The route could easily be extended by hiking portions of the Tonto Trail. For a shorter (9.0 mile) option, turn around at the end of Horseshoe Mesa rather than descending to the Tonto Trail.
Destination Distance From Downtown
4 of 5 diamonds
With 3,600ft. of elevation gain / lost in the high elevation, desert environment, the trail is often steep and dry. The 17-mile length also adds to its 4-star difficulty.
Time To Complete
About 10-15 hours or 2-3 days
Spring and Fall
Spring and fall are the best seasons to hike in the canyon; summer is extremely hot and dry, while in the winter the upper portions of the trail are snow-covered and extremely icy.
Try to stay with us here… But hiking down the Grandview Trail, across Horseshoe Mesa to epic views of the Grand Canyon, down to the Tonto Trail, around Horseshoe Mesa past a mysterious and scenic Dark Canyon, up the East Horseshoe Mesa Trail (Hance Creek Trail) past historic mine workings, and back up the Grandview Trail is a 15 mile lollipop loop with 3,600ft. of elevation lost and regained. There are many advantages to this route over better-known trails into the canyon (such as the Bright Angel and South Kaibab Trails) including fewer tourists and more camping spots. The route makes for a very long day hike or a several day adventure.
What Makes It Great
The trail begins near the Grandview Viewpoint, descending over slippery, foot-worn rocks. Views are initially somewhat limited, but the Colorado River and the eastern end of the canyon make occasional guest appearances. A mile from the trailhead, descend the first set of “cobbles—long, loaf-shaped rocks strategically placed to keep erosion at bay and to help hikers keep their footing on the steep trail—to enter the Coconino Saddle. Continue descending along the side of the ridgeline, with views opening up to the Grand Canyon.
Just before arriving at Horseshoe Mesa, a trail goes right toward Page Springs. Continue straight to the junction with the Cottonwood Creek Trail, on left. This is a great route to take for a more extended backpacking trip, as the trail descends to the Tonto Trail, from which you can turn left toward the South Kaibab Trail, or right to go all the way around Horseshoe Mesa.
Continue straight to an old, roofless building, signed as the Last Chance Mine, at about mile 3. Nearby is a (very primitive) toilet; follow this junction to find the designated campsites. There are some views in this section, but none that are truly jaw-dropping.
To continue out on Horseshoe Mesa, follow the near-social trail past the old cabin (not the toilet trail) and out onto the flat expanse of the mesa. At times, the trail can be a bit vague, but generally head north and toward the western arm, and you should be fine.
After about a mile of hiking beyond the Last Chance Mine, the trail approaches the end of the mesa, dropping precipitously toward the Tonto Trail. A second (social) trail continues left along the arm of the mesa. Follow the social trail for spectacular views up and down the canyon. Newberry Butte, Krishna Shrine, Hawkins Butte, Dunn Butte, the Inner Canyon - Wow!
Retrace your steps back to the route down to the Tonto Trail. This section is extremely steep, with shifting rocks and sand, descending about 1,000ft. in 1 mile. It is a relief to T into the Tonto Trail and turn right on the flatter, better-maintained trail.
The Tonto Trail isn’t as awe-inspiring in terms of views as the arm of Horseshoe Mesa, but it's nothing to sneeze at. Buttes, temples, side-canyons, and each bend in the trail brings a new scene, and as there are plenty of bends as the trail winds its way around one side canyon after another, the views are ever-changing and ruggedly beautiful.
It’s about 3.5 miles from the bottom of the trail from Horseshoe Mesa to the East Horseshoe Mesa (sometimes called Hance Creek) Trail. For about half of this time, the trail is skirting Dark Canyon, a very volcanic-looking gorge. The Colorado River comes into view just before the Tonto / East Horseshoe Mesa Trail Junction.
Turn right up the East Horseshoe Mesa Trail. The trail ascends relentlessly 2 miles to a junction with a 0.1 mile trail, on left, to Miner’s Spring. Continue upward past the entrances to several mines and old mining equipment to reintersect the Grandview Trail at the Last Chance Mine about a mile beyond the trail to the spring.
Turn left up the Grandview Trail 3 miles back to the parking area to complete the 15 mile loop.
Who is Going to Love It
The loop is great for adventurous hikers and backpackers wishing for a less-touristy, quieter, and history-filled hike into the Grand Canyon. It’s also of interest to history buffs due to the remains of the mining activity in the area.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From the Grand Canyon Visitor Center (near Grand Canyon Village), drive south to AZ-64 (the main park road). Turn left (toward Desert View) and drive 8.7 miles. Turn left again, following signs for Grandview Point; the parking area is 0.7 miles at the end of the access road.
Alternatively, from Desert View, drive west on the main park road (AZ-64) toward Grand Canyon Village. After 12.7 miles, turn right, following signs for Grandview Point. The parking area is 0.7 miles away at the end of the access road.
Backpackers must camp in designated sites on Horseshoe Mesa; camping is not allowed in or near the historic mines or structures. Camping in the Cottonwood and Hance Creek areas is “at-large”. All hikers must bring animal proof food containers.
Crampons / traction devices are mandatory to hike the Grandview Trail during the winter months, when ice accumulates on the upper reaches of the trail.
Entering mines and caves without a permit is unlawful.
All vehicles entering Grand Canyon National Park are charged a $25/week fee (fee waived with Interagency America the Beautiful passes and Grand Canyon Annual pass).