Hance Creek to Grandview Point
Total Mileage- 6.0 miles
Total Elevation Gain- 3700 feet
Total Elevation Loss- 0 feet
When we began to pack up all of our gear on the fourth morning at Hance Creek we didn’t anticipate it being our last day. Our hike had us leaving Hance Creek and climbing Horseshoe Mesa where we would spend our fourth night. We knew that one big obstacle to staying an extra night at Horseshoe Mesa was the lack of drinkable water. That meant that whatever water we would pack at Hance Creek would be the water we would have for drinking and cooking for the next day and a half. As we geared up, each of us packed 4-liters (8 pounds) of water. It is worth noting that we were attacked by hundreds of mosquito-like bugs as we packed up. They didn’t sting but they were insistent upon flying in our eyes, noses, and mouths. It was pretty overwhelming honestly. Ultimately we had to cover our faces so that we could pack up.
We could not have asked for a more beautiful mid-April day- blue skies, breezy, and warm. The colors and contrasts were as beautiful as any of the previous days along the Escalante. Tonto Trail would be leading us to Horseshoe Mesa on this morning and there were three different approaches that we could take in order to get on top of the Mesa. In our initial planning we decided that we would circle the mesa in a counter-clockwise direction along Tonto (following Cottonwood Creek) and then trail up the western side of the western arm. This route meant significantly more mileage and more difficulty because it is more exposed and washed out. While the closest option, the eastern route that passes Page Spring, would be a shorter hike… it too is difficult and exposed. In light of this we decided to take the most direct route to the eastern side of the western arm of Horseshoe Mesa. There was a juncture a couple of miles from Hance Creek where you could take the path to the left or right- the route we took was to the right.
Just before the base of Horseshoe Mesa we stopped for one last break in the shade before tackling the steep ascent. It was a hot day and once we would begin the hike there would not be any reprieve from the sun. While we relaxed in the shade and as we took in the rich and exquisite view, one of the guys said, “It would be great if we were listening to Iron & Wine while we were standing here.” Being Mr. Johnny on the Spot, I pressed play on the handy iPhone and we stood there for the next four minutes listening to Sam Beam sing about that “Passing Afternoon.” And all was good and right in the world… at least at that moment.
In the next picture you will see us approaching the western arm of Horseshoe Mesa. For even greater perspective you will see Grandview Point in the distance at the top left. What we didn’t know at the time of this picture was that we would arrive on top of Horseshoe Mesa around 11:15am, which was only a 3-hour hike from Hance Creek, and decide to hike out to Grandview Point after our lunch break rather than stay the night on top of the Mesa.
The views atop Horseshoe Mesa…
Horseshoe Mesa has several campsites which require a permit. Day-hikers can access Horseshoe Mesa from Grandview Point and take the 2600 foot plunge over 3-miles to enjoy the views and old copper mine remnants. The signage below is from an old masonry structure that is falling apart near the mining area.
The last three miles were all up, up, up. Keep in mind that Horseshoe Mesa is around 4800 feet above sea level and Grandview Point is about 7400 feet. That means that the air is thinner and you will be even more winded climbing out of the canyon. To be honest, it was hard work. At about the end of every switchback I stopped for a short breather. I also stopped in the shade occasionally because, once again, the noon sun was bearing down. The trail itself was interesting, to say the least. It was a vertical cobblestone below and throughout most of the Coconino Saddle. I found this type of cobblestone trail very cumbersome and difficult to hike upon… but the views… well… made me forget about the dang cobblestone.
This three night, four day Escalante Route backpacking trip was phenomenal. I personally give it a 10 out of 10 and would highly recommend it to backpackers who are ready to up their game and hit some difficult terrain. The Grand Canyon gave us everything, and more, that we were looking for- epic panoramas, beautiful river views, slot canyons, beaches and swimming, and tons of memories.
Until Denali in September!
To read the first post for Escalante Route click here