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Utah Flats Route, AZ

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Guide 50 Triplogs  2 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Northwest > North Rim
4.2 of 5 by 10
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Difficulty 2.5 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance One Way 4 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,513 feet
Elevation Gain 1,200 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,000 feet
Avg Time One Way 4 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 10.67
Interest Off Trail Hiking
Backpack Yes & Connecting
Dogs not allowed
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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21  2019-02-09
Isis Temple
51  2018-03-30
Phantom Canyon - Lower
19  2017-12-30
Phantom Canyon - Upper
33  2017-05-04
Phantom Canyon - Lower
10  2017-04-15
Cheops Pyramid 5206
4  2017-04-14
Cheops Plateau
12  2017-03-23
Cheops Pyramid 5206
13  2016-10-29
Cheops Plateau
Page 1,  2,  3,  4,  5
Author nonot
author avatar Guides 93
Routes 236
Photos 1,969
Trips 476 map ( 4,511 miles )
Age Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
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Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Mar, Nov, Feb, Apr → 8 AM
Seasons   Late Autumn to Early Spring
Sun  6:17am - 6:24pm
Official Route
15 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Not in Utah and not flat!
by nonot

A somewhat popular off-trail route in the Grand Canyon, it connects the Bright Angel Campground Area near Phantom Ranch to Upper Phantom Creek. It is popular as a backpacking option since most will stay in upper Phantom Creek for a day or two. It doesn't make that great of a dayhike, in my opinion.

This is considered off-trail by the park service and is neither maintained nor patrolled. Part of the route is faint and you will need to exercise route-finding skills to find where it continues. The climb out of Bright Angel is hot, I recommend an early start.

Discovered quite awhile ago, this route was found as a way to explore west of the North Kaibob trail without having to get drenched hiking up Phantom canyon. It is named Utah flats because the early route-finders thought the rock masses that you reach upon completing the climb out of the campgrounds somewhat resemble the slickrock flats of Utah.

From the north end of the Bright Angel Campground, next to the solid-looking gray bridge on the west side of bright angel creek, you will find a faint trail (no signs) that goes around a bush or two and begins a steep ascent up the talus slope to the northwest. The footing is loose and the slope is about 40 degrees or so towards the beginning. Shortly you cross underneath the trans-canyon phone line and continue some minor switchbacks as you continue up very steeply. The first resting spot is a flat-topped knob about 200 feet above camp. There is another good spot with shade about 500 feet above the campground. After this you will emerge onto a bare gray saddle into full sun.

Looking forward, you will see what is called "Piano Alley" due to the large amount of fallen boulders the size of pianos (and many are much bigger). The trail will continue climbing up the right side of the gully, taking you around most of the large boulders. Once you hit the cliff wall on the right side you will run out of trail and eventually have to do some minor climbing (class 2 YDS) up the boulders for about 200 feet. It is a bit of a scramble but there are several ways to get through the boulder field and it is not too difficult to do with your pack on.

As you complete the climb you will end up in a minor gully and will continue walking up the gully until you can find a convenient place to climb up the rocks to your right to reach a flat layer. Once standing here you can look around and begin to understand why they named in Utah Flats.

Signs of a trail are virtually nonexistant here, so set your compass to the northwest and begin traversing over the brownish "slickrock" and gravel. Conserving your elevation you will wind around a bit of a depression, with more "slickrock" blobby masses to your north. If you are lucky you will eventually pick up a faint trail (quite faint) as you climb up towards what is called "Cactus Saddle", which is a minor saddle on a hill filled with small cactus. Finding the trail here is key and may take a bit of wandering around, but after this the trail proceeds to climb quite a bit and you really wouldn't want to do the next part without finding the route again.

The trail climbs and contours its way up the slopes of Cheops to try to reach a flatter layer a few hundred feet up. The trail the rest of the way is fairly good and it weaves its way around Cheops with some ups and downs as it begins to approach Phantom Creek. Finally, after slightly passing the Cheops-Isis saddle (a few hundred feet below it) the trail will begin to go steeply down, then up a bit, and then steeply down towards the creek. The footing is fairly poor in some places, so use caution and take your time. It is steep and just about as unpleasant as the way up from Phantom at the beginning. As you reach the bottom you will see a nice campsite on the other side of the creek.

