At 22 miles with an elevation gain of 5,302’, a Rim-to-Rim hike in Grand Canyon National Park is not something you take lightly. Completing this trek, one of the most challenging day hikes in the country, has long been a goal of mine.
But before heading out, I wanted to make sure was as fit as I needed to be. Enter the Grandview Loop Trail, one of the park’s least traveled routes.
The trail descends from the highest point on the South Rim to the Tonto Plateau and then climbs again. It’s about 13 miles and 3,900’ of elevation. Most of it is absolutely stunning; some of it absolutely brutal.
Before heading out, I made my plan (my mantra: “Plan your hike and hike your plan.”) A smart hiker should always prepare appropriately, let people know where you are going and when you expect to return, and then stick to that plan. Because I intended this hike to be a test, I wasn’t going to quite follow the script. I gave myself a few outs and communicated that with my wife. The most important message was my ETA: “I’ll get to the trailhead around 0700, so send out the hounds at about 1700 (5pm) if you don’t hear from me by then.”
And thus began inspiring, photographic saunter into the Grand Canyon. The further I went, the more grandeur I beheld, and the more time my trusty Nikon spent in my hand rather than hanging at my hip.
The first part of the hike was challenging. Considerably less traveled than one of the park’s corridor trails, this rough and narrow trail dropped approximately 2,600’ in about 2.5 miles. Arriving at the Cottonwood Creek Camp, the trail forks and went west out onto Horseshow Mesa. Gently rising, the trail along this side is much more kind and provided breathtaking views of the Canyon.
Just shy of the west fork point, the trail drops down in a most abrupt manner. Steep and narrow, the gravel and scree-covered switchbacks descend 1,000’ to the Tonto Plateau. The 3+ mile section that followed was simply amazing, with jaw dropping views of Cheops Pyramid, Hance Creek Gorge, and some peeks of the river.
It was along this section that I sauntered the most, taking many photographs and two breaks to just sit and enjoy the views. Remarkably, there were few people on the trail. I wondered why.
Moments later, I discovered the answer.
In the term of many adventurers’ lifetimes the question will be asked, “What the heck did I get myself into this time?” Life just wouldn’t be such an adventure without moments like that, right? In the second part of this hike I had one of those moments.
And that moment lasted around 3 hours.
The ascent from the Tonto Plateau covers about 1,100’ of scree and rock fall in about ¾ of a mile. Let’s just say that this big bag of suck clearly explains why this is ‘the path less traveled.’ Passing by a dry spring and two abandoned Uranium mines, I eventually breathlessly scrambled my way back to the crossroads at Cottonwood Creek Camp.
This is where I caught my breath and said, “This is what I came down here for in the first place. One of the steepest ascents on the South Rim.”
And so at 1600, 9ish hours after starting this hike, I emerged from the canyon. After a whole day of encountering no more than 6 people, and spending most of the hike as far from any other person as I ever have been in my life, I was face to face with throngs of tourists. I was utterly exhausted, feet and knees sore, quadriceps and hamstrings burning from lactic acid, skin and clothes coated in a layer of salty dried sweat.
The Grandview Loop Trail on the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park captivated and inspired me. It challenged my abilities in a way that no trail ever has, helped me to reflect on my capabilities and commitment to complete a solo rim-to-rim hike, and it certainly lived up to its name, providing me with so much eye-candy along a path of never-ending “Grand Views”. I may never hike this trail again, but I will never forget it.
TC Sheridan is a Husband, a Father, a Veteran, a Photographer, an Outdoor Enthusiast, a Sailboat Captain, a Scuba Diver, and an Adventure Seeker. TC currently lives on the road with his Wife and 5 year old Daughter. The Sheridan Adventurers are traveling the US with a 34’ Travel Trailer towed by their beloved pickup “Ruby”, seeking Adventure among the many endless wonders of our great Nation.
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