Trip Details

Type: Backpacking

Days: 4 or 5 Days

Distance: 25 mi/40 km

Difficulty: Advanced

Origin: Flagstaff, AZ

Cost: 4 Day: $1100/person, 5 Day: $1299/person

*All commercial trips in Grand Canyon National Park are subject to a 5% fee required by the National Park Service. This fee is included in the advertised trip cost. 

Trip Description

This challenging backpacking trip rewards hikers with fantastic solitude in some of Grand Canyon’s most outstanding wilderness. Follow in the footsteps of early canyon explorers and prospectors to the banks of the Colorado River at Hance Rapid, one of the biggest and most challenging rapids in the park for whitewater rafters. Spend your nights camping in quiet tributary canyons with sparkling streams and shady cottonwoods, as well as a night on a sandy beach on the banks of the Colorado River. Enjoy fantastic solitude along this remote and lightly traveled path through some of the canyon’s most impressive terrain. The route features epic canyon views, remarkable geology and a rich human history involving the earliest Grand Canyon pioneers. If you are a fit and experienced hiker looking for a rigorous Grand Canyon adventure, then this hike is for you.

Trip Itinerary

Day 1:
Depart Flagstaff early for the drive to the South Rim and the Grandview Trailhead. We will hike three miles down to Horseshoe Mesa where we will eat our lunch, and enjoy a well-earned break. We will then continue down to Cottonwood Creek on the west side of Horseshoe Mesa where we will spend our first night below the rim. Cottonwood Creek provides a refreshing place to rest up. The creek polishes beautiful slickrock into sandstone narrows and offers excellent afternoon exploration. This area was also home to ancient life; as you scan the cliffs, see if you can spot the ancient granaries.
Drive Time: 1.5 hours
Distance & Elevation: 5 miles, 3500 foot descent
Light Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 2:
After breakfast, we will pack up camp and travel east on the Tonto Trail around Horseshoe Mesa. The hike will include unbelievable vistas into the vast Grand Canyon and glances into the depths of the inner gorge. Drop below the Tonto Plateau and find camp along Hance Creek. Settle in the shade of Cottonwood trees and soak your feet in the cool water or explore along the creek. As the sun sets, enjoy the changing colors on the surrounding cliffs watch as the stars slowly appear in the night sky.
Distance & Elevation: 5 miles, 200 foot descent
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3:
Sunrise and morning coffee start the day followed by a hearty breakfast. After packing up camp, we will head back out on the Tonto Trail for the trek to Hance Rapid at the banks of the Colorado River. Epic views in every direction make this an especially memorable day. Camp is made on the sandy shores of the river.
Distance & Elevation: 6.5 miles, 1100 foot descent
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4:
A leisurely breakfast starts the day followed by some day hiking exploration upstream. Enjoy the dramatic views up and down the river and the excitement of some challenging terrain. By mid-afternoon, we’ll begin our trek up the New Hance Trail, making as many miles as energy and daylight allow. Our final night’s camp is made above the bed of Red Canyon.
Distance & Elevation: 6 miles, 1000 foot ascent
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5:
We will start very early this morning, enjoying hot coffee and breakfast in the pre-dawn twilight. The final climb out on the New Hance Trail is steep and rigorous, featuring plenty of obstacles. The going is slow but steady and the views are incredible as we climb through the Redwall and approach the saddle beneath Coronado Butte. As we reach the rim, the feeling of accomplishment is something you won’t soon forget.
Distance & Elevation: 5 miles, 3500 foot ascent

East to West Option: This is only recommended for extremely fit and experienced backpackers. We descend the entirety of the New Hance Trail on Day 1 and enjoy a full layover day at Hance Rapid, an incredible campsite. This affords the opportunity to day hike upriver to 75-Mile Canyon, a remarkable stretch of ‘narrows’ with smooth polished walls of ancient quartzite. The trip then continues west on Day 3 to Hance Creek and on to Horseshoe Mesa for the final night.

4-Day Option: This is only recommended for extremely fit and experienced backpackers. We tackle this trip in the reverse direction, descending the entirety of the New Hance Trail on Day 1, before continuing on to Hance Creek and Cottonwood Creek (or Horseshoe Mesa) for Nights 2 and 3, respectively.

*Final itineraries are occasionally subject to change due to permit/campsite availability, park restrictions/closures, weather conditions and/or road closures.

What’s Included

  • A professional, licensed and medically trained guide
  • All necessary gear: backpack, tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, trekking poles
  • All cooking/eating gear: bowls, cups, utensils (your guide will prepare all meals)
  • All meals from a light breakfast on Day 1 through lunch on the last day + trail snacks
  • Roundtrip transportation from your hotel in Flagstaff, AZ to Grand Canyon
  • Entrance fees and backcountry permits

What’s Not Included:

  • Transportation to/from Flagstaff, AZ
  • Lodging the night before/after the trip
  • Clothing, raingear, and footwear
  • Personal toiletries, sunscreen
  • Water bottles/hydration bladder
  • Headlamp or flashlight
  • Guide gratuity (suggested 10-15% of trip cost)

*Upon Booking you will receive a detailed trip information packet

How many people are in the group?

Most backpacking trips in Grand Canyon will accommodate 5 people plus one guide. On occasion, a group may be as large as 9 people plus 2 guides.

Are there age restrictions?

Children under the age of 13 are generally not permitted on backpacking trips. This restriction may be negotiable on private tours. Please contact us with any questions regarding this policy.

How do i sign up?

In order to confirm a reservation, we require an initial deposit of $250 per person, with the final balance due 90 days prior to the trip’s departure. If you book a trip within 90 days of the trip’s scheduled departure, then full payment is due at the time of booking.

Your deposit is payable over the phone by Visa, MasterCard, AmEx, or Discover. Checks by mail are fine as well, as are bank transfers ($35 transfer fee). Call our office Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm Arizona time. 1-877-272-5032

Where does the trip begin/end?

This trip will begin/end in Flagstaff, AZ and you will need to spend the night prior to your trip’s scheduled departure in Flagstaff. You will want to fly into either Phoenix (2 hour drive) or Flagstaff. Please visit our Travel Resources page for information on airports, shuttles/rental cars and recommended hotels.

Where do meet our guides?

We will hold a pre-trip orientation at 4:30pm the evening prior to your trip’s departure at the Four Season Outfitters shop in Flagstaff. Departure times and logistics for the following morning will be discussed at the orientation.

Departure times and logistics for the following morning will be discussed at the orientation. Most trips will depart between 4:30am and 7am. *This meeting is not mandatory, but highly recommended, as we will depart early the next morning. If you are unable to attend, please let us know in advance so that we can make alternate arrangements.

What do we do with our car and extra stuff?

We will provide all transportation to/from trailheads for the duration of the trip. We will pick you up at your hotel in Flagstaff and return you there at the trip’s conclusion. Guests staying at the Embassy Suites (recommended) or Hampton Inn & Suites can leave their cars at the hotel. These hotels will often store your luggage for you, as well. If not, we are happy to store extra luggage at our shop for the duration of the trip. If you are staying at a different hotel, you will need to check with them as to whether you can leave your car there.

What time will we get back on the last day?

Expect to be back in Flagstaff by 5pm at the latest on the last day of the trip. Many trips will return earlier but we cannot make any guarantees. In general, it is recommended that you do not plan to fly home on the same day your trip finishes. Since each trip has slightly different logistics, feel free to contact us with specific questions related to the expected return time for your trip.

2018 Dates

April: 15-19

October: 29-Nov 2

November: 8-11

More dates to come soon…

Don’t see your dates? Custom dates may be available!

Call 1-877-272-5032 or email us for details.