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Monday, July 9, 2018


VISHNU TRAIL: A Tiny Trek on the Edge of the Grand Canyon.
A hiker on the Vishnu Trail approaches G.C. views.
Whether hiked as an inspirational appetizer, warm up walk or add-on trek while exploring around the South Rim of the Grand Canyon near the town of Tusayan, the Vishnu Trail is a quick and easy diversion with tantalizing views and opportunities to engage with the Arizona Trail.  
Vishnu Trail connects with the Arizona Trail
The hike begins directly under the Grandview Lookout Tower, where the well-marked path heads north through wildlife-rich pine-oak woodlands and shrubby enclaves.  After roughly a quarter-mile, glimpses of the hazy, russet chasm begin to appear through the trees.
Grandview Lookout under stormy skies. Yes, we got soaked!
An oak-shaded passage on the Vishnu Trail.
As the trail progresses to its overlook spur, scenic vistas unwrap like unexpected gifts that surprise and thrill. 
Vishnu Temple (right) seen from the trail overlook.
A metal gate marks the threshold to the best sights of the hike. Beyond the gate, canyon vistas take center stage, culminating at a boulder ledge above a sea of pinion and ponderosa pines that creeps up to the colorfully-layered walls of the canyon.  Views of dramatic rock formations, fog-veiled depths and the distant highlands of the Kaibab Plateau tease the imagination and seed ambitions for more canyon hiking.   Seasoned Grand Canyon hikers might find these peek-a-boo vistas underwhelming, but for first-timers or those who appreciate alternate points-of-view, they are stunning.  
The lookout residence cabin was built in 1936.

Coconino Rim in distance.
The prominent cone-shaped formation in the mid-ground is 7829-foot Vishnu Temple. Named for the Hindu god who protects the universe, the majestic landmark is one of the highest points in the gorge’s east end.
Grandview Lookout survey marker.
But the ooh-ahh photo opps don’t end here.  To the southeast, an imposing, elongated landform marks the convergence of the Coconino Plateau, the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers and the pastel flatlands of the Painted Desert. 
To complete the loop, backtrack to the spur junction and follow the return leg to where it connects with Passage 36 of the Arizona Trail and the Dwarf Mistletoe Interpretive Area.  Head left here for a short walk outfitted with educational signs that provide information on the invasive parasite, forest health, plants and wildlife. 
Sign in the Dwarf Mistletoe Interpretive Area
This worthwhile diversion adds just under a mile to the trek.  For a longer option, continue hiking south on the Arizona Trail through thick woodlands of the Kaibab National Forest that hover above expansive desert plains. This 4.7-mile section is also referred to as the Coconino Rim Trail. Replete with scenic viewpoints, the shaded, easy stretch gives a tiny taste of the 800-mile route that runs north-south through the state from Mexico to Utah.  
Vishnu Trail links to the Arizona Trail.
Back at the trailhead, gird your acrophobia and check out the Grandview Lookout.
Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936, the 80-foot-tall tower capped with a seven-foot-square metal cab soars above the trees at the lip of the canyon.  When a forest service worker is on duty and not engaged with a fire incident, visitors are welcome to climb the narrow, creaky stairs for predictably grand views.  Nearby, a cozy two-room cabin, also built in 1936, serves as home base for the lookout workers and adjacent camping spots allow hikers to pitch a tent and hang out for a few days of adventure.
Beautiful woodlands at the edge of the Grand Canyon.
Vishnu Trail: 1.1-mile loop (2 miles with the interpretive trail)
Coconino Rim: 9.7 miles out-and-back
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 7400 - 7529 feet
From U.S. 64 in Tusayan, turn right on Forest Road 302, which is located just past the traffic circle when entering town from the south.  Go 14.1 miles east on FR 302 to Forest Road 310, turn left and continue 1.3 miles to the trailhead at the tower. Forest roads are good dirt/gravel suitable for passenger vehicles. There's a vault toilet at the trailhead.

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