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Grandview Trail - Cave of the Domes, AZ

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Guide 48 Triplogs  2 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Northwest > South Rim
4.7 of 5 by 33
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Difficulty 4 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Round Trip 7.7 miles
Trailhead Elevation 7,400 feet
Elevation Gain -2,616 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,616 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 8 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 20.78
Backpack Yes & Connecting
Dogs not allowed
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31  2018-03-17 ddgrunning
31  2015-04-23
New Hance Trail
14  2015-01-09 Hippy
8  2014-06-20 Hippy
36  2013-11-28 Kel1969
21  2013-04-24 cactuscat
16  2013-04-07 Hippy
28  2012-11-07 cactuscat
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Author Barry Dale
author avatar Guides 2
Routes 0
Photos 33
Trips 5 map ( 48 miles )
Age Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Mar, Apr, Sep, Oct → 8 AM
Seasons   Autumn to Spring
Sun  6:16am - 6:25pm
Official Route
3 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
exploration of cavern
by Barry Dale

Likely In-Season!
March 23, 2016
NPS closed this cave picking a borderline excuse. The entire canyon is crawling with rodents, probably best to live inside a double plastic bag with an oxygen bottle.

May 4, 2016
The NPS Office of Public Health has determined the cave was not a hantavirus source and reopened.

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.

Description of route to the large cavern on the west face of Horseshoe Mesa. Access is via the Grandview Trail from the south rim of Grand Canyon National Park. The cavern itself is also described to the extent of my limited exploration. The cavern is huge and easily accessed. The adventure is superb.

Drive to the south rim of the Grand Canyon National Park. From Grand Canyon Village, drive east along the rim road. Park at the Grandview Point parking area and trailhead. Hike 2.6 miles down the Grandview Trail (which is quite steep) to the intersection of the Grandview Trail with the trail that drops off the west side of Horseshoe Mesa to Cottonwood Creek. The trails are well marked on the USGS topo map and on any good trail map of the Canyon. You will know you are at the right spot when you see the (now roofless) stone cabin just beyond the trail intersection. The coordinates of this trail intersection are N36 01.204', W111 58.544', elev. 4899. More info on the Grandview Trail is listed below under NPS.

Now find the side trail to the cavern as follows. From the trail intersection near the stone cabin, continue north on the Grandview Trail a distance of 0.63 miles to a point with coordinates N36 01.631', W111 58.807', elev. 4894. For those of you without GPS but with the USGS 7.5' topo map, this point is north of the letter "H" in the phrase "Horseshoe Mesa" printed on the map a distance about equal to the height of the letter "H". For those of you without either GPS or the topo, if you think of Horseshoe Mesa as the letter "Y", this point is about where the left sloping arm of the "Y" joins the vertical upright of the "Y". In any event, at this point the Grandview Trail crosses a small wash, the downstream direction of which is to the left (west) of the Grandview Trail. Follow this wash west. A good trail will soon appear along the wash. This is the trail to the cavern - only about 0.2 miles in length. The trail drops off the top of the mesa, and then veers to the right (north) along the west face of the mesa. There is little to no exposure (i.e. danger of falling off), so most anyone should be comfortable walking along this trail. Go to the end of the trail and crawl through the small opening - you are now in the cavern. The coordinates of the cavern mouth are N36 01.613', W111 58.981'. Detailed trail map

Explore to your heart's content. Disturb nothing. We spend an hour and a half or so exploring the cavern. After entering, to the best of my recollection, we walked left down a corridor, ascended a ramp, climbed down another ramp, crawled through a passage, wound our way through a room or two bearing inscriptions of other visitors on the walls, and arrived at a large transept corridor. The floor was maybe 10 to 15 feet wide. The walls arched over us joining one another 25 feet or so above us. The corridor was nearly straight, appearing to follow a fault line, and maybe 200 feet or more in length. We walked to the end and then explored a little grotto off to the left. A few of the tiny stalactites glistened with water droplets at their tips. On the way back we explored a little more along other routes branching from the end of the corridor at which we entered.

