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Tonto West Trail --
Jade Canyon to Ruby Canyon
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Grand Canyon National Park
Tonto Trail -- Jade Canyon to Ruby Canyon
Overview | Previous Segment | Next Segment
Jade Crossing
Jade Wash (view southwest).


This description of the Tonto West Trail is divided into two parts: (1) an overview of the entire trail, trailheads, and other general information, and (2) individual canyon-to-canyon segments.

From the wash in Jade Canyon, it is about 2.3 miles and 2 hours to the wash in Ruby Canyon. Seasonal water is available in Ruby Wash. This segment of the trail runs east out of Jade Canyon, turns north and runs across the Le Conte Plateau overlooking the Inner Gorge, then turns west and runs back into Ruby Canyon. The trail is always faint, but it is fairly easy to follow most of the way. This segment of trail is in Backcountry Use Zone BP9 (at-large camping).

Link to map of this segment.

Tonto Trail
Faint trail along Inner Gorge (view north).

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, sure to read the Watch Out section on the Tonto West 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 West Overview page.

Ruby Canyon
Ruby Canyon (view southwest).

The Hike

16. Jade Canyon to Ruby Canyon -- 2.3 miles and 2 hours

The trail from Jade Canyon to Ruby Canyon does not follow the route marked on the USGS topo maps. According to the map, the trail climbs steeply up the hillside to near the Muav Limestone before cutting out of Jade Canyon on the contour. However, the current trail crosses Jade Wash about 100 m east of (below) where it is shown on the map, and it climbs steeply only for a short distance, then cuts out on the contour above the Tapeats Sandstone, closely following the Tapeats all the way around into Ruby Canyon. The old and new trails join far back in Ruby Canyon.

Ruby Canyon
Steep, narrow trail between cliffs (view southwest).

From the slickrock crossing in Jade Wash by the enormous banded boulder (Table 16, Waypoint 090), the trail climbs steeply up the northern hillside for 1 hard minute to get above the cliffs (watch for a cairn high on the hillside) (Wpt. 091). The trail then turns and runs east on an easy trail following the contour. The trail crosses a ridge between two gullies just above a large thumb of rock, then continues out to the end of the flat, rocky point (Wpt. 092) on the very edge of the cliffs overlooking the Inner Gorge. The views are spectacular.

The trail follows the edge of the cliffs around the point and continues along the edge into the next side canyon (Wpt. 093) where a cairn route leads north and straight up the wide, rocky gully.

Following the cairns, the trail exits the gully (Wpt. 094) on a bit of trail, then heads north across the flats on a good trail, passing below a big boulder thumb sticking up on the horizon. From there, the trail runs north for about 5 minutes into the next side canyon, crossing the gully high under the cliffs.

The trail continues north to a point, crosses the ridge (Wpt. 095), and turns west into Ruby Canyon. There is a small, but spectacular campsite out on the point beyond the trail with a tent site that overlooks the canyon and provides views of Ruby Rapids from the sleeping bag.

Ruby Canyon
Ruby Canyon crossing (view west).

Starting into Ruby Canyon (Wpt. 095), the trail turns west and runs downhill at a moderate grade to the edge of Ruby Canyon where you might see water flowing in the wash below.

About 10 minutes into Ruby Canyon, the trail crosses the first gully on rocky hillside that provides spectacular views up Ruby Canyon and down to rapids on the river. The trail works across steep hillsides and several gullies near the edge of the Tapeats with precipitous cliffs below the trail. The trail runs below bands of cliffs in some places. Most of the gullies are crossed on the contour, but the trail gets rougher farther back towards the crossing. At one point, the trail climbs steeply up over a low ridge and down the other side rather than contouring around it.

Ruby Canyon
Ruby Creek (view east).

The good trail continues along the cliffs, more or less on the contour until near the wash crossing, then it drops fairly steeply to a flat area above the Tapeats with an agave roasting pit and good campsites. From there, two trails cut steeply down the dirt and rock hillside to Ruby Wash at an enormous boulder on the slickrock in the wash (Wpt. 096). The easier trail drops into the wash above the boulder, while the steeper route drops into the wash below the boulder.

Hiking west, I lost the trail near the back of the canyon and followed off-route cairns down into the gorge too early, eventually climbing 4th-class cliffs to get back up to the trail. Keep in mind that the crossing is at the enormous boulder in the wash, and that there is no safe way down the cliffs until you are right above the boulder.

Other than the slickrock, there are no campsite opportunities at the crossing. The small stream provides seasonal water.

Table 16. Hiking Coordinates Based on GPS Data (NAD27; UTM Zone 12). Download Entire Route Waypoint (gpx) file.

Wpt. Location Time Easting Northing Elevation (ft) Verified
090 Jade Wash (61) 1237 381472 4003399 3,112 GPS
091 Above cliffs; on flats (62) 1238 381512 4003415 3,148 GPS
092 Turn out of Jade drainage system (63) 1251 382113 4003568 3,226 GPS
093 Back of the side canyon (64) 1301 381939 4003855 3,222 GPS
094 Exiting the gully (65) 1309 381919 4003965 3,306 GPS
095 Turn into Ruby Canyon drainage (66) 1324-1344 381634 4004780 3,419 GPS
096 Ruby Wash (67) 1444 380066 4004203 3,087 GPS

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 120424

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