GRANDVIEW TRAIL

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Dayhikers pause to view the canyon on the Grandview Trail in Grand Canyon National Park. The pointed peak behind them is Vishnu Temple.

Photo: Mike Quinn, National Park Service.

Whereas almost all other Euro-American pioneer trails in the Grand Canyon began as animal traces or Native American paths, and followed natural features such as fault lines or creek beds, the Grandview Trail was constructed almost entirely out of human willfulness to overcome the environment. Miner Pete Berry constructed the trail primarily for utilitarian purposes—to get ore out and supplies in to his mining operations at the Last Chance Mine on Horseshoe Mesa as quickly as possible, using the most direct route, to maximize economic productivity. Though the trail was later used for tourism purposes, Berry constructed the trail to be efficient and durable, not to blend into the natural environment or be aesthetically pleasing or comfortable.

Despite Berry’s efforts to overcome it, the natural landscape of the Grand Canyon, such as its steep slopes and sheer cliffs, still dictated where and how the trail was constructed. Berry and his employees built the trail entirely by hand from July 1892 to February 1893.

 

The original section of the trail began at a break in the Supai cliffs at Grandview Point, one mile east of the modern trailhead and about 12 miles east of the modern Grand Canyon Village. However, rather than following an easier but longer route taking advantage of natural breaks in the cliff walls, Berry and his employees blasted out large portions of rock ledges, especially in the Coconino Sandstone formation. Hikers along the trail today can still see the remains of drill holes into which explosives were placed.

The trail ends at the former site of Last Chance Mine. The trail had to be durable to support the daily mule trains hauling ore and supplies to and from the Last Chance Mine. Today Grandview Trail is noted for its craftsmanship and durability, which helped it survive over many years of disuse during the 20th century.

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Example of unique log cribbing along the Grandview Trail.

Photo: Paul Hirt

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Cobblestone paving was necessary to help mules carrying heavy packs keep their footing, and also helped preserve the trail for future hikers.

Photo: Paul Hirt

Berry and his workers constructed most of the trail using log cribbing, cobblestone, and wooden bridges. The log cribbing and cobblestone tread are unique among trails at the Grand Canyon. The log cribbing supports sections of the trail or, in places where the ground is unstable or otherwise incapable of supporting a trail, is used as part of the trail itself. For these sections builders laid native logs of juniper or ponderosa pine in a cross-hatched pattern and filled them in with rubble, thus forming either a foundation or part of the actual trail, to keep it from washing out.

The trail also features portions of hand-laid cobblestone made from local sandstone throughout most of the Coconino formation and the switchbacks below through the Supai Formation. The stones were held in place by huge iron spikes or large rocks. The cobblestone provided a stable surface for mule trains carrying heavy loads of copper ore, helping to give them traction and ensuring the trail would not wash out easily. There is also an eight-foot-long wooden-beam bridge and several sections of sandstone retaining walls. Because of the steepness of this direct route to Horseshoe Mesa, they created 31 switchbacks along the upper trail.

 

Berry estimated the cost of building and maintaining the Grandview Trail at about $12,000, a large sum at the time especially for a small business operation. The same year he finished the trail, Berry built a two-story log building, the Grand View Hotel, on the rim at Grandview Point and started guiding tourists into the canyon along the trail.

While the Last Chance Mine was operating, repair and maintenance was done on the trail almost continuously to keep it in good shape and ensure the economic vitality of the mine. However, when mining stopped and William Randolph Hearst purchased the site in 1913, the trail fell into disrepair until the National Park Service wrested control of the area away from him in 1940. The NPS did some maintenance to fix the upper 500 feet of the trail, which had become dangerous because it had been abandoned.

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Hundreds of guests stayed at the Grandview Hotel and traveled down the Grandview Trail at the turn of the century, but by 1920, when this picture was taken, it had been abandoned because it could not compete with the Santa Fe Railroad’s facilities farther west along the rim.

Photo: NAU.PH.98.68.62. Greenhaw Collection. Cline Library, Northern Arizona University.

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A large sign at the Grandview Trailhead gives a history of the mine at Horseshoe Mesa.

Little substantial work was done on the Grandview Trail until 1980, however, when heavy rains washed out portions of the trail. Since then, the trail has become increasingly popular, and the NPS has conducted more frequent maintenance. They have more clearly marked the main trail, revegetated areas worn down by use, stabilized several places, and added features like new steps. Unfortunately, landslides in winter 2005 swept away several of the historic log cribs along the upper portion of the trail.

The modern Grandview Trail to the mine site is 6 miles roundtrip, though it is very steep, dropping 2,600 feet very quickly. There is no water anywhere along the trail, and it does not reach the Colorado River, although it does link up with the Tonto Trail, which connects with other inner canyon trails that go to the river and rims.


written by sarah bohl


References:

  • Anderson, Michael F. Living at the Edge: Explorers, Exploiters and Settlers of the Grand Canyon Region. Grand Canyon Association, 1998.
  • Anderson, Michael. Polishing the Jewel: An Administrative History of Grand Canyon National Park. GCA, 2000.
  • Billingsley, George H., Earle E. Spamer, and Dove Menkes. Quest for the Pillar of Gold: The Mines and Miners of the Grand Canyon. GCA, 1997.
  • “Grandview Trail and Horseshoe Mesa.” Grand Canyon National Park. 2006.
  • Stampoulos, Linda L. Visiting the Grand Canyon: Views of Early Tourism. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2004.