We (a group of three men, one 14 year old young man and two 11 year old boys) explored the cavern as part of a 3 day, 2 night backpacking trip on October 15 - 17, 2002.. Our first day we hiked down the Grandview Trail, explored one of the copper mines on Horseshoe Mesa and then hiked down the trail that descends the west side of Horseshoe Mesa to Cottonwood Creed. We camped near the spring in the west fork of the south branch of Cottonwood Creek. This spring is a reliable perennial water source. The next day we circled Horseshoe Mesa clockwise on the Tonto Trail, making a few side trips along the way, and ascended Horseshoe Mesa on the trail on the east side of the mesa at its south end. Part way up this trail intersects a spur trail to Page Spring (called Miners Spring on the USGS topo), another perennial water source. The second night we camped on top of the mesa in the designated camping area. We explored the cavern the morning of the third day before hiking out. We had some difficulty finding the trail to the cavern even though I had been to the cavern on a prior trip some 20 years ago, which motivated me to write this description. Trail map

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

This is a moderately difficult hike.

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2002-11-29 Barry Dale
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Grand Canyon NPS Details

Use extra caution around mines. The rim of the open pits is often unstable. Rotting support timbers in the tunnels pose an obvious hazard. The many artifacts scattered about are protected by federal law. Enjoy what you find but leave it as found.

With the exception of "Cave of the Domes", permits are required to enter caves in Grand Canyon National Park due to the extremely sensitive nature of cultural and natural resources inside. Contact the Backcountry Information Center for further information.
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 of 19 deeper Triplog Reviews
Grandview Trail - Cave of the Domes
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Fresh off our first trip into the canyon last fall- my friends and I could not resist the urge to plan another! This time BJ, Shep, and I descended the New Hance trail- a painful knee-buster! We ran into a couple large groups at Hance Rapids where we spent our first night and witnessed kayaks running the rapids. Beautiful beach-side spot to appreciate the river in all it's glory. The next day it was on to the Tonto heading west, where we ran into our first bout of rain. Sporadic at first and windy, it didn't bother us much. Second night was also busy at Hance Creek. Plenty of water and a great side excursion up the canyon. The wind that night was intense, knocking our tents around, but not too much rain. On our third day we made our way around to the beautiful Page Spring and loaded up on water for the excruciating trek upwards to our last camp on Horseshoe Mesa. After setting up amidst bouts of rain, we headed off to Cave of the Domes. What an adventure exploring a real cave for the first time! On the way back the real rain hit, and throughout the evening all night... Grandview Trail up the next day to our bike-shuttle.

Wonderful journey. The magic of the canyon once again cannot be described in words. The intense weather only added to the mystique- views of cloud formations and rain constantly filtering our views and perception of light, shadow, contrast, color, and depth. Cannot wait until we are lucky enough again to immerse ourselves in this world.

beautiful and constant display of many wildflowers.
Grandview Trail - Cave of the Domes
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Hiked down Friday at 5pm, set up my tarp and backpack on a smooth surface on the east side of a lovely thick juniper then settled in for dinner, some reading, solitude and a great sunset!

My juniper camp was at the point of the northern most ridge of the west arm of the mesa and the views were stunning!!!

From my camp I could easily see Hances's asbestos mine and Hance Rapids including that beautiful diabase on river right of the rapids! And as the sun set the colors or the Grand Canyon Supergroup stood out in such a way...well, I may have shed a tear.

Woke up with the sun, quick visit to Cave of The Domes then hiked up GV in time for free lunch!

First solo over night in the Canyon this year, Whoo!
Grandview Trail - Cave of the Domes
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I decided that, after dropping off 9L, LP, JJ3 & Dave1 for their hike, I would meet them after work along Grandview, they were coming up, I'd head down.
Which of course would mean a late start so I wasn't about to go alone so I recruited a friend from El Tovar (Joe) to join me.
We hit the trail at 5:30pm and ran into 9L about 15 minutes later, we briefly chatted and I was told to relay how far ahead 9L was to the Johns and Dave who were all barely 10 minutes behind him.

Joe and I seemed to make decent time down the trail, I should probably mention I'd never been on this trail before and everything I happened to know about it was from my Tomasi book and 9L's previous trip logs :D

So we made it within half a mile of the cabin as the last of the sun's rays vanished, I cartwheeled in front of it and we continued on in the dark. I repeated over and over as we hiked the many descriptions and 9L's words of direction to reach the "spur trail" that led to the cave, down a drainage on the left will wrap around and take you into the redwall, got it...we briefly explored a tiny trail that led to a campsite, if it were daytime we probably wouldn't have considered that one, so pass that and continue on up a tiny hill until you reach this knoll, drainage type thing there are 15 or 20 rocks lined up "blocking" off the path, yeah, make a left and it'll take you down the drainage toward the red wall, awesome!

