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This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

South Bass Trail, AZ

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909 52 4
Guide 52 Triplogs  4 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Northwest > South Rim
Rated
4.5
4.5 of 5 by 15
 
10
HAZ reminds you to respect the ruins. Please read the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 & Ruins Etiquette
Statistics
clicktap icons for details
Difficulty 4.5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance One Way 7.8 miles
Trailhead Elevation 6,652 feet
Elevation Gain 4,400 feet
Avg Time One Way 4 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 22.46
Interest Ruins, Historic, Seasonal Waterfall & Seasonal Creek
Backpack Yes
Dogs not allowed
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Will recalculate on button tap!
58  2019-04-14
Royal Arch Route
writelots
21  2018-05-07
Royal Arch Route
autumnstars
25  2018-04-06 BiFrost
31  2017-03-22
Royal Arch Route
friendofThunderg
38  2017-03-22
Royal Arch Route
BiFrost
49  2017-03-22
Royal Arch Route
chumley
1  2016-11-20 gilbertnathaniel
28  2016-03-31
Grand Canyon Gems Attempt
sirena
Page 1,  2,  3,  4,  5
Author azbackpackr
author avatar Guides 26
Routes 365
Photos 4,732
Trips 720 map ( 5,214 miles )
Age 66 Female Gender
Location Flag-summer-Needles-winter
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
Radar
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Preferred   Jun, Aug, Jul, Sep → 7 AM
Seasons   Early Autumn to Late Spring
Sun  6:13am - 6:34pm
Official Route
 
11 Alternative
 
Water
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Where are all the Rim to Rimmers?
by azbackpackr

Likely In-Season!
History
William W. Bass was the most noteworthy of the early pioneers that came to the rim of Grand Canyon in the 1880s to carve a life and a lifestyle from the wilderness. The contribution of this man to canyon history is difficult to measure. A list of his accomplishments during more than 40 years of living on the rim would fill a book. Among the most notable is the construction of more than 50 miles of inner canyon trail, most of which can still be walked today. The South Bass Trail was the foundation of this far-flung system of pathways and today it offers modern backpackers a doorway to a fascinating part of Grand Canyon, steeped in the history Bill Bass lived.


Hikers arriving at the beach at the bottom of the South Bass Trail can’t help but notice an old boat chained to the rocks above the high water line. Abandoned by Russell and Tadge in 1915, the Ross Wheeler was built by Bert Loper, the grand old man of Colorado River runners, and named for a murdered friend. Loper died a romantic death in 1949 during a Grand Canyon river trip, suffering a heart attack at age 79 while at the oars of a Colorado River cataract boat. His remains were not recovered until 1975, 26 years after his death.

Overview
This trail is easy to follow. My trip was in October of 2007. There are many interesting features in addition to the "usual" gorgeous Grand Canyon scenery! There are cliff dwellings and granaries easily seen from the trail, as well as many relics left behind by William Wallace Bass, who lived at the Canyon with his wife, Ada, and four children for 40 years, until about 1923. William Bass did a bit of mining and prospecting, wrote poetry, built a road to Ash Fork and also took tourists down into the Canyon. At the river he had stone cabins, the foundations of which are still standing. Across the river he built another cabin and planted a peach orchard. He built a cable car to cross the river, and also built the North Bass Trail. The cable car was removed some years ago, as were the remains of his cabins on the Rim.

Note
The Park Service will not give you a permit to hike down South Bass and float across the river on an air mattress in order to hike up North Bass Trail. You must do these two trails in separate trips! From our view at Bass Beach we figured it would be a quick, easy death from drowning in the rapids while experiencing hypothermia from the sub-50 degree water.
( 2014 update: packrafting is allowed, permit required )

Getting set
We camped the first night on the rim, where there are two car campsites with picnic tables. In order to camp here you must include it in your permit request! The road to the trailhead is dirt, about 30 miles of it, and requires both high clearance AND 4WD. You may not have to shift into 4WD in dry weather, but if it rains you will need it. The road passes through a corner of the Havasupai Reservation. If anyone is manning the gate there you must pay a fee of ~$25 to cross their land. Often, though, there is no one there. Save your receipt, also, or you may be charged ~$25 on your way out as well! I am told there is a way around this, but I have never found any directions, and the Park Service will not provide those directions to you as they want to be seen as helpful to the tribe.
( 2014 update: the bypass is not legal )

Hike
Starting down the trail early in the morning we were alert to watch for the ancient granaries in the Coconino Formation. All are to your RIGHT as you are going down and are pretty easy to see, but only if you are looking for them. At a place where you pass by remnants of a barbed-wire fence you are very near to several of them, one behind you up the trail, one directly above you and one a wee bit further on, also along the same ledge.

We left one gallon of water each on the Esplanade, a large flat area about 2 miles in, so we could camp there on the way back out. We hiked all the way to the river the first day. When you can see the river follow the many cairns, watch for an especially large cairn. From there it is a short, steep scramble to Bass Beach, where there is a lot of room. An old boat, the Ross Wheeler, built by none other than the grand old man of the river, Bert Loper, was abandoned there in 1915, and still remains!

