Distance: 93 miles from Garnet Canyon to Red Canyon
Duration: Multiple days
Elevation gain: 1,200 feet
Effort: Moderate to strenuous
Trailhead: This inner canyon trail is accessed by a number of connecting trails.
The Tonto Trail crosses the Tonto Platform, a shelf of Tapeats sandstone above the steeper-walled Inner Gorge. The Tapeats sits on top of Vishnu schist and Zoroaster granite, with the intervening Grand Canyon Supergroup entirely eroded away, creating a visible unconformity.
Most backpackers use the Tonto Trail as a connector to make a loop with two or more rim-to-river trails, such as the Bright Angel and South Kaibab Trails, or the Boucher and Hermit Trails. In The Man Who Walked Through Time, Colin Fletcher described his two-month-long journey through the length of the inner canyon, much of it over the Tonto.
The Tonto Platform is a broad east–west shelf averaging 3,000 feet below the rim. Although the platform appears relatively level in places, the trail climbs up and down numerous drainages across the shadeless and dry Upper Sonoran Zone, making it challenging to find routes.
The most traveled segments are the four-mile section closing the loop between the Bright Angel and South Kaibab Trails, and the 12-mile link between the Bright Angel and Hermit Trails. If you’re planning a loop route anywhere in the canyon, be sure to research water sources in advance.
© Kathleen Bryant from Moon Grand Canyon, 5th Edition