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New Hance (aka Red Canyon) Trail - Grand Canyon National Park

Summary: A surprisingly remote and  infrequently traveled rim to river route on the south rim of the Grand Canyon. Keep your eyes pealed for cairns and take care where you place your feet. Lots of crumbly loose gravel on the path makes a fall a real possibility.
Directions: The New Hance Trail is located mid-way between the Buggein Picnic Area and Moran Point on the East Rim Drive. The path begins on the north side of the road (it would be quite a surprise if it were on the south side eh?) near a small dirt pull out with logs and a 'No Parking' sign. There is no road side sign marking the trailhead. Since you can not park at the trailhead, the next best place would be on the side of a service road that lies 0.5 miles west of the trailhead on the south side of the East Rim Drive. This is not a parking lot, but there are no signs indicating you can't park here either. Alternatively you could park at the Buggein Picnic Area or Moran Point, but you'll have to hoof it another mile along the road.
Road Conditions: Passenger Car - paved all the way
Navigation: Moderate - some faint trail and parallel paths
Length: 14 miles
Date Hiked: October, 2002
Weather Conditions: All 4 seasons were experienced on this hike: sun, heat, rain, hail, wind, cold & snow
Required Skills:
Hike Description: From the pull out, logs and 'No Parking' sign head north towards the rim. A short walk will bring you to a sign marking the beginning of the New Hance Trail. You'll have good views of the Sinking Ship formation to the west and Coronado Butte directly in front of you. The path immediately begins a steep descent through the Coconino sandstone. Get used to the angle, there is a lot more to come. After a bit, the trail levels off and heads east briefly to a break in the cliff, then bends sharply to the left and continues it's steep descent towards the east of Coronado Butte. The path heads into the drainage east of the butte, then follows this wash on one side or the other out towards the prominent knob which sits high above you at the end of the butte. There are some parallel paths in this area, but they all lead in the same direction, keep your eyes pealed for cairns and choose the most prominent trail. The path leads out to a little promontory with great views and a small camp site, then bends sharply to the right to skirt a deep drainage. The trail then contours along the right side of Red Canyon in a meandering fashion heading northeast, sometimes gaining & sometimes losing altitude. I found this section somewhat confounding since my expectation was that the path would simply continue downwards towards the drainage. However, as is often the case in the Canyon, the trail is simply heading towards a break in a lower cliff band that will allow you to continue your descent. Finally the path finds the break, then begins dropping steeply once again. At the base of this steep drop, the angle of the path becomes more reasonable as you reach the Muav Limestone (though the small crumbly pieces of stone which comprise this layer continue to challenge your balance). The trail continues descending on the east side of the canyon, before skirting a prominent drainage coming in from the right, eventually dumping you into the stream bed of Red Canyon itself. It's still a few miles to the river, but the walking is easy (look for use trails around the few drop offs you encounter along the way). There are good campsites at the river on either side of the canyon where you'll have the roar of the rapids to lull you to sleep. From this point you could also follow trails up river towards Tanner or down river towards Grandview. If you are doing this as an out and back trip like I did, simply return the way you came. 
Rating (1-5 stars):
Another great canyon hike. Several respectable sources have listed this as one of the more challenging trail hikes in the Canyon. I have no reason to issue any dire warnings regarding this route, however, I believe it is probably better suited to the more experienced desert hiker. The author completed this hike with a group of folks from work. On the way out we were greeted with hard pelting hail, wind and horizontally blowing snow. Partly due to this inclement weather and a late start, the author completed this hike hurriedly in 6 hours.
Maps: Trails Illustrated - Grand Canyon National Park
Books:  Canyon Hiking Guide to the Colorado Plateau - Michael Kelsey
Photos: Click picture for larger view, click your browser's 'Back' button to return to this page.
Coronado Butte. Prominent ridge as you near
the creek bed. 
Colorado River