It was easy going, the trail is a tad bit steep and pretty rocky, single track the whole way but very clear to follow, it leads you up a tiny ledge to a pair of "fake caves" which at first made me say "Oh man you've got to be kidding me!" I was really disappointed...until Joe spotted the trail sneaking up to the left and BAM! A Huge alcove with a small opening that my Uncle could surely enter without feeling too claustrophobic :D
After a quick shuffle it opens up and you immediately spot the register and tons of knotted up rolls of string...

Everyone told me to unravel the string...but honestly if you have ANY sense of direction you should be fine, the cave goes directly straight back it's very straight forward with a few rabbit holes and chimney sections. There are no looping side caves that can get you lost, not that I saw anyway, no matter how hard I tried each side section in the first part of the cave led directly back to the register, I set up a spare headlamp by the register and we doubled back to it 3 times, then I decided enough with these tiny holes let's explore THAT one, so we headed deeper in to the largest opening and as promised it takes you into the heart of the cave and beyond...

They don't call it The Cave of the Domes for nothing, the ceilings in each opening is a huge...well, dome!! It's beautiful! It's still a living cave for as dusty and dry as it seems we encountered many "living" features including some that looked like "cave bacon" and "cave popcorn" a few tiny "shields" and I even got a photo of a full, umm, "straw" Where a stalactite meets a stalagmite all the way through, it was awesome and in a very tight crevice, I had to chimney down into a little "pocket" to be able to climb up and see it, absolutely FUN!!!

There was one part where you have to climb up a very steep and slick section to reach what looks like just a random ledge, it's actually a thick saddle maybe only 15 feet deep, there is a 12 foot drop on the other side, Joe began his descent down the center facing in and I opted for a short-person route on his right side, I slipped a bit and luckily he grabbed my hand, I got one foot hold and we were able to swing me around behind him were I flung myself up on his other side, THAT was pretty freaky, I scrambled back up to the saddle to catch my breath, he made it down and helped guide my footing,

For someone taller than 5 foot this shouldn't be TOO hard, there is an obvious hand and foot hold, just match your feet, grip the "knob" with your right hand and there is a pocket for your right foot just below the knob, I had to pretty much chimney best I could but it's a wide section, maybe 4-5 feet so once I was halfway Joe had to pull me down, if you're taller and/or have better bouldering skills this should be much easier for you!

Just please don't try this alone!! And if you can't get down please turn back...get some rope or a guide or something, try again later!! It really is kinda hairy if you're not use to this kind of thing.

From the saddle, before you climb down you can see across this big cave and see what looks like a black pile of rocks, we called it the Grim Reaper, once you climb down you realize its another opening...AWESOME! This is about the halfway point of the cave....I won't describe after this because words can do it no justice. If you can safely get to this point and will respect the environment and not get lost or hurt, you might deserve to sign that register. It's no secret but it gets tight and I'd say 'scary" but in all honesty I thought it was hella fun!! Make smart decisions, be safe!

We signed the "End of The Cave" register and sat in the dark contemplating the darkness and silence...then headed out, as I mentioned climbing up that "halfway climb" was a pain, Joe had to boost me up so I could grab the knob and scramble up to the saddle, got my heart racing until I reached the rock cairn on the smooth part.

By the way, green party lights in a dark cave might be absolute awesomeness, there were moments when we walked silently only by the dim glow of my green lights.

