We have now travelled another half mile west on the Tonto Trail, following the rim of the Tapeats Sandstone cliffs, to the eastern entrance to Hance Creek Canyon at mile 4.2. The Tonto Platform on the far, western side of Hance Creek Canyon is just just a half mile away ‘as the crow flies’, but following the trail, or as I like to say ‘as the Tonto turns’, it’s a 4 mile hike to reach the other side of the canyon.
I just spent quite some time staring at the Vishnu rocks below of point on the other side. There is an old trail that leads out to that point that Wayne Tomasi in his book ‘Grand Canyon Hiking Adventures, South Rim Edition’ calls the Grand Esplanade Route. I actually spotted the Grand Esplanade Route when shooting a pano from a point just west from the point we are looking across at here, though I didn’t have time then to follow it. Wayne in his book describes exploring it, saying it leads to a few switchbacks going down into the Vishnu before it peters out, apparently uncompleted. If I look hard enough, or maybe too hard, I think I, and maybe you, can see signs of those switchbacks, but I’ll just have to go back sometime and explore and photograph the trail myself.
But what is certain is if you look closely down canyon towards the river you can see just a small triangle of the river, running brown. This is the last time you can see the river at all from right on the Tonto Trail for 8 miles, until you are past the next major side canyon to the west, Clear Creek.
Looking across the river, you can see the last of the Grand Canyon Supergroup formations slanting upwards to their oblivion beneath the Tapeats Sandstone. The Supergroup will appear here and there in places further west in the canyon, but from here you are witnessing the end of their main appearance.