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Tonto West Trail --
Serpentine Canyon to Bass Canyon
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Grand Canyon National Park
Tonto Trail -- Serpentine Canyon to Bass Canyon
Overview | Previous Segment

Serpentine Canyon
Serpentine Canyon (view northeast).


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, of which this page is one.

From the wash in Serpentine Canyon, it is about 4.4 miles and 1.75 hours to the Tonto-Bass Canyon trail junction (near the wash in Bass Canyon). Seasonal water is available in Serpentine and Bass canyons. This segment runs east out of Serpentine Canyon, turns north and runs along the Inner Gorge to the Grand Scenic Divide, then turns west and runs back into Bass Canyon. The Grand Scenic Divide is a ridge that blocks views up and down the canyon. The trail is always faint, but it is fairly easy to follow. The east side of the Grand Scenic Divide is in Backcountry Use Zone BP9 (at-large camping), and the west side is in BQ9 (at-large camping).

Link to map of this segment.

Serpentine Canyon
Trail into Serpentine Canyon (view southwest)

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.

Tonto Trail
Campsite on saddle (view north).

The Hike

20. Serpentine Canyon to Bass Canyon -- 4.4 miles and 1.75 hours

From atop the slickrock pour-over at Serpentine Wash (Table 20, Waypoint 107), the trail runs northwest on the contour for about 8 minutes into the back of the first major side canyon. The trail then climbs steeply up a rocky hillside for quite a ways, but there is a good trail all the way into the next broad, rocky side canyon. In fact, the trail is fairly good and easy to follow across all of the side canyons and gullies on the way out to the point overlooking the river (Wpt. 108) where the trail leaves the Serpentine drainage system. There are campsites on the saddle where the trail crosses the ridge.

Tonto Trail
North Bass Amphitheater and Colorado River (view north from trail).

From the point (Wpt. 108), an indistinct trail cuts steeply down the hillside from the east edge of the campsites and crosses the first little gully just below a 4-inch-thick band of rock. The start is marked with cairns, and it leaves by two yuccas growing so close together that they touch (I missed the trail here going west and stayed too high).

The trail runs north, crossing a major side canyon just above an enormous boulder, and then climbs a cliffy section on a good, easy-to-follow trail to the next saddle with campsites (Wpt. 109). The trail continues north, passing a windy promontory with a campsite on the edge of the cliffs and a grand view of the river (Wpt. 110). The trail continues north and crosses the Grand Scenic Divide (Wpt. 111), a ridge that blocks views through the canyon from this point east and this point west.

Bass Canyon
Bass Canyon from Grand Scenic Divide (view west).

The trail crosses the Grand Scenic Divide (Wpt. 111) and turns west into Bass Canyon. For about two-thirds of the way back into the canyon, the trail runs across hillsides gently descending along the contour. About 15 minutes out, the trail drops steeply down a hillside to the bottom of a side canyon. From there, however, the trail moderates as it drops across the rocky hillside into the bottom of Bass Canyon and the Bass Canyon Trail junction (Wpt. 112).

Marginal campsites are available on the Bass Trail just below the junction. Seasonal water is available in the wash at a pour-over about 20 minutes down the Bass Trail (and more campsites). The river is about 1 hour down the Bass Trail.

Bass Canyon
Bass Canyon; the Tonto Trail meets the Bass Canyon Trail up around the corner (view southwest).

The junction with the Bass Trail marks the official end of the Tonto West Trail. The Bass Trail runs up the canyon to the rim and down to the Colorado River, and other trails continue west along the Tonto Platform. If you are like me, you might hike down to the river, rest for the night, and then turn around and walk back across the Tonto.

Table 20. Hiking Coordinates Based on GPS Data (NAD27; UTM Zone 12). Download Entire Route Waypoint (gpx) file.

Wpt. Location Time Easting Northing Elevation (ft) Verified
107 Serpentine (78) 1030 378618 4006642 3,051 GPS
108 Exit Serpentine drainage (79) 1155-1337 379977 4007715 3,408 GPS
109 Saddle with nice camps (90) 1208 379787 4008103 3,464 GPS
110 Windy promontory (80) 1220 379729 4008629 3,426 GPS
111 Grand Scenic Divide (81) 1233 379518 4009187 3,471 GPS
112 Tonto-Bass trail junction (82) 1330 378341 4008721 3,189 GPS

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

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