The route ends depositing you in the upper part of Phantom Creek. About a hundred yards downstream is the barrier falls in Phantom Creek that is about 20 feet high.

Water Sources
The Bright Angel campground has running potable water. At the end of this hike you will reach Phantom Creek, which is perennial. Water may be found in the "Utah Flats" area itself above piano alley shortly after rains.

Campers can camp in the "Utah Flats" area above piano alley, camping further down towards Bright Angel is not permitted. At the end of this route in Phantom Creek, there is a camping area you will see as you descend. It is very nice, but if rain is predicted it may be a bit miserable due to the way water falls off the cliffs.

This is not to be confused with the Bonzai route, that is a different, steeper route up a gully.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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

2011-04-09 nonot
  • Grand Canyon Use Area Boundaries - Dynamic Map

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 17 deeper Triplog Reviews
Utah Flats Route
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I headed to the Grand Canyon with @carriejane over the New Years weekend. The goals were: Hippie Camp in Upper Phantom, a recon of the Shiva exit route, a quick trip up Haunted Canyon and then Cheops Pyramid. The trip was also a test run on my surgically repaired shoulder, which is nearing its fourth month of recovery and long awaited end to its five pound limitation/restriction.

Day one included a late start and then an extra trip down the road to the trailhead to go back and grab some containers we had forgotten that would be needed to haul the water for our dry camp on day two. South Kaibab was a bit of a zoo, but the hiking was quick and the views were nice as usual. The Utah Flats Route was the rugged steep little climb we expected, but it went well. The stretch from the top to Phantom Canyon was a real treat, some great clouds and big views. The scramble down to Phantom was a little tedious, but that initial stretch of canyon makes it worthwhile. Initially, we had planned to hike into Hippie camp on the first night, but the attractiveness of the overhang camp and taking off the heavy packs won over.

On day two we day hiked up to Hippie camp and did a quick recon of the Shiva Exit Route, which I have to admit looks pretty intense, but I would still like to utilize it on a future ambitious trip. Although Hippie camp was a minor let down, the area intrigued both of us and we discussed a potential future return during snow melt. There was no time for Haunted Canyon with Cheops Pyramid still on the slate, so we returned to camp, packed up and made our way down stream. After a quick visit to the rope and falls that mark the upper and lower divide of Phantom, we filtered and stocked up on water for Cheops and our upcoming dry camp. Then it was the brisk climb back up U.F.R. and a quick stroll across the Tonto. We dropped the heavy packs and started off for Cheops at about 2:10 p.m. The off trail contour to the pyramid is a bit of a slog, but it seemed to go by quickly and before we knew it we were at the base of the “steps.” This part went a little smoother for me than the last time and we located the little climbs and the cairns marking them with relative ease. On the summit before 3:30 p.m. and after a ten minute break or so we were heading back down. The hike back to our packs was a little slow, but we were still able to retrieve our packs and make our way down trail to a nice campsite just before nightfall.

Day three consisted of slipping and sliding down Utah Flats into Phantom Ranch and then the River Trail to Bright Angel. We detoured off BA to do some of the Old Bright Angel and made the obligatory stop at the archeological site along the way. The last three miles of BA were a major slog for me, but Carrie was unfazed and left me in the dust a little.

Utah Flats Route
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I had been wanting to see Cheops Plateau from the other end of the spine since my summit of the Plateau just about a year ago. My return to the area in the fall with @DallinW further piqued this desire. In fact, we had planned to do it together this weekend, but Dallin has a foot that needs to get right by next month, so he had to bow out. I nearly bowed out myself due to a nasty bug and spending about 15 hours in bed on Friday, but nevertheless, fueled on energy drinks and Thera-Flu, I dragged myself out of bed at 3:30 in the morning on Saturday to pack for a night at the canyon and a big day hike. I was on the road by 4:30 and started off for Cheops at 8:05 a.m.

