Mineral Wash at the crossing (view north).
I've organized my description of the Tonto East Trail into two parts: (1) an overview of the entire trail, trailheads, and other general information, and (2) individual canyon-to-canyon segments. The segment from Mineral Canyon to Hance Canyon (east to west) is described here.
From the wash crossing in Mineral Canyon, it is about 3.9 miles and 2.5 hours to Hance Canyon. There is no drinkable water along this segment. This segment of trail runs out the west side of Mineral Canyon, loops around a side canyon beneath Ayer Point, and runs back into Hance Canyon. Except for one short bit of 2nd-class scrambling, the trail generally is fast, wide, easy, and provides many grand views above and below the trail. Mineral Canyon is in Zone BE9 (camping at-large), and Hance Canyon is in Zone BE9 (camping at-large).
Link to map of this segment.
2nd-class stairs in the shale (view north).
Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, this is a fairly safe hike, but there are several places to fall into the abyss. Be sure to read the Watch Out section on the Tonto East Overview page, which discusses things such as cell phones and signal mirrors. While hiking, please respect the land and the other people out there, and please try to Leave No Trace of your passage.
Getting to the Trailhead
Trailhead information is presented on the Tonto East Overview page.
Mineral Canyon at the wash crossing (note trail on red bluff; view northeast).
2. Mineral Canyon to Hance Canyon -- 3.9 miles and 2.5 hours
From the wash crossing in Mineral Canyon (Table 2, Waypoint 006; 1324 hrs), the trail runs southwest and up the canyon a short ways (passing two poor campsites), then switchbacks steeply up the hillside to get above a band of cliffs. After switchbacking to above the first band of cliffs, the trail turns and starts heading out of the canyon working through bands of cliffs at gentler grades.
Trail on hillside (view northeast).
The trail crosses a small side canyon with some interesting conglomerate rock, then a short bit of 2nd-class scrambling (almost stone stairs) leads through another layer of shale cliffs (1335) and on to more gentle grades. From there, the trail runs gently, then fairly steeply, then more moderately out to a saddle with campsites (1348) where the trail turns into the major side canyon on this side of Mineral Canyon.
From the saddle, the trail runs at moderate grades into the back of the side canyon (1357-1407), which is crossed on slickrock. There are some nice stone benches here to stop and sit in the shade.
Trail near exit from Mineral Canyon (view south back into the side canyon)
The trail continues, climbing out under a band of layered cliffs and onto a ridge with campsites (1427). The trail runs west across pricklypear cactus and Blackbrush- covered flats, runs along narrow ledges with big drop-offs, and turns into Hance Canyon (1430) at a spot with campsites and spectacular views.
The trail back into Hance Canyon mostly runs level along the top of the Tapeats Sandstone cliffs that form the Hance Canyon gorge. This part of the trail is fast and easy. The trail runs around one large double-sided side canyon (1500), and eventually runs along the edge of the cliffs overlooking the camp area (1540). The trail continues up the canyon, staying atop the cliffs, until the cliffs end, at which point the trail drops more or less straight down to the Hance Creek crossing (Wpt. 012; 1550).
Flats near turn in to Hance Canyon (view west).
There is a campsite on the east side of the creek crossing, but the trail runs through the north edge of it, so it is not the most private spot. The trail runs down the creek for a few yards, the climbs the bank onto the west side beyond the edge of cliffs that otherwise would block the route. From there, the trail runs down the bench on the west side of the creek into the Hance Creek Camp area.
The trail west from Hance Creek starts at a junction near the rocks on the west side of the creek.
Table 2. Hiking Coordinates Based on GPS Data (NAD27; UTM Zone 12). Download Entire Route Hiking GPS Waypoints (*.gpx) file.
||Point-to-Point Time (min)
||Cumulative Time (min)
||Point-to-Point Distance (mi)
||Cumulative Distance (mi)
||Total Tonto Distance (mi)
||Crossing Mineral Wash
||Turning into Mineral Canyon proper
||Crossing into Mineral Canyon
||Turning out of Hance drainage
||Turning out of major side canyon
||Hance Creek crossing
||Hance Creek campground