Data for this page reflects the original route via Indian Hollow Trailhead. Hikers originally accessed Thunder River, Tapeats Creek, and Deer Creek via the trail from Indian Hollow, but the Bill Hall Trail east of Monument Point offers a 2.5 mile shortcut and, as a result, has become the primary trailhead. Check out the Bill Hall Trail for details and access information.
It's a short hike to the rim. The trail quickly descends through the Coconino layer. Soon it levels out on the Esplanade and heads east to the Bill Hall junction.
From the junction it heads generally south across the Esplanade. The trail crosses expansive slickrock sections as it works around several small drainages, so hikers need to be alert for cairns that mark the route ahead. Try to locate the next cairn before the last one is lost from view. About 2.5 miles of reasonably flat walking brings hikers to the southern edge of the Esplanade, a wonderful canyon view, and the top of a series of steep switchbacks through the Supai and Redwall Formations to the floor of Surprise Valley. The descent is long and rough and the southern exposure makes the entire area infamously hot. Avoid hiking in Surprise Valley after 10 a.m. during warm weather. A large cairn marks a fork in the trail - east (left) to Thunder River and Tapeats Creek, west (right) to Deer Creek. The trail to Thunder River and Tapeats Creek winds east across the floor of Surprise Valley, crossing shallow drainages and low hills for about a mile before dropping down steep switchbacks to Thunder River. After so many hot, dry miles the cascades of Thunder River seem almost too good to be true and the place demands a stop for rest and relaxation. The designated Upper Tapeats campsite (AW7) is about 1/4 mile below the confluence of Thunder River and Tapeats Creek on the west side of the creek. Hikers headed for the Colorado River can cross to the east side of the creek either just below the campsite or about 1/2 mile down canyon and continue about two miles to a second creek crossing back to the west side. A short rope may come in handy to lower packs at a little downclimb (8 feet) above the lower crossing. Spring snowmelt or heavy rain may make creek crossings impossible. During periods of high water hikers must use a narrow trail that stays west of the creek all the way to the river. This trail is strenuous and exposed, requiring detours up and around steep talus, and should only be used as a last resort, but when Tapeats Creek is in flood it may be the only option. The trail stays west of the creek below the lower crossing, eventually leading down a talus slope to the Colorado River at the mouth of Tapeats Creek and the designated Lower Tapeats campsite (AW8). Decent spots can be found on either side of the creek.
Go west at the trail junction in Surprise Valley to reach Deer Creek, perhaps the most beautiful side canyon of all. The trail becomes more rocky and eroded as it descends into the unnamed arm of Deer Creek containing Deer Spring. Deer Spring is a wonderful place to stop, enjoy the water, and smell the proverbial roses. The trail follows the drainage down toward the river, passing the designated Deer Creek campsite (AX7) west of the stream en route. Deer Creek enters the narrows about half a mile above the river. Carved from the hard, resistant Tapeats Formation, the narrows are, in a word, enchanting; Grand Canyon at its finest. The climax of a visit to Deer Creek comes at the end where lovely Deer Creek Falls plunges into the Colorado River.
A rough, informal trail near the river between Tapeats Creek and Deer Creek has created the possibility of a loop hike from Surprise Valley. At the mouth of Tapeats Creek start downriver near the shoreline to the first outcropping of the dark, granite-like Vishnu Formation and follow the cairned route up and across the slopes about 100 feet above the river. Traverse at this level to the steep and precarious descent to the mouth of Bonita Creek and stay near the shoreline for the next 3/4 mile to the end of the beaches. Cairns lead up and away from the river to a narrow bench at the top of the Tapeats Formation. Follow the top of the Tapeats downcanyon around several small drainages, cross the saddle east of Deer Creek, and descend to the bed of Deer Creek near the designated campsite.
Bill Hall was a seasonal park ranger on the North Rim who was killed in the line of duty (automobile accident) in 1979.
Thunder River, Tapeats Creek, Deer Creek, and the Colorado River are permanent water sources. During or immediately after wet weather temporary pools might be found in potholes along the Esplanade. Many hikers choose to cache water on the Esplanade or Surprise Valley for the return trip. Caches should be dated, hidden from view, and carried out at the end of the hike.
At-large camping is permitted in the Esplanade (AY9) and Surprise Valley (AM9) Use Areas. Camping is limited to the designated campsites in the Tapeats Creek and Deer Creek Use Areas. The designated campsite at Deer Creek (AX7) accommodates two groups per night. Upper Tapeats (AW7) campsite accommodates a maximum of three groups per night and Lower Tapeats (AW8) takes two. River trips often stop at Tapeats Creek and Deer Creek so hikers should be prepared to encounter large groups of river runners in the general vicinity.
Segments to Consider
This hike is listed as One-Way.
When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.