I just got a permit for a seven night backpacking trip in one of the more spectacular areas of the Grand Canyon. On the 5th of June we will head down the Bill Hall Trail to the edge of the Esplanade, about 6 miles on a remote somewhat primitive trail, overlooking Surprise Valley and set up camp for the first night. Bright and early the next morning we will hike to the Upper Deer Creek campsites (6 more miles) and set up our basecamp for the next two nights. The Deer Creek area is sublime with some amazing narrows (it’s an exposed, somewhat frightening, class 4-low 5 scramble without a rope), a beautiful spring, and a world class waterfall near it’s confluence with the Colorado River. The area is remote but it is a spectacle with the river runners (deservedly so) and sees a lot of traffic. Plan is to chill-out and enjoy the scenery. On day four we will pack up and leave around 5 a.m., to avoid the heat, as we hike up to Surprise Valley to descend into Thunder River and Tapeats Creek, which in my opinion, is one of the most beautiful areas in the Grand Canyon, with amazing waterfalls, pools, slip and slides, gorges, lush riparian ecosystem, a huge cave, and a beautiful creek. We will hike up Tapeats Creek for about 3 miles to an at large campsite in the Tapeats Amphitheater (plan on a long 9 mile backpack). There are numerous creek crossings and in some cases, like hiking the narrows in Zion, we will be hiking in the creek itself. Once again, we'll set up a base camp for the next two nights. Will relax by a nearby waterfall, after setting up camp, but plan to hike to the headwaters of Tapeats Creek the following day where there is a huge cave and an area that I call the Garden of Eden, a spectacular place. The following day we'll hike downstream to the Upper Tapeats campsite and set up camp for the next two nights. There are two great day hikes in the area: a hike downstream to the Colorado River and Thunder River, with some of the best waterfalls in the Grand Canyon. The area is pretty remote and we probably won’t see anyone while camped at large in the Tapeats Amphitheater but may see some folks and river runners while camped at the Upper Tapeats campsites. On Day 8 we will hike-out. You need to be in good shape and able to backpack in the dark with a headlamp, as I plan to hike up to the rim (about 9 miles with close to 5,000 feet of elevation gain) around 2:30-3:00 a.m.. This may seem a little extreme, but it's nicer to hike out when it is cool and in the dark, as it can get incredibly hot, potentially deadly, this time of the year, especially with no water to cool off in. It's also neat hiking that early. If you want to join me, please be in good enough shape to do backpacking like this. You also need some experience with hiking and fording creeks and backpacking below the rim of the Grand Canyon. I plan to do a day hike a day or two before the backpack, to cache water on the edge of Esplanade for the first night and the hike out, as I don't want to carry a lot of weight while descending this trail. We’ll have to work out the logistics about where to meet: I am not heading back to New Mexico till August and will set up a base camp in a nice spot on the Kaibab Plateau around the 25th of May.
Trip Dates: June 5 (hike in)-June 12 (hike out)
Deadline to RSVP-April 30 : There is a $5.00 per/night permit fee per camper so I will need to collect $35.00 from you before I apply for a larger permit on the 1st of May. The fee is non-refundable once the permit is issued.
Directions to campsite: See directions below or meet at the North Rim Back-Country Permit Office as stated above.
Trip Rating: Difficult and challenging while backpacking. Day hikes are difficult to easy.
Trail length: (Day 1) 6 tough miles from Monument Point to the edge of the Esplanade overlooking Surprise Valley with about 2,000 feet of elevation loss
(Day 2) 6 mile 2,000+ foot descent to the Upper Deer Creek Camp Site. Hike to the river or hang out and relax.
(Day 3) Hike to the river or up the canyon. Of course, you can just hang out and relax: what you do on this day is up to you.
(Day 4-5:00 a.m.) Hike up to Surprise Valley and traverse the plateau to our descent along Thunder River. Multiple creek crossings on our way upstream to some at large campsites in the Tapeats Amphitheater. 9-10 miles with 1,500+ feet of gain and 1,500 feet of loss and possible difficult creek crossings and hiking.
(Day 5) Optional day hike. 6-7 challenging miles (round trip) to the headwaters of Tapeats Creek, one of the most sublime paces in the Grand Canyon.
(Day 6) 3 miles downstream to the Upper Tapeats Campsite, one of the best designated sites in the Canyon, with day hike or exploration options, if you don't want to chill-out near the campsite.
