While referred to as a trail, this day-hike is more of a short detour from Indian Garden to Plateau Point, a 1300 ft (400 m) viewpoint of the Colorado River that overlooks Pipe Creek Canyon, Granite Gorge, and Monument Canyon. That being said, it can only be considered a detour if you are hiking to Phantom Ranch and will rest once you reach that destination.
If you are hiking to Plateau Point and back to the rim, it ends up being a strenuous 12 mi (19 km) round-trip hike because while the outlook is a meager 1.5 mi (2.4 km) from Indian Garden, in order to get to Indian Garden, you need to hike 4.5 mi (7.2 km) down Bright Angel Trail.
Distance (from Bright Angel Trailhead):
Mile-and-a-Half Resthouse: 1.6 mi/ 2.6 km
Three-Mile-Resthouse: 3.1 mi/ 5 km
Indian Garden Campground: 4.8 mi/ 7.7 km
River Resthouse: 8 mi/ 12.9 km
Plateau Point: 9.5 mi/ 15.3 km
Elevation Change: 3000 ft (900 m)
Water Availability: Mile-and-a-Half Resthouse, Three-Mile Resthouse, Indian Garden
Estimated Hiking Time (round trip): 8-10 hours
If you’re traveling to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim and don’t want to hike all the way down to the river, but still want to venture a little farther than rim depth, a trip to Plateau Point is your best option. The terrain provides enough challenge to be enjoyable, the round-trip distance is doable, water is accessible at three points along the way, and best of all, the goal point happens to display one of the most spectacular views on the canyon- Granite Gorge from it’s most flattering angle.
The drop in elevation means that the hike will be a steep one, especially nearing Plateau Point. The steepest point will be the 1.5 miles (2.4 km) after Indian Garden, which means that your climb from Plateau Point back to Indian Garden will be the most strenuous bit of the entire hike out. For this reason, it’s important to start your as early as possible. Most people who hike out to Plateau Point have moved on by noon because not only does the hike get steeper after Indian Garden, it also gets more arid.
While Indian Garden is a shaded, riparian area decked out with a creek, water access, toilets, and a ranger station, immediately after it is an exposed, desert-like plateau that stretches hotly toward Plateau Point. The outlook may be beautiful, but the physical discomfort of standing under direct sunlight squinting out into the blinding distance can definitely diminish the experience. Plan your hike well and you’ll be back at Indian Garden relaxing well before the heat burns full force.
Plateau Point Trail is an especially convenient hike for visitors who are looking for a great Grand Canyon experience without taking too many physical risks. This hike is also a great option for those without lodging reservations as it can be completed safely in one day. The trail offers plenty of water and shade, three rest places, and ends with one of the most magnificent views of the canyon landscape.