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Boulder, CO

A guide to the wilderness of the West.


Christmas in the Canyon

Derek Bartz

Trip Date: December 21-28
Location: Grand Canyon National Park
Miles: 110
Vert: 9,000'?
Start/Finish: Hermits Rest
Permit Required?: Yes; $10 + $5 a day per person.  More info here.
Season: October-April for the best chance of water being in the sides canyons/drainages.  Due to the heat of the inner canyon, June-September is not recommended for this  section of the Tonto Trail.
Directions: Found here

If you didn't know already, I love this place.  On my living room wall hangs a 5'x3' geological map of the Eastern Portion of Grand Canyon National Park, 140 river miles from Marble Canyon to the Great Thumb.  The map is mesmerizing, a complicated network of side canyons and vertical walls shown as contours lines, along with a colorful representation of the geology that makes up this special place.  It is also a constant reminder that one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World is within half a days drive from my doorstep  The incredible part about this map is that only HALF of the Canyon is visible on it!  This place is truly Grand.

Connecting the gap from Hermit Creek to Elves Chasm was the main mission of this trip.  Most people do this section of the Tonto as a point-to-point hike beginning at the South Bass Trailhead and ending at Hermits Rest; leaving out Elves Chasm all together.  Access to the South Bass Trail is unreliable during wet weather, therefore I chose to just complete this trip as an out and back.  This involved a 45 mile section of the Tonto Trail from Hermit Creek to Garnet Creek (which is the trails western terminus), and then a 4-5 mile route continues along the bank of the Colorado River out to Elves Chasm.  We descended the Hermit Trail and hiked back out the Boucher Trail(which was a first time for me and made me glad we didn't go down this way).   Overall the trip was 7 days and 110 miles.  With a short 10 mile first and last day, we covered about 17-20 miles a day the remainder of the time.  This was a bit of a push for the short winter daylight but that's the way I like it I guess, big effort equals big views.