Tanner Trail is a geological wonder, lying right in the center of the Grand Canyon Supergroup, a collection of complex tilted layers dating back a billion years. These are the oldest deposits on the park, not only drawing attention for their age, but mostly for their nature. Since these layers are the oldest, they are also the most vulnerable to erosion, providing some of the most expansive views of steep canyon walls on the South Rim.
In addition to its geological significance, Tanner Trail also has a rich Native American history. As many of the trails before it, Tanner Trail was first used by natives, who inhabited the area long before foreign prospectors realized the park’s mining potential. This particular trail has been in use since the late 1800s.
Tanner Trail is unmaintained and its primitive nature make it one of the most physically demanding trails accessing the eastern side of the south canyon. While difficult, it is also one of the most scenic trails.
The trail will be easy enough to maneuver up until Lipan Point, from which point on, erosion has clearly made its mark. The path from here on out will be faint, the terrain rough and challenging to cross. Traversing the Toroweap and Coconino planes, much of the route requires improvisation skills as erosion and rock slides have interrupted parts of the path. Soon after this part, you’ll come upon Tanner Canyon saddle, one of the first main viewing points along Tanner Trail.
The next section rounds the Escalante and Cardenas buttes and then turns downhill toward the Redwall Formation, right before a spectacular view of the Painted Desert. Get a good look at the scenic panorama before you, because awaiting you is a meticulous descent along risky terrain toward the Grand Canyon Supergroup about 2 miles (3.2 km) away.
Beware the trail’s physical demand: Hikers should be experienced, able to improvise a path and notice erosion hazards. Tanner Trail is unmaintained by park officials, so should you need assistance along the way, help is unlikely to come. That being said, experienced hikers should find Tanner Trail one of the most satisfying South Rim routes.