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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.

Tapeats Creek, AZ

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605 32 5
Guide 32 Triplogs  5 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Northwest > North Rim
Rated
4.7
4.7 of 5 by 19
 
13
Statistics
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Difficulty 4 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Round Trip 20.7 miles
Trailhead Elevation 7,200 feet
Elevation Gain -5,031 feet
Accumulated Gain 6,836 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 16-20 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 54.88
Interest Perennial Creek
Backpack Yes & Connecting
Dogs not allowed
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Will recalculate on button tap!
8  2016-10-28
Deer Creek - Tapeats - Thunder River Loop
joebartels
20  2016-10-12
Bill Hall Trail
friendofThunderg
44  2015-10-26
Deer Creek / Thunder River AZ
Barrett
19  2014-10-25
Bill Hall - Deer Crk - Thunder River - Tapeats
johnlp
22  2014-10-16
Deer Creek / Thunder River
Tough_Boots
44  2014-10-16
Deer Creek / Thunder River
chumley
53  2014-10-16
Deer Creek / Thunder River
BiFrost
30  2014-10-16
Deer Creek / Thunder River
John9L
Page 1,  2,  3,  4
Author desertgirl
author avatar Guides 20
Routes 1
Photos 3,098
Trips 428 map ( 3,024 miles )
Age Female Gender
Location Chandler, AZ
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Preferred   Jul, Jun, Aug, Sep → 7 AM
Seasons   Late Spring to Autumn
Sun  6:17am - 6:28pm
Official Route
 
4 Alternative
 
Water
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
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WOW!
by desertgirl

Likely In-Season!
Overview: Tapeats Rapids via Bill Hall and Thunder River Trail.

Hike: This is an excellent trip with some incredible vistas, interesting & challenging switchbacks, and dicey trails on the descent to Upper Tapeats Campground (a loaded pack makes it harder) and along the West high route to Lower Tapeats Camp/River. We did this as a 5day/4 night trip -- which made it rather comfortable. I love waking up in the canyon so I enjoyed every bit of it.....


We (Ed, Terri, Matt & Ambika) had a late start on Wed (Stayed at Lees Ferry Lodge in Marble Canyon -- Great rooms, cheap & awesome food/ambiance. Make sure to stay there if you need a stop along the way to N. Rim). The drive up to the Bill Hall Trail was beautiful - crisp air & fall color punctuated the mountains and the glittering leaves in morning light were enchanting. The parking lot was a surprise - over 15 vehicles were parked there and we were wondering about how all these people could be down there based on our understanding of the permit system. We hoisted our packs about noon and headed out for our rendezvous with Thunder River with a delightful stroll through the burnt trees until we reached the cairned start of the 1st of the Bill Hall descents through the through the Kaibab and the Toroweap layers (about 1/4 mile or so) bring you down to a saddle between Monument point & Bridger's Knoll. Complete a 3/4 mile traverse heading northwest over a saddle by Bridger's Knoll , passing through numerous rock falls from the Kaibab & Toroweap layers and soon you get to a bunch of switchbacks that seem to have strategically placed juniper trees to provide fleeting respite from the sun. (This is in full shade for an early morning descent/ascent).

After having done the whole trail down to Lower Tapeats, I think this is the easiest descent/ascent (of this trip) in spite of its reputation for a difficult trail. It's short & is over with quick. (I have not done Thunder River but I just cannot see myself adding 5 more miles to get down to the Esplanade). It does have some steep descents right at the start and one 15 ft climb down/up over an outcropping. We were all able to negotiate it quite easily - a helping hand with the pack is all that was needed here. If you are going solo; make sure you are playing safe here.. It's just not worth becoming another statistic. As will almost all Grand Canyon trails; watch out for the exposure and unstable trails. Soon (~ 3/4 miles later) you are at the intersection of the Bill Hall Trail & Thunder River Trail and on the Esplanade.

The traverse through the Esplanade was pleasant and we were treated to interesting rock formations - reminiscent of Canyonlands I am told! The trail is pretty flat except for a few minor drainage crossings. Follow the cairns across the slick-rock and try to minimize the impact to the fragile crypto-biotic soil that seems to be everywhere on the Esplanade. You begin to wind your way around 3 drainages of Deer Creek. Junipers, yucca and prickly pear cactus dot the area beautiful offset against the red rocks. You reach a series of rock caves (some have been improved upon with rock walls and cleared floors) about 30 mins from the intersection. This seems to be a good cache spot and you do have views out west across the Esplanade. We picked up our cache of water for dry camp on the Esplanade at the edge of the next descent. The trail turns westwards as it heads towards the break in the Redwall where it descends into Surprise Valley. Pitched camp right along the edge and we were treated to a great sunset (the only beautiful sunset for this trip). Spirits were high; company was great & blisters were a few days away and it was all perfect.