We spent two nights camped at Bass Beach. On our layover day we hiked back up to the ledge where the big cairn is and followed the river trail downstream about 2 miles to a point where we were directly across from Shinumo Creek. A large waterfall is in the small but deep gorge, the bottom of which can barely be seen from this vantage point. The only way to get over there would be to hitch a ride there and back with a friendly river rafter. The trail we were hiking sort of peters out, but according to our map and guidebook, one could easily make it over to the next side canyon, where Bass had a mine.

We hiked part-way out, up 5 miles, to the Esplanade for our 3rd night below the Rim, to where we had stashed the water. The camp there afforded beautiful views of the gorge. We took a side hike out to Huxley Terrace. We opted to not climb Mt. Huethawali, but decided that the south side of it is the easiest route. Our last hiking day we had only 3 steep miles to hike back to the trailhead.

In the Area
Other hikes you can do from this trailhead include Royal Arch Route, Esplanade Trail, and Tonto loop trips going east on the Tonto to Boucher or Hermit, or west on the Tonto to its end. The problem is there is no perennial water except at the river. There are pools here and there, but in the fall most of them were dry. Springtime would be best for these other routes, but be sure to carry enough water to tide you over.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Note
This is a more difficult hike. It would be unwise to attempt this without prior experience hiking.

Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2008-01-27 azbackpackr
  • Grand Canyon Use Area Boundaries - Dynamic Map

Grand Canyon NPS Details
Hike: A well-defined descending traverse gets hikers through the Kaibab and Toroweap formations. The trail passes an old fence and follows the rim of the Coconino a short distance north before starting down rocky switchbacks to the Esplanade platform at the top of the Supai Formation. The Royal Arch Route leaves the South Bass Trail and starts west where the trail comes to the Esplanade, the junction marked with a large cairn. Stay right at this intersection and follow the South Bass Trail north across the terrace east of Mount Huethawali. The route traverses near the Supai rim for about a mile to a steep break that allows passage to the slopes below.

Dropping below the Esplanade, the trail rounds a promontory and descends Supai ledges south toward the bed of Bass Canyon. Once established in the drainage the route follows the bottom of Bass Canyon through the Redwall. The path leaves the drainage and descends most of the Tonto Group rocks via the slopes east of and above the bed of Bass Canyon, eventually returning to the bottom of the canyon just above the Tonto Trail junction. The Tonto Trail is marked by large cairns. Below Tonto Trail the South Bass Trail continues down Bass Canyon, crossing and re-crossing the drainage as it winds around various obstructions. This section can be confusing, but the trail stays as close to the bed of the canyon as the terrain allows, so any disorientation shouldn’t last long.

An impassable rock fall blocks access to the river at the mouth of Bass Canyon. Watch where the trail leaves the bed of the drainage, going west a short distance to a large cairn marking a shortcut that allows passage down a rocky ravine to the river below. The ravine route can be tedious and this shortcut may be bypassed by continuing another couple minutes west until a gentler path descends to the river opposite a historic fire place.

Water Sources: The Colorado River is the only reliable water source. The river is often sediment laden and can be difficult to purify. Water can occasionally be found during or immediately after wet weather in potholes in the bed of Bass Canyon below the Tonto Trail or in sandstone pockets on the Esplanade.

Campsites: The Bass Canyon Use Area (BQ9) allows “at-large” camping. Serviceable sites can be found on the Esplanade, the Tonto Platform, and the beach at the Colorado River.

Notes: There are several other trails located in and near Bass Canyon. Shortcuts to the Tonto Trail continuing west toward Copper Canyon ascend the slopes from points low in the drainage. The trail that heads west out of the bottom of Bass Canyon continues downstream beyond the routes to the river and after a couple miles comes directly across from the mouth of Shinumo Creek. A short scramble allows access to the river. In route downstream watch for the site of a cable crossing that linked the North and South Bass Trails. This historic crossing created the first rim-to-rim trail system. The cable is gone, but these and other sites north of the river attest to the remarkable physical energy Bill Bass brought to his various projects in this lovely part of the Grand Canyon.

Segments to Consider:
Rim (6646 ft) toEsplanade Trail Junction (5400 ft)1.7 mi
Esplanade Trail Junction (5400 ft) towestbound Tonto Junction (3200 ft)4.2 mi
Westbound Tonto Junction (3200 ft) toeastbound Tonto Junction (3150 ft)0.1 mi
Eastbound Tonto Junction (3150 ft) toColorado River (2250 ft)1.8 mi
South Bass trailhead (6646 ft) toColorado River (2250 ft)7.8 mi

One-Way Notice
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.

Most recent of 22 deeper Triplog Reviews
South Bass Trail
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Title: Their Leader Was Named Patches...

I haven't done a proper trip report in a really long time, but since I asked so many folks for info on this route, I figured I'd better share back with the results of my recent trip on the Point Huitzil/Royal Arch Route. I was joined by Roger (Scat Daddy), Holly (Prehensile Toe) and Holly (Raggedy Ann).

