Rock Garden - Grand Canyon Routes

Garnet to Elves Chasm by Land

Report: 15 Oct 1991

The Route

Connecting the end of the Tonto Trail to Elves Chasm is a route along the river. It is more difficult than it appears.

Tonto to Garnet

This stretch of the Tonto Trail is an easy go except for a broken-up section between Bass and Copper Canyon. Parts are indistinct since the track belongs more to the bighorns than people. The ore trail shortcut into the bed of Copper Canyon takes off just past the saddle of a small hill halfway in along the east slope. There is no sign of use, but it should become better known as more people go looking for the attractions around the mines. A less obvious route goes up to rejoin the Tonto on the west slope.

From here to Garnet Canyon there is a high track and a low track in some spots; the high one is less used and faster. There may be rainpools in the drainage just before Garnet; in a very wet year there was even a trickle of good water. Harvey B. mentions ruins here also but I have not seen them yet.

The direct descent route into the lower bed of Garnet is apparently favored over the formerly mapped section continuing into the upper bed. From the Bass rim to Garnet in a day is just possible for a strong hiker with enough daylight.

Garnet to Riverbank

Where the descent meets the streambed, go down the bed and out the other side just above the fall. The trail stays well above the river, contouring into a sidecanyon with a salt-spring. Next, the route passes through some vicious travertine boulders (the Dragons Teeth). The route reaches the river at the mouth of the next sidecanyon (Toltec drainage), which marks the junction with the Royal Arch Route.

To Elves Chasm

To reach Elves Chasm, go upslope at the next ravine downriver and follow the up & down, in & out, route above the granite obstacles. The worst of these has a safe route over the top; another follows a narrow ledge around a fin. This is all just an hour's scramble unloaded, but hard work with a pack. There is an excellent view of the fault-warp in the opposite bank below Explorers Monument. This fault, noted in GCLH-I as an emergency water route, looks climbable at the river level.

Climbing Elves Chasm

A short distance into the mouth there is a big fall. If you swim the pool to the base of the fall, you can go into a cave, climb up, and come out another opening looking down on the pool. Jump in!!

The route to upper Elves Chasm goes up the ledges on the west side. You can safely crawl under the overhang along the ledge to the next level. The next climb is more difficult, but the hand and footholds are quite large. Above this point a slippery slot passes through the hanging garden and up to the next ledge. Next comes the real test: from under a large boulder, reach up to find an enormous handhold. With this, you can almost pull up to the top without using feet. At the top is a gravel pool and a small and larger fall from above with no bypass.


This can actually be a problem unless you pay attention. Copper Canyon seems an uncertain water source and it is a long, dry stretch to Garnet with only one rainpool on the way. Downriver from Garnet only a short section follows close to the bank. Several springs in the area are quite salty. Garnet is a bit alkali. It seems there should be a way to reach the river at Garnet, but the bed is blocked by a narrow fall. Going upriver above the bed and then down to the bank looks possible. Elves Chasm is so frequented by river visitors that the river is probably safer water to drink.


Not really difficult or dangerous, just requires determination.


A unique way to visit a unique place. Of course, the easy way to see the sights is by river; even the river-guides may show some respect when they find you here afoot.


Catalog of Places - Trips - Routes - Notes