New Hance Trail - Tonto - South Kaibab
This section serves two purposes. First, it is a general route description of a backpack which descends the New Hance Trail, goes West across the Tonto Trail, and exits the South Kaibab Trail. Secondly, it is a repository of pictures from a geologic perspective. That is, I have lots of pictures of rocks, rock layers, annotated rock layers, diagrams, etc.
Note: if you are looking for the general trip report on our April 2005 Grand Canyon backpack, with lots more images, click here
. This page is only a dry account of the route itself.
The New Hance Trail starts on the South Rim Road, about 1.25 miles west of the turnoff to Moran Point. The trailhead is nothing more than a gravel shoulder on the road. The road goes through crosses a minor dry wash; the trailhead is right at the bottom of it. You cannot park your car here, so either get someone to drop you off or walk/run/taxi your way to this point. It is possible to leave your vehicle at Moran Point.
Once on the trail, it is only a few flat-trailed minutes to the south rim, with excellent views.
Detailed location information is available for most of the pictures in this route description. Simply look at the image details, or click on one of the small 'map' icons underneath each picture.
The new Hance Trail is rocky, steep, and rough, but it is fairly well-defined and not too hard to follow. It descends in narrow, winding switchbacks down through the Kaibab and Toroweap limestones, then steeply through the Coconino Sandstone. Eventually the trail reaches the bottom of the upper part of Red Canyon, not far below the saddle between Coronado Butte and the South Rim Canyon wall. From here, the trail goes pretty much down the bottom of the drainage until you hit the top of the Redwall formation.
Once atop the Redwall, the trail traverses along it, up and down, for a while. Eventually it reaches a spot where it can manage a descent, and does so in a very scenic and safe fashion. Below the Redwall, the trail becomes quite nice, wide, graded, and easy to follow.
This is a good spot to stop and examine the Grand Canyon's amazing geology. Above you are visible almost all of the main layers of the Grand Canyon. Below you, the amazing colors of the Grand Canyon supergroup beckon. This is where Red Canyon gets its name from. I've included the graphic on the left to give you a general idea of what the main layers of the canyon are. Please note that I've not included the Grand Canyon supergroup in this diagram (the diagram is of a cross-section from further west along the Tonto Trail).