We had a great 6-7 days in the canyon. Weather was that typical spring mix: starting with sunny and cold, moving to hot, moving to windy and wet, back to hot. Ran the whole gammut from sleet to blistering, windless summer. The canyon was - as ever - both generous with her grandeur and adventure and stingy with her creature comforts. I'll state for the record that the road was almost bone dry going both ways - but the ruts between Pasture Wash and S. Bass are no joke. I'm really not sure my Subaru would have made it without some dings to the front "bumper". Think more "gully" than "rut".

The trip started cross-country to find the put-in for the Point Huitzil descent. Thanks to the track from Bifrost, we were able to find the route easily enough, though at one point we walked past a turn and had to backtrack up over a low ridge. There's just so little left of that "phone line", and the "abrupt turns" described in many write-ups don't feel abrupt on that flat ground. Because I'd done the route before, it was easy to find the keyhole. Though I had to love the looks from my fellow hikers who were TOTALLY skeptical that there could be a route down from that unassuming ledge. My group, experienced backpackers but not climbers or canyoneers, were totally game and never once balked at what we were doing. There was the moment where we stepped down one of the 5' drops onto a loose pile of rocks when I said "from here, guys, it's a one-way ticket - unless you think you can climb back up this with your pack". They all affirmed that they were in-it-to-win-it and we scampered, slid, scurried and scree'd down to the floor of the creek. We set up our first camp at a nice patio on the sandstone where we could walk barefoot to a nice clean pothole.

Saying for the day "That (fill in blank with a damaged stock price) is falling faster than hikers off the Point Huitzil Route".

Also - my newish Khul pants which were supposed to be "performance designed for durability" were blasted out by the middle of the day. This began a nightly ritual of sewing and taping to prevent my underwear from being the star of the show. So disappointing. Also, my new Gossamer Gear Mariposa earned her trail name: Patches.

The path down Royal Arch creek was much as I remembered it - impossibly slow and filled with fun puzzles to solve. Must've taken our packs of 25 times, which slows things down a lot. However, there were no pools blocking our path and the cairns are even better now then they were before - no confusing misdirects, just small cairns that you still have to look for to solve the maze. We spent night 2 at the arch itself, and even though I've been there twice, I still feel deeply moved by the magic of that spot. It's not just the arch itself but the way the creek creates pools and falls, the moss and monkeyflower, the views down the narrow slot of the canyon. I was worried from tales of how many more people had been venturing to the arch that there would be lots of human impact in the area, but it still feels nearly untouched. Weather was blowing in, so we sheltered in the ledge and spent the night listening to frogs making more frogs.

Saying for the day "Wait - packs off...again?"

Day 3 was the descent to Toltec Beach and while I knew exactly what to expect, it was made even more interesting by off-and-on rain and sleet. This was my first time leading on ropes so I was more than a little tense. One of the members of my party did their first rappel ever on that 20' cliff. It was inspiring that they all trusted me with their lives, and I was so excited when we were all safely at the bottom that I seriously floated the rest of the way to the beach. We decided that the weather dictated that we wait until the next morning for the hike out to Elves' Chasm. We were in the middle of a rainy afternoon nap when a couple hikers appeared from downstream. They'd hiked the Tonto from Hermit and though they were a bit past their planned itinerary, had been hoping to make it to Elves' that day (and back to camp near Garnet). The trip from Garnet had been unexpectedly rough, and I let them know that it would remain so all the way to Elves. We decided to share our camp with them (by chance we had 2 extra spots on our permit) and it was fun to talk about the AZT with these seasoned long-trail hikers. Larry and Cosmo were great camp guests.

Saying for the day: "She's so bad-ass her pant's can't contain it"

The next morning we all went out to Elves', and we had the place to our selves for the first part of our visit. It was still cool from the rainy day before, but the falls were calling and I stripped to my skivvies and swam to the base. I'm not much into jumping off of rocks, but Scat Daddy did and was joined by Cosmo (Just as we were finished filtering a bunch of water, a couple boat parties came up and we were happy to vacate and leave them to their own brand of fun at the falls.

While our camp guests were eager to top out and headed out right away, our group rested the heat of the day in the shade at Toltec (wait - there's shade at Toltec?). Then we packed our camp and started across the rocky route to Garnet. In retrospect, this was brilliant - the late afternoon shade made this portion of the trek much easier, and we climbed the fun scramble out of Garnet over sandstone ledges and steps with just enough daylight left. Our camp on the Tonto was like my favorite Tonto camps always are: wide open and scenic. While not really a "point camp" that Sirena might prefer, we were still suspended mid-canyon with those amazing sunsets and sunrises that make so many nights spent in the canyon pure magic.

Saying for the day: "Who knew we'd love a tamarisk so."

Final days found us hot and sweaty crossing the Tonto Trail. We only found some warm potholes in Copper, which weren't sufficient to sustain our whole group. So we hiked on to Bass, where the potholes I've found in the past just below the Tonto junction were also dry. Surprising given the amount of rain recently, but not surprising given Grand Canyon. We did find 2 holes upon more detailed inspection, between the 2 giving us exactly enough for one more overnight and our hike out. We had a final beautiful night under the stars, then thoroughly enjoyed our hike out on the beautiful Bass trail.

