The Beamer Trail, 1999
Grand Canyon National Park

  New Hance TH

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Descent The New Hance trail  was our route of choice into the Grand Canyon. This 8-mile trail to the Colorado River lies approximately 15 miles east of Grand Canyon Village and is much less travelled than the better known Bright Angel and Kaibab trails. We saw only a few people all day.

Red Canyon

The New Hance descends into Red Canyon (a side canyon of the Grand) and arrives at Hance Rapids on the Colorado River. Although the New Hance is a secondary trail, it is well marked and easy to follow. A 6:00am start allowed us plenty of time for a steady and deliberate descent. Abundant sunshine brought luxurious warmth, replacing the early morning chill.

Hikers The five of us (Doug Minderlen, Tim Lange, Greg Reinhart, Tony Morris and Dave Wyant) reached the river's edge before noon on a bright, cloudless day. The Colorado River was flowing clear and provided us with our source of drinking water throughout the 3-day weekend.

Along the River The real fun began as we followed the Escalante Route to the east, parallelling the Colorado River. This 10-mile long "route" connects the New Hance trail with the Tanner trail and allows for a little-used 27-mile loop in the Canyon. Coupled with this loop, we intended to walk the Beamer Trail out-and-back to see the Little Colorado River. Overall, this would require approximately 47 trail miles in the Canyon, including the climb back to the rim on Day 3. We only hoped that we would be fresh enough to tackle and complete each day's planned itinerary after grinding through the long miles of the previous day.

Unkar Overlook The Escalante Route is well-defined in most places, but left us guessing in others. Fortunately, a good map, trail description, and prior experience all combined to keep us on course as the Escalante Route led us up a couple of side canyons, looking for the best way to proceed. We encountered at least three areas that required hands-on-the-rock scrambling to climb up or down a steep canyon wall. Each climb was marked with cairns and was not dangerous, usually involving only 15 to 30 feet of elevation.

Doug Approaches Camp

The scrambles and route-finding associated with the Escalante Route took a little more time than we had anticipated. By late afternoon, we found ourselves still nearly five miles from camp with time running out. We pushed on into camp, ignoring our tired feet. The following is an actual trail quote heard from Doug at the end of Day 1, describing the long, hard march into camp late in the day....

"My piggy's were squealin', my dogs were barkin', my knees were knockin', my quads were quiverin', my hips were hollerin', my shoulders were shudderin', my lungs were burnin', my heart was poundin', and I had perma-grin stuck all over my face!"
-- D. Minderlen

Campsite Miles of walking brought us to our first day's camp at the junction with the Tanner trail at the outlet of Tanner Canyon. We were motiviated to complete the 18-mile first day and camp at our planned destination, in order to have a chance to follow the Beamer trail to its end on the second day. Our campsite at the Escalante/Tanner trail junction also marked the beginning of the Beamer trail and would be our starting point for the next day's out-and-back, 20-mile trek to the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers.

Along the Beamer Trail The Beamer trail  is a 10-mile, one-way trail to the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers. Doug, Tim and I left camp at 6:30am on Day 2, hoping that we had enough time to complete the journey. None of us had been on the Beamer before and we didn't really know how difficult it would be. As it turned out, the trail was well marked and provided easy walking. The first 4 miles involved mostly walking along beaches through sandy soil, tamarisks and other vegetation. Just beyond Lava Falls, the trail climbed up onto the Tapeats sandstone and stayed there for the next 6 miles, until descending to the Little Colorado river. Walking along the Tapeats gave us dizzying views as we were at times only feet from 500' cliff edges.


At the confluence of the two rivers, the turquoise water of the Little Colorado merged with and became lost in the green waters of the Colorado. This area is a favorite stop for river rafters and marks the boundary between Marble Canyon and the Grand Canyon.

Little Colorado River The Little Colorado River  contained the brightest, bluest water any of us had seen. The pale bluish color comes from an abundance of minerals in the water, together with a fine, whitish, sandy silt that lines the river bottom. The Little Colorado River is also the home of Hopi salt mines, although we didn't see any.

Swimming in blue water

Being much warmer than the cold Colorado, the Little Colorado provided great swimming, which was quite welcome after walking 10 dusty trail miles. The water was unbelievably blue and with the bright sunshine and 85 degree air temperature, we felt as though we were visiting paradise. After a 2-hour break at the Little Colorado, we turned around and made the 10-mile return trip along the Beamer Trail to our campsite at Tanner Canyon, arriving "home" before 5:00pm.

The Tanner Trail   was waiting for us on Day 3. We arose at 5:00am, packed up, and began the arduous climb back to the South Rim. The trail was steep and tiring, as are all rim-to-river trails in the Grand Canyon, gaining 4600' of elevation over its 9-mile length. The views along this trail were stupendous and the viewpoint at the trail's end at Lipan Point was as good as any on the South Rim.

Ready to Tackle the Tanner Along the Tanner

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