The Grandview Trail was built in 1892 to reach the rich "Last Chance" copper mine on Horseshoe Mesa
. Much of this steep trail was covered in tightly fitted cobblestones, some of which can still be seen today. Mule trains would bring copper ore up to Grandview Point, where there was a processing mill. Horseshoe Mesa makes a great destination for either a day hike or a backpacking trip; I was 12 years old when I first hiked this trail with my dad.
The trail begins at Grandview Point on the south rim of the Grand Canyon, about 10 miles east of Grand Canyon Village. The trail immediately begins descending the Kaibab Limestone cliff through a series of switchbacks blasted into the rock
. Some parts of the trail are supported by stacked wooden logs. At the base of the Kaibab wall, the trail levels off for a ways as it wraps its way around an island of rock
. Once on the east face of the island, the trail drops through the Coconino Sandstone via cobblestone covered switchbacks
. At the base of the switchbacks is Coconino Saddle
, a notch in the cliffs that makes a fine rest stop. To your right (south), there is a nice view of Sinking Ship and upper Hance Creek canyon. Below Coconino Saddle, the trail descends into the red rocks of the Hermit Shale and the Supai Formations. Enjoy the shade on these next switchbacks, soon after you will leave most of the trees behind. Along the next couple of miles to Horseshoe Mesa, the original trail has been covered over by rock slides, but the trail is not hard to follow.
Upon reaching the south end of Horseshoe Mesa, you will come across some remnants of the old mining operation. The trail passes an old caved in tunnel, with many pieces of green chrysacola and malachite (copper ores) scattered around. Soon you will come to the junction of the scary and treacherous side trail
to Miner's Spring (also known as Page Spring), which eventually takes you to Hance Creek. Miner's Spring
is at the base of the Redwall Limestone cliff, and is the closest water source for Horseshoe Mesa. (The Park Service says the water MUST be treated, however, every time I have been here, I let the water drip from the ceiling of the alcove directly into my water bottles, and have never gotten sick.) There are also a couple of mines
to explore along the Miner's Spring Trail, one at the top of the cliff, the other at the bottom of the cliff just before the spring. Be very careful if you decide to enter any of the mines, as some of the rock walls inside are crumbling, with evidence of past cave-ins
! On one of our trips to these mines, we encountered a man who said he was mapping these mines for National Geographic magazine. He claimed that there were seven levels of mine tunnels within Horseshoe Mesa!
After passing the junction with the Miner's Spring Trail, the Grandview Trail arrives at the old stone miner's dining hall
. The campgrounds are near here, just east of the trail. There were several cabins on this mesa during the mining days, and there are rusty relics scattered everywhere. The Grandview Trail continues northwest from the old stone building, passing on the west side of the rocky butte at the center of Horseshoe Mesa. Where the trail crosses a small drainage due west of the butte, you will see a faint side trail following the drainage down to the edge of the cliff. This is the trail to The Cave Of The Domes (Horseshoe Mesa Cave). At the cliff's edge, the side trail turns right (north) and quickly arrives at the entrance to the cave
. This is a fairly good sized cave, characterized by short sections of crawl spaces
, which open up into dome-shaped rooms. Many of the caves' stalactites were broken off by early 20th century tourists, and brought up to the South Rim. Some formations are still there, though. Towards the back of the cave, there is a large 30 foot tall hallway
, with some bacon-like formations on the walls.
Beyond the junction with the cave trail, the Grandview Trail continues out to the northwest arm of Horseshoe Mesa. It was on this stretch where we encountered some fierce winds on a 2002 backpacking trip. I was carrying a 70 pound pack, and was almost blown off the trail. Now at the edge of Horseshoe Mesa, the trail begins a mile long descent
through the Redwall Limestone to the Tonto Trail below. This is the official end of the Grandview Trail, however, I have read that the trail originally continued on down to the Colorado River in the early 1900's.
Impressions of the dazzling topography of Grand Canyon have changed and shifted since that day in the summer of 1540 when Garcia Lopez de Cardenas gazed out from the South Rim. The conquistador saw a worthless desert wasteland, nothing more than a barrier to political expansion. At the opposite extreme, the modern view tends toward the romantic, reveling in what we today perceive as the remarkable spirituality of the gorge. Products of the age in which they lived, American pioneers arriving in the 1890s were more practical and utilitarian: they assumed with so much exposed bedrock inevitably there had to be mineral riches waiting to be claimed by those willing to go below and look. Would-be miners fanned out across the inner canyon, probing everywhere, and at a place called Horseshoe Mesa found what they sought. Rich copper deposits initially averaging 30% pure promised wealth, but only if transported from the depths. Optimism reigned supreme, a route was scratched out, and in February 1893 an endless succession of mule trains began moving raw ore to the rim along a rough canyon track originally known as the Berry Trail, more recently as the Grandview Trail. More than any other canyon trail, the Grandview is steeped in the legacy of the mining days at Grand Canyon. Numerous small artifacts associated with these halcyon days are scattered across the top of Horseshoe Mesa, providing a link across the years. Hikers can inspect the physical remains of this bygone era while enjoying canyon scenery at its finest.