I immediately realized that my zeal for the hike may have been enhanced by cold medicine and two energy drinks on the drive up. I could just tell it was going to be a slog, my legs were even fatigued going down hill and those are supposed to be the free miles on these big days in the canyon. I even thought about just making a loop with the Tonto back to BA and shuttling back to SK, but I was worried that I would be confused with the throngs of free pass users that were cluttering up the trails and decided it was best to continued on to the pyramid. I filled up, rested a little and cameled up at the campground before hitting Utah Flats where I ended up almost turning around due to feeling so poorly. My legs just weighed a ton, I was short of breath, feeling a lot warmer than what I should have been feeling and a little nauseated. In fact, it took me an hour just to climb the first mile up Utah Flats, however, the pyramid was just too close to call the hike.

The route to the pyramid was a little tougher than I thought it would be and I was not very fast going at all. In terms of approach, I think the plateau is easier. As stated in the description, the route to the pyramid will test those stabilizer muscles in your legs. Throw in an achy body, some intense fatigue and a little remorse for pushing on and you have the key ingredients to a miserable 1.5 miles. However, as the "steps" neared, my resolve grew. It took me a minute to figure out the the steps, but eventually they went smoothly and I was finally on the pyramid. A top notch summit in my opinion, with some solid views to the east. I tried to just enjoy my stay on the summit, rather than think about what I still had to do to get out, but that was definitely on my mind. I took some pics, replenished my energy stores a little, while watching two brave souls attempt crossing the spine from the plateau. I don't know how far they got, but they had not given up when I left the summit. The off trail portion seemed to go a little quicker on the way back and despite taking several mini breaks along the way, reaching the campground did not go nearly as bad as I thought it would.

The climb up SK was a complete slog. I was taking breaks at nearly every mile by this point and just trying to keep my feet moving forward. I got a boost of energy near the top when I saw a guy carrying a full mountain bike on his back, props to him and slightly motivating. I topped out just after nine and reached the car at 9:30 p.m. I had intended to stay the night, but my body was telling me I needed some rest, so I just headed straight home, not one break. Back to the house just before 1, just your run of the mill 21 hour excursion to the Grand Canyon.

Final Notes

Although the pyramid was great, I still put the Plateau above it, in terms of views and even route. Utah Flats is a superb trail right now with the green and yellow hillsides and nice cacti bloom. Speaking of, am I the only one who always loses the Utah Flats route for a couple of hundred feet every time? It's warm again in the Canyon! I consumed just about six liters of water and Gatorade, although, I was over-hydrating to compensate for being sick. I have always been a mind over matter person when it comes to being sick, but I did learn on Saturday that eventually the body will win when applying that mindset. It was not pretty and I did not set any land-speed records, but I got it done and still experienced that great sense of accomplishment and elation/buzz that has came with my tougher Canyon summits.
Utah Flats Route
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Tough day to a very cool destination on a warm, breezy day. The climbing section definitely gets your attention, especially reversing things on the way back down. Canyon seems greener than normal this Spring.

Late in the day I saw a serious-looking dude heading down the SK with nothing but a mountain bike strapped to his back - wanted to ask him why but he didn't look to be in the mood for chit-chat.
Utah Flats Route
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I was on the prowl for a trip which would be a good stepping stone for more off-trail and climbing trips. I started looking at GC summits and opened a dialog with Lee, who has a lot of experience in this department. He offered to take me up Cheops this weekend, and it was impossible to say no. My buddy Alex got conned into tagging along too. This would be his first time hiking at GCNP.

It's been a while since I've been nervous about a particular upcoming trip. These are the trips which are good for you though. If you're not stepping out of your comfort zone (within reason) every once in a while, you're not growing.

We got started down SK around 5 am. As usual the views down SK are ridiculous, but you pay the price of admission with aching knees at the bottom. We took a quick break before heading up the Utah Flats route.