We departed early; making the descent through the Redwall into Surprise Valley in morning shade. This is a rather long descent along a fault /slump in the Redwall, well constructed switchbacks make it reasonably easy. You make your way along Surprise Valley and soon are at the intersection of the Thunder River & Deer Creek trails (not signed but marked by cairns). Keeping left we continued along winding our way by Cogswell Butte and a few other buttes (?); climbing as we headed to the head of Thunder River drop off. We could hear the roar as we descended the trail making us eager for our 1st glimpse - it was beautiful indeed with the ribbon of greenery winding downstream with a small spray catching the morning sun bursting into millions of crystals as it fell downwards to join the band of greenery. This was just the angle that I stopped and the perfect morning sun angle - I never did see that again. As you make your way down this moderate descent Thunder River quickly reveals itself; gushing out of the sheer cliffs. You descend through Muav Limestone and Bright Angel shale (grey-green). You reach a greenish small flat area and a spur heads of towards the river. We dropped out packs and headed to view Thunder River - What a magnificent sight - watering pouring out of the wall and heading downhill in a series of waterfalls each different and unique and absolutely beautiful. (Especially after a sweltering hike through Surprise valley -- Surprise Valley traverse seemed short but then again it was at 8:00 am). The water is ice cold and the falls are lined with beautiful clumps of scarlet monkey flowers, ferns, watercress and moss. The fine spray was a welcome relief -- we played around for quite a while. An interesting juxtaposition of the harsh desert environment and the riparian belt of lushness that follows the water set amid the towering cliffs that is Grand Canyon indeed.

Reluctantly, we came back out to the trail and once again hoisted our packs to head down to Upper Tapeats campground. We had wonderful visions of campsites by the stream with trees overhead. The trail gets harder here as it makes its way through crumbling layers of Bright Angle Shale with 200+ ft drops on one side and towering cliffs on the other. There are some sections where the trail moves away from Thunder River and flattens a bit, finally plunging down to the Tapeats Creek level with a series of fairly steep switchbacks. You are treated to plunging waterfalls as Thunder River races down to join Tapeats Creek in less than 1/2 mile.

We camped at the Upper Tapeats Campground (about 200 yards from confluence) overall a disappointment- no wonderful shade or babbling water right by camp (1st large site, we did locate some slightly better campsites further downstream) but we did have a rock bench to set up kitchen and a smidgen of shade we could hide in. We set up camp, lounged about a bit and then decided to go and check out the confluence of Thunder River & Tapeats Creek. This was a beautiful place laced with ferns and monkey flowers and small babbling waterfalls. We were impressed by the flow in Tapeats Creek! We hung about there a bit. Ed was having a bit of dehydration and decided to hang back and hydrate in the shade. The rest of us decide to explore Tapeats Creek. We forded the confluence and the creek and headed up the east bank. We clambered over a few rockfalls, beat back some bushes and mostly followed a path. Soon we passed a good campsite and reached a ford in the creek. Terri elected to return to keep Ed company and Matt & I headed further upstream. Just past the ford was another great campsite. We headed on for about another 30 mins, crashing through bushes (looked like the creek had flooded not in the too distant past) and negotiated a few more rockfalls, encountered a snake that was hell bent on getting away from us (no objections here!). Soon the trail petered out & we elected to return. Think we made about a mile or so upstream. We were soon back at the camp and soon waiting for the sun to dip below the canyon to get shade on the campsite. Camp was set up quick and dinner followed. Soon Matt was battling the red ants, scorpions and mice (We did loose part of our cheesecake to the mice). He had decided to go light without a tent and I am sure he has since re-evaluated weight vs. fighting of creatures!

Next morning was our planned hike to the Lower Tapeats! This looked a bit grim as Ed was still recovering and we debated a bit and then decided Ambika & Matt would take a trip down to the river while Ed & Terri would rest up. Terri was really nice and decided to let me have her Tevas (I had flip-flops for camp slippers) for this hike. This was wonderful since it gave my toes a break from being smashed into my hiking and was ideal for the couple of creek crossings we would encounter on the way back. The shade was there so we headed out the high route on the west side making it most of the way in shade. The west route goes high following the rock layer contours dipping down to the creek about 5 times via rocky steep switchbacks. Route is fairly easy to follow but quite narrow with loose crumbling rock underfoot... a pack would make the high route a definite challenge and it is quite a risk if you even have the slightest fear of heights or exposures. The east route is way better and easier as we would find on our way back. You are high above the creek as it hurtles down through a number of waterfalls through the narrows of dark blue-black dibase as it heads towards Colorado. On the last section we ended up high above the Colorado looking down on to Lower Tapeats beach where private raft trip was just pulling in. Soon we saw the cairn that pointed the way down to the beach by way of a steep, narrow, rocky draw with about 300+ ft drop in less than 1/2 mile. We ford the creek one more time to meet up with the raft party, mooch some cookies off them and hangout with them about an hr or so.