Now that I've done the Arch 3 times, I can say without any doubt that there are places in this world that don't get old with repetition. They just get sweeter.
South Bass Trail
rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
This one is a winner! :y:

Royal Arch and Elves Chasm were two of the last "must see" Grand Canyon destinations on my wish list, and I was able to secure permits for the end of March. I tend to like spring trips when there are possible issues finding water because I think there's a reasonable chance that winter moisture will fill in the gaps more than some other times of year.

There were some last minute changes to who was going to come along, but it turned out just right. I really think that this is best done with 4 people or less. A larger group and you will really get bogged down in some of the more challenging terrain.

The weather was a question for us, with a forecast calling for rain, wind, and snow to 6000 feet, possibly complicating our trip to the trailhead. In the end, it turned out exceptionally well for us, with rain only causing us to put on gear one time on the trail, and even then, only for about 15 minutes. Other showers fell overnight or at least after we had set up tents. The cold front brought refreshing weather ... a cloudy day in the 50s on the Tonto is one you should never take for granted!

Day 1:
There were numerous drainages along the Esplanade that had a light flow and small pools, and once we started heading down toward Royal Arch Creek, the drainage through the Supai had near constant pools and flow the whole way. In hindsight we should have camped above the dryfall because once dropping down to the top of the redwall, all surface water was gone. It rained overnight, and the spring at Royal Arch was only an hour or so downstream in the morning, but had we not found a small pool a little bit back upstream, night one would have been less enjoyable than it turned out.

Day 2:
Royal Arch is an impressive feature, and next time I'll make sure to camp here. This would be one of the best camps in the entire canyon. Period.

Heading toward Toltec, I was a little anxious about the rappel, but was relieved to find a handline in place with knots and loops which made the descent an absolute piece of cake. We had rope with us, but didn't need to use it. There was another rope already in place that we used to lower packs, and yet a third rope at the bottom that had been left by previous hikers.

There was water in the Toltec drainage which kept us from having to filter the muddy Colorado River water.

Day 3:
We took three hours to hike over to Elves Chasm and explore the area there. This is in the top 3 of all Grand Canyon gems in my opinion. Back at camp, we witnessed a rafting group pass by before packing up camp and heading out on the Tonto. There's a drainage between Toltec and Garnet that has water, but it's very salty. Garnet had numerous pools of good water. These seem like they would last for a good while into spring or after monsoon rains. Farther east things were much less certain, even with the preceding days of rain. Luckily we found a few tiny potholes of water about 6 miles in and decided to camp there.

Day 4:
On a cool, cloudy morning we headed the final 7 miles to Bass Canyon. I really enjoyed passing by Copper Canyon and the reverse view of Huethewali. The highlight of the day are the views along the Colorado across from Shinumo Creek, which was raging with snowmelt/storm runoff. We set up camp before noon and sat through a brief rain shower before day hiking South Bass to the river to check out the Ross Wheeler and Bass Beach, where we all went swimming in the refreshingly cool water. :)

On the way back we spotted a commercial rafting group and were hoping to see them run Bass Rapid but it was 3pm and they settled into the beach on the north side of the river just above the rapids. Karl and I decided to hike upsteam and see if we could get closer to them, ending up just across the river on the cliffs about 300 feet up. It was mostly disgusting to watch this party of 32+ people infiltrate the beach (so much for GRCA being managed as a wilderness lol) .

Day 5:
Having already summited Huethewali, I opted to sleep in for an extra hour and hike out on my own while the others planned to bag the peak on the way up. I didn't see the sun until I got above the redwall, and after that it was borderline chilly. I reached the top in 3 hours and found entertainment in observing three college students from CU Boulder getting ready to head down for a two night trip. (While they did bring a bag of ice to keep their hot dogs fresh, they decided to sacrifice and not bring the 16oz bottle of ketchup they had! [-( )

Despite the rain and snow, the drive out was dry and uneventful. Except for the rafters and college kids at the trailhead, we didn't see another soul for five days. Pretty much just the way it should be! :D

We could have done this in 4 days, but I'm happy we went with 5. It allowed for some leeway with the weather and assured that the side trips to Elves Chasm and Bass Beach could be made without pushing it too much. I also learned that elves really like to be scratched behind the ears. :-$
South Bass Trail
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This route and backpack was everything they say it is and more. It was rugged, awe-inspiring and remote. I feel accomplished and elated to have been able to complete this one.

Day 1:

I did this trip with a couple of nagging ailments, so day one became a bit of a slog for me, but it was generally pretty easy. We took the Esplanade route from South Bass to a "dry" campsite just before Royal Arch Creek. Fast times down South Bass, as one would expect and pretty good moving across the relatively nice Esplanade route. A little boulder hopping, but generally pretty good moving down canyon to camp, then a little hunt for water, a quick dinner and a retreat to the tents to ride out a pretty good little squall.

