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Cardenas Butte, AZ

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Guide 8 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Northwest > South Rim
4.5 of 5 by 4
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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance Round Trip 6.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 7,390 feet
Elevation Gain -1,932 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,757 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 4 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 20.29
Interest Off Trail Hiking & Peak
Backpack Connecting Only
Dogs not allowed
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
47  2019-04-20
Escalante Route
4  2018-06-09
Tanner Trail
9  2016-10-29 BiFrost
11  2015-05-03 John9L
1  2014-03-23 BobP
45  2013-04-26
Cardenas Escalante Loop
21  2013-04-26
Cardenas Escalante Loop
Author chumley
author avatar Guides 75
Routes 667
Photos 13,172
Trips 1,417 map ( 10,542 miles )
Age 46 Male Gender
Location Tempe, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Jun, Aug, Jul, Sep → 8 AM
Seasons   Spring to Autumn
Sun  6:14am - 6:26pm
Official Route
2 Alternative
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Finders keepers!
by chumley

Likely In-Season!
Cardenas Butte is one of two prominent summits just west of the Tanner Trail below the eastern Grand Canyon's Lipan Point (Escalante Butte being the other). It is accessed by descending 2000 feet along 2.5 miles of the Tanner Trail before scrambling off-trail for half a mile up a steep ridge to the peak nearly 700 feet above you.

García López de Cárdenas was a Spanish Conquistador under Francisco Vasquez de Coronado and is credited with being the first European explorer to "discover" the Grand Canyon after first seeing it in 1540 while on an expedition in search of the mythical Seven Cities of Gold (Cíbola). After three days of attempts to reach the river, he and his party were forced to retreat, because they were low on supplies and water. It was three centuries later before the next known Europeans happened upon the Grand Canyon!

Begin this hike from the Lipan Point trailhead, descending on the mostly-unmaintained Tanner Trail. Tanner is steep and loose, and descending 1500 feet in the first mile is slow-going. Think about it as you descend, because you'll be returning back up in a couple of hours! As you descend, nice views of both Escalante and Cardenas Buttes present themselves before you. Once reaching the saddle between Tanner Canyon to the east and Seventyfive Mile Canyon to the west, Tanner levels considerably, and a moderate pace can be attained when rounding the eastern base of Escalante Butte, and continuing around the wide drainage between Escalante and Cardenas.

At about the 2.75 mile mark, you will reach a well-defined ridge that climbs the southeast slope of Cardenas Butte. There are no cairns and no visible signs of use. But at this point, leave Tanner and begin the 675-foot ascent to the top of Cardenas Butte. The route takes you through a series of "steps" as you ascend through the multiple layers of the Supai Group. None presents too much of a challenge, but each requires a bit of a scramble and you will use your hands. About 150-feet below the summit, you reach a lower peak, and proceed north across the saddle toward the ultimate goal.

Here you cross a somewhat narrow neck, with a very steep, exposed, scree-filled chute leading west down toward the dry Cardenas Creek, with expansive views of the canyon, and the vertical western face of Cardenas Butte. The obvious route is to stay to the east, and here a bit of route-finding will be necessary to find the easiest way up the final ascent. After proceeding along the eastern side of the butte about half the distance of the butte, there are a couple of routes that can be climbed with no need for technical gear. From there, the peak is a short scramble farther up, and the views here are some of the best you'll find anywhere.

You can return to the trailhead the way you came, or from the lower peak south of the butte, you can follow the ridgeline to the southwest and summit Cardenas Butte's bigger brother Escalante Butte!

This route involves off-trail scrambling and requires use of hands on some portions. This route should only be attempted by hikers who are comfortable and experienced hiking off-trail in the Grand Canyon or other desert locales. There is no water on this route and no shade. It should not be attempted during hot weather.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2013-06-03 chumley
    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

    Most recent Triplog Reviews
    Cardenas Butte
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    After our NM backpacking plans fell through, I had the brilliant idea of doing a day trip to the Canyon to bag some new peaks. The first two peaks of the day (Cardenas and Escalante) were also new ones for LR. After sleeping ~3.5 hours in the trail head parking lot, we got a 4am start going down Tanner Trail. Cardenas was a pretty easy, straight forward summit with no surprises or particularly tricky sections. It was a beautiful view from the top with that really nice morning light.

