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Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
Waterfall splendour at a price
A technical canyoneering loop utilizing Grant Creek Trail and Cunningham Spur Trail.
Canyoneering involves descending narrows canyons, and adventurers need to pay attention to the weather, do not go if there is any chance of rain.
For this trip, you will need to come equipped with appropriate technical gear. This means: harness, helmet, rappelling device, locking carabiners, 30 ft webbing, 3 quick links, and an iron will. GPS is recommended. Either bring 2x200 ft ropes or a 200 ft rope and 200 ft pull-cord. A wetsuit is not required in summer, but bring a drybag and expect to get completely soaked.
This trip involves serious amounts of bushwhacking and down-climbing, so be prepared for very slow progress. You are forewarned
Be warned that Grant Creek Trail #305 is not conducive to hiking in the dark.
Even though it was published in Todd's book, it is doubtful this canyon has seen many descents.
From the trailhead near Cunningham campground, walk the swift trail back east along the road approximately a half-mile to a road which branches right (south). Follow the road a short bit and find a trail on the left that descends a gully into Grant Creek. (Alternate: hike the road approximately 1 mile and find the trail which follows Grant Creek, this adds a bit of distance.)
Once next to Grant creek, a good trail (at first) is found. Follow this down the creek. As the canyon gets more rugged, the trail gets worse. Eventually, you are hanging onto trees and traversing above several beautiful waterfalls. Continue down canyon, bushwhacking and maneuvering in and by the creek. Making progress of maybe 0.5 mph, you will reach a spectacular set of cascades after about 90 minutes. The creek descends over 300 ft, and a bypass route can be found along the north side.
At 2 hours, you reach a waterfall that blocks progress. Ascend to a rock escarpment on the northern (right LDC) side of the canyon and rig a sloping rappel of about 100 ft next to the cascade from a nice pine tree.
From here, your will is tested as to go approximately another mile will take you 2-6 hours. Downclimbing, bushwhacking, crawling, splashing and will all be used. Expect to get physically abused by the New Mexican locust and a variety of vines that tend to hang at neck level to decapitate you. Towards the end, it was found that benches on the north side allow some relief at times from the brutality.
Reaching the 2nd major obstacle of the canyon, the adventurer will peer over the edge of a two-stage waterfall, approximately 200 ft in total. I recommend using a tree on the north (right LDC) to rig a rappel for approximately 50 ft + 15 ft back from the edge. Rappel past the first bowl of 15 ft into the second bowl. In the second bowl, pull your rope and wrap a conveniently located rock for a final rappel of approximately 150 feet. Staying on the south side of the direct line of the falls will allow you to land on a small platform rather than in the plunge pool. Be careful as the rope pull once at the bottom is quite difficult.
From here, you can take off your gear. A good trail exists from this point. Follow it down canyon to where you encounter an old water delivery system with a half-mile of pipe used by an old settler. You will reach a good campsite at the intersection with Grant Creek Trail #305. Turn right and follow the Grant Creek Trail up to the rim. Once at the top, you will encounter a junction with the Cunningham Trail. Turn right at this 3-way junction and follow the trail to the Cunningham camp-ground. At the camp-ground road, turn left and follow the road back to your vehicle.
Water runs along the canyon; there will be none along Grant Creek Trail.
There is a well-used campsite at the junction of the canyon and the Grant Creek Trail. Although I consider it unlikely, it is possible you could set up a camp here and complete the loop the next day.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.