Day 2:

A little slower moving for me down canyon, but not an overly tough route to the arch. The arch/land bridge area is tremendous and a true wonder of the canyon: A short climb out of Royal Arch Creek and then some nice tread to the infamous rappel. There was already a hand line in place, with some well placed/tied knots at the famous down climb, so we naturally utilized it and made pretty quick work of the modest obstacle. I would probably place it somewhere on the level of the down climb and hand line use needed in Phantom Canyon for frame of reference. From there it was dodging rain, light exploring and the usual camp activities.

Day 3:

Day three was Elves Chasm and a backpack that was pretty light in terms of miles, but a little rugged in nature. The Chasm needs no describing and was as nice as they say. Our movement down the Tonto was relaxed and we played the water gamble game perfectly to the tune of a really nice site among some slabs and high above a no name dry fall in a no name wash.

Day 4:

I thought day four was basically going to be just a movement and rest day for me, but it ended up being packed full of some pretty good hiking and new sites. A cloudy morning made for some perfect conditions along the Tonto and the views across the Colorado and north were superb at times. After setting up camp at the South Bass junction, we hiked to the "boat" and the South Bass Beach. The hike down canyon was very green and pleasant with several opportunities for filtering water. The boat was a cool little attraction and we all took a dip in the Colorado at the beach, overall, I think we all enjoyed the hike to the Colorado and its little attractions. I personally think its one of the nicer final descents to the river in the Grand Canyon. The chance of rain flirted with us at camp, but it ended up materializing on the north rim. As a result, we were rewarded with a nice little weather and cloud show along with a pretty nice sunset.

Day 5:

We only had five miles to complete on the final day, so Karl and I decided to add on one last side trip, Mount Huethawali. We knocked out the modest little summit on the way out. We were both happy to have made the pretty quick little detour to the relatively easy summit that we both really enjoyed. There are some great views from the summit and it felt like a fitting way to end our five day trek in the canyon. Unfortunately, after enjoying our moment on the summit, the realization set in for me that we still had to put on the heavy packs and climb out. The climb out did not go as bad as I thought it would, but it is certainly a grind; after about five hours from leaving camp, I topped out, signaling an end to our trip.

A great backpack and a big thanks to @chumley for putting it all together! In terms of non thru-hiking experiences, maybe one of my best ever. It will take a lot to beat this one. I am very grateful to have gotten a chance to complete this canyon gem.
South Bass Trail
rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
South Bass to Silver Bell via the Gems
So this trip covers what is commonly known as "The Gems" -- The Tonto Trail between South Bass and Boucher.

For people who make this journey, the biggest factor is water availability. The NPS officially reports that there are no reliable sources of water along this route, though seasonally water can be found in some of the drainages. For those who read this doing research for a future trip, I'll start with the water report. (You may view the map and click each water source to see reports from trips other than this one.)

Water Report:
The 2014/2015 winter was near normal for precipitation in northern Arizona. It was unusually warm however, and most storms dropped rain on the south rim rather than snow. On our trip start date of 3/19, there was no snow pack anywhere on the south rim. There was no mud or any other sign of recent moisture on the road. The last precipitation had fallen on 3/2 ... a storm that dropped 1-2" of rain in the canyon with about a foot of snow on the South Rim. So it had been totally dry, sunny, and warm for 16 days when we began our hike.

In order west to east:
Bass: dry with isolated pools 1/2 mile below Tonto
Serpentine: pools and light flow at crossing. Nobody got sick from drinking it.
Emerald: pools and light flow
Quartz: dry
Ruby: dry with a few pools in rock
Jade: dry
Jasper: dry
Turquoise: pools and light flow above Tonto crossing. Very nice flow down canyon from crossing.
Sapphire: some pools and a light trickle at Tonto crossing.
Agate: dry
Slate: pools at crossing, light flow and larger pools just upstream of crossing
Topaz: dry
Boucher: flowing as normal. A reliable source all year.

A different time of year, or a different quantity of precipitation over the winter and your results may vary. Turquoise and Slate seem to be the most likely to find water. Serpentine is apparently fairly reliable in cooler months, but some have reported stomach illness due to mineral content. We did not experience that and 5 of us drank plenty from Serpentine.

The Gems:
Not really sure why it's called this. Of the officially named canyons (Serpentine, Ruby, Turquoise, Sapphire, Agate, Slate, and Topaz) one could argue that there are a few minerals that aren't gems. The unofficially named canyons don't help. In any case, it's all a ruse of reverse psychology since there are no rocks in any of these canyons that resemble their given names. In fact, there's nothing exotic, or particularly scenic about any of this trip! It's as if the names are given to give a false impression of something special!

Don't get me wrong. You're in the Grand Canyon. Thirty miles of absolute solitude in the middle of one of the 7 wonders of the world. On several occasions I looked around and felt incredibly small. It's a great perspective. But unless you are motivated to hike a trail just because it's on a map, this isn't the most scenic or interesting route you could spend your time on. (And yes, I realize there are plenty of people who are motivated by that).

The Hike:
John put this together, and I appreciate his planning. He was confident about our water sources (but gave up on Serpentine and hiked to the river to filter after a passing hiker told us a friend had gotten sick two years ago -- the rest of us drank it and survived just fine.) Approaching each drainage, we all would begin to doubt if water would be available, but it's amazing how accustomed you become to thinking a small pool is more than enough! Water was never a problem for us. I think we all carried more than necessary in anticipation of not finding any.

