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The Tonto Trail between Bright Angel
and Kaibab Trails.


The Tonto Trail at Grand Canyon
stretches 70 miles (112km) along the
Tonto Plateau, a shelf of land about half
way between the rim and the Colorado
River.  The most traveled trails at Grand
Canyon,
Bright Angel and South Kaibab,
slice their way from the rim to the river as
efficiently as possible.  It makes sense
that people are drawn to the Colorado
River, the natural force (along with the
uplift of the land) that created the
majestic Canyon.  I hiked from the rim to
the river
twenty-one times before taking
the pleasant 4.5 mile (7.2km) hike on
Tonto Trail between Bright Angel and
Kaibab Trails, the only portion I will write
about here.










The Tonto Trail splits from the Bright
Angel Trail a short distance North of
Indian Garden.  Keep your eyes open,
because the trail sign could be missed if
your focus is down the trail.  Indian
Garden is the last place you will have
access to clean water anywhere on this
hike, Summer or Winter.

In contrast to Bright Angel and Kaibab
Trails, Tonto trail is much less traveled
and much narrower.  The brush will
touch your shoes and legs in many
places, making it appropriate to wear
bug repellant in tick season.  Once you
leave Bright Angel Trail you will be
exposed to the elements for the rest of
the hike, making Tonto Trail a great trail
in the Winter or on a cloudy day, but a
hot hike in just about any weather.   On
my February hike, the temperature was
31F (-.5C) when I left the rim, but read
out as high as 80F (26.6C) on the
thermometer in the sun on the back of
my day pack (probably more accurately
about 60F [15.5C]).  In my opinion,
because of the lack of water and sun
exposure, the Tonto Trail, like revenge,
is best served cold

To get a good sense of this section of
the Tonto Trail, it is a great idea to hike
or drive to the Geology museum at
Yavapai Point the day before your hike.  
You get a great view of the majority of
the trail from there.






The first landmark you see about a
quarter mile down the trail are the
telephone poles installed by the
Civilian
Conservation Corps in 1935.
The trail remains relatively level through
the entire hike, and the views cutting
across the canyon (rather than going up
and down) are refreshingly pleasant.  
You continue along the trail, first passing
an unnamed sub-canyon of Pipe Creek
(so named for the water pipe that runs
along the creek near the Colorado River,
then continues along Bright Angel Trail to
the rim).  If you are frightened of heights,
this is the only area where the trail might
give you pause.  You then go around a
second canyon created by Pipe Creek
and cross (at least in the Winter months)
a small stream and oasis-like
vegetation.  From there, you continue on
the East side of the Pipe Creek Canyon
to Burro Springs–something I nicknamed
Cottonwood Corner, about half way
through your trip on Tonto Trail and a
great place for lunch.




Past Burro Springs, the trail climbs
around the base of O’Neill Butte and
eventually connects with
South Kaibab
Trail at the Tip Off.  Shortly before you
reach the Tip Off you get a nice view of
Phantom Ranch.









The three segments of this hike, Bright
Angel to Indian Garden, Tonto from
Indian Garden to South Kaibab Trail, and
South Kaibab Trail to the rim, each
measure approximately 4.5 miles (7.2
km).  On my February hike, Bright Angel
Trail had 2.75 miles (4.4km) of snow
pack and ice, making progress very
slow.  South Kaibab had about .75 miles
(1.2km) of ice.  For me, a 58 year old,
the entire hike took about 8.5 hours.  I
imagine in perfect conditions, it would
take 6.5 hours.  I highly recommend this
hike.  The views hiking parallel to the
canyon walls are different from those
hiking up and down the canyon.  Plus,
there is great solitude on the Tonto Trail.
On a Sunday in February, we did not see
a single other hiker the length of the
Tonto Trail, but there is some cell phone
reception in case of emergencies.  Good
hiking to you!
Sign designating the Tonto Trail intersecting with Bright Angel Trail at Grand Canyon.
Sign designating Tonto Trail at South Kaibab Trail at Grand Canyon,
An overview of the Tonto Trai as seen from Yavapai Point.
CCC telehone poles from 1935 cross the Tonto Trail at Grand Canyon.
Tonto trail at Grand Canyon is relatively narrow and flat.
A view of the South Rim from Tonto Trail at Grand Canyon.
The Tonto Trail at the intersection with South Kaibab Trail at Grand Canyon.
Tonto Trail as seen from South Kaibab Trail at Grand Canyon, Arizona.
South Kaibab Trail can be muddy or icy in Winter.
In February, Bright Angel Trail at Grand Canyon was covered in snow and ice.
All original contents copyright  2018.
Crossing Pipe Creek on Tonto Trail, Grand Canyon Arizona.
The Tonto Trail crossing Burro Springs at the Grand Canyon, Arizona.

Note:  I normally highly recommend Bright Angel Trail as the
best route to the bottom of Grand Canyon, but on this February
hike, because of snow and ice, South Kaibab would have been
the better route.  It is always advisable to do a "pre-hike hike"
the day before your long hike to get a sense of trail conditions.  
This is easy at Bright Angel Trail, but harder at South Kaibab as
you must take one or two buses to get there.  Perhaps the best
strategy is to hike a bit down Bright Angel and speak to the
hikers coming up--most of them with packs have spent at least
one night in the Canyon and the majority of hikers (contrary to
my advice) go down South Kaibab Trail and come up on Bright
Angel Trail.  In Winter, be sure to question several as to the ice
and snow on both trails, as perceptions and reports vary from
hiker to hiker.  As always, in Winter months you should pack
crampons and hiking poles so they are available in case the trail
is icy.