Hiking Grand Canyon National Park
by Ben Adkison (Falcon Guides)
© 2016 Ben Adkison/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.
Great views - not for the inexperienced hiker. My wife and I are experienced Backpackers. However, we both agreed that we would never do this trail again. Its just too dangerous, The 3 miles down to Horseshoe Mesa are fine. Great views and fairly easy. However, all trails down from Horseshoe Messa are VERY Difficult and exposed. We took the western trail to Cottonwood Creek. The trail became very narrow (1.5 to 2 feet wide) with loose gravel on top, There was a risk of a of a nasty fall (20 - 200 feet) in many places for about 1/2 mile. Then the trail became exceedingly steep and washed out for another 1/2 mile. We found water and a good camp site where the trail crossed cottonwood creek. We then hiked 5 miles east on the Tonto trail. This portion of the trail is desert. Somehow we lost the trail for a while but were able to pick it up after following a wash up hill. We found good camping spots before the trail to miners spring. I hiked another mile from our campsite to find water where the Tonto trail crossed Hance Creek. The cutoff from the Tonto trail to Miners spring, and the top of Horseshoe Messa is not marked. Fortunately, someone had drawn the letters H2O using small stones. Otherwise we would have likely missed the turnoff. The trail to Miners Spring, and the spring itself were memorable. The spring is a cool little cove with water dripping into a collection pool. However, the trail up from the spring to the top of the Messa were the most exposed I've be on in 35 years of Backpacking. If you don't mind exposed trails, the hike to and from Horseshoe Messa is difficult, but worth the effort. However, I do not recommend dropping off the messa. Best of luck... See Grandview Trail to Horseshoe Mesa for photos
We arrived at the trailhead at 8:00 am on May 4. The weather was perfect; about 50 degrees with high overhead clouds. The start of the trailhead is very steep with switch backs descending red walls into the canyon. There are some steep drop offs at times and the path can be vary narrow. Our plan was to descend to Horseshoe Mesa campground, circle the mesa, and return to the rim in one day (13.1 miles). The trail was relatively well maintained on the three mile descent from the rim to Horseshoe Mesa with the exception of several rock slides. Descending from the Mesa into Cottonwood Creek was steep with loose gravel at times. The trail around the mesa was relatively flat. We reached this part of the trail just before midday with the temperature(80), skies(bright blue with cotton ball clouds) and flowers were incredible. When we got to the middle of the horseshoe at the wash separating the east and west legs, we decided to cut our hike short and ascend directly up the center of the shoe. (This is a trail albeit, not well traveled or maintained.) This part of our hike was extremely steep and difficult, rising approximately 1000 ft in a short 3/4 mile. At the top of the mesa we had lunch and enjoyed the amazing views. We have hiked in the canyon before, but it was exceptionally beautiful this day. The wildflowers around Cottonwood Creek and the Mesa were in full bloom. Higher in the Canyon, the foliage was as green as we have ever seen it. This ten mile hike was a certainly a full day hike with its 4000 ft decent and subsequent ascent. The climb out from Horseshoe Mesa at the end of the day was really tough. Some of the switch backs seemed to go on forever. After a full day of hiking and exploring with very little down time we arrived back at the rim around 4:30. My recommendation would be not to take anyone on this trail that is not in really good shape and able to handle very steep ascents for an extended period of time.
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