    Escalante was up next. The traverse along the ridge to the second peak was, again, pretty standard off-trail hiking and we seemed to be moving pretty quick. I knew going into this hike that there was no way in hell I was going to make "the jump" to the technical summit side of the peak. I was fully prepared to accept not being able to actually count it as a summit. However, once we got to the jump part, I looked up to my right at a relatively easy(ish) scramble and asked @friendofThundergod why no one goes up that way! I started climbing and realized there were zero handholds at the top, so maybe it wasn't quite as doable as I hoped. LR nonchalantly stepped across the crack and came over to help pull me up. I climbed up a few feet and he hoisted me the rest of the way. I was really excited to be able to reach the real summit and check this one off without risking my life! The down climb wasn't too bad either when you get to use someone's shoulders as a ladder. :) GC Summits #5 & 6 for me.
    Cardenas Butte
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    The goal going into the day was the Tanner brothers, Cardenas and Escalante, then Coronado Butte and if we were still feeling good and the sun had not won yet Battleship, which quickly became well maybe Sinking Ship and then lets call it a day after Coronado.

    After a 3:30 Wake up, we were on Tanner just before four a.m. and heading down with headlamps. In hindsight, we would have started at 3:30 a.m., but I was worried about getting down the trail for the first time in early morning with headlamps and wanted to shorten our amount of time in the dark, as the hike description described the trail as washed out in many places and hard to follow. I should have listened to @bifrost who told me the trail was fine for headlamps , because it was easy to follow and in pretty good shape too (for the short portion we did at least).

    Cardenas was up first. Easy summit, straightforward and fun, with great views. Then is was the pleasant ridgeline stroll to Escalante, which proved to be another fun little canyon summit. The "jump" was fun and the summit offered some more great views. From the summit, it was the slightly annoying off trail trek back to the trail. I swear not one of those rocks on that ridgeline is firmly attached to the earth. After hitting the trail, it was a quick jaunt to the top. A little warm here and there, but not too bad. After a quick recharge at the car, it was on to Coronado Butte.
    Cardenas Butte
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    We woke to a beautiful day on Sunday morning. Claire and I tore down camp and then headed over to Lipan Point. Our plan was to hike down Tanner and summit Cardenas and then Escalante. There were some clouds but nothing ominous. We started hiking around mid-morning and made a gradual descent down Tanner. This top section is very steep and loose.

    Things eventually leveled off and dark clouds moved in over Desert View to the east. I kept a watchful eye as we continued. A few minutes later some light rain started to fall followed soon after with thunder. The weather looked bad and I considered turning us around. We took a break under a rock overhang and surveyed the situation and decided to continue. Before long we hit the turn off for Cardenas and decided to go for it.

    The climb to Cardenas starts off easy. We easily followed the ridge as we climbed up. Rain fell intermittently. The rock was wet but not slippery. We continued up and hit a fairly steep band about a hundred feet below the summit. I decided to play it safe and we headed to the left in search of a safer approach to the summit. Soon after we found a nice break that provided an easy scramble up. We now found ourselves right below the true summit. This time I continued to the right and found another convenient break that provided access to the summit. We climbed up this and found the only cairn at the top. It was more helpful for the return.

    We topped out on the summit right as a moderate rain started to fall. Claire found a dry rock overhang. I grabbed the register and joined her in the shelter. There was rain all around us and thunder rang out over Desert View. I signed the register and we decided it was in our best interest to get down. The rain let up and we started the scramble down. We tried to take a shortcut and it didn't work out too well. The going was very slow and we cliffed out several times. We spent plenty of time wandering back and forth. The good thing is we always found a way and with much effort arrived back on Tanner. The weather looked better but was still ominous. We decided to hike out.

    The rest of the hike took a lot of effort and was relatively slow going. The upper section of Tanner is quite the climb! We were both happy when things leveled off and we arrived at the jeep soon after. From there we loaded up and returned to Phoenix. It was a good day considering the rain and thunder. I'd like to return to hit Escalante another time.
    Cardenas Butte
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Cardenas Escalante Loop
    Another awesome hike with my favorite Uncle. Unbeknownst to him these two Buttes were on my "To-Do" List as #5 & #6 respectively...score!!

    After a quick and tasty breakfast at El Tovar, we were on our way down Tanner....and oh how I hated that trail :lol:
    I must've just been a grumpy Hippy because it's really a very fun trail!! The geology all around it is fascinating and full of history!! I'll have to give it another chance soon!

    We hit a low saddle down between the two Buttes and the trail was lined with, what my mind conceived as, Hoodoos! It reminded me so much of the Supes I may have shed a tear.

