Tonto Trail

SW: Grand Canyon, USA

William Mackesy’s account of this walk

And here is the Tonto Trail, the great canyon-long mid-flanks  traverse. It looks incredibly enticing as snakes away, less maintained and a whole lot emptier. We turn west for Indian Garden and the Bright Angel Trail, 4 miles away.

The next 2 hours are extraordinarily delightful walking, winding  steadily across the slopes, turning into the deep recess of the Pipe Creek Canyon, enjoying the sudden appearance of bright golden autumnal leaves in its depths. Snack time. All around is the drama of the vast walls of the great canyon. It is so huge and the platform so flat, with the inner canyon often invisible, that you feel you are in a huge bowl with two escarpments marching beside it, rather than in a single canyon. The serried ranks of the north side's cliffs, ridges and buttes is somehow reminiscent of the wall of South Africa's great Drakensberg as seen from the rolling hills of Natal.

We eventually reach delightful Indian Garden, another canyon-bottom oasis complete with golden trees and running water.  It is usually overrun with people, but now, in mid November, it is peaceful.

We had agreed to head for the rim at this point, but to my delight Serena suggests (I hadn’t wanted to push it) that we turn back toward the famous view over the inner canyon at Plateau Point.

The 3 mile round trip is massively worth-it: at the end of the Tonto Platform, we sit on a rocky perch high above the Colorado river and eat our lunch. Far below, the green river roars through its dark, forbidding and narrow inner canyon, and heads off to the west as a receding sparkling sheet.  Gorgeous, and all within the thrilling surrounds of the wider Grand Canyon.

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