Soon we are heading back... We explore the east route... It leads high up on the east side; we decide to head back the west route for the 1st part and then cross-over to eastside. We soon cross East and wander along the creek bottom negotiating a few rock-falls and small climbs-ups making excellent time heading back to camp. We pause by a short but beautiful waterfall where the Tapeats Creek pours over a layer of Bass Limestone. We ford back to our camp and crawl up under the rocks looking for shade. Ed thermometer registers 127 degrees in sun. We soon relocate to streamside for some cooling breezes. Late in the evening we decide to hike up out of Thunder River and camp up to at Surprise Valley. This lets us climb out in relative cool of the evening. Ed's still recovering so we make best use of the shade... we barely make it out of Thunder River in fading light after a brief stop at the falls on our way out, camping right at the head of the descent. I break a tent pole & its duct tape to the rescue. Mice run rife through camp - we were lucky not to loose pack to their sharp teeth. It is still too hot....

Morning sees Ed in much better spirits and soon we are up above Surprise Valley. Again morning shade on the Redwall ascent was great. We soon make our way across the Esplanade to the caves and hide for rest of the afternoon and feast on our cache and times hangs on us... on a cooler day with lighter backpacks we might have pushed on out. We make our way to the base of the final ascent and camp for our last night in. We soon realize we are sharing camp with a tarantula. We decide to co-exist but end up relocating the tarantula. It gets quite windy for a while but soon the still warm air descends upon us one last time. Discussion seems to center on BO... Matt fights off more mice... Sunrise and we are soon making our way out back to the Jeep. Clean clothes... long drive to Flagstaff... lunch at Weatherford Hotel... drive back to Phoenix... shower and we all will have stories tell... looking forward to the next trip... The enchantment continues!

Note: Different opinions rage on the difficulty of this trip - Be prudent and don't get in over your head. The trip turned out easier than what I was led to believe based on trail descriptions. If you are aggressive hiker, fearless of crumbly trails and sheer drop-offs, sure footed and with a light pack - you can do this in a 3 day trip but you will be moving all the while. I think we would have been fine to shorten the trip by a day. Cooler weather would be much better since you do not need to haul as much water but don't short change... you are a long way off from help even if you make it to the trail head.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Note
This is a moderately difficult hike.

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2003-09-29 desertgirl
  • Grand Canyon Use Area Boundaries - Dynamic Map
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 16 deeper Triplog Reviews
Tapeats Creek
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Deer Creek - Tapeats - Thunder River Loop
FR22 to Bill Hall TH was in very good condition. Only two shallow pools across the entire road were of slight concern. Most could navigate a Yugo. I'd imagine it gets messy in the mud after rain. Currently it's 2wd for drivers with a clue.

After twenty two miles through a maze of forest the Bill Hall TH was almost full. We passed several one to two inch shallow pools in the pockets of the Esplanade.

Surprise Valley sage has a crisp scent that raises your head to fully inquire.

My first trip two years ago was a shock treatment of wow. This round I came back with a better understanding of the surrounding area. We crossed paths with several groups going both directions. One group camped in Surprise Valley then did the loop as a day hike. Only a couple of them even had day packs, oh the jealousy.

Russ brought his daughter Katie. With no recent hikes this journey started cursing her world 8 miles in on day 1. Despite blisters, shaky legs and regurgitating reflexes she defeated the odds! This was my second hike with Fan. Realized she is resilient and adaptable. Appreciate that she let us drive her car. Especially since she replaced the wind chimes on the mirror with a quiet stuffed pillow!

Despite trying to talk someone* out of eating at the crap hole inn we finally got our gasping dry burgers on stale ciabatta in a couple hours.

Big thanks to * for putting together this group hike, most appreciated!
Tapeats Creek
rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
Deer Creek - Thunder River Loop
Limited days off leads to some epic hiking.

Friday night Jamie, myself and our North Rim buddy Kevin drove to Monument Point.

Spotted a GORGEOUS bobcat on FR206!

Camped.
It poured.

Our tent stake camp out in the toe of the tent. Our down bags and my new down puffy were soaked.
Oh well, onward!

We awoke with the sun...uhhh...the dim haze that may have been the sun that just barely shone through a.thick cloud cover and gentle misting rain...as I said....onward!!

Saturday morning we shimmied down from the Rim to the Esplanade, checked out some rock art then went on down in Surprise Valley. It really is a surprise isn't it! First time I'd seen it, SO pretty!

The break down into SV is a knee jammer but it went swiftly and smoothly for we three.

(On a side note, Cogswell Butte is now in my sights and we'll be tackling it and Bridger's Knoll on our next trip out there...anyone want in on this let me know? I'll get the permits!)

Quick break at the junction then hung a right down toward Deer Creek. Surprise Valley is quiet and quick walking!

The amount of Limestone in this break made me swoon, Limestone bites are the best! There's one section that requires what some might consider scrambling.
Jamie sent me over it first and described me as "dancing" across the rock. Sounds about right.
Awesome scree chute down to The Throne Room, be careful on that! Whoo!

