Hiking Grand Canyon National Park
by Ben Adkison (Falcon Guides)
© 2016 Ben Adkison/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.
For most of its distance, the Tanner Trail provides classic views of the Grand Canyon. Once the initial descent is completed, the Palisades of the Desert come into view all along the right hand portion of Tanner Canyon, Desert Tower up on the rim becomes a friendly sentinel for the remainder of the trip and the river is frequently glimpsed in the distance. The trail itself is relatively easy most of the time, if a bit tedious at the end when your quads are screaming at the relentless downgrade. There are two steep descents but no significant exposure, a long one right at the beginning lasting about the first 1.5 hours and a short one mid-way in the hike lasting about 30 minutes. Otherwise, there are relatively flat traverses and moderate, if long, downhill stretches. The trail is very easy to follow and no water is available until the river. Great beach camping is available at the river. I've always hiked it in the early Spring and experienced good weather. If you read, "Over the Rim: Death in the Grand Canyon," you may be discouraged from hiking it in the Summer and certainly without sufficient water. You shouldn't see more than 2-3 other people on the trail. It's an excellent first-time in the Grand Canyon backpacking route. 5-6 hours down, 6-7 hours up. Good camping (dry) is available halfway down if you want to do a more relaxed trip.
My best friend and I made a mad attack on Tanner Trail the weekend after Christmas, 2002. We only had the weekend to spare, so we carried only what we absolutely needed for an over-night trip. The morning was beautiful, windy but sunny, but as soon as we dropped below the rim, the wind vanished and the air warmed. There was probably six inches of pretty fresh snow on the ground, and there had been at least one party through before us. This made the trail easy to see, but not to packed or slick. With crampons, the hiking was easy, especially with our light packs. I carried only a sleeping bag and pad, and food for two lunches, dinner and breakfast. My buddy carried his gear plus, a stove and fuel, and a water filter. We made pretty good time down the trail,caching water at the Seventy-five Mile Saddle and mading lunch on the final descent in the Dox sandstone. The views of the river were amazing as well as a pretty continual view of the watchtower on the south rim all the way down. We made the river by mid-afternoon and set camp right on the river. We cooked our dinner at sunset and we were in our bags soon after. It was in the 20's on the river, but we had good bags, sleeping pads, and a tarp to get us through the night. We had no problem with rodents on this trip. The next day started early with an oatmeal breakfast and hot chocolate. The hike out was steep and steady, but not over-whelming. We could not believe how fast this trail gained elevation and distance from the river! The weather was perfect all the way up. We made lunch just after retrieving our water at the saddle. Weather closed in on us on the way up, and we both hoped to hike in a little falling snow. We were lucky, the flurries started in the last mile and a mini-blizzard hit as we walked to the truck. The hike out was very steep in places, but with our light packs, not extremely strenuous.
This trail was the culmination of our 4 day backpack in the Grand Canyon. The previous night we camped at the rapids where the trail meets the river. I would strongly suggest not camping there. The varmits are horrible. Birds swooped in and grabbed pieces of unattended food/gear. A squirrel ripped a whole in my tent to get at some food. Overall a bad place to camp! Alas I digress, the Tanner Trail. We started early so we could reach the top before the heat really kicked in. You can see the river for a substantial distance before it finally wanders out of view, unlike the New Hance trail. This would be a substantial benefit if you hiked into the canyon by way of Tanner. The most difficult section is the two mile section below the rim. Rocky and fairly steep I had no illusions of paradise as I trudged the last few yards out of the canyon... then I saw the views from the overlook and my mind instantaneously made the transition back to paradise mode!
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