Grand Canyon South Rim Trails at a Glance

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Angel Trail on the South Rim. Photo by Whit Richardson

Hermit Trail

This moderately difficult rim-to-river trail begins at Hermits Rest and descends the Hermit Creek drainage for 8.2 miles to Hermit Creek backcountry campground. The trail was originally built in 1911 to access a luxury resort at Hermit Creek. Until trail crews eventually remove rock-slides and rebuild washed-out sections, Hermit is more rugged than the maintained South Kaibab or Bright Angel Trails. Hermit connects with the Tonto and Boucher Trails, offering backpacking loop options. Total elevation loss between Hermits Rest Trailhead and Hermit Rapids, 9.7miles away, near the Colorado River, is 4,340 feet.

Boucher Trail

Hike 2.7 miles down Hermit Trail to reach the Boucher Trail junction; it’s 9.3 miles on the Boucher to reach Boucher Creek near the canyon bottom. This is the most exposed rim-to-river trail on the South Rim, with sections that are maybe 10 inches wide and teeter on sloping, sheer drop-offs. It is definitely not a path for people with a fear of heights or inexperienced Grand Canyon hikers. The pay-off to this route is camping at the panoramic Yuma Point (4.5 miles from Hermits Rest) and enjoying the relative solitude and flowing waters of Boucher Creek. Pick up the West Tonto Trail here to connect with the remote Jewels Route between Boucher and South Bass Trails.

Bright Angel Trail

Originally used by Native Americans to get down to what is now Indian Garden, the Bright Angel Trail was improved in the late 19th-century by businessman Ralph Cameron, who charged a toll to tourists headed into the canyon. The National Park Service took over the path in the 1930s and, with the help of the Civilian Conservation Corps, improved the rim-to-river route and built various rest houses along the way. Today the 9.5- mile trail (elevation change is 4,460 vertical feet) is the most popular in the park. See the Corridor Trails map on page 18 for distances.

South Kaibab Trail

Constructed by the National Park Service in 1924 as an alternative to the then private Bright Angel Trail, this 7-mile route is the most direct South Rim trail to the Colorado River (elevation change 4,860 vertical feet). Unlike Bright Angel, there is no water or camping along the way. Connecting with the Tonto Trail, 4.4 miles from trailhead, offers backpacking loop options. Note: Trailhead is accessible by park shuttle only (page 7).

Grandview Trail

Starting at Grandview Point, the Grandview Trail drops 2,600 feet in elevation as it descends to Horseshoe Mesa, a steep 3.5-mile trip (one way), and an excellent day hike or overnight camping spot. Hikers will see ruins of the 19th century-Last Chance Mine and spectacular panoramic canyon views from atop Horseshoe Mesa. No water is available on this route. Trails descend off Horseshoe Mesa to Hance Creek (on the east) or Cottonwood Creek (on the west) and connect with the trans-canyon Tonto Trail. Grandview does not go to the Colorado River; the most direct route to get to the river is via Hance Creek to Red Canyon.

With an unsigned trailhead, many hikers are unaware of this remote South Rim trail. Pick up the trail at the no parking sign along the north side of Desert View Drive, one mile west of Moran Point, and follow it through the juniper trees to the rim’s edge. Built in 1894 by miner John Hance, this 6.5-mile trail is a difficult rim-to-river route with no water along the way and perilously steep, rocky stretches that are less than one foot wide in places. The trail ends at the mouth of Red Canyon and Hance Rapid on the Colorado River. The East Tonto Trail starts here and leads to Hance Creek below Horseshoe Mesa.

New Hance Trail

With an unsigned trailhead, many hikers are unaware of this remote South Rim trail. Pick it up at the “no parking” sign along the north side of Desert View Drive, one mile west of Moran Point, and follow it through the juniper trees to the rim’s edge. Built in 1894 by miner John Hance, this 6.5-mile trail is a difficult rim-to-river route with no water along the way. It also has perilously steep, rocky stretches that are less than one foot wide in places. The trail ends at the mouth of Red Canyon and Hance Rapid on the Colorado River. The East Tonto Trail starts here and leads to Hance Creek below Horseshoe Mesa.

Tanner Trail

Starting on the road just east of Lipan Point (park at the point), this 9-mile unmaintained rim-to-river trail offers challenge and solitude for experienced Grand Canyon backpackers. Much of the route is exposed with little shade and there is no water except at the river where hikers can camp next to the roar of Tanner Rapids. The first several miles of the Tanner are extra steep, eroded slopes, but once the path drops below the Redwall formation, the grade becomes more gentle.

Tonto Trail

This trans-canyon route across the Tonto Platform extends all the way from South Bass Trail in the western end of the park to Hance Creek (connecting with Escalante Route) in the east. The 4.6-mile corridor trails stretch connects Indian Garden/Bright Angel to Tip-Off Point/South Kaibab. It’s 14 miles on the Tonto from Hermit Creek to Inidan Garden, and 20 miles connecting South Kaibab/Tonto junction to Cottonwood Creek below Horseshoe Mesa. The path is lacking in shade and has little water, making it hazardous during hot weather.

South Bass Trail

This 7.8-mile rim-to-river trail was originally built in the 1880s by William Bass and generally follows the Bass Canyon drainage to the river. The remnants of Bass homestead can be seen near the Colorado River beach. Access to South Bass Trailhead is on a bumpy 4WD road. From AZ 64, take Forest Road 328/328A, located just south of the park entrance gates on the north end of Tusayan. Drive 31 miles through Kaibab National Forest and the Hualapai Reservation to the remote trailhead.

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