OverviewThe New Hance Trail is highly scenic, but is considered one of the three most difficult trails in the Grand Canyon and the New Hance-Grandview Loop is considered to be the most difficult loop along the Tonto Trail.
Kessler, my four year old son and I decided that the New Hance-Grandview Loop would make a nice Thanksgiving outing. Since Kessler is an experienced hiker and very confident in rock scrambling and since the trail is easy to get a permit for since it isn’t crowded, it seemed like a good choice. Kessler was ready and experienced enough for something more challenging than the standard routes on most of the Colorado 14ers and was very excited for the trip. He has been hiking up to 13 or more miles a day on occasion, but we knew we couldn’t make those distances on these routes. Although we carried ropes and a child harness, we found that these were not needed.
It was a great trip and a spectacular route!
See the TRIP ALBUM for more photos.
Day 1, November 23Day 1, November 23 was spent walking the eight miles to the Colorado River and Hance Rapids. The New Hance Trail was very rugged and it took us all day to hike the eight miles from the rim of the Grand Canyon to the bottom. After an early start, we arrived at the rapids just after sundown and just before complete darkness.
After a nice and easy, but short walk, the route wasted no time getting down to business. The trail drops zigzagging down the cliffs right away and was very steep and a bit slippery. The views were nice and Kessler was excited for his first big hike in the Grand Canyon. I had to hold his hand on the tougher parts.
After reaching the Coronado Butte Saddle, it appeared the route would become a bit easier, but it was short lived. There were a bunch of “fun” little jumps that I had to lift Kessler down. We met a ranger at the top of the Redwall whom asked to see our permit.
Curious, she asked Kessler’s age and had a chat with us before hiking out. She warned us of the difficulties of the route, but also could see that we were already 1/3 the way down and doing fine.
Having all the layers of rock and sequence and names of the rock memorized years ago, I was able to explain each rock layer to Kessler. After the first explanation of the Toroweap Limestone, he would say periodically, “tell me more about the rocks daddy”. By the end of the day he would explain and name the rock layers to me. He said the Coconino (“because it sound funny”) and the Redwall were his favorite, as well as the Hakatai, but he was animate in pointing out that the Hakatai wasn’t really a rock layer, but “just dirt” every time I called it a rock layer.
Personally, I think the next section of the route was the crux. Most sources apparently believe the Redwall descent to be the crux of the route, but I found the traverse across the top of the Redwall to be harder because it spend a lot of time going “no-where” and weaving in an out of tedious washes.
At the top of the Redwall, Kessler was actually excited to climb down. It was steep, but not as exposed as expected and other reports on the route I read were a bit exaggerated.
After descending the steep route, we were finally headed for the floor of Red Canyon, which was made of bright Hakatai Shale. After making the longs and loose descent into Red Canyon, it began to get dark when we finally reached the creek. We rested, but poor Kessler kneeled in a cactus and I had to pull out the needles. Only a minute or two after that, he slipped and fell in the water while crossing the creek. Those were the only mishaps that happened during the trip.
The last two miles were fairly easy, but with some boulders to climb over, but it was almost completely dark when we finally reached the Colorado River at Hance Rapids. We had reached the bottom of the Grand Canyon via one of the three hardest trails to the bottom in a single day. Not bad for a four year old.
Two people were camped on the beach and invited us to join them for dinner (it was after all Thanksgiving Day) . We cooked our dinner and at it in the dark before a well deserved sleep on the beach.
Day 2, November 24Day 2, November 24 was spent hiking the Tonto from Hance Rapids to Hance Creek. Since we got a later start, it took us all day and we arrived at camp just after sunset. This section of the Tonto is considered to be the most difficult in it’s almost 100 mile length.
In the morning we took too much time to get up and going because we had read an erroneous report that it was only 1.5 miles to Mineral Canyon and 5.1 to Hance Creek. In reality, it is actually 1.5 miles as the crow flies to Mineral Canyon. The real distance is 7.5 miles, but it is fairly rugged.
Kessler had a great time playing on the rocks while I was packing up camp and we also spent time throwing a few sticks in the water.
The trail splits just before Mineral Canyon. We took the lower trail because it looked like it had less elevation gain. This was true, but the trail crosses a short narrow and exposed (but wide enough to be safe) ledge above the vertical cliffs above the river. I had to crawl because of the low ceiling, but Kessler could walk right under. It sure was a spectacular section, but I didn’t get any photos because I was helping Kessler.