The climb from BA campground to Utah Flats was a great warm-up. The route is pretty easy to follow from the campground, up through Piano Alley, and out onto Utah Flats. From there the tread becomes less distinct which leads to a more cross-country feel. I enjoyed this section a lot, and would consider it a destination in and of itself. Somewhere around this time, Lee started making strange barking noises and spontaneously ran around in circles... I'm not sure what that was all about.

The climb to the Cheops-Isis Saddle was annoying. Lots of loose rock and plenty of agave to poke you. Although my trail runners held up admirably, my ankles are a little sore this morning. This is the kind of hike where you maybe want to consider some extra ankle support if you have it. So don't bring sandals for this one. :D

On the saddle I felt a little intimidated at first looking up at what we were about to scramble. My scrambling experience was limited to things with little to no exposure. Lee gave me great advice on good hand holds to use on the more tricky spots. I kept focused only on what was in right front of me, and never gave attention to the exposure. After that it was mostly like any scramble I had done before. The crux was still very nerve wracking for me and it's definitely a little tricky, but with Lee coaching me up, I was able to put the fear aside and make the summit. I highly doubt the crux would have been doable for me without Lee's coaching.

Some of the best views in Arizona are on this plateau in my very humble opinion. If you have the ability to do this hike, you should.

After the down climb from the plateau, we decided to skip the pyramid on this trip and save it for another day.

We tackled the climb out via SK much better than I had anticipated. I figured around 4.5-5 hours to get out. I was way wrong. We did it in just over 3 hrs. :)

This was very memorable trip, and it has me hooked on the idea of pursuing more GC summits.

A big thanks to Lee for dragging my butt up the Plateau! With a competent/capable partner, this one is doable for anyone.
Utah Flats Route
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I wanted to get in one more nice little hike/climb before the coaching season starts up for me again and Dallin had become very intrigued about doing a canyon summit. So naturally, this one and the possibility of the coveted double came up, as we exchanged a few messages. We drove up on Friday with a plus one (Alex) and started our adventure at 0458 the next day.

South Kaibab was fast as usual and particularly beautiful, with perhaps one of the best sunrises I have seen from the inner gorge. After topping off water, it was the climb to Utah Flats, which has always seemed to kick my butt a little. No different this time, but it did seem to go by quicker than usual. I took us up a different ridgeline to the contour point on this run, but I am not sure if it really made any difference. Then it was a nice break at the saddle to collect our thoughts and strength before the fun part. We were a little methodical going up the spine, but that was the plan, with Dallin and Alex being new to the class four world. The crux slowed us down for a minute, however, there were really no issues there for anyone, as Dallin and Alex proved very coach-able and trusted me to get them through. Small fact, the handle on the back of a day pack provides an immense sense of security for someone, (whether false, or not) if you grab it and give them a little hoist while they are negotiating a class four maneuver with a couple hundred feet of exposure. We spent a considerable amount of time on the plateau, checked out the pyramid and had a nice break. It was very nice to witness a couple of first timers take in the views from this unique summit and marvel at their accomplishments. The trip back down the spine and the crux went smooth. However, we all agreed the grassy slope decline back to Utah Flats sucked. Despite having plenty of time and probably enough energy, we all agreed that the pyramid would have to wait and just headed back to Phantom Ranch for another nice long break.

I think we must have found a little second wind somewhere and made the climb out SK in just over three hours.

I could not have asked for a better hike and climb in the canyon and the company was great! Its not so bad doing these things with people after all I guess. Despite the big miles and AEG, we kept the day very manageable with several longer breaks to take in some of the scenes and to just to generally enjoy the experience more. And finally, it was kind of nice to shed the solo label and do one of these summits with people and it felt good helping Dallin knock out a challenging summit in the canyon and expand his horizon a little.

A little Trail Humor

First there was the slightly awkward conversation of potential sleeping arrangements for the three of us in the Xterra after it started raining when we reached the canyon, as Dallin and Alex had anticipated cowboy camping and had left the tents at home. Then there was the incident right before we hit the trail. I had taken a couple of Tylenol, but then became slightly worried when I discovered my Tylenol was still in my pocket. So then what two pills did I take? I spent most of the morning trying to figure out where this extra baggy of pills in my day pack came from and then it hit me at Phantom Ranch. I had taken two of Cup's last three doggy pain killers that Kyle had given me before I left on my fall break trip, oops.
Utah Flats Route
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6 days of awesome just happened.

