Best 100 Miles: Cardenas Camp to Hance Rapid, Escalante Route, Grand Canyon NP, AZ

These 9 miles of Grand Canyon essence are among the best 100 miles of trail in the whole national park system.
escalante route best 100 miles

Get private Grand Canyon views on this section of the Escalante Route. Pictured: En route from Papago Canyon to New Hance. Photo by John Hayes / Flickr

9 Miles / Beneath the Rim

If it were possible to take every inch of the 277-mile-long, mile-deep Grand Canyon and distill it to its essence, the result would look a lot like the five-day Escalante Route. And if you whittled that down to the ab-so-lute supreme slice of trail in the whole of the Grand, you’d have these 9 miles packed with Colorado River beach campsites, slot canyons, cliffy scrambles, and view after epic view across the Grand’s sunset-colored temples and buttes.

You’ll be two days into the Escalante Route before you hit this stretch starting at Cardenas Camp, a sandy beach along the chocolate-milky Colorado River. From there, hoof it up to the Unkar Overlook, a short spur to a 1,000-foot cliff with views of the class 4-7 Unkar Rapid and across the river to the rectangular outlines of several ancient Puebloan ruins. Continue west, skirting Escalante Creek to the top of Seventyfive Mile Canyon, a squeeze of a slot that winds beneath 300-foot-tall quartzite rock walls and requires a 30-foot downclimb (use a rope to lower packs) to rejoin the river just upstream of Nevills Rapid.

After a night next to the waves, follow a series of ledges along the river to the mouth of Papago Canyon, where you’ll need your hands and feet to haul yourself up a 35-foot series of rock balconies to a ridge. The trail then winds back down a gully choked with boulders to the river at Red Canyon, a sandy campsite with views of Hance Rapid. Climb out through layers of geologic time back to the rim via the Tonto and Grandview Trails, or book it straight out of the canyon on the 6.5-mile New Hance Trail.

Trailhead 36.071683, -111.831825
Total hike 33 miles (shuttle to Grandview trailhead from South Rim visitor center)
Camping Anywhere in designated zones; request permits starting four months in advance ($10 + $5/person per night).

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