Grandview Trail is a premiere hike on historical mining trail into east Grand Canyon, Arizona.
Grandview Trail, Horseshoe Mesa, Caves of the Dome, Miner's Spring
The Grandview Trail has been a personal ambition since the first hiking trip in Grand Canyon National Park more than 30 years prior. The Grandview trail-head is 12 miles (19¼ KM) east of Grand Canyon Village on Desert View Drive between Yaki Point and Moran Point along the south rim of the Grand Canyon.
The aggressive plan for the day requires carrying 9 liters (2⅜ US gallons) of water to hike from the top down to and across Horseshoe Mesa to the turnaround at Page Springs (Miner's Spring).
The trail descent from the South Rim begins at 7:15 AM. The morning-light vistas across the Grand Canyon are haunting with 'fog' clearly visible in a distant canyon. The fog is actually smoke from a prescribed burn forest fire.
National Parks routinely burns surface vegetation to promote new growth and to reduce the risk of larger fires occurring from lightning strikes or negligence. Many years ago this important preventive maintenance was called 'controlled burns' but so many of them got out of control it became embarrassing, so the moniker was changed to 'prescribed burns'.
Historic trail construction is amazing. Within 2 hours the first, long-ago collapsed mine shaft is discovered prior to arrival at Horseshoe Mesa. The hike south over red earth covered with sagebrush, cactus, and yucca leads onto the mesa for the next objective of the day which is Caves of the Dome.
Following precise directions given the previous day at the Back Country Information Center, the hike leaves established trail for a left turn into one of many narrow, dry and shallow washes heading towards the west wall of the mesa.
Within a quarter mile the wash links into a faint trail which leads over the edge and down the side of Horseshoe Mesa on primitive switchbacks over edgy trail. Exposure is significant and footsteps are correspondingly cautious.
Soon, a horizontal traverse along the cliff face leads to the first cave but here there is no entrance to the cave complex. The traverse to the second cave yields results. There is a small opening at the bottom so gear is stowed outside the tiny entrance and a headlamp on a rock helmet and a flashlight are employed as entry to the cave is achieved by crawling through the squeeze on the stomach into complete darkness.
The Caves of the Dome experience.
The cavern is huge with multiple channels heading off in all directions. About 50 feet in, the headlamp reveals a small metal box and an orange ball on a rock ledge. Curiosity immediately leads to the fixture. The temperature is mercifully cool in the cave. The box has been placed here by the National Parks Service.
Inside the canister is a visitor’s log book, 4 non-functional pens and two well-used dust masks. The orange ball is string, obviously to be doled out and used to find the way back out again. It is possible to squeeze into several chambers and explore the cave's stalagmites and stalactites for a half hour. The cave is uncommonly very dusty and dirty. Route memorization is at the top of the list of priorities.
On the way out there is a short experience of briefly getting lost in the labyrinth of tunnels with regrets that the choice of using the string had not been employed. Soon bearings are regained by examining recent footsteps in the dust and the return to the entrance is achieved. When returning here to explore more deeply into the cave complex with full caving gear, the venture will not be done alone.
Clothes are filthy. The return hike to pick up the Horseshoe Mesa trail provides excellent views of Cottonwood Creek Canyon, the Tonto Plateau and the Inner Gorge.
During the return hike on Horseshoe Mesa an hour is dedicated to off-trail exploration through vacant campsites and the area where cabins of the Last Chance Mine once stood. There are traces of foundations, lots of lumber, tin cans, shards of old pottery and bits of broken purple glass lying around. The fascinating remains of Peter Berry's stone house are photographed.
The back pack thermometer is pinned at 120 degrees F (49 degrees Celsius) in scarce shade.
Back where the bottom of the Grandview Trail meets Horseshoe Mesa, the hike east drops over the other side of the mesa to lead via more switchbacks to Miner's Spring, aka Page Springs.
Along the way there are several more mine shafts begging to be explored and excitement grows looking forward to their exploration on the return from replenishing water at the spring. Soon there is a spot of green vegetation in the distant valley which reveals the location of the spring at the bottom of the opposite canyon wall.
Arrival at the spring occurs at 12:30 PM. The heat has driven the camera electronics wonky and it is uncertain if usable pictures are being captured. At 105 degrees F the air is much more comfortable in the shade at the spring where relaxation time is taken in the shade to rest and enjoy lunch.
Thoughts about time and distance on the steep climb up the Grandview Trail motivate adding 2 liters of the arsenic laden, radioactive water from Miner's Spring to the 3 liters remaining in my pack.
The spring water tastes better than my original supply from the hotel taps. The thought occurs that perhaps the radioactive water will cause the body to glow in the dark, making it easier to find me if bad things happen ;-)
At 1:30 PM, rejuvenated by rest, food and cooler temperature, the oasis at Miner's Spring changes to climbing into the sun on switchbacks to explore the first mine shaft. This is just a lot of fun and the inner child is fully alive.