Deer Creek Springs at the Throne Room was bone dry... :(
Last time I saw this was also my first, back in March 2015 from our private river trip and it was a gusher!
We'll be back on another river trip in December, wonder if it will be flowing then...

The Patio was covered in mud and Deer Creek itself was mud mud muddy!!
We set up in the campsite and had the place to ourselves all night. Saw a small private trip down at the falls, they went up as we came down, it was raining and slippery as all!! Watch your step!
The Creek was higher than last year and the Falls louder, we almost held our breath awaiting a flash!! Lucky us, no flash. He river runners left, we had dinner on the Patio and went to bed to a drizzling rain.

Next morning is day 2, Sunday, we will camp on the Esplanade tonight but first we have to complete the loop.
Up out of the Patio we rode the low route from DC to Tapeats Creek, it was warm but not stifling hot...strange for August thank goodness for clouds.

I played in the river, we watched dories sweep by, no beers, the 135mi Eddy is too hard to maneuver in and out of before the rifle.

Tapeats Creek was clear! We headed up he break, slip sliding and enjoying the views.

This one break up from Tapeats Creek is the reason I'm SO grateful Jamie suggested a counterclockwise loop! I would not enough going DOWN that break, it's doable and safe-ish, but with a loaded pack it'd be a *****!

I'd suggest counterclockwise to any new folk considering this loop.

Sea Turtle Falls in Tapeats Creek was shortly after our first crossing, the creek was flowing nicely, Jamie said it's slightly deeper than usual and evidence pointed to some "overflowing" of the banks in the past few days but again, we were lucky!

Up the Creek was quick, warm and easy moving! We crossed again below Thunder River and began the climb up, up, up it goes!

Every twist in the trail opened up new views, wow!
We spent an hour and a half at Thunder River way up top, and as tradition mandates we.filled direct from the source, no filtering needed, yummmmm! Best water ever!
Ate dinner here and dried our socks in the sun.

Up we went again into Surprise Valley where we stopped to check out The Blue Eyed Indian, then across the smooth, quick and silent Valley, the sun setting in our eyes as we head west.

Started up the Redwall break towed the Esplanade well before the sun said it's goodnights.

About a quarter mile from the top of the break we turned on our headlamps and visions of warm sleeping bags danced in our heads.

Jamie played with his camera and got some Gorgeous clear night sky shots, the milky way lit up our tent and my socks dried on the bushes nearby...

Monday morning, we sauntered out on stiff toes well after the sunrose, yesterday was a lot of UP even for a Canyon junkie haha
We were out before 11am and dilly-dallied at the trail head enjoying the views cloudless sky afforded us today!

All in all this was easier than anticipated.
I definitely suggest a counterclockwise loop because Thunder River draws you up up up and is a stellar place to kick back before that last push to surprise Valley.

Deer Creek is amazing but it wouldn't have the motivation for me as TR Did...also that break up Tapeats Creek would be a pain in the butt to down climb for new folk...i dunno why Backpacker magazine suggests a clockwise loop...anyone know why??
Counterclockwise just makes more sense!

