2007 AHAH! - October 19-21
Friday 10/19 Noon-5pm: Arrive at S. Rim - Bright Angel Lodge and Cabins
Saturday Day Hike - The Gals &?
Sunday Day Hike - The Guys
Return Sunday eve. or Monday - extra night somewhere?
Aggressive: S. Kaibab - Tonto - Indian Gardens - Bright Angel = 13mi.
More Aggressive: S. Kaibab - River - Bright Angel = 6.4+9.3=15.7mi.
The section of the Tonto Trail between the Tipoff (the junction with the South Kaibab Trail) and Indian Gardens (the junction with the Bright Angel Trail) is probably the most heavily travelled section of the Tonto. The primary reason for this is because it is part of the South Kaibab/Tonto/Bright Angel loop hike, which is becoming increasingly popular.
This section of the trail is only slightly more than 4 miles long and because it is so heavily travelled does not require any special route finding abilities at any point along its way. If you are interested in hiking the Tonto just to get a feel for it, then this section is a good place to start. The South Kaibab/Tonto/Bright Angel loop hike is about 13 miles total and if you are in good shape makes for a long but very nice day hike.
From the junction with the South Kaibab Trail the Tonto Trail heads southwest and after about a ½ mile or so crosses through a small, nameless drainage. From there the trail swings northwestward briefly and then south as it contours around the base of O'Neil Butte. After about another mile or so you will come to Burro Spring one of the two perennial water sources along this section, and another ¼ mile or so beyond that you will come to Pipe Spring, the other perennial water source. Pipe Spring is approximately the halfway point between the South Kaibab and Bright Angel Trails. There is quite a bit of vegetation growing along the section of Pipe Spring where the trail crosses it and this is probably the only place where you stand a chance of loosing the trail, if that is possible.
Beyond Pipe Spring the trail swings northwest again and in another ½ mile or so crosses another nameless drainage. Beyond that it continues northwest for approximately a ¼ mile and then swings more westward as it approaches Indian Gardens and the junction with the Bright Angel Trail. This last section has a very wide open feel about it. It is a little more than a mile long and will swing south again just as you approach Indian Gardens.
If you are planning to do the South Kaibab/Tonto/Bright Angel loop hike, you should do it in that order, coming down the South Kaibab Trail, across the Tonto to Indian Gardens and then ascending via the Bright Angel Trail. The South Kaibab Trail is hot and dusty in the afternoon and there is no water and no shade along the way, so it is better off used as the descent. The Bright Angel Trail, on the other hand, has plenty of water and plenty of shade, and if you take a good rest at Indian Gardens before beginning the climb out you should not have any problems. Water is available year round at Indian Gardens and water is also available at the 3 mile and ½ mile resthouses during the the Spring, Summer and Fall months. The water in these resthouses is turned off during the winter because of freezing temperatures.
The Fred Harvey Company offers a shuttle service to the South Kaibab trailhead from the Bright Angel Lodge every morning for a nominal fee ($1 or $2 per person). If you are interested in this service you should contact the Bright Angel transportation desk in the Bright Angel Lodge for actual charges and times of departure.