We spent just over 2 hours in the cave, for a trip time of about 9 hours plus at least an hour of rest/breaks. What a blast! Made it back to the Subaru at the TH at 2:20am and I was home in bed by 3am, what a great adventure!!!
Grandview Trail - Cave of the Domes
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Got a bit of a slow start, leaving Grandview at 9:45.
Forgot what a knee-buster the trail down to the mesa is!
Faced my first challenge just below the coconino saddle ... the spot that I nicknamed the "red funnel of death" on my first visit. At the start of the Hermit Shale, is this sketchy side-hill across a slope of slippery red gravel that would neatly funnel you to your death a couple hundred feet below in a lonely spot in upper Cottonwood Creek Canyon if you fell. The path is barely wider than your foot, and not too deeply imbedded into the gravel. My first time facing it, I froze for a bit and had a hard time making myself cross it ... this time I just took a deep breath and forced myself to march right across - it wasn't too bad.
I had a group of three backpackers behind at this time, but I only heard them - they never caught up.
Below the saddle and the funnel, I cached 32 oz of water.
Reaching the beginning of the mesa, and the pleasant stroll there, was a relief.
Saw my first person up close at the junction with the Page Spring Trail.
Reached the cabin a few minutes later and had my first break. Just under two hours from trailhead to cabin. I sat in the shade on the north side of the cabin, since it was already warm - though very nice.
One of my main purposes for this hike was to soak up some sunshine and warmth before the temps plunge and the snow starts this weekend! I thought I might see some snakes doing the same, but no - still no grand canyon rattlesnakes for me. Plenty of lizards and a few birds were about all I saw for wildlife. I was happy to see a solitary verdin - one of my favorite desert birds, which I have not seen since leaving Phoenix.
From the cabin, I headed north then beared left at the sign for the group campsite to the right. I moseyed along, really enjoying the sweet trail across the mesa. When I came to the wash where the cave trail starts, there were absolutely no cairns or rock arrows like there sometimes are. I just knew it must be the spot - from the descriptions I'd read and info I gathered from friends at work - it looked right and felt right. I checked out the wash and found quite a few footprints heading down it, so I followed ... it soon turned into a distinct path, and within five minutes it took me to the west face of the mesa and started working north for a few minutes to the cave. 28 minutes from cabin to cave.
I eagerly crawled into the cave, into the first large room with the register. Stayed there for awhile, looking around and attempting to take photos. Found a stalagmite (is it "tite" or "mite" when they are coming down from the ceiling?) that was slowly dripping water ... couldn't really get a pic, but it was cool to see that the cave is still living and growing.
I signed the register and saw that sometimes 3-5 days go by withot anyone visiting. I wrote that I hoped someone else wold come along, so that I would feel more comfortable going deeper into the cave. Then I took a roll of nice sturdy kite-string and started in ... was barely around the first corner when I heard a group of three people arriving - yay! For once I was very glad to have other people arrive. :D
I continued on and quickly zigged up and left when I should have zagged down and right - ended up at that 20+ foot dropoff. As I started to squeeze my way back out of there, the others caught up. I said hi, and asked if they were coming up there ... the guy in the lead - he turned out to be a guide - said "uh, no - we're gonna go down this way" I had to laugh and say "yeah, that would be the right way huh?". I took my time backtracking and following them to give them some space. It was at this point that one of my flashlights failed, despite new batteries, making me glad I had followed the 3 light sources rule!
This part was so fun! It's not so tight that it's scary, or hard to breath, but you definitely know you are caving! Got to the next place where it opens up and saw the actual dome ceiling, some more stalagmites and formations (cave bacon, anyone?) and signatures of early visitors on the walls.
I turned back after that, while the others contined just a bit farther. I was still outside the cave when they exited. We all brushed and pounded off large amounts of cave dust, and chatted as we squinted in the now very bright sun and heat. The guide Shane and I quickly discovered a connection with only one degree of seperation ... he is good friends and hiking buddies with a guy I work with - actually the main guy I go to for info and directions on things I'm interested in. Pretty cool.
I took a short break back at the trail intersection, and eyeballed the butte as I had been doing all day. I found the beginning of a path that looked promising and considered trying to contour around the butte to get a good look from all sides, but I decided that I had had enough adventure, and I better just head back the normal way. I really didn't want any part of the Grandview trail in the dark!
57 minutes from cave to cabin. Another short break at the cabin - 80 degrees.
In the Hermit Shale, I was passed by a very fit couple finishing a dayhike around the mesa on the Tonto trail - the only people I would see until the trailhead.
Stopped at the coconino saddle - 60 degrees.
2 and a half hours from cabin to Rim. Finished just as it got really dark, 5:57 pm - 50 degrees.
Really nice day and fun hike!
Grandview Trail - Cave of the Domes
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Cave of the Domes is a serious of domed rooms connected by chutes and tunnels beneath horseshoe mesa. The Grandview trail is fairly rough in places, but one of my favorite trails in the Grand Canyon. (It was carved and built in the 1890's what do you expect? :) )

At 3 1/2 miles down youll reach the campgrounds where I stopped to pitch a tent and have a snack. After lightening my pack, I headed around the left side of Horseshoe Mesa. The left side of the horseshoe will point to a shallow wash which almost immediately turns into a trail. Follow this trail off of the side of the butte, to reach the cave entrance. Dont take the first entrance, its too small and littered with droppings. Take the second entrance and crawl under to enter the first dome. There youll find a trail-log and string, along with knee-protecting cardboard cutouts. Be safe... mark your route if you dont know this area and bring at least 3 light sources. I read about a kid who came in with one flashlight which he ended up breaking and he was stuck here for 3 days until NPS came down and got him out.

