Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
A trip up Phantom Creek as far as you can go on foot, the further you go, the more difficult and more beautiful it gets!
This is a remote canyon that gets narrower the further up you go. Be aware of the weather and do not enter the upper narrows if there is any chance of rain. Only approximately the last 2 miles of this canyon (above Hippie Camp) present flash flood danger with no chance of escape. Below this, there is adequate access away from the creek to escape flooding, with enough advanced notice.
Be aware that scrambling up obstacles in remote places is inherently dangerous. Do not attempt anything that is unsafe, use your judgment and know when you've hit your limit, and turn around there.
Back in the 60s/70s, people and animals down at Phantom were getting sick. Park rangers did some testing of the water and found e-coli coming out of Phantom Creek. Travelling up there they found signs that people were living in Upper Phantom for some time. The name "Hippie Camp" got tagged for the campsite. Even today you will find trinkets: such as geodes, and deer antlers piled up on a rock in this place. Some flower plantings and a bit of rock arrangement is still apparent as well, though the rangers did destroy most of the encampment.
It is rumored that the people living there had an "inside source" and were tipped off about the ranger's plans. To this day nobody has been able to identify the actual individuals that had lived there.
Upper Phantom Creek generally begins at the 20 foot waterfall that demarcates the upper from the lower part of Phantom Canyon. Assuming you have gotten here either by climbing it, bypassing it, or coming in Utah Flats, you will likely be on the south side of the creek in a generally rock slabby area. From here a trail proceeds west a hundred or so yards until you are forced to cross the creek to the north side. The water is cold and about knee deep. Immediately you will encounter a large campsite that is great, as long as no rain is predicted.
On the north side the trail will continue west a ways until it crosses over again to the south side. You may be able to stay dry at this crossing if you are nimble. From here, a good trail runs the next mile or so along the south side of the creek. At one spot a minor scramble is needed to get up a ledge. You will soon reach Overhang Camp, which is tucked away under a high rock ledge. From here, continue along the south side until you get close to the intersection of Haunted and Phantom. You have two choices here:
1) Cross the creek (wet feet), continue along the trail on the other side for 200 yards, and cross back (wet feet)
2) Scramble higher up a talus slope on the south side (poor footing) and along the edge of an embankment, avoiding cactus, until you meetup with the trail again.
Past this, the trail will continue along the south for another mile, going high in places, until it descends back to the creek and switches over to the north side. The trail will begin to get faint as it goes through a somewhat swampy area full of interesting trees. Carefully pick out the trail (it goes a little high in places) and get past the brush. Soon you will reach the Hippie springs, which is a small spring on the north coming out from under a boulder, and a large powerful spring on the south, that reminded me of fossil springs (not quite as much flow though.)
A few hundred yards further you reach the hippie camp on the west side of the creek at the intersection of Outlet and Phantom Canyons. This concludes the relatively easy part of Upper Phantom, now it is time to get wet and scrambly!
A beautiful slot begins to form in the Muav layer and is full of spectacular little waterfalls. Jump in the creek and continue to walk upstream. Boulders began to appear and you will have to scramble up and over much rockfall. Be safe and don't climb anything you are uncomfortable with. Bypasses generally exist for the difficult obstacles if you look for them. The Muav layer is short lived and you will start encountering bigger waterfalls when you get into the Temple Butte Formation. The first few are about 10 feet high. Scramble up and around them. The going will get more difficult and you will begin battling both brush and the boulders. About half a mile up Phantom from Hippie Camp you will encounter a very attractive 20 foot waterfall that falls beneath a van-sized chockstone. I thought this was the end of my journey, but looking closely there is a scramble to the left that looked "doable".
A scramble underneath trees and through brush up about a hundred and twenty feet will get you well above the waterfall and wall. Contour back around towards the creek and continue your nontechnical canyoneering upstream. More waterfalls (and a re-emergence of the Muav layer??) is found with more spectacular cascades. Soon you will encounter a 20 foot long, 8 foot high waterslide into a deep pool. This may be the end for many, but for the adventurous, there is a little more to see. Scrambling up the waterfall isn't too difficult and oh boy will you be rewarded for your efforts in springtime! What is around the golden corner? Well, it made my jaw drop! I couldn't believe that I haven't read a description of it. An approximately 80 foot, two tiered waterfall is coming down the redwall, right in front of you! I hope you are able to get out there and discover it for yourself ;)
Unless you can grow wings, that's the end! Return the way you came, or use a connecting route to continue exploring the canyon.
Both Haunted and Hippie Springs run perennially and supply water to this canyon throughout the whole year. Spring snowmelt will generally continue down Phantom late in the year. Filters can have problems with silt, though the South Hippie Spring is a perfect source. If filtering from the creek, especially upper Phantom, it may be desirable to bring something to flavor the water, as I thought it tasted quite poor. Hippie Spring water was pure and tasteless.
There are generally 3 campsites in Upper Phantom that people make use of: 1) The camp right where Utah Flats comes down - nice for a big group. Don't camp here if rain is predicted.
2) Overhang camp, about a mile up on the south side of the creek. Great for all conditions. Doesn't get sun until late in the day, so you may oversleep.
3) Hippie camp at the junction of Outlet canyon and Phantom Canyon. Small campsite good for 2, maybe 3 tents.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.
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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