Anyway...awesome weekend. Back to work...I'm serious about anyone wanting to tackle Bridger's Knoll and Cogswell Butte though...let me know, they look relatively "easy"... :lol:
Tapeats Creek
rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
Deer Creek / Thunder River AZ
Day 1
Despite getting lost on the way to the trailhead by a Ranger supplied incorrect map, getting rained on at 1:30 am in the back of my pickup after a 4 day 0% chance forecast, and an aggravated nerve in my back from scar tissue sending flashes of pain through my shoulder and arm with each step, I made my way toward Monument Point in the dark with a smile on my face. The rain had stopped and the smells and sounds of the North Rim swirled around me, the Canyon to my left a beautiful abyss of silence, it's depth beyond the reach of my tiny headlamp. After 8 trips, my love for this place has only grown deeper. I hope someday to travel the world with my wife and see other amazing places, but I know now this will always be Home.
The down climb at the alcove wasn't bad - somewhat polished and slippery but big holds everywhere. I had planned on seeing the Esplanade in morning light, but unfortunately the overcast skies lent no color to the amazing sandstone. I kept an eye open for good camp sites for my return, and cached 3 x 32 oz. water bottles before I headed down the red wall. Surprise Valley was easy going, with the descent to Deer Spring punctuated with killer views and the wonderful arrival of the sound of falling water. I spent almost an hour and a half at the amazing Throne Room, enjoying the sound of Deer Spring as I had lunch, relaxed, and enjoyed all 12 thrones for good measure.
Heading down to Deer Creek I met 3 guys in their 20's from Kingman who had just passed Deer Spring without even stopping in (?). We would leapfrog for the rest of the day, with me moving faster but stopping often for pictures and video. The Patio arrived and did not disappoint my high expectations, the narrow ledges not as bad as I thought, and the down climb to Deer Creek Falls more work than I expected. After cooling off at the spectacular falls, I started back up, noticing the 3 guys trying to head east along the river. I asked them if they were trying to get to Lower Tapeats, and they said yes. After a short talk it was apparent how poorly prepared they were. No map, no information on the river route at all. I shared my info with them and we all hiked back up to the Patio for the River Route turnoff and headed toward camp as the inner canyon filled with shadow, and finally darkness. I reached Lower Tapeats at 6:20 pm, the 14 mile day taking it's toll, and I was in bed by 8.
Day 2
Woke up and met Frank, Kevin, and Mark while breaking camp. They were turning back on a loop attempt in the opposite direction. Frank was 71 and though quite the bad :pk: back in the day, he was really struggling. They informed me that Tapeats Creek was running high from all the rain, and the crossings impossible - requiring the far less desirable western route. I went up to the crossing just in case, but ended up opting for the west as well. Obnoxious. Huge up and downs with little forward travel, really steep, slippery off camber shale sections with lethal exposure. I was glad to reach Upper Tapeats Camp.
I had hoped to explore up the Creek, but with the high water I ended up spending the afternoon exploring the amphitheater above camp, as well as some serious housekeeping. The older trio arrived and hung out for a while. Fascinating group - ex-owner of an aerospace company, a CFO and a CEO, all involved in charities to help orphans from developing countries. One had a rescue farm with over 30 large animals, and another 3 adopted children from places including Kazakhstan.
Awesome to see rich people doing the Right Thing.
Humbling.
Day 3
Hit the trail and enjoyed early light on Thunder River. A perfect climax to the sound of water nonstop for the last 40 hours. What a place.
The relative quiet of Surprise Valley arrived, and then a trip up the red wall as the air warmed up. I picked up my water and was happy as a clam to find my 1st choice site not taken! Once again I had time to explore a bit - I have to say the views may not be as big on the 'Nade, but the terrain is awesome slickrock.
Had a great evening - my only decent sunset color, followed by a blast with camera and tripod, topped off with my only visible full moon rise for the trip!
Day 4
Up before dawn as usual, this time thanking my choice of campsite. The overhang provided shelter to break camp under the light rain that had begun. The trip up Bill Hall was really enjoyable - without any real wind I was able to use my GoLite umbrella. The gentle cadence of raindrops and footfall, the smell of evergreen and wet earth made for a perfect ending to the hike.

There are a few really good videos on YouTube of this hike. Solid camera work, informative maps and graphics, etc.
Mine isn't one of them. https://youtu.be/uq ... r2_c

Post Hike
Checked out Crazy Jug on the way out- very cool formations below and some good views of the canyon.
Checked into the North Rim Campground and took the Transept Trail to the Lodge. I had been here 40 years ago but don't remember much. Love the overlooks, Bright Angel Point kicks :pk: .
After a fizzle sunset, I invited some guys I met from the U.K., Colorado, and North Dakota over from their dark camps to my fire of dry wood I had brought up. Will was on Holiday with about 5K in camera gear, and Chris and Johnny were in AZ to see Tool in Phoenix. They had a bottle of Caduceus, and I some heavy Malbec, which paired perfectly with the cold wind and warm fire. The conversation flowed, with comparisons of Tool/A Perfect Circle/Puscifer mixed in with explanations of white balance settings. Sufficiently toasted, we wandered off to tents when the wood ran out and the rain began anew. The wind picked up as well, and by morning a layer of ice covered everything as we all met for a sunrise jaunt out to the Point. Once again, cloud cover kind of killed it, and we all decided to hit the road.
Snow covered the trees all the way to Jacob lake, and the drive back across the Vermillion Cliffs was gorgeous.
I don't know when I'll be back to the North Rim. It's a long drive -
but sometimes you have to drive a long way to get Home.
Tapeats Creek
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By the end of the first day I had descended 5,000 feet, struggled with the weight of extra water to cache, been stung twice by a scorpion, and realized that I might be in over my head.

Six of us had set out from Monument Point on the Bill Hall Trail to Deer Creek about 9:30 in the morning in early October. I was the oldest hiker at 75 and the only female. My son, Cliff, was the youngest at 45. We had spent the previous night at Jacob Lake Inn. Their pleasant rooms and restaurant made it a good jumping off point for our hike.

It took more time than we anticipated to cover the 9.5 miles to camp. We did not take long breaks, but I think I was the one who held us up. I am small and had trouble with the huge steps down. I believe short hikers are at a disadvantage on this entire loop. Where others are able to take long strides up and down the large rocks, short people have to climb up and down.

What surprised me about Surprise Valley was that the Red Wall break leading into the valley was fairly gentle - for the Red Wall. It was the large, broken blocks of the Muav Limestone and Bright Angel Shale formations on the descent into camp at Deer Creek that I found challenging. Surprise Canyon is nothing more than landslide rubble. The landslide occurred in the geologic past, but it looks as though it could have happened yesterday. My friends were patient with me, but dusk was falling before we reached camp.