Ive been in this cave-system twice and have managed to explore every room that can be accessed without climbing gear. Sadly, there is light graffiti and damage, as its the only cave system in the grand canyon that can be accessed without a permit. Be safe, and carry at least 3 light sources.

After exploring the cave, I headed back to camp and then down to Page spring which is the only water source in this area. This spring carries traces of arsenic, but is assumed to be safe for limited use. Hey! Here are some pics for ya!!
Grandview Trail - Cave of the Domes
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Great weekend with John/Cheryl; they were very gracious in sharing their Mather campsite with my 9 y/o son and I. We spent Saturday bumming around the Rim Trail and hitting the Touristy Spots (after viewing from Maricopa Point, I've added the "Hogan Trail" and Lower Orphan to my short list ;))...The Kolb Studio exhibit was also especially impressive. After a quick bite, we hit the star gazing event at the Visitor Center parking shortly after dark...AWESOME...especially Saturn's rings and those nifty laser pointers everyone used to point into the dark sky!!

Next morning, the three of us sped down the Grandview, only really resting at the miner's camp. Between John's GPS track and the printed beta I pulled off the internet we EASILY found the side trail to the caves (the large rock arrow cairn helped also LOL). My son Tytus, totally WOKE UP when when we hit those caves...was his favorite part of the hike for sure. Wished we could have gone further back, but there is a steep drop off (20+ fee) towards the end..didn't want to risk anything there just yet. When he's a bit older, we'll make that jump. ;)

Was very proud of Ty on the Grandview...don't see many 9 y/o's sloggin' up GV in June. He did great!!

Since I live in East Flagstaff, Ty and I drove back through Desert View stopping at the Tusayan Ruin and climbing the DV tower. We also stopped at Cameron Trading post for some souvenirs. Was a great and memorable weekend.
Grandview Trail - Cave of the Domes
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This weekend the Grand Canyon had the Star Party and this gave me the perfect excuse to drag Cheryl up there so I could sneak off and do some hiking! The plan came together perfectly and Larry (Squatpuke) was interested. He ended up bringing his son Tytus. On Saturday night, the four of us enjoyed the stars and learned a lot. We eventually turned in for the night with plans to hike down to the Cave of Domes. Cheryl would tear down camp and then meet us at the trailhead later that morning.

We got out of camp and made our way to Grandview Point and started hiking around 7am. Tytus is only 9 years old so I knew we had to set a careful pace. We made our way down and worked our way towards Horseshoe Mesa. Tytus did great and we maintained an even pace.

We arrived at the cabin and took a short break for pics and snacks. From there we continued out on the mesa and veered towards the west. The spur trail to the cave is well marked with a cairn and an arrow pointing the way. We picked up the trail and arrived at the cave a few minutes later. After crawling inside the cave opens up and there is a register book. I signed our names and we had a look around. Altogether we spent about fifteens minutes and only explored a fraction of the cave.

Our plan was to split up at this point. Cheryl was meeting me at the trailhead at a specific time and I wanted to get moving. We said our goodbyes and I started the return hike. I knew right away the temps and constant sun were going to make the hike out tough! I cruised over the mesa and past the cabin and started working my way uphill. My pace slowed as I grinded upward. This was my first time on the Grandview Trail and I realized its not easy...especially in the summer! I took numerous short breaks and kept at it and before long I was back at the top with all the tourist. I did not see one person on the hike out until the top. Cheryl was there waiting for me. I left a note for Larry on his car and we made our way home. Another wonderful trip!

On a side note, I scored some New Hance overnight permits for late September. The plan is to head in New Hance and out Grandview. I can't wait! And the Backcountry office was so easy to work with in person!
Grandview Trail - Cave of the Domes
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Grandview - South Kaibab Loop
i find it amazing how quickly i forgot the pain on this one. two days later, i wanted to go back. but if anyone tries to tell you that the tonto trail is flat, don't believe them.

day 1: down the grandview trail. ow.
day 2: try to recover from day 1 while hiking up and down, up and down the tonto.
day 3: pretty much a repeat of day 2.
day 4: out on the south kaibab trail. ow.

all kidding aside, it was a wonderful trip with a great group of people. i'd go back in a heartbeat.
Grandview Trail - Cave of the Domes
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Thursday 11-17-11 - Drove to Grand Canyon. At Kolb Studio got in on a special tour of the Kolb Residence with Ranger Marna Bastian. First such tour since February. They might add more of these tours during the Winter season.

