Bag: One of the most critical aspects of getting a good nights sleep! Bringing a sleeping bag is a must. >Look At Prices
- Compression Pack: This just compresses your sleeping bag, so it is easier to pack! >Buy a Compression Pack
- Sandals: I hate wearing my hiking shoes when I am hanging around the campsite, so bringing some sandals for leisure is a must for me. >Check Out These Sandals
- Printed Permit: Just in case anyone asks for it.
- Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Medicine & Toiletries >>>Check Out This Toothbrush
- REI Chairs (Optional): We brought them to watch the sunset at Plateau Point. >Check out my packable chairs
- Tripod: This is an optional item but it is great for getting the perfect sunset pictures. >Check out this tripod
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Indian Garden Campground
Indian Garden Grand Canyon Campground is located on the Bright Angel Trail a couple of miles before Plateau Point Trail. If you want to stay under the rim for the night, Indian Campground is a great option. The campground sits at an elevation of 3,600 feet and has a lot of shade. Even though the restrooms were pit toilets, they were clean and very well maintained. You do need a permit to stay here. Available amenities include:
- Drinkable Water
- Pit Toilets
- Picnic Tables
- 15 Camping Sites
- Shade Cover
- Emergency Phones
- Pack Poles
- Food Storage Cans
- Ranger Station
How to Obtain a Below the Rim Grand Canyon Camping Permit
Getting a permit to camp below the rim can be more difficult than you would think. I was denied THREE times before finally grabbing a permit in March. But, the dates I was looking for were not flexible. So the good news is, if you have an extremely flexible schedule, then you have a better chance of obtaining a permit. Here are some tips on obtaining a permit:
- Start planning the trip at least six months in advance; you need to know the trails you want to hike down to and what campgrounds you want to camp at and the dates.
- Fill out and send this Permit by mail, fax or in person.
- I highly suggest sending the permit as early as possible (which is usually 5 months before the trip). Here are the early dates to send in your permit.
- Permits are $10 per permit and $8 per person per night, so the costs can add up.
- The more flexible you are, the bigger the chance of securing a permit. The permit gives you many options on flexibility.
Hotels and Campgrounds Above the Rim ( South Rim )
If staying below the rim in Grand Canyon National Park isn’t your cup of tea than here are the hotels and campgrounds in the park above the Rim. There are two main companies that you can book from to stay at the Grand Canyon, Delaware North, and Xanterra Parks. Xanterra is located in the historic district while Delaware North is located at the market plaza near the visitor center. Make sure to book accommodation in advance (seriously book in advance):
- Yavapai Lodge is located in the Grand Canyon National Park. It is perfect if you want a hotel with great views and good location >Book Accommodation Now
- Thunderbird Lounge is located in Tusayan near the Bright Angel Trailhead. There are 55 modern rooms and the restaurant on site is open for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. >Book Accommodation Now
- There are many options on camping. Click here for more information on campgrounds
Read More: Where To Stay at the Grand Canyon | 22 Best Hotels, Cabins & Campgrounds
Important Things to Note Before you Start this Hike
There is an option of either staying in the Indian Garden Campground at night or day hiking to Plateau Point. If day hiking is your choice, make sure to start before the sun rises. The hike down is much easier than the way up, which can mislead hikers into thinking they can hike longer than they should. Always take a break at every rest stop. Here are the mileages and Grand Canyon elevation changes from Bright Angel Trailhead one way. There is a 1 1/2 mile resthouse and a 3 mile resthouse:
- First Resthouse: 1 1/2 miles, 1120 feet below the top,
- Second Resthouse: 3 miles, 2120 feet below the top,
- Indian Garden Campground: 4.5 miles, 3040 feet below the top,
- Plateau Point: 6.1 miles, 3080 feet below the top.