Entering the first mine shaft returns total darkness and cool air again as the flashlight sweeps along layered walls, the ceiling and particularly the floor of the mine shaft. For the next hour, the hike inside the mine shafts will recreate an impression of all Three Stooges at the same time.
Exiting the mine shaft and standing upright too soon causes the forehead to impact the quite solid and stationary ceiling. This results in becoming prone on the floor of the mine shaft with a minor abrasion on the forehead.
The bleeding is cleaned up with an antiseptic pad before a bandage is applied prior to crawling out of the mine shaft on hands and knees to continue the hike up the trail. Just a few minutes later another mine shaft begs for exploration.
The original entrance cribbing is almost fully buried but behind the partial blockage there is a small opening which will allow access. The opening is partially blocked by an old, dead, juniper tree. Careful navigation around the old tree permits constricted entry into the shaft. A return to the mine shaft entrance following exploration of a good depth of the mine shaft.
Cautiously working around the dead and broken branches of the old juniper, the crowded operation gets my leg caught up on a sharp branch which tears the left leg of my pants and delivers two fairly good cuts on the knee. The resulting yell of a preferred expletive, which should, BTW, never happen in a canyon, echoes around the canyon walls for a long time.
The left knee is bleeding reasonably well and making a mess of the pants so the pant leg is unzipped and removed to clean and bandage the minor wounds. All fixed up and as good as old, the next mistake is shaking the dirt and dust out of the pant leg before reattaching it, so now there is one bloody pant leg that is much lighter in color.
Pressing on, the ascent up the Grandview Trail continues. Views of Horseshoe Mesa are spectacular in late day sun.
Near the top of the trail, the upper body is working hard on hiking poles as legs are spent.
A young couple, wearing tiny backpacks and pristine, designer hiking gear are beginning their descent on perfectly clean shoes that may not have never been previously introduced to dirt.
They get a cheerful greeting and the encouraging words given to every fellow hiker while passing with a bandaged forehead beaten up, filthy with dirt from the mines and caves, and the torn and bloody pant leg of lighter color.
Back at the trail-head, while changing into fresh clothing is underway in the parking area, the young couple returns to the top of the Grandview Trail about 5 minutes later.
Perhaps, after seeing the battle-scarred mess they passed at the beginning of the trail, they decided to select a different hike ;-)
A Bit of History
Peter D. Berry, a miner by trade, relocated from Pitkin City, Colorado to Flagstaff, Arizona in 1888 to administer his brother John's affairs after John was killed in a gunfight at his Flagstaff saloon. Mining activity in the Grand Canyon drew Peter like a magnet and in 1890 copper deposits are discovered on Horseshoe Mesa.
Access at the beginning was a long journey down the Bright Angel trail, east on the Tonto Plateau, up Cottonwood Creek and finally the west side of Horseshoe Mesa. This rugged, long and challenging route was impractical but Pete Berry kept cryptic handwritten journals so some of the history of his development of the Last Chance Mine was preserved.
To take advantage of commercial amounts of good quality ore, a trail would be required for transporting copper ore to the Grand Canyon rim. The Grandview Trail was conceived and constructed in 1892-93 and became a spectacular conduit.
The trail drops 2,500 ft (762 m) down a sheer canyon wall, engaging 31 switchbacks in 1½ miles (2.4 KM). Trail construction included blasting trail into rock faces, the use of wood and rock trusses, stairs, cobblestone paths and huge ramps built with pride and quality. More than a hundred years later, much of it it still stands firm, with some maintenance, as a testament to the quality of the original construction.
The trail is so steep that on any given switchback, there is no evidence of trail either above or below. The unobstructed vistas of the Grand Canyon and the steepness of the trail create a mesmerizing and very worthwhile hiking experience.
Work at the mine continued year round in spite of harsh weather. A home with a water tank was built on the rim in 1892 as well as a small, rustic hotel.
Miners built cabins on Horseshoe Mesa in close proximity to the copper mining operation. In 1895, Pete Berry built a stone house there and ruins remain today. Also in 1895 the Cameron brothers, Niles and Frank, joined in partnership with Pete Berry to form the Grand Canyon Copper Company.
By 1896 ore was moving in quantity by burro and mule to the surface. The cost of production was high even though the ore was assayed at an average of 30% copper, selling then near 25 cents per pound. Eventually economic reality set in.
In 1901 they sold their mine to Henry Barbour of Chicago. In 1907, the price of copper crashed to 12 cents per pound. More cost effective open pit mines were developed in Arizona and Utah. The Last Chance Mine became history.
Like all Grand Canyon prospectors, Pete recognized that profit was in the tourist trade and conducted guided mule trips on the Grandview Trail until 1916. The hotel and all other surface buildings are gone.
Peter Berry is buried in the Grand Canyon Cemetery just a short stroll from this trips accommodation at Yavapai Lodge.