Quantifying topographic change in permafrost environments is important because it can provide insight about the loss of excess ice. Ground-based methods that detect change in surface elevation are often applied at individual points rather than over an area, giving rise to questions about their representativeness. Remote sensing methods can overcome this problem, although confounding signals may arise from changing vegetation and microtopography. This study examines the uncertainty of mean elevation measured with a terrestrial laser scanner and with a total station on 28 plots with different surface characteristics in a tundra environment. Observations from terrestrial laser scanning and surveying with a total station are analyzed statistically to reveal confidence intervals for the derived mean elevations. On average, terrestrial laser scanning can detect vertical movements in the centimeter range and the total station method in the low decimeter range.