The scorpion was in my tent. It was never found, which gave me something to think about over the four nights of the trip. My arm and finger throbbed during that first night, but I was so fatigued I was able to get enough sleep and was pleased I didn't experience more serious toxicity.

On day two we dropped our packs at the "patio" on the way to Deer Creek Falls on the Colorado River. We realized the temperatures were far warmer than had been predicted. The falls are impressive, but with at least 12 rafting groups gathered there, congenial though they all were, it wasn't much of a wilderness destination. I regretted that I had not waited for my group at the patio area where Deer Creek has carved lovely terraces in the Tapeats Sandstone.

Our traverse along the Colorado River to the camp at Lower Tapeats, via the "high route," was in full sun at 95 degrees; another long, hot day. The best part of this section are the fabulous river views. There is a steep descent towards the end of this traverse that looks worse than it actually is. The Colorado was carrying a lot of silt and was running chocolate brown - very dramatic.

As we set up camp at Lower Tapeats we spotted three bark scorpions, including one that ran across my knee as I knelt setting up the tent. I didn't need any more scorpion drama.

It is more fun to write about tribulations, but none of us, for even a moment, failed to enjoy and appreciate the beauty and glory of this hike. Being so immersed in the Grand Canyon is an indescribable joy. One member of our group, Nyal, is an Arizona geologist and was able to give us detailed and enthusiastic information on every aspect of Canyon geology.

And speaking of joy, the hike up Tapeats Creek on day three was a delight. It was still too hot and the climb too steep, but we enjoyed it. I was the only one who found the two crossings of Tapeats Creek any problem. Cliff, who had already taken my pack across the creek, rushed back to help when he realized I might be swept down. Again, being short was a disadvantage.

We enjoyed the spacious, shady campsites of the Upper Tapeats camp. Cliff had carried in fly fishing gear and was in fisherman's heaven in Tapeats Creek. He is a catch-and-release guy and that is what he did.

We noticed that Nate, ordinarily the strongest hiker, was lying down after we got into camp. He didn't say much, but we all realized he wasn't feeling well. By the next morning he had a high fever, rapid pulse and respiration, swollen lymph nodes in his neck, and was faint and light-headed. Damn.

We all hiked slowly that forth day between Upper Tapeats and the Esplanade, with Cliff pacing Nate who slept (passed out?) on our short breaks and for a bit longer at lunch. We were so concerned about getting Nate out that we did not linger at Thunder River Falls or give it our full attention. The falls are quite photogenic, however, and the photos we quickly snapped are dramatic. We topped off our water there and headed for the Esplanade. By mid-afternoon, when most of the others had gone ahead to find our water cache, I realized that Nate was swaying and about to go down. He recognized he had little choice and allowed me to take his pack. His brother Nyal carried his own pack and my lighter one and I carried Nate's. I had gotten my canyon legs under me by this time and was hiking easily.

Friends can be a mixed blessing; in camp, the others happily commented on Nate letting me carry his pack. Part of the fun was that Nate is usually the strongest, and most confident, hiker.

Our camp on the Esplanade was my favorite. I have always liked the Esplanade with its weird hoodoos. The eroded sandstone forms convenient benches and tables. We filtered water from potholes that remained from a rain about 8 days prior. We would have had adequate water anyway, but it was a luxury to have abundant water.

Perhaps it was the cooler temperatures of the Esplanade, but we were all ravenous that evening. We were also anxious to consume everything to avoid carrying it out. We shared most of our remaining meals. When someone would ask, "What about the stroganoff (or whatever), should we cook it?" we would all reply, "Sure, might as well."
We slept without tents that night. The stars were incredible and I stayed awake as long as I could to enjoy the Milky Way. It isn't only the beauty of the canyon that takes your breath away on this hike.

Nate was stoically silent the next morning as we divided up the contents of his pack four ways. I was the only one who did not share the load. We gave him his empty pack to carry and he and Rich headed out.

I had cached an additional liter of water near the base of the Coconino. When I went slightly off-trail to retrieve it I found a 4-foot, pink Grand Canyon rattlesnake was moving slowly about 18 inches from my foot. It was not coiled at that time so I didn't feel threatened, but it unnerves me to have a close encounter. I waited for John, Cliff, and Nyal to join me so they could see Pinkie. The snake never did rattle. Cliff informed us that this pink snake is found only at the Grand Canyon (and perhaps in Utah) and is pretty laid-back for a rattlesnake.

A few yards further up the trail we met a ranger coming down. As he checked our permit he reported that Nate was ill, but still climbing and was confident he would make it up through the Coconino and Toroweap. The ranger told us we were fortunate to see the pink rattlesnake as they are fairly common, but rarely spotted. He was going to look for it when he left us.

I was slow going up the Coconino, but we caught up with Rich and Nate before we topped out. The approximately half mile of trail along the rim, that was so short on the way in, seemed to go on and on and on. Thanks to Cliff's fancy, new cooler we had cold beers, sodas, and water waiting for us at the trailhead.

I would like to blame much of my difficulties on my small size, but Rich, who is not a great deal bigger than I am, and also in his 70s, had no problems at all. He is from Salt Lake City and was able to hike all summer. We Phoenix folks had a nasty summer and it was difficult to get in shape with the awful heat. Cliff trained hard anyway, but the rest of us, while in good shape, were not in top shape.

I find I am already forgetting the toil and remembering only the beauty. Don't forgo this hike because of your age or your size; do all the research, lighten your pack as much as possible, and get in the best shape you possibly can. If I had been in better condition I would have enjoyed the hike more and struggled less. Even without the heat, this is not a hike to take lightly.
Tapeats Creek
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Bill Hall - Deer Crk - Thunder River - Tapeats
All Aboard!
Dave planned this many moons in advance as required by the asset protection committee. Wally took the liberty to escort us to the land of opportunity. John joined and I knew it would be a fun group all around even if the hike sucked.

Prep
Studied up on the route for well over three minutes and invested an hour packing. Since this was to be a leisure pace I loaded up on food. The mind boggling part being that I ate 98.21% of all of it. Over two POUNDS of dehydrated food. A pound of brownies. No fruit or veggies for two and half days solid. Enough salt to cure a small pig rounded out with three tums courtesy of the bicycle bandido... anti cramp solution not heartburn.

Bill Hall
This sick hike takes you up before heading down into Grand Canyon. The distant canyon views to the west are stunning. Not the normal corridor temples and quick dropping ridges. Rather a sea of never ending inset canyons. The zipper switchbacks deliver you to the Esplanade sandstone with it's patches of cryptobiotic soil.

Deer Creek
The landscape of the canyon approaching Deer Spring is inspiring. The patio, narrows and falls are a must see. Albeit touristy...

Deer Camp
Only got down to 57 overnight. A bivvy would have sufficed. This was my favorite camp layout. No rodent or bug issues. Slept almost twice as much as a typical night.

Party Lights
For what seems like eternity my eyes would roll with the mention of these exotic priced Christmas lights. Seeing is believing. They cast a warm glow around camp. It wouldn't be the same without. Just beware you might crave camomile and conversations about sewing patterns.

Deer Creek to Tapeats Creek Trail
While not an official trail it is one hell of a walk. The west end perched over the Colorado River is therapy in the morning light.

Thunder River Trail
Na na na na na na na na THUNDER! From 2,000 feet you climb a steep 300 feet then level back into the creek. The raging creek is just awesome in areas with a few small falls or mammoth cascades depending on where you grew up. We took the park recommended east route. The west looked well worn.

Tapeats Creek
The two and half off-trail miles to the cave melted away nearly effortlessly. jlp ood and awed the whole way. I couldn't agree more. My favorite was the tall haphazard falls turning up Tap-its. The grand poobah without a doubt.

Tapeats Upper Camp
Another warmer than imaginable night for late October. Camp mice were on the prowl. I didn't give it a whole lot of thought until one crawled up my back. Shook him off with a heebie jeebie move before he had a chance to summit my shoulder. His intentions to run over my arm out to the food in my hand never panned out.

Needless to say, this was not my favorite camp...lol No biggie, just comical. Unpacking a day later I found out one invaded my pack too. It was up in a tree. Which I didn't figure would do much good. The food in my thin canister on the ground was fine.

Thunder Falls
My expectations were high. Thunder delivered. Dave and I wanted to check out the cave. Around the initial corner I wasn't sure where to go. Then I contemplated about the water. Getting my feet wet shot lightning fast nightmares of slipping. Dave's stories of a guy that ripped his leg open in the cave were not helping. My four pound camera was cumbersome and and and... no dice, changed my vote to pro-life and got back around the corner onto solid ground!

Bill Hall Round 2
Great trip and I was ready to leave. Descending on day 1, whatever muscle is on the back of the leg at the outer joint was screaming ouie. Playing pack mule isn't my preferred cast role. Most of the treturous descending was on day 1. jlp was an angel lending me his hiking pole. That coupled with steady ibuprofen therapy got me through the days.

We stopped at Jacob Lake for burgers on the way out.

Even though I was Dave's twelfth round pick after twenty four of his closest friends bailed I'm most grateful I got the opportunity to go on this trip! Thanks much!

Foliage
Thunder near the falls within a week of prime. Down lower through Tapeats is all over the board. Probably something hitting for the next couple weeks based on micro environments.
Tapeats Creek
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Deer Creek / Thunder River
Earlier this summer I talked to Chumley about the fall and we wanted to do a couple of hikes on the North Rim of my beloved Canyon. I would plan North Bass and he would plan Thunder River / Tapeats Creek. We scored the permits and the time flew by.

We left Phoenix on Wednesday morning in two cars (thanks Chumley & Karl for driving!) and made our way to the north rim. The drive to the trailhead took about six hours and that includes a couple of stops. The dirt roads leading to Monument Point are in very good condition and made for fast travel. We covered 33 miles in under an hour. We found a camp about a half mile from the trailhead and car camped overlooking the Canyon. Life is good!


