Grand Canyon NP: Hance Creek and Horseshoe Mesa


My latest excursion in the Grand Canyon National Park was a backpacking trip with six friends, down the Grandview trail to camp at Hance Creek and then back up with a night on Horseshoe Mesa.

The Grandview Trail is the steepest and highest elevation of all the main trails on the south rim, and chock full of historical significance. It follows the remnants of a route formerly used by miners from Last Chance Mine on Horseshoe Mesa.

Juniper log stairs form switchbacks down the Kaibab Limestone cliff face, with uneven surfaces and tight corners amplifying the feeling of exposure. This is not a trail for those with a fear of heights!

About halfway down, the trail levels out on the Coconino Saddle where the Coconino Sandstone and Hermit Shale meet, and offers excellent views looking south.

The trail is also known for its steep cobblestone sections, descending through the Supai Formation and leveling into a gradual descent the rest of the way to Horseshoe Mesa. Cottonwood Creek is off to the left as we head north across a small section of copper ore at the base of a grove of piñon and juniper trees.

From there it was a REALLY steep and treacherous descent of the Redwall Limestone to Page Spring, where we found much needed shade and clear flowing water. Along the way we passed the Last Chance mine, with metal bars blocking entry to the shaft, but some cool mining equipment still stationed outside the entrance.

The final section was a relatively easy (but hot) cruise down to Hance Creek. The water was barely flowing, but that was all we needed. We set up camp, rested for a bit and then had an easy stroll to explore the slot canyons before dinner and a night of relaxing with a good whiskey.

The next day we hiked back up to Horseshoe Mesa, which still has ruins of the mess hall from the mining operation. We made camp and then hiked out to a spectacular promontory to catch the sunset from one of the nicest viewpoints in the entire Grand Canyon.

It was a fantastic and challenging adventure with a great group of guys and I look forward to another meeting of the John Wesley Powell Fellows!

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