Jamie and I headed down SK bright and early May 1st...around noon-thirty really ;)
We ambled down to Phantom Ranch with dreams of lemonade and tecate...of which we got none. Wah ={

So after being lazy bums all day we headed up Utah Flats with 4L each of Agua. We camped as far across UF as possible and settled in with the setting sun.

The Morning of May 2nd we left camp kinda early-ish and headed west then south with the Cheops horn or pyramid dancing in our minds.
The "route" was fairly simple, "just head thataway!". So we did. Lots and LOTS of cactus, Mmmmmm...we rounded the South tip of Cheops and slowly began our ascent.

For some strange reason my mind decided to become acrophobic right as we reached the foot of he Redwall... wtf?! So I sat and talked myself out of being a wimp and up we went.

It was a BREEZE. I really did laugh at myself on the summit. *shrug*
It's all 3rd class, no climbing necessary except a few spots where, yeah, you're using your hands to find handholds and feet to find feetholds.

Left our names in the register.
(It was minty fresh! Also, Hi JJ3 and JoeyB!)

The way down and back was a cactusy cake walk. We tore down camp and continued on down to Phantom Creek where we settled into that sweet Campsite just upstream from Phantom Falls.
(On a side note, we had thought of doing lower Phantom but that knotted fix rope there gave me the heebyjeebys and we only had a short bit of webbing... Next time?!)

We explored up Haunted Cyn a ways, my left foot was getting a hotspot so I headed back early and waited for Jamie at the Overhang.

There was much rejoicing at the pools upstream from our campsite. So. Many. Frogs!!
That was the highlight of my evenings was the chorus of amphibious delight that echoed across the canyon walls!

Spotted some neat Footprints, possibly hognosed skunk.
I spent the next two days in my birthday suit along the Creek while Jamie explored all he wanted.

Base camping in the GC by a Creek is awesome, just awesome.

May 6th we crawled out of bags, tore down camp, and headed up that lovely route out of Phantom Creek, passed below Cheops, crossed Utah Flats, said hello to some mule deer, slid down UF Route and we're fat and happy at Phantom around 10:30am...and there we stayed with Lemonade and Tecate happy as can be until we decided... Noon is late enough.

Then out we trotted commenting on the weather and the Buttes lit up by the sun as we went.

6 days of awesome just happened...and now...the North Rim calls to us!
I'll be spending June-September over there doing dayhikes and such for Grand Canyon Association, so if you're ever up there feel free to say hi!

Until next stay classy Arizona.
Utah Flats Route
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I have wanted to do Cheops for a long time now, however, the summit has eluded me the last few years, as a few trips were cancelled, I cancelled an attempt and other hikes in the canyon took precedent. This time however, I set a date and was determined to finally reach the plateau that is a peak.

I reviewed all of the old triplogs again and brushed up on the route with Chumley again. He also gave me a pretty good breakdown of what I would be encountering at the "crux" obstacle. I was feeling very good about finally knocking out Cheops and then all of a sudden it seemed as if everything was working against me getting up there to do Cheops. First it was a less than promising weather forecast that seemed to be only getting worse and then it was the Xterra deciding it needed a 1000 dollar repair job Friday morning. All logic said the weather alone was enough to cancel, oh and not being able to con someone into joining me. However, despite these obvious signs pointing to another cancellation of Cheops, I chose to go. I shot one more quick question to go about the "crux," picked up my car and was on the road for the canyon Friday night.

In typical canyon fashion, I got a solid 2.5 hours of restless sleep, making for a little bit of a slow moving Saturday morning. I decided for an early start thinking it might help with beating the rain, but there was nothing to suggest that it would. Started my short walk to the South Kaibab trailhead at 4:22 in the morning. The light rain started about an hour into the day and pretty much continued through most of the first half of the day. I took the official route to the plateau and found the initial off trail climb and traverse more pleasing than the climb out of Phantom Ranch. For some reason that climb killed me today. Although, I did enjoy Piano Alley, its much more appreciable when not carrying a full pack, as I was the last time I went through there. The obstacle that I spent two years dwelling over ended up not really being much of an obstacle at all. I recognized it pretty quickly and other than stopping to take off my gloves, I really had no delay or hesitation in going up it. The hand holds were great and I chose not to dwell over the exposure. I thought in terms of scrambling, there were harder spots than that along the northwest ridge. The Plateau offers a great 360 view and although mine was limited from the low lying clouds, I still appreciated it. I did not spend a lot of time on the Plateau, but the thought of those rocks along the N.W. ridge getting more and more slick as the rain came down was starting to seep into my mind.

No issues going down, in fact, it seemed quick. It rained the entire time and there were several areas along Utah Flats running lightly and feeding quaint little cascades along the trail on my return route. The sun literally came out of nowhere. It stayed with me until I reached the 3.5 miles to south rim sign. Literally, with a crack of thunder all hell broke lose. The worst rain of the day, thunder, lightning, hail and then snow at the top. I sloshed and froze my way to the top, but got out fine. There were however, some unprepared Phantom Ranch weekend warriors who were caught pretty off guard by the severe weather. I kept telling the people sheltered along the cliffs that we would be better off with snow, as I thought that might mean an end to the thunder and lightning, but no it pretty much lasted the entire way. Big fat wet snow flakes fell for the final 1.5 miles or so and there was a pretty good amount on the south rim when I finally crawled out.

A great summit overall and it motivates me to start working on knocking out a few more canyon summits. The conditions were not ideal today, probably not the best time to be scrambling up the back ridge of Cheops, but I was still able to make it happen with just a little bit more attention to detail in spots. In fact, most of the terrain was not near as slippery as one might think, from Piano Alley to the ridgeline most of the large rocks have a nice coarse texture that really lessens the slip factor. But a slick one did grab my attention every now and then. Always nice to do a memorable one on the old man's birthday again.
Utah Flats Route
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Cheops Plateau and Pyramid Dayhike II
Even with the double loop roller coaster and all looming overhead jj is a sucker for the tea cups. Mickey makes all the rides fun so why not.

We slayed this dragon last year and it was exciting. jj has been hooked ( understatement ) on "the western approach" which wraps around the west. It looks mean, nasty and mighty intimidating. Brilliant disguise...

Okay back up. First you knock out the standard Plateau via the NW ridge. To add a little bite I went down as far as I could to the Pyramid bridge. About 15 feet above what I would consider "on" the bridge it is pretty much a pile of loose rocks. Crazy BobP's go and think later approach waned after roughly 0.001 seconds. Putting a foot out, backup options rolled through the mind. Absolutely none, lol! Onto the next assessment. Would it be doable with a handline? With several hundred feet of exposure to either side methinks you are rolling the dice of life with low odds.

Onto the task at hand jj picked an excellent route that put us right above the Muav to skirt the west. Turns out it's more enjoyable than scary. The cool part is looking back at your route. It still nets "are you kidding me". Along the way we passed a gem of a pillar. jj noticed where another must have collapsed. We wrapped around the south, knocked out the Pyramid then back to the south rim.

domaska mentioned something in the effect to jj that the SE corner of Isis opened up their perspective on redwall possibilities. No joke. Albeit wild imagination, we could make out previously unthinkable routes up Cheops on the north and west... at least two-thirds of the way up anyhow.

Temps were moderate for late May. Took 5 quarts, consumed 7. Should have downed another quart or two. I'm seriously starting to question the amount of iodine they put in the water at Grand Canyon. Each time jj mentions not feeling great after consuming. I've noticed the same effect too to a lesser degree. On the way out we cut it nearly fifty percent with fresh water by chance and noticed it was still overpowering.

