Tonto Trail

  • Inner Plateau - © William Mackesy
  • Near South Kaibab junction - © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • Across to North Rim - © William Mackesy
  • Phanton Ranch area, N Kaibab - © William Mackesy
  • Inner Plateau - © William Mackesy
  • Inner Plateau, N rim in distance - © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • North Wall from Inner Plateau - © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • North Wall from Inner Plateau - © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • Inner Plateau, across to N rim - © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • Indian Garden - © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • Near Indian Garden - © William Mackesy

Key information: Tonto Trail

  • Meander for miles along the Tonto Platform, deep in the Grand Canyon’s bowels; drop from and return to the south rim on any number of routes on this great connector trail.
  • Revel in huge views around the vast canyon; enjoy the changing colours and fantastic shapes of the cliffs, buttes and spires.

Walkopedia rating

  • Walkopedia rating88
  • Beauty32
  • Natural interest18
  • Human interest2
  • Charisma36
  • Negative points0
  • Total rating88

Vital Statistics

  • Length: Variable
  • Level of Difficulty: Moderate
Top
Across to North Rim - © William Mackesy

WALK SUMMARY

The Grand Canyon National Park is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, a World Heritage Site, and geological heaven. It is hard to overpraise the canyon’s raw, outlandish shapes and formations: they are justly famous. The sheer size of the Grand Canyon is astounding.

The Tonto Trail meanders for approximately 70 miles along the Tonto Platform, deep in the Canyon, often on the lip of the inner Colorado canyon, and sometimes down alongside the river. It is the longest trail in the Canyon and connects with tracks all over the sprawling canyon complex, enabling circuits, loops and plenty of other options.

The Tonto Platform is a long and rugged plateau-ledge of harder, slower-eroding, rock, which separates the inner gorge from the cliffs and buttes of the upper canyon.

If every viewpoint along the Canyon’s unending rim opens up breathtaking new panoramas, the vistas from within its entrails offer different and exhilarating perspectives. You can feel as if you are at the heart of a huge bowl, surrounded by mountains, or in a long wide valley between marching escarpments, such is the size of the place.  As well as Red and Garnet Canyons, the trail passes close to Horn Creek and Salt Creek, and almost underneath the imposing Tower of Set.

The Tonto Trail’s greatest walking virtues are its (relatively) level walking as you wind along the inner platform and its role as a linking trail, enabling you to create connected loops and circuits. Its most-walked section is the magnificent 4 miles between the The Bright Angel Trail and South Kaibab Trail, which you can use to walk our Grand Day Loop.

The Tonto Trail connects with the following South Rim walks (west to east):

  • The South Bass Trail: trailhead accessible from Rowe  Well Road or Forest Service Road. This used to connect with the North Bass Trail, and access to the restricted North Rim, via a line strung over the rushing Colorado River; now, rafts must be used. The descent to the river is long and demanding, but its geography as ever stunning, surreal, and sunburnt.
  • The Boucher Trail and Hermit Trail: access to the South Rim via Hermit & Dripping Springs Trails.
  • The Bright Angel Trail and South Kaibab Trail, to walk our Grand Day Loop.
  • The Grandview Trail 
  • The New Hance Trail / Red Canyon Trail: Together with the Tanner Trail, this is considered one of the toughest trails on the South Rim. The track’s upper reaches involve picking your way through, over and around enormous boulders, the route only occasionally marked by the odd cairn; then there is no track, and the terrain uneven and treacherous. The flipside of this excessively rugged terrain is its isolation, and you are unlikely to see other people on this trail, which crosses the Tonto Trail before ending at the Hance Rapids (Colorado River).

The Cicerone guide has good information on all these walks. 

While the Tonto Trail is generally moderate walking, getting to/from it from/to the rim isn’t! Plan your day very carefully and take lot of water.

See our Grand Canyon page for much more on this and its linking walks, and detailed practical information.

WILLIAM MACKESY'S ACCOUNT
of this walk

And here is the Tonto Trail, the great canyon-long mid-flanks  traverse. It looks incredibly enticing as snakes away, less maintained and a whole lot emptier. We turn west for Indian Garden and the Bright Angel Trail, 4 miles away.

The next 2 hours are extraordinarily delightful walking, winding  steadily across the slopes, turning into the deep recess of the Pipe Creek Canyon, enjoying the sudden appearance of bright golden autumnal leaves in its depths. Snack time. All around is the drama of the vast walls of the great canyon. It is so huge and the platform so flat, with.....

READ MORE

Other accounts: share your experiences

Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.

Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.

Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

North Wall from Inner Plateau - © William Mackesy

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

Top
Near South Kaibab junction - ©William Mackesy...
Top

Responsible travel matters, a lot. How you travel will make a real difference - for better or worse. PLEASE consider this when making plans. Read more

Our partners Responsible Travel 

have carefully chosen expeditions 

and holidays around the world.    

Great walking, and much else...

Walkopedia Sponsor

See their site for inspiring ideas.

For £100 off your trip, contact them quoting WW50

All material on this website is © Walkopedia Ltd 2008 - 2019, unless specified otherwise.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED