Land bridge to the west
Overview: The Isis-Cheops Saddle route is an important route used to connect the Utah Flats Route to the Trinity Canyon complex, allowing backpackers to link up with routes that go further west off-trail on the north side of the river. A few may hike this route only to the saddle from Utah Flats.
Warning: The route is isolated and there is no water along the route, though within about a half mile of the terminus of the route are water sources. Some exposure will be encountered, though nothing I would consider serious. However those with a fear of heights may get a little nervous in some sections. There is virtually no shade anywhere along this route.
History: I'm not sure if Harvey Butchart went the way I will show this route, I know he made it to the Saddle via the Utah Flats route, but the maps I've found seem to show him generally contouring to the south of Cheops to get to Trinity. I believe George Steck was the one who popularized this route, which (I have read) is better than the Cheops end-around alternative. (I may be mistaken on this w/respect to Butchart going this way.)
Hike: Finding the eastern terminus of this route is difficult, since it is fairly faint as compared to the Utah Flats route. There may be cairns there and upon close inspection you may find they are actually marking a turnoff and not just the Utah Flats trail itself.
The trail contours west towards a talus pile beneath the saddle, which it will ascend about 150 feet, contour north/east on a ledge, and then switchback a ways up to get above the cliffs and onto the level of the saddle itself. As you approach the saddle from the north, the trail is well-defined and mostly free of vegetation. Grab your hat before you step out onto the saddle as you may lose it otherwise.
The saddle is an interesting wind-swept land-bridge with a small dip in the middle. From here you can see the south rim, much of the north rim, and almost the Colorado river itself. Directly to your south is the 91 mile canyon complex. To your north is Phantom Creek Canyon and north of that, Buddha temple with its many arms. The climbing route towards Cheops goes across the saddle.
Along the west side of the saddle, the trail continues going down fairly steeply. It quickly deteriorates and I lost the obvious route as it heads down the talus pile. As it reaches somewhat more level ground, a trail re-establishes itself as you weave around the first major cut in the side of Isis due to an arm of 91 mile. It is reported there is both an Indian structure/ruin and a route down in this arm, though I wasn't able to spot either.
The trail on the far side of the first bay becomes faint, but the terrain is more level as the shelf widens with some easy hiking. Going around the corner, the trail becomes more distinct as the hiker is forced onto the generally only way to contour around the remaining small bays and gullys along the side of Isis. Great views of 91 mile below you continue and you will begin to make out the Trinity Canyon complex as well as Horus temple and the Tower of Set, which were previously blocked from view around Isis.
The trail will leave the shelf when you reach a point on the west side of a south buttress of Isis and contour around a drainage of 91 mile. The trail descends on a not-too-steep path around the gully and then seems to disappear into the harder-packed Tonto layer. From here you can hike down the slopes and ridges to your south, picking your way through the brush and cactus that dot these hills. I found game trails in this area, but was not able to string them together into what I would call a "trail". After heading south and reaching the flat Tonto level, travel in just about any direction is possible.
Heading west, one will encounter the drainages that allow one access to the "Fault" drainage into the eastern arm of Trinity. This fault drainage is fairly easily travelled and doesn't generally require any scrambling to get down the fault to complete the connection into the east arm of Trinity.
From here one can use several routes within the Trinity Complex to travel further west in the canyon.
Water Sources: None along route, though the end of the Utah Flats Route and the Trinity Complex both have water sources.
Camping: Some may camp near the eastern fault out of Trinity canyon on the Tonto level. The saddle would make a poor camp spot, although fairly flat, the wind comes roaring through there at 30-50 mph often enough to make it undesirable.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.
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.
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