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Hiking Grand Canyon National Park
by Ben Adkison (Falcon Guides)
© 2016 Ben Adkison/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.
This trail was stunning. Great views of the canyon and not too difficult. We did have snow cover for the first half of the trail which made for some careful hiking but after that it was great. The hike back up is kinda strenuous but nothing that an avid hiker couldn't do.
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...
This is an absolutely beautiful hike to do. This was my first visit to the Grand Canyon and I would highly recommend that if you want to experience the magnitude of the Grand Canyon do this hike. Our group left right after sunrise and we headed for Horseshoe Mesa, the hike down was pretty easy, a lot of switchbacks at the top and then leveling out towards the bottom. When we reached Horseshoe Mesa, we found old mining caves that have since been filled in and also an old house used by the mine workers. Oddly enought they have bathrooms at Horseshoe Mesa, so don't worry too much about packing it out. Our return trip to the rim was probably one of the tougher hikes I've been on. I would HIGHLY recommend pacing yourself towards the top the switchbacks seem like they are 90 degrees. Overall the hike was amazing, when you reach the bottom and breathe in the views you get a grand sense of solitude and appreciation of the Canyon.
Breathtaking and hard! It was very steep and in some parts you had to walk over boulders. Very rewarding, and a beautiful veiw. No water so bring plenty! It took us a little over 4 hours. Well worth it! There are toliets down there but you are not gonna want to use them.
This trail is definitely not for the inexperienced. It is an unmaintained trail that has extremely difficult and steep terrain; however, the views are incredible and well worth the effort of getting there. Once at Horsheshoe Mesa, the quietness and gradeur of the Grand Canyon envelops you and you get a sense of the scale of the Canyon that is not possible from the top. Plan for at least a 6 hour round trip.
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