Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In


Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park: Grandview to South Kaibab via Tonto Trail

Descend from Grandview Point for a lesser-hiked, four-day, point-to-point between rim and river.

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

Descend roughly 4,000 feet in 2.5 miles on switchbacks from Grandview Point (in March, they can be icy; pack microcrampons) to Horseshoe Mesa, a boomerang-shaped mesa with pocked, 400-foot Redwall Formation cliffs. 

At the Last Chance Mine ruins, turn west, pick up the Cottonwood Trail and descend to a seasonal spring. Tank up on water and camp here, or hike further down Cottonwood Canyon’s rim and look for a dispersed spot. Explore the canyon down to an impassable pouroff.

Next morning, trace the rim of the ever-deepening canyon to the Tonto Trail, and turn west. This trail, which you’ll hike for the next 12-plus miles, yields fantastic mid-canyon views every step of the way. Looking toward the north Rim, you can spot Wotan Throne and Vishnu Temple. The five miles around Grapevine Creek (this hike’s only year-round water source) describes a boot shape when viewed from above. Camp near the heel, with good access to water.

Next day, walk out to the rim of the Inner Gorge, looking upstream to the Grapevine Rapids. Your next seasonal water source is Boulder Creek. Fill reservoirs, and continue to a flat site between Boulder and Lone Tree Canyons.

On your final day, drink deeply from Boulder Creek (treat the water from this seasonal spring and all sources, of course) and fill every bottle you have, this is the last chance to get water before the long ascent back to the South Rim. Pick up the South Kaibab Trail just north of The Tipoff (with bathrooms and an emergency phone) and start the ascent, which passes O’Neill Butte, climbs along Cedar Ridge and finally ends at the South Kaibab trailhead.

Season March to May and October to November. Inner canyon temps ?from June to September are often above 100°F.

Key gear Wide-brim hat and six liters of water storage

Map/book Trails Illustrated Grand Canyon ($12, natgeomaps .com). Hiking Grand Canyon National Park, 3rd Edition, by Ron Adkinson and Ben Adkinson ($19,

Permits $10 per permit, plus $5/person per night. Apply ( on the first of the month four months prior to your hike date (e.g., June 1 for a hike beginning in Nov.) and fax it to (928) 638-2125.

Water There are four water sources along this route, and only Grapevine Creek (mile 8.8) flows year-round. The other sources—Cottonwood Creek (mile 3.3), Boulder Creek (mile 14.2), and Lone Tree Creek (mile 17.1)—usually dry up by June.

Contact Backcountry Information Office: (928) 638-7875 (from 1 to 5 p.m., Monday to Thursday),

-Mapped by Michael Lanza

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 43.1



Location: 35.998409, -111.987709

Grandview trailhead


Location: 36.017724, -111.976253



Location: 36.018405, -111.975684

Continue straight at 3-way, heading north.


Location: 36.020153, -111.975784

Turn left.


Location: 36.024429, -111.987556

Camp 1 with seasonal spring


Location: 36.030055, -111.988625



Location: 36.031241, -111.989051

Continue straight at 3-way junction on Tonto Trail.


Location: 36.036121, -112.022056

Camp with year-round water


Location: 36.044075, -112.02176

Potential bivy rock


Location: 36.05045, -112.014215



Location: 36.057389, -112.007098

Camp (no water)


Location: 36.057397, -112.034711

Boulder Creek (seasonal)


Location: 36.071488, -112.042025

Lonetree Camp. Lonetree Creek is seasonal.


Location: 36.08241, -112.051887

Shade boulders


Location: 36.082052, -112.06481

Camp (no water). Cremation Creek is dry year-round.


Location: 36.08714, -112.075597

Camp; overhung rock


Location: 36.090376, -112.088615

Turn left at junction with South Kaibab Trail. Hike south.


Location: 36.090891, -112.089466

The Tipoff emergency phone


Location: 36.063953, -112.089483

Cedar Ridge


Location: 36.052818, -112.083667

Yaki Point trailhead

How to Pack for Backcountry Skiing

Get to know the winter safety gear you need in your pack.