Friday 11-18-11 -Nice hike down Grandview. Some ice in shaded areas. The trail has been rerouted away from the mine and radioactive signs have been installed. A Protected Environment area for bats has been added. Winds kicking up. Ate at the mess hall and proceeded to look for Cave of Domes junction. Found it and went down to Cave of Domes. Trail a little sporty, especially in the wind. Explored the cave. Now I get it - figured out why it is named what it is named. Hiked out toward the end of western end of Horseshoe Mesa and take the trail down to the Tonto instead of backtracking to Cottonwood Trail. The Trail down to the Tonto is a kneebuster. Got to the Tonto and headed around to Cottonwood for camping. Found a nice, little used descent into a great Cottonwood Campground. Plenty of water. The winds really kicked up during the night and really roar down the canyon. Very gusty, probably mid 30knot.

Saturday 11-19-11 - Proceeded across the Tonto and around Grapevine Canyon. Decided to press on to Boulder Canyon for a possibility of Water. Boulder had some water up drainage from the trail. There is a reason it is called Boulder Canyon. Hard finding decent camping sites. Winds ended.

Sunday 11-20-11 - Proceeded across the Tonto. A dayhiker jetted by. We found water in Lonetree Canyon from a tinaja about 100 meters down the drainage. Wendy & Nate went to the Lonetree and reported that it was running, but slow. Went to middle Cremation. Dry camped.

Monday 11-21-11 - The Tonto looks so much flatter from up above. Got to the Tipoff and met Ranger (non-commissioned) Megan Smith checking and stocking SAR equipment and supplies in the brown container under the porch. Did some extra mileage on the SK (sweep sherpa).

On the way home I stopped at Bellemont for gas. Then I went across the road to the Route 66 Rodehouse. Enjoyed the restaurant. Fun place, good food. Helen the bartendress explained menu and arrangements. $8.99 for a 1/3 lb Black Angus patty or a 1/3 lb chicken breast. Then you grill them yourself on the big grill. Includes an all you can eat salad bar and fixin's.

Lessons - add small Hand Sanitizer to hygiene bag. Always check all batteries before trip. Wendy's Platypus gravity filter seemed to work great.

Great group on the hike. Wendy Lotze, Cindy Laughlin, Mike Janes, Mark Happe (Mr. Happy), Nate Freddy, Eugene, and Bojan (my legs hurt) Milhovic
Grandview Trail - Cave of the Domes
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Grandview - South Kaibab Loop
Recently, I set a goal for myself. I decided that I wanted to have hiked all of the Tonto Trail in the GC by the end of 2012. I've done some considerable chunks at this point, but there is still much work left to do. Next on my list: the segment between Cottonwood Creek below Horseshoe Mesa and the South Kaibab trail.

I had a total of 7 backpackers from the ABC and one HAZer along for this adventure. I'd only ever done a 'long trip' with one of them - and I knew he was usually a pain in the pumpkin (in a good way). As it turned out, it was a fun group, and the only problem was that we had to stop hiking too soon ;)

We started inauspiciously, in my opinion. I couldn't get the whole crew together until breakfast the day of the hike, in spite of repeated communications and efforts to gather the night before. So-and-so was early and fell asleep, so-and-so wasn't even AT the GC yet, etc. At least I knew where the girls were - Cindy and I shared a lovely BA Lodge cabin. I could tell we'd be bonding before the trip was out. ;)

The morning of the hike, I'm finishing packing my gear and I can't find my camera. Now, for those of you who've hiked with me before, you likely know right where said camera is. Yup. The dining room table at home. I spent the whole of breakfast cringing at the ways that Angela was going to berate me, and how I'd berate myself for not getting good photos of this hike.

