The Tonto Trail, 2001
Grand Canyon National Park

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The Tonto trail  is a 95 mile route through the inner Canyon that parallels the Colorado River on its southern side. Cindy and Dave explored a small piece of this route, stretching between the popular South Kaibab and Bright Angel trails. Although this portion of the Tonto is the shortest, most easily accessible, and closest to populated areas, it is little travelled. We saw no one during this section of our hike. We began by descending the South Kaibab to its junction with the Tonto trail, then following the Tonto trail west to Indian Gardens. Due to a planned, late start, we arrived at Indian Gardens in the late dusk and ascended the Bright Angel trail to the rim in the dark. The entire loop consisted of 13.5 miles, of which 4.1 miles was spent on the Tonto. This piece of the Tonto provides a fine sampling of Tonto conditions seen throughout the rest of the Canyon.


A late (3pm) start allowed us to descend into the Canyon in some of the most scenic lighting of the day. We reminisced along the way of previous trips and noticed new trail signs at Cedar Ridge and Skeleton Point. We had been to Skeleton Point earlier this year, when hiking with the Wyants during a family visit.

High on the Kaibab
High on the South Kaibab
Descent from Cedar Ridge
Descent from Cedar Ridge
Skeleton Point
New sign at Skeleton Point

Below Skeleton Point, we descended on many switchbacks to the Tonto Plateau, which lies some 3200' below the rim and 1600' above the Colorado River. After having already walked for 2 hours, it was now 5pm and late afternoon. The temperature was very pleasant at this hour on a late summer day where the temperature had earlier hovered near 100 degrees.

Descent from Skeleton Point
Descent from Skeleton Point
A world at our feet
On the Kaibab Switchbacks
Below the Switchbacks

We arrived at the junction with the Tonto trail and turned west. The Tonto trail is lightly used and generally parallels the river while maintaining a constant elevation. To accomplish this, the trail winds in and out of various side canyons that descend to the river. Our stroll across the Tonto was easy, pleasant and gave us many large, striking views. We arrived at the junction with the Bright Angel trail shortly before dark, took a brief rest, and climbed out in darkness.

Approaching The Tipoff
Approaching the Tipoff
Strolling the Tonto
Strolling on the Tonto
Massive Views
Massive Views

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