    Chumley and I took a quick break around there and eyed our destinations with a furious lust and we were off again at a quicker trot.
    The scramble up to Cardenas was fun, took my breath away, quite literally. It was a rather easy climb, nothing too hard at all, but it was still very fun. There is only one spot where you cross a tiny little rock "bridge" which isn't really a bridge, I think Chums called it a "throat"? And the exposure to the west was worthy of a swoon or two but nothing to cry about. One more quick little scramble up the side and we reached the summit, there was a ridiculously HUGE cairn marking the top but nothing more. We made quick work of that, marking our prize with a summit log and a cartwheel. Done! Next...

    The adorable little "butte" in between Cardenas and Escalante was a fun little scramble but miniscule in comparison to it's sister buttes. We named this Hippy Hill.

    There is also a little ridge you have to trek down as you head toward Escalante, it consistently ends in little shelves that cliff out, causing you to backtrack.

    We fell into a pattern, he'd trek to the end and cliff out while I'd find the right way down, then I'd trek to the end and cliff out was a fun little recess to the usual hiking rhythm!

    One we hit the base of Escalante we looked up with childish grins, the white slabs that festooned this Butte were Coconino sandstone, soooo beautiful and such a contrast to the surrounding geology. (Namely the previous two buttes of the day)

    The trail up was fairly obvious, well, I followed the game trails set down by big horn sheep tracks and made it up just fine. Then you start seeing the old boot prints of some other maniac. Follow the trail through a neat little cave, then you go around a big rock, an easy climb up the side of a LARGE boulder and BAM!

    There you are...staring west into a beautiful oblivion, whereas the east beckons you with a similar sized boulder and a haphazardly created rock cairn, sweet we're here!! Where's this jump everyone mentioned....

    :o :sweat: :scared:

    The tiniest step across, no more than 3 feet but in your mind it's a mile leap across the canyon, one false move and you're falling what seems three hundred feet... :sk:

    Chumley and I backed up to survey the jump and landing spot then we climbed down to "find an easier way" The large eastern boulder has squat for climbing on all sides....ugh, so I climbed around it's North face and chimneyed UP under the "jump". It was roughly a 20 foot climb for me with another 15-20 foot drop below the chockstone I started from. If you fell the 20 feet and survived you'd then slide a slope down that last 15-20 feet then come to a rest on the shelf it ends might live... :sk:

    So I climbed up and relayed this information to Chumley then I sat down and stared at this three foot jump of's all mental now, physically it's perfectly possible you just have to get over that gut sinking feeling and DO IT.

    1) I am ridiculously afraid of falling from heights. (says the girl who free solo'd 3/4 of Weavers Needle :lol: )
    2) I didn't trust my "bad" ankle to push off or land said jump, even if it IS only 3 feet.

    I sat back and watched as Uncle Chum told me to video his jump and....oh he's over there already :lol: I swear it's the EASIEST jump in the world watching someone else do it but when your turn comes...You stare at the ledge, you can literally lean forward and touch the other side, then push yourself back and get set to jump then... :sk:

    I will gladly admit I could not do it, I am deathly afraid of falling from heights, oh was awesome! So I returned to my little niche on the west boulder and shivered my mind into nothingness and held down some vomit and once composed I snapped a few photos of Uncle Chumley throwing his victory Wendy on the other side. :worthy:

    And then he remembered that he had to come back :sl: My favorite part.

    Anyway, we then found a fun and exciting route down Escalante on the south side and there were quite a few fun little down climbs and LOTS of scree surfing. Overall, it's a lovely area to play around in, the rock formations make up the perfect playground!

    We managed to haul ourselves back up Tanner in time to meet Squatpuke and Grampa Bob for munchies then SP loaded up in the truck, Grampa Bob jumped in the Suby and we were off like dirty shirts for some car camping at Pasture Wash.

    Another grand adventure brought to you by HAZ's favorite Uncle and your friendly neighborhood Hippy... :A1:
    Cardenas Butte
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Cardenas Escalante Loop
    These two off-trail summits were on Hippy's to-do list without me even knowing it, and when I suggested that I thought they would make for a nice day-hike, she got all excited and ready to go!

    I had read a little bit about the two buttes online, but not too much. Just enough to know that they could be summited without technical climbing, which is all I really needed to know for this trip.

