Hiking Grandview Trail in Grand Canyon

By Kristy McCaffrey


View from Grandview Trail


            Grand Canyon offers several access routes   from rim to river. Grandview Trail, from the South Rim, is one that’s been in use since 1890 when miner Pete Berry began working the Last Chance Mine. However, Hopi Indians gathered mineral paints in the area (Horseshoe Mesa) long before Berry arrived.


My dad on the icy switchbacks


            On a sunny and somewhat chilly March morning I set off to hike the trail with my dad and my husband. Day hikes in Grand Canyon don’t require a permit so we plan to trek as far as we can and turn around before the sun sets. Although I’ve hiked one of the main corridor trails—Bright Angel (during July no less and yes, it whipped my butt)—I’ve learned to never underestimate the Grand Canyon and Grandview Trail didn’t disappoint. The uppermost sections are steep, grueling switchbacks, and because long stretches were covered with ice and snow, very dangerous. One slip could lead to a tumble over the side. And it was a long way down. But my dad made sure we were well prepared with microspikes. Regrettably I left my walking poles in the car. They were missed.


Me on the trail
            We spend the next three hours dropping about 2500 feet in elevation. The scenery is breathtaking. I'm dumbfounded staring at the sheer cliff we descend, the trail all but invisible above us. We cling to the rocks like mountain goats, offering a strange satisfaction of having met the canyon on its own terms. But this sense of accomplishment will be short-lived.


My dad and I close to Horseshoe Mesa


My husband and I


            We make it as far as Horseshoe Mesa, a total of 3.2 miles. Several old copper mines are located in the area and the paths are fairly well-marked, along with signs warning of radiation. From my research I learn that excessive amounts of radon are present, so no spelunking inside the dark corridors. We hoped to continue out onto the Mesa and enjoy a view of the Colorado River, but it was now 1 p.m.—our designated turnaround time. We rest, eat lunch, and use the facilities (yes, there’s a toilet here). I remove as much clothing as I can since it’s much warmer than on the rim, but I still sweat more than anticipated for a winter hike.



Me hugging the cliffside
            The return traverse follows a fairly flat route until the switchbacks reappear like an annoying friend you wish to avoid. For over two hours I shuffle along with tiny steps, and though I exaggerate, I feel certain I’m going straight up the cliff. It doesn’t help that near the end, while at my most exhausted, the trail narrows with nothing but blue sky to offer a buffer. This is when I become afraid. The next 30-40 minutes are an exercise in controlling a panic that I would slip off the side and die. (I should mention that I suffer from vertigo.) I hunch over the trail, trying to counter the weight of my pack lest it throw me off balance. Tears threaten. My husband offers to carry my pack but I refuse. He’d done as much on that Bright Angel trek years before and I was determined to prove my mettle this time.


The end of our hike
            Staying focused on one step, then the next, and then the next, I hold the tight grip of panic at bay, desperate to get to the top and the hell out of here.
            Finally we’re done, back among the land of tourists snapping photos. I sink to the ground to remove my microspikes while silently paying homage to Grand Canyon. It always kicks butt. It’s silly to think it won’t. But this time I persevered, keeping my burgeoning fears at bay long enough to finish the hike. Perhaps Grand Canyon and I can become friends after all.

Leave a Comment:

Mark Lares says December 10, 2014

What kind of Ice-shoes are you wearing, I found your page by Google-ing. Ice on the trails in the Grand Canyon and I do see that there is plenty of ice. I am looking to buy those slip over spikes to put on my hiking boots, and wanted to know what kind you used?

Kristy McCaffrey says December 10, 2014

Hi Mark,
They were microspikes by Kahtoole. Definitely needed them. Very easy to use. Happy Trails!

Curious Hiker says February 23, 2016

Hi Kristy, I came across your blog when I was trying to find out more about this trail, as I am scheduled to hike it in later March. I expect to have much the same reaction to the drop-offs… I wondered if there were a way to PM you to find out a bit more about details regarding the scary sections before I go… Really great blog piece. Thanks for sharing.

Kristy McCaffrey says February 23, 2016

Glad the blog was helpful. I can be reached at kristy@kristymccaffrey.com.

Curious Hiker says February 24, 2016

Excellent. Thanks. I'll send you a message now.:)