The Tonto is a great trail when it's out on the platform parallel to the river. When it dives into the drainages, it's a pain in the ass. If it was all on the platform, the hike would be so much more pleasant, but I would guess far more than half of it is in the drainages. The northern/western half is much rougher than the southern/eastern half. Serpentine, Emerald, Quartz and Ruby especially. The southern/eastern half canyons are easier to get through, with the exception of the two miles getting out of Slate Canyon which is rough. The descent into Topaz/Boucher is steep and loose, but at that point, you can see water and know that camp is near, so motivation and adrenalin easily overcomes the rest.

On our way out we opted for the Dripping Springs Route, formerly the Silver Bell Trail - the original trail built by Boucher from above Dripping Springs to his camp near the river. This old route is the real gem on this trip and a very pleasant way to exit the canyon without dealing with the crowds and tourists one would normally encounter by exiting on the Hermit Trail.

The Group:
It was great to hike with Kathy, Karl, Lee, John, and Kyle. Everybody is independent and hiked on their own, but also of similar ability and speed that we were all within a short distance of each other each day. It was nice to gather together each night at camp for dinner and desserts. Some people snore louder than mating canyon tree frogs, but luckily, ear plugs were packed and sleep was not interrupted. Also, some people seem to think that 4:30 is a perfectly normal time to get up in the morning. I'm still not sure why. :zzz:
South Bass Trail
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South Bass to Silver Bell via the Tonto Trail
Another memorable trip to the Canyon is complete! A group of six of us made the trek along the Tonto through The Gems over the course of four days. This was an amazing hike and we covered a lot of ground. Water was our biggest concern but we found plenty. Shade was also a premium. The following is a day by day triplog of our adventure.

Wednesday, March 18
Our group left Phoenix on Wednesday evening in two vehicles and made our way to Flagstaff where we topped off gas and grabbed some food at Crystal Creek. From there we drove all the way to the South Bass Trailhead. FR328 was completely dried out and relatively easy to follow. The Havasupai Gate was unmanned but we had to pay the following morning when arranging the shuttle. We camped at the South Bass Trailhead and turned in before midnight

Thursday, March 19
We woke on Thursday morning and started getting geared up. Karl and Lee left fairly early in the two vehicles to set up the shuttle. They paid a Havasupai member at the entrance gate to shuttle them between FR2501/2506 and the South Bass Trailhead. The total came to $100 ($25 for each vehicle and $50 for the shuttle). This worked out really well!

The rest of us started hiking around mid-morning and took our time dropping down the South Bass Trail. This trail was dried out and in excellent condition and easy to follow. We made decent time as we reached the Esplanade and then started the drop into Bass Canyon through the Supai and Redwall. This Redwall break is quite possibly the easiest break outside the corridor. The trail makes an easy descent through the break and then it’s high speed along the Bright Angel Shale. We arrived at the Tonto junction and gathered all four of us and then made the last few miles to Serpentine Canyon where we found cool and clear water and plenty of campsites.

About an hour after getting camp set up Karl and Lee showed up to our surprise. They told us about hiring the shuttle and this saved them at least two hours of hiking. They got situated and then our group day hiked to the Colorado River. The route down the wash is fairly easy to follow with a few minor obstacles in the way. We took a break at the Colorado River and I filtered three liters with my Sawyer Squeeze. The river was murky but easy to filter. From there our group returned to camp and settled in for the evening.

Friday, March 20
Our group started hiking around mid-morning as we only had ten miles to reach Turquoise Canyon for our second night’s camp. The going was easy at first but became more difficult as the sun beat down and temps rose into the 80’s. We reached Ruby Canyon around the five mile mark and took an extended break there. Ruby provided the rare opportunity for shade and there were a few small pools of water right at the trail crossing. We all rested here and filled up on water and drank electrolytes. From there we continued the final five miles to Turquoise Canyon where we set up camp.

Turquoise Canyon had lots of good camping available. FOTG and I selected sites under an overhang while the others set up just below us. There was good water available about a minute up canyon. After getting camp set up I went for a solo walk down canyon. I was surprised to find a full blown creek about a quarter mile down canyon. This area is so lush and beautiful! I spent just under an hour exploring. I wish I had more time and energy. I was curious if one can walk all the way to the river or if any obstacles impede progress. Anyways I returned to camp and all of us settled in for another night in paradise!

Saturday, March 21
All of us left camp fairly early around 7am. We have a long day ahead of us. We need to cross three major drainages and make it the fifteen miles to Boucher Camp. We wanted to get a jump on the heat. The first few miles were in shade and the temps were cool. All of us made good time as we reached Sapphire where we found good water at the crossing. We continued on and reached Agate which was dry. It was another five miles to Slate where we took an extended break in the shade. There was plenty of good water at the Slate crossing. Once again we refilled and drank electrolytes. From there we continued east and passed the monument that provides access to the bed of Slate Creek. FOTG and I wanted to go down there but didn’t have the energy. We want to plan another trip in the future.