The Bright Angel Trail To Plateau Point
- Mileage: 13.3 miles
- Elevation Gain: 3,402 feet
- Difficulty: Hard
- Type of Trail: Out-and-back
- Trail Guide: Link
I am not going to lie, this was one of the hardest hikes of my life. I have heard countless times that you either love The Grand Canyon hiking trails, or you hate it. During our trek, I was weak, sickly and exhausted. To be frank, I was not too fond of the hike in the moment because those factors altered my experience. But, now that I think back on it, I would still do it all over again. Why? Because the views and experiences are incredible! Now that weeks have passed and all the sickly feelings have faded, I would love to someday plan a trip to experience the Grand Canyon yet again.
Since we went in the beginning of March, the beginning of the trail was extremely icy and slushy (The top of the canyon is colder than the bottom). There were moments when I was a little nervous but I got through it. The hike was extremely crowded at the top with day hikers trying to get a new glimpse of the Canyon, but as the trail went on you would see less and less people.
The Park had a plethora of squirrels on the trail dancing around for us to get some food. It was funny how well they knew the routine. They would pose for a picture and then beg for food. Jameson and I just pretended we were giving them food so they could pose for us. But, there are signs everywhere saying not to feed the squirrels.
We spotted some mules on the way down carrying packs for people staying below the rim. The mules have the right of way so make sure to stay out of their way.
After the second rest-house, the crowds seemed to have magically dwindled. It was as if we had the canyon all to ourselves.
In the morning after waking up in Indian Garden Campground, the views of the rising sun on the canyon was spectacular. I wish we had more time to experience the sunrise at Plateau Point. It probably would have been magnificent.
Going down Bright Angel Trail was easy, even with a heavy backpack on. Going up is a different story. It took us about 4 hours to get from Indian Garden Campground to Bright Angel Trailhead but again, my sickness did play a factor. As I described above, getting up Bright Angel Trail was very difficult and it was critical I stopped at all the rest-houses, ate snacks, and drank plenty of water.
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Indian Garden Campground to Plateau Point Grand Canyon
When we got to Indian Garden Campground, we unpacked and ate lunch. We decided that we wanted to see Plateau Point during the sunset, so we hung around the campsite until it was near sunset. Once we were ready for the hike, we packed a day pack with snacks, water, camera, tripod and REI Chairs.
The hike to Plateau Point from Indian Garden Campground was short (approx 2 miles) and flat. It didn’t really feel like a hike to me, more like a stroll. Throughout the hike there were views behind you and in front of you, honestly all around you. The colors and perspectives continually changed. The 360 views of the canyon were magnificent.
Jameson got to Plateau Point before me and I found him sitting on a rock in complete awe with what he was witnessing. Plateau Point completely took our breath away. You can see the Colorado River and all its surrounding glory. This isn’t even an exaggeration. We were stunned at how impressive and imposing the view was. This moment was when the Grand Canyon completely blew my mind.
The views from Bright Angel Trailhead to Indian Garden were beautiful but, the views from Plateau Point were just on another level. At this point I started to get upset that we were not able to stay here the original three nights as we had hoped for. I imagined that the views next to the river were probably monumental. But, I was still very grateful I was able to witness this beauty at least for one night.
We ended up staying until the sunset but sadly there were too many clouds to get any monumental sunset pictures. But we got one picture with some pink hues as seen below. I can only imagine how colorful and magical the pictures would have been if there weren’t any clouds. Staying at Indian Garden Campground will allow you to experience the sunset inside the canyon with only a handful of people. Plateau Point at sunset is not crowded at all, compared to watching the sunset from above the rim.
I highly recommend staying at least one-night inside The Grand Canyon and witnessing the sunset at Plateau Point. If camping inside the Grand Canyon is not an option, then I recommend waking up before the sunrise and hiking all the way down to Plateau Point view. Just hiking down to one of the rest-houses or Indian Garden is not worth the hike in my honest opinion. The hike is very strenuous and the views are not even close to impressive as Plateau Point in the Grand Canyon. If you are on your way to Arizona make sure to check out some of the other cool areas:
- Fun Things To Do in Grand Canyon South Rim
- The Best Havasu Falls Hike Guide
- One Day Itinerary To Petrified Forest National Park
- Best Hikes In Sedona Arizona
- 21 Of The Best Grand Canyon Views