Above the gaping Mineral Canyon, three hikers caught up with us. Two were the same people we had eaten dinner with the night before. Another was a solo hiker that came over from up river from Hance Rapids. He was rather shocked to find a four year old on this rugged trail in the bottom of the Grand Canyon, but Kessler always likes the attention he gets from impressed and surprised hikers along the way on any remote or rugged route.
It actually took us a long time to do the hike over to Mineral Canyon and then to do the long climb out of Mineral Canyon. It was a scenic trip, but by the time we reached the cliffs above Hance Canyon it was obvious we would be cutting it close to reach camp before dark, even though we would try. The next section of the trail was spectacular and hugged the cliff edge closely. We were careful on the short sections where it did this. The hike to Hance Creek was long since we were tired and we arrived after sunset and right at dark. Kessler was a tired boy for sure. We set up camp in the dark and read and played a bit (Kessler had brought and carried two toy cars with him) under my bright lantern before going to sleep.
Day 3, November 25Day 3, November 25 was spent hiking to Horseshoe Mesa view the east Grandview Trail. Although the East Grandview is steep and rugged and the hardest part of the Grandview complex, it was easier than the two days before.
We took our time up the trail and Kessler asked a lot of questions about the plants, rocks, and geology. I explained all I could, but couldn’t identify all the plants. I could identify the rocks though and by this time, so could Kessler. He would point out the rock layers to me and say what they were, always giggling when saying “Coconino”. I never figured out what was so funny about the word Coconino, but apparently something about it is hilarious.
We took a break at the first mine we came to (The Grandview Trail is an old mining trail) and looked at the historic artifacts. We also had a break and a good time at Miners Spring and filled all our water bottles since it would be the last water we would see until the end of the hike.
The trail was steep up to Horseshoe Mesa, but not as loose or rugged as the New Hance Trail. After reaching the top of the Redwall, we ate lunch at the old miner’s cabin.
After setting up camp, we the spent the rest of the day spelunking in Cave of the Domes. Before we explored the cave, we had to ask someone about it’s location since we me someone that hiked down the Grandview that had been doing the hike for over a decade. The trail was a bit steep and slightly exposed to get to the cave, but the trip was worth it. It was Kessler’s first wild cave and we did some exploring of a few passages. We turned back when the main passage had a little drop off that we didn’t want to climb down, at least not just from light from a headlamp.
After exploring the cave, we climbed and hiked back to camp. It was then discovered that ravens had ravished our food stash and backpack. I had hung our food by a tree, but it didn’t do any good with ravens around. They had got all our dinner, but luckily nothing else. I must mention that the pack was zipped when it was hung. Stories of ravens being able to open zippers are true. Since it was our last night, we had extra lunch and breakfast foods and had to eat those instead of dinner. At the campsite, we met a group of three other hikers, one of which was from New Zealand. They had asked us about the location of the trail to Miners Spring and we let them have the information. They also topped off one of our water bottles.
Day 4, November 26Day 4, November 26 was spent hiking to the rim via the Grandview Trail and driving out. The hike to the rime is pretty steep, but this was the easiest of our four days of the hike.
We actually met several hikers on the way out, as the last section of the trail is a popular hike. Many passing hikers gave hoots, cheers, and high fives for Kessler and the ones that were really familiar with the Grand Canyon were shocked after learning we had come from the New Hance. Kessler sure enjoyed all the attention he got. It was a rather pleasant but fairly steep hike out with good views, but it was much chillier at the rim.
It was a really great trip and a wonderful experience. The only complaining Kesser did was on our last day because he didn't want to go home but wanted to explore the Canyon for longer! I am very thankful wonderful and cheerful Kessler was my hiking companion. It was a great experience for both father and son.
Disclaimer and CommentaryBecause of some other comments/debates I have received on both Summitpost and on one other forum, I must add this commentary with some recommendations and thoughts. The purpose of this tip report album is to share my experience I had with my son and especially the photographs hopefully for your enjoyment. The purpose of this trip report album is not meant to encourage anyone to attempt the New Hance with children, nor is it meant to be a debate on what children can climb and at what age. Please do not turn the comment board for the album into an uncivil debate.
As with any mountain, canyon, or route, the appropriate age for completing this or other routes is whenever one is ready. This route is not appropriate for most young children, nor even adults whom are inexperienced in difficult routes. The National Park Service recommends that only highly experienced hikers attempt this route and it is best to follow their advice. Age is not important, experience is and safety is always the #1 priority. Read more on the route here and here. Do not attempt the route with any child unless he/she is experienced in difficult hiking and scrambling. This is all I have to say on the matter, so if you have comments on this particular subject, feel free to discuss this with me off line. See also my article on hiking and climbing with children:
Hiking and Climbing With Children Article