It was a long day hiking but we finally reached Boucher Camp and set up camp. Afterward the four of us settle next to the creek in a shaded area and waited for Karl and Kathy to arrive. Sitting and relaxing is such a treat in the Canyon. It’s nice to not move after the long mileage day! Karl and Kathy arrived soon after and set up camp. From there the five of us, excluding Kathy, day hiked down Boucher to the river. This is a very easy hike and it was nice seeing the river up close for the second time. We all returned to camp and settled in for our last evening in the Canyon.

Sunday, March 22
All of us were dreading the hike out Boucher. The plan was to start early and exit the Canyon via the Silver Bell Trail. We’ll have to walk a few miles cross country through the forest and connect to the Boundary Road where the two vehicles are parked. The hike up Boucher was the typical grind but was easier with the early start. I hit the trail right at 6:30am and had cool weather and shade all the way to the top of the Supai. I continued the sunny traverse to Dripping Springs were I saw FOTG on the lower portion of Silver Bell. He said he would wait for me near the top.

The hike up Silver Bell was a joy! The old route has deteriorated but is easy to follow although very steep and loose in places. I didn’t realize how much elevation you gain there. You basically have to climb the Coconino, Toroweap and Kaibab layers. The climb is around a thousand feet and it took some effort! I met FOTG when the trail levels off in the forest and we followed an old road for a bit and then went cross country through the forest to the Boundary Road. Once there we headed west and connected on FR2506. The vehicles were about fifteen minutes down the road. We were both very happy and spent when we reached the vehicles. From there we played roundup and gathered the entire group. After that it was off to NiMarcos in Flag for pizza and wings!


This was one hell of a trip! We covered a lot of ground and saw a large portion of the Grand Canyon. Be careful when planning this hike because some of the drainages are seasonal and will dry up in the hot months. Thanks to Chumley and BiFrost for driving! And the entire group was a lot of fun and I look forward to the next adventure!
South Bass Trail
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South Bass to Silver Bell - THE GEMS
9L put together a real hum-dinger of a trip :)

Thursday morning we headed down South Bass. We did some miles on the Tonto, hit the Colorado a couple times, and camped in some beautiful places. Sunday finally arrived and we headed up. There is no warm up-- just up. And then there is more up. And a lot more up. And then there is a cooler with beer.

Great time with some great people :D
South Bass Trail
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S.Bass to Silver Bell
John put together a nice four day trek to the Gems for the six of us. The shuttle was our biggest obstacle entering the trip. However, Karl and I solved that problem by volunteering to drive both cars back to our end trail head (Silver Bell) and then hiking the 11 miles back to our starting TH South Bass. I will admit I had lost some of my enthusiasm for the 11 mile road walk to start our trip, so on a suggestion from Chumley and John we asked the guy at the reservation boundary gate if he wanted to make a little extra money. He was unable to help but his uncle took up our offer and followed us to silver bell and then dropped us off at the TH for S. Bass, saving us 11 miles of forest road walking and putting us just a couple hours behind the main group.

We reunited with the group at a cool little camp site located along the ledges of Serpentine Canyon. The shuttle help turned day one into a nice pleasant hike down S. Bass, with time enough left over to make a trip to the Colorado. The only blemish on an otherwise perfect day was me missing the ruins coming down S. Bass.

Day two was a pretty modest 10 mile movement to our next camp. We all left late and found the Tonto to be warm at times, but managed just fine. Another cool camp, another night sleeping on ledge for me and another late night for me ;)

Day three required an earlier start with 15 miles of the Tonto to cover to get to Boucher. I loved the Tonto at moments and cursed it at times, but generally enjoyed it. We seemed to all cover the Tonto pretty quickly and made it to Boucher just in time to enjoy our non-shaded site. We located the route down into Slate Creek and mulled a potential trip back, but not in the works for day three. The only other eventful activity of day three was the trip down to Boucher Rapids.

I dreaded day four a little because of the climb up Boucher. However, I did not find the climb to be that bad and I was at Dripping Springs and the start of the Silver Bell before I knew it. I really liked the Silver Bell route. It was a little challenging, but nothing overwhelming and a great way to hike out of the canyon. John and I reached the vehicles first and drove to the boundary line road. When Chumley arrived we just picked up the rest of the group as they came out along the Boundary Road, once all accounted for it was to Flag for pizza.

Final thanks to John for going through the permit process and keeping me safe, Chumley and Karl for driving, some props to Kathy for hanging in there with a cold and a special thanks to clairebear for watching my delinquents.
South Bass Trail
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The road to S Bass was dried out, and the big snow dump had melted, which were my biggest concerns.

The route down the Coconino is truly a wonder, and was glad I finally had the opportunity to check it out. I can only wonder how much effort it was to haul that tree ladder up there (or perhaps down there).

The rest of the route to the arch was fairly straightforward and water was abundant. The arch was impressive and I can see why many people like to camp out right there at the end.