(Day 7) Optional day hikes, 5-6 miles to explore Thunder River and Falls, another outstanding spot to spend the day. The hike, scramble, and bouldering route up Thunder River, is one of the finest and most exciting hikes in the Grand Canyon. What you do on this day is up to you.
(Day 8, 2-3 a.m.) Hike out in the wee hours of the morning to avoid the summer heat and enjoy the stars and sounds of night. 9 miles with 5,000 feet of elevation gain
Elevation Gain: Up to 5,000 feet
Elevation Range: 7,050 (North Rim Trailhead) and 2,000 feet (Colorado River)
Expected temperatures: 90-100’s high and 60-80's low. The canyons receive a lot of shade and the area along the creeks is often 10-20 degrees cooler than the harsh desert just 10-20 yards away.
Dogs are not allowed below the rim in the Grand Canyon
Contact Doug Flynn at 246-2927 if you have any questions
Requirements: You will need to attend a hike with me that I am leading, if you are considering tagging along on this trip, as I want to see if we can get along for a week, make sure you are physically capable (good enough shape), have the required skills (I don't want to be your guide and hold your hand to get you through the challenging spots or have to turn back because you're out of your league), and to discuss the details of this adventure. There are some exposed sections of this trip where a slip or fall could be fatal. This would not be a good trip for anyone with a fear of heights or scrambling. Also, depending on how high Tapeats Creek is flowing, the creek fords can be challenging, difficult, and possibly dangerous. You should have experience crossing fast moving creeks with water at or above your knees.
Waiting List: I am not accepting RSVP's at the moment. If you are interested in joining me, are an experienced backpacker, and can take more than a week off from work, add your name to the waiting list. I will only add up to 4 people on my permit and will pick and choose who I want to join me (it will not be on a 1st come 1st serve basis).
Photos: If you want to see what the area is like click the link from last year's trip: http://www.meetup.com/hiking-204/photos/10085932/
Here are the directions to my back-country campsite within the Kaibab National Forest.
-From the Intersection of US 89 and US 89A (the Lee’s Ferry/Glen Canyon, Navajo Bridge, Grand Canyon North Rim turn-off) go west on US 89 A for close to 30 miles to the intersection with the Grand Canyon Highway, Arizona 67, at Jacobs Lake.
-Take a left (south) onto AZ 67 and follow it south towards the north rim of the Grand Canyon for about 25-26 miles. Look for a gas station on your left and the Kaibab Lodge on the right, around mile 26. The gas station is on a rise in the road along some huge meadows. After the rise the road dips and you will see a well graded dirt Forest Service road that has signs on both sides of the highway. I not sure about the road number but think it is Forest Road 610 with Forest Road 22 across the highway going west. The road should be ½-1 mile past the gas station.
-Take the forest road on the left (east). If you are on the correct forest road, you should see a sign that has miles posted for East Rim Overlooks, Saddle Mountain, and Marble Overlook among other things. The beginning of Forest Road 610 is paved for a very short distance and goes over a small step bridge near a pond. Follow this road as it rises and curves up a hill to a National Forest Kiosk/Information sign about 1.4 miles from the highway.
-Reset your odometer at the National Forest Kiosk and take a hard right at the sign, still on Forest Road 610, and continue to follow the dirt road for approximately 1.6 miles. At about 1.6 miles, look for a fork in the road that goes to your left, which should be signed Forest Road 612. Stop at the fork.
-Take a left at the fork onto FR 612 and immediately look for a faint dirt road (track) that goes to your left (no more than 1/10 of a mile) and turn onto it. Follow the primitive dirt road for about ¼ mile till it goes down a small hill to a clearing at the end of the road in an aspen grove where you will find my basecamp. The hill can be driven in a low clearance vehicle if you stay to the left or right of the grooved tire tracks.
If you are in the right place, you will see my large orange Big Agnes tent and other camping stuff near the end of the double track road (if you want to call it that). If I am not there, find a spot to set up your tent and I will see you when I get back from a full day of hiking. If you can’t find my basecamp, you can camp anywhere there is a disturbed site in the National Forest (it’s free).
There is also a campground near the gas station but you will have to pay for the pleasure of being next to other people and an outhouse. There are easier to locate disturbed sites in the National Forest on the other side of Highway 67 on Forest Road 22 about a mile from the highway.