Located in one of the most scenic parts of the canyon, the Escalante route traverses a section of the Grand that is not only wild beyond belief but also seldom seen. The Park Service considers this a route and not a trail, meaning more challenging conditions are likely. Navigation is the main factor on this primitive stretch. A map and familiarity with the land are of high value when on the Escalante. The area has gained in popularity over the years but, the fact that it is still labeled a route keeps many people away.
Our 3 night/4 day shuttle hike will begin at Lipan point on the far East side of the Desert View Drive. From here we will descend the Tanner trail to the Colorado River, and traverse the Escalante route to the beginning of the Tonto East trail. From this point, we will climb to the Tonto plateau where we will begin our ascent of Horseshoe Mesa and the Grandview. In total, we will cover 30.9 miles. This is the most aggressive trek we offer in the Grand Canyon. Not only is the terrain highly challenging, but this is also a Winter hike, and although we feel it is the ideal time to trek in the canyon storms still exist. Temps will vary greatly from rim to river. It is not uncommon to be in a tank top on the river and layered to the max on the rim. The prepared hiker is the happy hiker.
Day one: If Santa Fe is our starting point day one will be a day on the road, and our destination for the evening will be Flagstaff, AZ. Otherwise, if you’re coming from another location outside of Santa Fe (out of state) our meeting point will be in Flagstaff. Hotel accommodations will be made according to group size. Prices may vary depending on peoples comfort levels and/or privacy needs. The only thing on our to-do list for day one is to put the finishing touches on our gear and enjoy the inviting mountain town.
Day two: We will drive to the last town before the Park entrance (Tusyan). From here we will take a taxi service provided by the Grand Canyon to the Tanner Trailhead. The Colorado looks like a long way down and it is. Nearly 4,700 ft to be exact. Our goal for the day will be to make the 8-mile descent to Tanner beach. The days will be short this time of year, but with an early start, we will have plenty of time to make our way down the canyon. As we descend the initial North facing gully the first thousand feet are the steepest. After passing through a choked up section of the drainage the trail will level out and we will be rewarded with surreal views into the 75-mile drainage. The next couple of miles are quite pleasant with moderate terrain and gorgeous scenery. The Colorado will come into view again as we near the top of the Redwall descent. This will be a very good place for a rest. From here we will have trekked about 4 miles and descended around 2,000 feet. The temps should be noticeably warmer than they were on the rim. As we pass through a cool section of the Muav limestone the views up the Colorado dominate the scenery. The ecosystems change dramatically, and before we know it we’ll be amongst the desert and the sandy beaches of the Colorado. We will make our first, well-deserved camp here along the river.
Day three: Today we will cover about ten miles on the Escalante route and experience what we feel is one of the most spectacular parts of the Grand Canyon. Our trek will start out pretty mellow hugging the river and soaking up the incredibly expansive views. About 3 miles in we will get to Unkar rapids where our climbing will begin. From this point, we will traverse towards Escalante creek gaining nearly 1,500 feet from the river. As we look back to the direction we came from it will be hard to believe what we’re seeing. The descent of Escalante creek and the trek over to 75-mile creek is a really wild and scenic part of this trip. 75 mile will lead us back down to the Colorado where we will make our second night’s camp.
Day four: The first four or so miles of our day will consist of traversing ledges and rocky terrain about 100 to 200 feet above the river. This is also a very scenic stretch. Before our climb up to the plateau, we will pass Hance Rapids and say goodbye to the Colorado River. Once on the tonto, the terrain gets much easier. A long contour around Ayer point will bring us to our first view of Horseshoe Mesa. We will spend our last night on the Tonto plateau alongside Hance Creek. Take it in! Take it all in. There is no place like this in the World. It is a true gift to experience Wilderness on this level. There aren’t many out there who do. Just know you were brought here for a reason, and that reason will be a part of you forever.
Day 5: Today we hike out, or should I say up! We will climb nearly 4,000 ft in just over four and a half miles. Whew! There is something really cool about hiking out the Grandview. It is the highest trailhead on the South Rim with what must be the most sweeping views. Chances are we’ll be greeted by the crowds as we near the top. Always an interesting scene and feeling after many days in the wild. Turn around and look. Try to process what you just experienced. It may take a while. Now the Canyon is forever in you.