November 02, 2015

Meander the Grand Canyon: Tonto Trail Backcountry Hike

The Tonto Trail is a transcanyon route that crosses the Tonto Platform approximately 3900 ft (1200m) below the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. The trail is unique because it does not descend from rim to river but runs parallel to the course of the River Colorado. With a length of 95 miles (150 km), the Tonto Trail is usually done as a multi-day trek, broken down into several sections.

Be aware that the trail is a rough wilderness route. The major part of it unmaintained, not signed and reliable water sources are extremely rare. However, don't be intimidated by these conditions because on the other hand the Tonto Trail offers an unbeatable perspective on the Grand Canyon's geological magic off the beaten track and far away from the notorious "Rim Trail Tourists".

Trail Details: Below is a suggestion how to approach the trail in eight sections. Depending on the hiker's physical condition, some of the sections can of course be merged: Bass Trailhead is located in a remote area approx. 30 miles northwest of Grand Canyon Village.
  • Section 1: Bass Trailhead to Bass Rapid (7.8 miles/12.6 km)
  • Section 2: Bass Rapids to Serpentine Canyon (3.7 miles/6 km)
  • Section 3: Serpentine Canyon to Turquoise Canyon (10.5 miles/17 km)
  • Section 4: Turquoise Canyon to Slate Canyon (9.3 miles/15 km)
  • Section 5: Slate Canyon to Boucher Rapids (4.9 miles/7.9 km)
  • Section 6: Boucher Rapids to Hermit Camp (7.5 miles/12 km)
  • Section 7: Hermit Camp to Horn Creek (11.9 miles/19.2 km)
  • Section 8: Horn Creek to Grand Canyon Village (7.5 miles/12 km)
Click here to open KML file to view the Tonto Trail in Google Earth

Opening Hours and Permits: Hiking the entire Tonto Trail takes several days so opening hours can be neglected at this point. However, a backcountry permit is mandatory for all overnight hiking and must be obtained from the Backcountry Information Center. The permit is $10 per permit plus $8 per person, all the details can be found on the NPS website.

Gear: Please make sure you wear proper trekking outfit for this strenuous multi-day tour and are appropriately equipped. If you consider buying new gear online, we recommend the following retailers:
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Lodging: During this multi-day hike you obviously need to camp during the nights (see "Opening Hours and Permits" above. For the night(s) before and after your trekking adventure on the Tonto Trail we recommend to stay in one of the lodges in Grand Canyon Village (South Rim). The picture below shows the Bright Angel Lodge.
Bright Angel Lodge


Travel Guides: While the information in this post is only meant to be a snapshot of the Tonto Trail and the Grand Canyon, below are recommended guidebooks for this region which an abundance of information about this trail and, of course, a lot of other outdoor activities.