Last year we thought it was cool to knock out this daily double in a day from Phoenix. This year we left later, chatted with Lopez at PR and stopped for an hour to eat. All without rushing much and several extra hours to spare.

Tiny yellows on Cheops Plateau. More interesting scrubby spiral specimen on the Pyramid with purple blooms.
Utah Flats Route
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A pretty standard intro to the Grand Canyon courtesy of 9L. My previous experiences in the canyon had only been your standard rim to rim to rim marathons and a few other longer day hikes. We left Happy Valley road exit around 5:50 which sealed a very late canyon start time on what would eventually shape out to be a pretty warm day but a great day overall and eventually an excellent first trip to the canyon.

We were boots on ground at South Kaibab TH after 9:30 and making our way to the rim and down by about 9:45 in the morning. The hike down was quick and a little warm, but pretty standard. John gave a detailed description of each layer of earth, pointed out a few lesser known routes and introduced me to terms, like, red walls, the whites, and all the colorful names attached to all those temples and massive rock features, like, Isis, Zoraster, Brhma and Cheops. Seeing some of those land forms that a select few crazy HAZers have been scaling lately, really put into perspective the magnitude of those hikes.

Phantom Ranch, was well Phantom Ranch the usual assortment of legitimate hikers and backpackers mixed among those who had hiked down with a bottle of Aquafina to their well stocked cabins for the weekend, and the steady stream of rim runners of course. We took an extended break at the ranch and then made our way up the spur/use trail leading to Utah Flats.

Utah Flats was very warm, in fact, someone at ranch claimed 107 degrees, but I cant confirm. I was by no means falling out at this point, but I was certainly pretty fatigued as we snaked our way along the top of the Phantom Canyon drainage, until the point where we would drop in.

After finally reaching Phantom Canyon, the day got exponentially better. There were no people, we had a pristine spot, there was time for rest and relaxation and John was able to address some "safety concerns" we had had earlier in the day.

I know to the canyon enthusiast and hardened veterans our day two itinerary was nothing earth shattering. However, I can honestly say it was one of my more fulfilling hikes in a long time, and for me really nothing short of spectacular. Phantom Canyon was a blast, the pools of water started off freezing, but were welcomed by the end, we were able to keep all essential items dry, the canyon was beautiful and although short, it really proved to be a quite the gem overall.

I am not going to lie, I had a lot of anxiety for some reason about the climb out after our little canyoneering experience, however, it proved to be pretty tame. We hit up a section of the Old Bright Angel and John took me to a couple of ruin sites along the way, was very happy to mark my first two ruin's sites in the canyon. We left Indian Garden(s) near 2:30 and had to make sure we did not take too much time the rest of the way, as our last stop on trip would be and introduction to the B.C.O before closing time at five.

We ended up doing the final 4.5 miles in about two hours on the dot and were easily able to make it to the B.C.O where I obtained my first back country permit for the Grand Canyon, Nothing too crazy, just a little five day jaunt through some outer corridor areas during the first week of June, which I am already looking very forward to.

Interesting Side Notes:

John holds his camera three feet above his head even when he is going through ankle deep water, he says to minimize splash damage.

All the people are kind of annoying on the Bright Angel, however, I found feeding off the misery of others as they crawled out was great motivation and even fueled me to a certain degree.

Finally, there is no greater satisfaction then passing (with full pack) a group of famed ultra runners completing, but certainly struggling to complete a mere rim to rim.

Disclaimer: AEG needs some work, waiting on John's finally tally, my G.P.S. decided to bounce off a couple points in northern Utah I think.

Warning: I don't want to hear one pumpkin comment from Chumley about the length of my photo-set, it was an awesome trip and my first time over night in canyon so its allowed!
Utah Flats Route
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Lee was interested in doing an overnighter in the Canyon and I was down. I recently saw the Phantom Canyon trip report from Dave and Toddak and figured it would make a perfect overnight option for us. I picked up the permits before my Tanner Trip a couple of weeks ago. We worked out the details and were on our way.

