52 Weeks of Fun

Not Just Destination Finders, But Destination Storytellers


, National Park Service

Tonto Trail


The dynamic interplay of soft and hard layers of stone created an open benchland at the rim of the Inner Gorge called the Tonto Platform. Easily visible from several South Rim overlooks, the greenish Tonto rocks have eroded into an obvious exception to the striking vertical cliffs that characterize most of Grand Canyon. The Tonto Trail follows this natural trans-canyon route for 95 unmaintained miles, from Red Canyon, at 3,600-foot elevation on the east, to Garnet Canyon on the west at 2,800 feet.

All of this makes the Tonto Trail unique among Grand Canyon pathways. Most trails descend from the rim towards the Colorado River, but the Tonto Trail offers passage by foot up and down the canyon, parallel to the course of the river. Because of its length, most hikers approach the Tonto Trail not as a single unit, but rather as a series of installments, breaking the route down into four or five sections defined by rim-to-river trails and the natural lay of the land.

A notable lack of reliable water makes most of the Tonto Trail a daunting, possibly dangerous, proposition, but the section between Bright Angel Trail and the Hermit Trail is blessed with three water sources hikers can count on. As a result, this segment of the Tonto Trail offers a degree of civility not found elsewhere along the trail, and it is here that most hikers get their first exposure to the unique nature of this singular trans-canyon route.

The Tonto Trail is a rough, unmaintained wilderness route. Washouts and narrow, eroding sections are common. Hikers must be prepared, mentally and physically, to deal with the harsh realities of inner canyon hiking outside the cross-canyon corridor. Increasing popularity has created a need for a system of designated campsites along the Tonto Trail between Indian Garden and Hermit Creek. These designated campsites are the only legal places to camp within this area.

, National Park Service
, Grand Canyon Trust

A 52 Weeks of Fun Fascinating Fact about Tonto Trail

Most hikers do not actually follow the entire 95-mile Tonto Trail, instead using it to connect with other rim-to-river routes.

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