I didn't feel like I could 'check off' this segment in my book if I didn't have any photos of it... What proof would there be except some isolated bits of DNA and some heresay evidence? So, after the breakfast team meeting and introduction bazaar, I headed off to the General Store where I purchased the only digital camera they had in stock. I'm sure I overpaid dramatically for the Kodak easyshare C1530 - but the price was smaller than my shame. Besides, I haven't had a 'back-up little camera' in quite some time. So, $175 later, I'm the proud owner of a superbly average point-and-shoot, a new 4g SD card and a couple sets of fancy AA batteries. It could be worse...I could be like self-employed and living on a meager income or something (eek).

After doing some car shuttle magic, we arrived at the Grandview Trailhead at around 10am to start our descent. We made it to the mesa fairly quickly and stopped for a quick snack at the miner's cabin. We bantered with a few hikers we saw there - most of them dayhikers who'd come down to the mesa just to head back up. What a waste!

Finding the Cave of the Domes was pretty straight forward after reading the trip reports and hike descriptions on HAZ. We thought we'd missed it, but is wasn't long before we were taking our packs off at the large alcove at the cave's main entrance. Each person going into the cave made a comment about a dog - which I thought was a joke I'd missed while taking photos. However, once I entered the first room, I too saw the dog. She was a little timid (wouldn't you be if your leash was tied to a stalactite?), but friendly enough. Word was coming forward that her owners were just ahead of us, exploring the cave. I put away my 'junior park ranger' sense of duty this time. It just wasn't worth my effort to make a big stink when the dog was already all the way down here.

Turns out Flower (dog) is a trained and certified SAR dog. I honestly don't know if that means she was allowed to be where she was, but it did comfort me a little.

The cave is fun - though not really what I expected. It was very dusty, and though there was humidity and water droplets in the rooms further to the rear, overall it was quite dry. The formations, as many have mentioned, are largely broken and damaged - with the exception of the cool 'domes' in the ceiling, which are something I'd never seen before. We spent about an hour playing around in the cave. With the strings on the floor and the number of folks wandering about with bright lights on, it didn't feel dangerous at all. (I have to give Alan a plug here because he gave me fresh batteries for my headlamp, without which I would have been unable to explore much at all. Such a boy scout! :thanx: )

We ate a late-ish lunch at the cave entrance, happy to be sheltered from the winds that we blasting the mesa. Then we packed back up and headed back up to the mesa top. We'd decided to hike off the end of the Grandview Trail rather than doubling back to the Cottonwood trail. The wind howled and gusted, but we were all able to keep our feet through the steep and rocky descent.

Now that I've been off of all three trails on that mesa, I have to say that none of them are really a 'better' option. It all depends where you're going and what you've done. The Grandview descent (off the northern tip of the western arm of the mesa) is indeed quite steep and almost entirely over loose, fist-sized rocks that like to slip. But, so is the Cottonwood trail. The views off of the Grandview descent are better, but if you're camping at Cottonwood, you've still got another 1.5 miles to hike once you hit the Tonto. The miner's trail is steeper, but has less of the loose rock. I guess you pick your poison on this one.

We made it around the base of the mesa and I noticed the group all stopped at a spot just above the Creek just downstream of the crossing. There was a very nice campsite tucked down there, near running water and sporting some nice ledge spaces. We debated for a bit, then dove in and descended down to the lovely spot. I've camped at Cottonwood before, and this space was far better than the one I stayed at upstream where the trail off the mesa first crosses the creek. Definitely a sweet spot.

The problem with hiking in mid-November is that the days are painfully short. By the time we got our gear set up and our dinners warmed up, it was dark. By the time the stories were all told and the meals all eaten, it was getting cold. But it was only 6:30pm. We weren't nearly tired enough for bed already, were we?

After over 12 hours in my bivy, the sun was just getting ready to rise again at 7:30am. Yup - lets get moving! We broke camp and were on the trail before 9am. Not an early start, but there isn't much use when it's as cool and beautiful as it was this weekend!

Mileage: 7.4

Second day we had originally planned on camping in Grapevine, but we decided to push it a little longer to make day 3 shorter. We passed the spring on the east wall of Grapevine, then stopped to fill up on water at the main arm. There was less water here than at Cottonwood, but still plenty to fill our bottles. We were heading for Boulder, where reports had said there was water recently. Not sure, we added a bit of extra water to our bags and headed off again.