The rappel is fairly straightforward and soon enough I was at the Colorado River. Elves chasm was nice to visit and I grabbed a bunch of water since I wasn't sure whether any of the water until S Bass would be drinkable. As it turned out I had to make it last all the way to S Bass, as even though Garnet was flowing I wasn't sure if it was drinkable. Copper Canyon was surprisingly dry, though I did observe a small pool as I was on the Tonto above it after leaving the canyon.

There was a small pool in S Bass, and I headed down towards the river. The S Bass trail is in good shape up to the rim and I finally spotted the small ruin in the Coconino

Most days I had to hide in the shade between 1 and 4 because of the heat. But the nights were fairly mild and I can't complain too much
South Bass Trail
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Had Royal Arch on the HAZ calendar but the PM system must be down 'cause no one was able to get a hold of me. Decided to go back to Flint Creek instead. I spent a cold night in the back of my truck at South Bass TH. 17 was the predicted low. Was hard to get out of my bag in the morning so I didn't hit the trail until about 8:30am. Down South Bass and then crossed the river, same spot as last time. In an attempt to reduce weight and bulk, I used a small extending paddle instead of a kayak paddle and an inflatable life vest. Went up Shinumo and then up Flint Creek. Shinumo had a major flash flood since the last time I was here and the place is almost unrecognizable! Many of the cottonwoods are gone and the creek changed its course in many spots. Some of the Bass Camp artifacts are either buried in silt or washed down the creek. Shinumo used to run a few hundred feet from Bass Camp but now it's only about 25 feet away.
Didn't have enough time to get to my destination in Flint as I got a late start and wanted to get back to the river before it got dark. Saw some small ruins near Shinumo as a consolation. On one of the many crossings of Shinumo, I stepped on a trick rock that rolled out from under me, sending me up to my neck into the creek. R.I.P. Canon S110 :(

I left a water bottle cached at the Redwall on South Bass. On the way out I still had plenty of water so instead of dumping it I left the bottle on the trail in case someone needs it (I did last time. Thanks JoeyB!) Is this trash? Maybe. It's common for people to run out of water on SB while exiting the Royal Arch Route. I think the last water is typically Copper Canyon unless they make a side trip to the Colorado. I hope someone can use it and then carries out the empty.

FR328 vs. my truck: Broken front strut and missing sway bar link. No flats this time.

No one at the Rez gate, in or out.

2 1/4 liters
South Bass Trail
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Hit up SB with 2 NPS friends and my cousin Alex.
They stopped at the Esplanade then head back up south bass while I ran on up to Mount We-the-wally and scrambled up the side for 35 minutes before our agreed upon turn around time
I made it to the rim in exactly 55 minutes from mid Mount H. Whoo!
I only know the time because I was trying to catch my group before they hit the rim. I arrived 4 minutes behind them. I feel pretty good about that.


Directions
Map Drive
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Road
Strictly 4x4

To South Bass Trailhead
The South Bass trailhead is located in a remote area about 30 miles northwest of Grand Canyon Village. Primary access via the Kaibab National Forest on Forest Road (FR) 328. This unpaved byway is not shown accurately on most topo maps, so a road map of the Tusayan Ranger District of the Kaibab National Forest will be useful. FR 328 is rough and rocky and sections can become impassible during wet weather. A high-clearance vehicle is recommended, and four-wheel drive might be required if the road is muddy. Driving to the South Bass trailhead can offer almost as much adventure as the hike.

Normal access to FR 328 is via Rowe Well Road from Grand Canyon Village. The park kennel is the best landmark. Rowe Well Road goes from west end of the Village to the kennel and continues south to the park boundary. This road can be difficult to locate, so inquiring locally might save time. FR 328 can also be accessed from Highway 64 south of the park. Turn west at the last intersection before entering the park or obtain directions at the Tusayan District Ranger Station.

Drive Rowe Well Road about three miles south to the park boundary. A sign announces entry to Kaibab National Forest. Stay left (southeast) at the first fork, cross the railroad tracks and continue another mile to the intersection with FR 28. Turn right (west) on FR 328 toward Pasture Wash and the South Bass Trail. Drive about 16 miles to a gate that marks entry to the Havasupai Indian Reservation and the end of FR 328. The Havasupai Tribe charges a fee (usually $25) to cross their land and occasionally post a tribal member at the gate to collect. This station is not staffed full-time, and if nobody seems to be in evidence simply pass through the gate and continue about 1.7 miles to a four-way intersection. The road degenerates markedly at this junction. Turn right (northeast) toward Pasture Wash, follow the road about 1.9 miles to the Forest Service boundary fence. Continue another half a mile to the park boundary fence and cattle guard. Please help keep cows out of the park by closing this gate after passing through. Keep driving north to the ruins of the old Pasture Wash Ranger Station. This outpost has not been staffed for many years and no assistance is available. Maintain the northerly heading for 3.6 rutted, rocky miles to rim. Be forewarned: The road north of the four-way intersection can be rendered impassible by deep mud during periods of heavy rain or snow melt.

Note: Havasupai Reservation is a sovereign nation, cross at your own risk.

From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 253 mi - about 4 hours 34 mins
From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 358 mi - about 6 hours 4 mins
From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 106 mi - about 2 hours 24 mins
128 GB Flash Drive... $14
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