    We had a ridiculously good breakfast at El Tovar before heading out to Lipan Point. Having never been down Tanner before, I was really enjoying the geology and the hike was ok, but Hippy was taking it very slow on the loose terrain, making sure not to aggravate her tender ankle. Once at the bottom of the steeps, we cruised Tanner around the bottom of Escalante and out to the ridge that would serve as the climb up Cardenas.

    From here it was all off-trail and fun. Cardenas was a relatively easy trip, with some easy short climbs. There's a small saddle with a narrow throat with some good exposure to the west before making the final push to the summit. Once there I was surprised not to find a summit register but was happy I had come prepared to place one! We took a lengthy break before heading toward Escalante.

    The ridge between Cardenas and Escalante was the highlight of the day for me! Just a great experience on the downclimb, though we had to backtrack a short distance a few times after we ended up on little drop-offs that were too high to descend. If you do this route, know that staying on the true ridge will get you caught up. The doable descents are on the east/left as you head toward the saddle.

    There's another small butte in the middle of the saddle, which I named Escaldenas Butte since it isn't marked on the maps. We decided to bag that too just cause it was there, and is only about 120 feet higher than the saddle.

    From there we headed up Escalante, which increasingly has very different geology and terrain than Cardenas had. There was a fairly easy route, and I think there was even a small cairn or two along the way, though we made no attempt to follow them since it wasn't necessary to do so.

    Near the summit, the signature white rocks that make up this peak became the predominant feature. Huge boulders of Coconino sandstone were fun to climb over, under, and around. The best route to the summit involves going through a little "cave" formed by the sandstone boulders at the top. Once there, it is apparent that the peak consists of two very large slabs, separated by a 3-foot crevasse. The true summit is the top of the east slab, but climbing that without gear would be very difficult, if not impossible. The west slab was a relatively easy climb and it is only about a foot lower than the true summit.

    If you weren't where you were, the jump from the west to the east would be the easiest thing you've ever done. It's a step on the sidewalk, a step from one boulder to another while crossing a stream, etc. EASY!!! Except for one thing. It's waaaaaaayyyy up there, and all you see is straight down.

    In reality, Hippy managed to get around the base, and it's only 20-30 feet straight down, but that is to a 50-degree slope that just keeps going. So if you fell, you wouldn't actually fall that far ... but you also might not stop after that first bounce! You see what I'm doing here? Yeah, I'm typing the things that were going through my head while up there. The internal struggle between common sense and LOGIC (it's a simple step, you could probably have a foot on both sides and straddle it safely) and EMOTION (it's a billion feet straight down and you will die a slow and painful death while bouncing and rolling all the way to the river like a rag doll).

    I got sick to my stomach and had to descend the west slab and regain my composure. A few minutes later I climbed back up and walked out to the north end where the jump features the easiest, shortest distance (and most exposure). I concentrated on just the jump in front of me, ignoring the rest. I carefully considered which foot to plant, and picked out the exact spot I would land. Then I went for it. Cake. Why was that such a big deal!!?

    So, photos, snack, another summit register, etc. and we headed down toward Tanner. The best route is to stay on the ridgeline heading east to the intersection with Tanner, but we decided to cut the corner and headed south. This probably took more time than it would have if we took the longer route. There are a handful of "steps" that require downclimbs, and finding a good spot to downclimb each required some traverses on each level. It was really fun, but certainly didn't save any time.

    Back at Tanner, we were happy to have a defined trail. It's nice that Tanner is in the shade in the afternoon, so we were able to power back up to the rim where we got back in my truck and headed back to the village to meet up with Larry and Bob before heading west to Pasture Wash for a little car camping adventure.

    Start 10:00am
    1.3 miles at switchback above 95-mile saddle, 11:05
    15 min snack break along the way
    3.0 miles at Tanner exit at Cardenas ridge, 12:10
    3.4 miles at Cardenas Peak, 12:45
    30 min break up top
    4.0 miles at Escaldenas, 1:45
    4.6 miles at Escalante Summit, 2:40
    35 min up top
    5.4 miles back at Tanner, 4:10
    several short breaks on the ascent
    7.0 miles back at TH, 5:37

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To Lipan Point Trailhead
    Follow SR-64 32.9 miles from SR-89 or 20 miles from Grand Canyon Village.

    Park at Lipan Point, walk back down the road a few steps, and look for the trailhead east of the

    From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 233 mi - about 3 hours 44 mins
    From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 338 mi - about 5 hours 15 mins
    From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 87.1 mi - about 1 hour 37 mins
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