Rock Garden - Grand Canyon Routes

Old Trails


Rediscovering abandoned sections of trail is a favorite activity for some Grand Canyon fanatics. Old trails that are useful ways off the rim are mostly still maintained by people using them. Boucher was once thought to be abandoned and was removed from maps published in the 60s and 70s but it is back on maps and regularly hiked today. Less useful routes are entirely neglected except by wildlife and interesting mostly for the sport of finding them.

Difficulty and Appeal

Attempt to retrace these routes only if you find searching out faint signs of travel on rugged slopes to be an appealing challenge. Expect to find yourself misled or the indications to be ambiguous, to study old photographs and to return and retrace some parts several times before being sure that you have rediscovered the "authentic" route.

Old Devils Corkscrew

The original section of switchback trail from Indian Garden to Pipe Creek was called the Devils Corkscrew. The name has been preserved even though the trail has been rerouted and most of the switchbacks eliminated. For old trail hunters this one is the easiest and most accessible. The top of the original trail can be found going east from Indian Garden along the Tonto a short distance and descending the next drainage going down to the bed of Pipe Creek. The historic telephone system on pipe poles passes through here (it might seem this relates to Pipe Creek, but the real origin of this place-name is the least sensible of any). The remains of the trail are distinct and there are a few places where variations and changes in the configuration of switchbacks are seen. The old trail bed follows the ravine to where it crosses the modern trail, and then down the slope below with more switchbacks but very eroded. This seems to be getting increased traffic in recent times. Attempting to follow the original trail as exactly as possible makes an interesting challenge. To locate the trail from the bottom, look for a narrow ravine upstream from the prospecting hole across Pipe Creek from the present trail. The ramp of the first switchback above the the creek is hidden, but nearly all of the trailbed is intact. The historic photo of a group of mule riders on a tight series of switchbacks was taken near this spot.

Old Tanner

The original Tanner trailhead was on the east slope of the upper end of Tanner Canyon, across from the Desert View tower. To locate the trailhead, follow the road just north of the park entrance station and keep left as the road goes from pavement to gravel to dirt. Four-wheel drive is required after the road begins to descend toward Cedar Mountain. As the road levels at the bottom, follow the left track toward the rim and pull off the road. Hike north along the slope into the canyon and look for a line of descent going back south across the slope.

The track continues this rapid descent to the south, broken in a few spots, until reaching the slope under the rim cliff above. There is no sign of any track or trail of use but the slope makes a relatively easy off-trail descent, soon joining the ravine coming from the south. This bed makes a reasonable route until a pouroff at the first Supai cliff. A track leads to the left side and a couple of trail markers indicate the line descending and crossing the ridge and going down to enter the adjacent fork to the west. Again, follow the bed and locate passage down a few more low cliffs. This levels into a broad area where another smaller ravine intersects. Soon the bed finds the first exposure of Redwall limestone and a track goes up the slope to the west just above a low fall. A few flecks of green in the rock are possible copper solution deposits. The limestone rim rises to the west ascending the back of the monocline. At the top of this the bench above the rim narrows. The track is distinct again through here with regular use.

The last ravine before the one leading toward Lipan Point is the most difficult to cross and the west wall requires a climb up a few steps. Enter the next ravine and follow the bed southwest and go up the slope to join the Tanner Trail at the saddle above Seventyfive Mile Canyon.

Old Hance

This is certainly the most interesting of the truly abandoned trails in terms of history, access, and places to visit. This is an extremely steep route and most people will not find much fun in doing this with a pack or even as a day-hike down Old Hance and up Grandview. Scott Thybony wrote, "...even the experienced, cautious hikers could get hurt without much trouble." For details see Old Hance Trail Route, Hance Canyon, and the Grandview Circuit trip report.

Old Grandview

The Grandview Hotel was located to the east of Grandview Point. The hotel was removed around 1900 and no sign of it remains today, but it is possible to descend from the rim near here and follow the Toroweap bench north below the rim.

There are several narrow places on the present hiker trail that goes down directly from the point overlook so it's easy to see why a different pathway was in use for 4-footed transport. The historic trailhead is just a short distance east along the rim, but is obscure and not at all easy to locate. To find it, walk south from the parking area along the road to the top of the rise and then go east through the woods to the rim. The terrain falls away to the south and the old trail is found descending the ravine between the high part of the rim to the north and the lower point to the south. The track goes first toward the lower point and then cuts back into the center of the ravine.

The bed is narrow but distinct and very little eroded, and following the old trail through the Kaibab layer is the only way to get down here onto the Toroweap slope above the Coconino. The Coconino cliff here is completely impassable and the only option is to follow indistinct traces of the old trail along the bench north above the long drop below (narrow in spots, but not exposed). The trail becomes less distinct, but some trail construction can be found in the last ravine before joining the Grandview Trail at the apex of a switchback bend at elevation 6900. A stump or post here may have once marked the trail junction.

In the area around Horseshoe Mesa other sections of old trail can be found west of Cottonwood Creek to the lower bed, going from the Tonto rim into the inner gorge, and from the point west of Hance Canyon.

Asbestos Canyon Mines

Mining and tourism were the means for making a life for early American adventurers at Grand Canyon. John Hance and W.W. Bass were the most notable of these. Hance had a mine in Asbestos Canyon accessible at first by boat and later by cable. This area is so inaccessible to hikers that the trails leading into Asbestos Canyon are getting fainter with each year, but the track that leads from the north bank below Hance Rapid into Asbestos Canyon can still be seen from the south side where the Tonto Trail starts at Red Canyon.

Copper Canyon Mines

Copper Canyon offers the chance to retrace no less than three old trails that were essential to the operation of the W.W. Bass mines. See route descriptions for Copper Canyon. Routes connect to the mines from the Tonto Platform and from the river at the Bass Ferry site. Another old trail went to the riverbank opposite Hakatai Canyon where Bass installed a cable crossing to bring in supplies and take out ore.

Hakatai Canyon Mines

W.W. Bass, like Hance, operated an asbestos mine on the north side. The route connecting Shinumo Creek to the Hakatai mine was never used in modern times and has no official name, but the only sensible choice would be to call this Waltenberg Trail. Faint traces can be followed through Burro Canyon, and up onto the Tonto Platform to reach Hakatai Canyon. For a detailed route description see notes on Waltenberg Trail.

Oldest of the Old

Oldest of the old are the ancient Anasazi tracks. These are significantly improved pathways that were regularly traveled by early peoples and are distinct from naturalistic game tracks. Most of these pre-historic trails were rebuilt by miners and explorers. Feral burros took over trail system management for a short time — today, hikers and original species. But a few of the more remote of these ancient tracks have not been re-created as part of the modern trail system. Opportunities for rediscovery:

White Creek to Modred

Tuna Flint Track

Pipe Creek Basin

Sturdevant Mescal Pits

Basalt Delta to Furnace Flats

Still Spring to Basalt Divide



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