We left Phoenix on Saturday morning around 5:50am and drove up to the Canyon. We left a vehicle near the BA Trailhead and took a taxi ($12 plus tip) over to SK. We started down around 10am and cruised down taking very short breaks mostly to take pics and soak in the views. We arrived at Phantom Ranch and took a break where we hydrated and ate some food. From there we grinded up the Utah Flats Route starting around 1:40pm. It was hot! This was my first time on the route and it went really well. There is a full blown trail going up all the way to the top of Piano Alley. The trail disappears for a minute once things level off but we picked it back up again shortly afterward and followed that all the way down into Phantom Canyon.

We arrived in Phantom Canyon around 4:15pm to find the area deserted. The camp we used is right at the bottom of the trail. We settled in and got camp set up. Lee was using a tent and I was using my bivy. Afterward we took a quick walk over to the rope drop. It’s right around the corner from our camp. It looked fine and I looked forward to going down the next morning. From there we hiked about a mile up Upper Phantom Canyon. This is a really beautiful area and is very lush. I’d like to return another time with more time to explore the area. I really want to see Haunted Canyon and other areas. We returned to camp and filtered water with my sawyer mini and then had dinner. We both turned in fairly early. The long hike & heat really took a toll on us.

Sunday morning came and we both woke fairly early…6:30ish. We took our time in camp and got all of our gear situated. We had three dry bags. One large bag we borrowed from Chumley (Thanks Chums!) and two smaller bags. Lee took the large bag and I took the two smaller bags. We divided up our gear and then got packed. From there we walked over to the rope and got ourselves situated. Lee went down first while I took pics. After he was down I lowered our packs one at a time and included both of our cameras. Lee took pics as I descended. Going down the rope was very straightforward and a good rush!

Once in the creek bottom we started heading down canyon. We were greeted by two very short swims immediately after the rope drop in. The water was very chilly when we first jumped in. It was roughly 8am and it woke me up immediately! After that the canyon opens up and we proceeded down the creek. Most of the going is very easy. There were a few more swims as we descended. They were very short averaging 10-20 ft across. Nothing is overwhelming and we were having the time of our lives. About half way down canyon we noticed fresh footprints and then saw wet rock. A few minutes later we caught up to a group of three. They dropped in about halfway off some sketchy route that started from the “Antler Room”. I’ll have to see if I can find any info on this route. We chatted with them for a bit and then continued down canyon. There were a few more short swims along the way. Some can be bypassed and others are mandatory. I would guess we did six mandatory swims. They were all very short and easy. As we neared the end we ran into another group who were making a day hike up from Phantom Ranch. Finally near the end we ran into ranger Christie from the BCO. We recognized each other from my numerous trips to the BCO. It was cool seeing someone I knew down here. A few short minutes after that we walked out on the North Kaibab trail. Hell of a morning!

After we were back on official trail we cruised on down to Phantom Ranch and took a long break at the Canteena. We unpacked all of our gear and got it resituated. I was surprised how dry the contents of our packs were. I guess the short swims didn’t give the water enough time to really soak in. The dry bags really helped as well. After our long break, we started the hike up BA. Along the way we took a detour up Old BA where I showed Lee the ruins. We then cut over to the ruins below Plateau Point. From there it was the grind up BA. We were back on the rim around 4:20 and then over to the BCO. After that we made the ride back to Phoenix but made a quick stop at NiMarco’s in Flag for pizza and the golden bbq wings. Damn those wings are yum!

This was another solid trip into the Canyon! I loved Phantom Canyon and would definitely “hike” the route again. Thanks Lee for driving and good times backpacking with you!

Map Drive
Paved - Car Okay

To hike
To reach the start of this trail, access Bright Angel camp via either the South Kaibob trail, North Kaibob Trail, or Bright Angel trail.

Many will camp the night at or near Phantom Ranch or the Bright Angel Campgrounds before tackling this the next day. A very strong hiker could do this in conjunction with going down, say, the South Kaibob, but I don't recommend that.

Roads to the national park are paved. Entrance fees apply and uou will need a backcountry camping permit in advance for this trip.
page created by nonot on Apr 09 2011 10:27 am
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