This section was classic Tonto action - contouring along the walls of the side canyon until we could cross the creeks, ducking in and out of smaller drainages. The entrance to Grapevine was a bit hairy, it felt more exposed than it really was, but feeling exposed was plenty enough for me. The trail is gravel and tilted toward the sharp drop through the Tapeats cliffs. I was glad that I wasn't the only one who thought it was a bit scary looking. Toward the back of the canyon, the Tonto platform flattened out and there was more room for the trail. Grapevine really is huge - it would be a destination all by itself in other parts of the world. Here, it's just another side canyon ;)

The group straggled into Boulder in a few shifts. As we headed for the back of the canyon, we saw Alan, Mike and Nate in a camp just above the creek, and we made a b-line for them. Problem was that the trail didn't make that b-line, and we spent a good bit of time wandering about on the soft, saturated slopes trying to get to camp. Turns out they were camped above the trail crossing - we just didn't notice where the trail dipped into the creek on our way up.

The camp was really too small for our group, but we made do rather than break up the group or make the lead team take down their tents. We kept thinking it was going to start raining on us (the forecast was for a %40 chance), and we all wanted protection quick. The trickle in the creek was enough to keep us in good spirits, but once again we were all tucked in before 9pm. It never did rain that night... that canyon is a terrible tease.

Mileage: 10.7

Day 3 was originally to be our longest day, and our most difficult. We'd shaved a few miles off of it already, which was good. I'd billed this as an 'intermediate' canyon trip, but in retrospect it might have been just a little over that level. With such short days, 10 miles is a lot to hike on top of setting up and taking down camp, pumping water, cooking meals and debating trail decisions.

We watered up in Lonetree Canyon. We found some decent sized potholes just about 50-100 yards downstream from the trail crossing. The water was a bit silty, but after filtering tasted delicious. Nate and I explored downstream to locate the spring, which was strikingly obvious with the namesake cottonwood tree in full fall yellow. The spring was flowing good, but the distance from the trail definitely made the potholes the most attractive option. We were loading up with 5-6L per person, and that's a lot to carry while scrambling on the creek bottom.

We made camp in the middle arm of Cremation Creek. Cremation is very unlike the previous side canyons we'd encountered. It's flanks are wide and not nearly as steep, and the are many more small 'arms'. Then there are the fields of bus-size boulders at both the entrance and exit from the drainage. Makes you feel distinctly hobbit-like.

I explored upstream and downstream from our camp to see if there was water in this arm. Upstream we found nothing but huge chunks of Tapeats sandstone that threatened to crush unwary travelers. Downstream in the narrows there were a couple of potholes, but they would have been quite challenging to access and looked pretty stinky. I was glad we had plenty already.

The big fun at Cremation camp was our 'Occupy the Grand Canyon' movement, orchestrated by Cindy. It was nice to have some time to play at camp before dark set in. We went to bed early again with a few light raindrops hitting the tarp. That was all we got, though, and I spent the next 11 hours trying to talk myself into sleeping with very little success. At least the sky was beautiful to watch!

Mileage: 6.25

Last day, big climb! I actually didn't anticipate how tough it would be to get to the South Kaibab trail from Cremation. I was figuring on something like the 2mi from Horn Creek to Indian Gardens. No way, Jose! This bit of the Tonto trail goes up and down and up and down and up! I'd read about it, but you don't really know until you're there. The views were amazing, though, and the terrain, vegetation and geology much more varied than on other stretches of the same trail.

The group had fractured before even leaving camp: one member left before the sun was up, and the rest took of in groups of 2 or 3, leaving Alan, Cindy and I on the trail most of the way as a trio.

Once at the Tip-off, it was just a game of endurance. I knew we could do it, and as long as we kept our pace nice and slow and even, we made great time. It can't ever be said to be 'easy', but it's infinitely doable by folks in good shape. We made it to the top by 3pm, and were elbow-deep in pizza and salad by 4:30.

Mileage: 6.1

I was impressed with everyone's positive attitude (ha) and willingness to work hard (yeah right). The only real problem was that we had to stop and go back home!

Map Drive
Paved - Car Okay

To Grandview Trailhead
From Flagstaff head west on I-40 for 30.4 mi to SR-64. Turn right/north and follow SR-64 55 miles to the park. You will receive a map & information at the GC park entrance. From Grand Canyon Village drive about 9.8 miles east on the rim road to Grandview Point. Please use the upper parking lot for overnight parking.

From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 242 mi - about 3 hours 50 mins
From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 347 mi - about 5 hours 20 mins
From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 95.0 mi - about 1 hour 41 mins
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