Saturday, May 11, 2013

Walk through Permian Era remains on trail

Topo map of Grand Canyon's Grandview Trail.
View looking west from Grandview Point,
near Grandview Trail's trailhead. 
Not all of the Grand Canyon National Park’s South Rim trails begin at Grand Canyon Village or require a shuttle to reach. Primary among them is the Grandview Trail.

The steep trail heads into the canyon, connecting with other routes and offering interesting spurs. A segments of it can be done as a 2.2-mile round trip day hike, but you’ll need to be in shape, and any children with you will need to be in their teens.

To reach the trail, take Arizona Hwy. 64 (aka Desert View Drive) about 12 miles east of Grand Canyon Village. Leave vehicles in the Grandview Point parking lot. The trailhead is at the lot’s north end.

Shallow, Tropical Sea
Following the western side of the ridge that extends northeast of Grandview Point, the trail quickly descends into the canyon. Logs and cobblestones make up the trail’s base during many sections.

Hikers first will pass the Kaibab Limestone, formed some 245 million years ago during the Permian Era. This 300-feet thick layer of white to yellow rock once sat at the bottom of a warm, shallow sea, much like today’s Caribbean.

During the Permian, the world’s land masses formed a single supercontinent called Pangaea, which was surrounded by a single ocean, known as Panthalassa. The land began to dry as the first ancestors of mammals, turtles and dinosaurs dominated the earth.

Below the Kaibab, hikers walk through the 200-feet thick Toroweap Formation. The rock layer indicates that for several million years seas covered and retreated across the landscape, which during that period would have been a coastal area.

Age of the Dinosaurs
The rest of the trail segment descends through the Coconino Sandstone, formed as wind-blown sand covered a swampy floodplains over millions of years. Fossilized reptile tracks have been found in this layer of rock.

About 1.1 miles from the rim, you’ll reach the Coconino Saddle, having descended 790 feet. The rock here was formed about 270 million year ago. The impressive view below is of the upper valley of Hance Creek. Given the elevation you must hike to reach the rim, this marks a good turnaround point for day hikers.

The trail does continue for several miles, passing the abandoned Last Chance Mine, which at one time was owned by the prospector who actually constructed this path back in the 1890s. The copper mine sits on the Horseshoe Mesa another 1.9 miles from the saddle.

If taking Grandview Trail, be sure to wear a sunhat and sunscreen and to bring water. Hiking boots are a must. Finally, always remain cautious, as the trail isn’t maintained.

Read more about day hiking the Grand Canyon in my Day Hiking Grand Canyon National Park guidebook.