Day 1 – October 16, 2014
We packed up our gear and drove over to Monument Point and started the hike down the Bill Hall Trail. You start by climbing a couple of hundred feet to the high point and then you start the descent. The going is a little rough at first and then the trail levels off as you traverse to the west. After a bit you start the steep descent to the Esplanade. From there we made good time as we headed for the Redwall Break. Along the way we stopped to look for some water pockets. We found one of them but it was muddy and not reliable.

We continued on and hit the break soon after. The view down into Surprise Valley is stunning! This was the scene of an ancient land slide four million years ago. There are three large chunks of Redwall that slid down and appear as large mounds. Our route leads past the west mound. We continued hiking and headed west for Deer Creek. The going is fairly easy and then you start to descend. Our group got spread out but met back up at Deer Spring. This is an amazing area with water pouring directly out of the rock wall. I drank several handfuls of untreated water and it was delicious!

After the spring we made our way to camp and got everything set up. We then headed down to the Deer Creek Narrows and explored the area all the way down to the Colorado River. This is an exceptional area that is truly beautiful! Deer Creek has cut a channel in the Tapeats layer and Deer Creek Falls pours out just a matter of feet from the Colorado. We all returned to camp and settled in for the night. This was a fun day!

Day 2 – October 17, 2014
Our group woke early and noticed the smoke in the air. We guessed the smoke drifted into the Canyon from a controlled burn on the north rim. Our views will be compromised. Chumley, JonnyB & Patrick left camp first so they could explore the narrows again. The rest of us took our time and enjoyed breakfast. We all met at The Patio around 10am and then started the hike to Tapeats Creek. There is an established route all the way. The going was straightforward with amazing views! We stayed on the high route and eventually dropped down to the river. There is a fun scramble about a half mile from Tapeats Creek. Going down would be more difficult.

We eventually hit Tapeats Creek and then started the hike up to the shelf above the creek. From there we made our way north and reconnected to the creek. We continued on and had to make two creek crossings and there were a couple of relatively easy scrambles to shelves above the creek. Before long we reached camp and settled in for the afternoon. Later that day we made the hike up to Thunder River and what a sight it is! Water gushes right out of the rock wall. It was spectacular! Chumley and Karl tried to climb to the top of falls but there is a three foot gap that has zero margin for error. They turned back. I would need to be roped up to cross the gap. Afterward we all returned to camp and that ended day two.

Day 3 – October 18, 2014
This is our layover day. We don’t have to move camp and we have a few options. We could either relax in camp, head back to the Colorado River or head up creek to Tapeats Cave. I chose to go with Chumley and Karl to Tapeats Cave and I’m glad I did! The route was challenging and the scenery spectacular. The cave was very cool. You can see my separate trip report for Tapeats Cave. http://hikearizona.com/photoset=32502

Day 4 – October 19, 2014
On our final day in the Canyon, we had to make the 9.5 mile hike back to the rim. Jon & Patrick left camp first around 5:30am. Kyle and Karl left after 6am and Chumley and I headed out around 6:40am. All of us took our time on the hike out. We topped off our water at Thunder River and then continued on to Surprise Valley where the sun finally greeted us. It is a spectacular day! The miles poured by as we hiked back up to the Esplanade and then on to Monument Point. All of us were back to the trailhead well before noon. Our trip has come to an end and what a trip it was!


Thunder River and Deer Creek are an exceptional area that might be my favorite place in the Canyon! There is a huge amount of water flowing through here and it’s a very lush area. I highly recommend spending a few days down here. There is a lot to see and do. You won’t be disappointed!
Tapeats Creek
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Deer Creek / Thunder River
An awesome 4-day backpack loop starting with Deer Creek. Hit the Deer Spring on the way down. Did the narrows to the falls both Thursday afternoon and Friday morning.

We took the high route on the traverse across to Lower Tapeats before heading up to Upper Tapeats. Friday afternoon we headed up to check out Thunder River. As I sort of expected, I wasn't able to convince myself to risk the final climb to the cave. Karl tried after me and came to the same conclusion. I'm pretty sure if I watched somebody else do it first it would be no problem. But we had no such guide so that will have to wait for another day.

Saturday was our excursion to Tapeats Cave and Sunday we hiked out early in the day.

In the downtime, we harassed canyon mice and made sure that the liquid weight we had carried in wouldn't slow us down on the way out.

I'm not sure what part of this loop I liked the most. Deer Creek Narrows are special. The falls are incredible. Tapeats Creek is a force to be reckoned with, and the cave is amazing. Thunder River is a wonder. And as always, the massive views the canyon provides can't be beat.

It was a great trip with an awesome group of people! We'll have to do it again! :)

Jon and Patrick posted a video of the trip on their WildernessTV page: It's highly entertaining! http://vimeo.com/111694462
Tapeats Creek
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Deer Creek / Thunder River
You really can't beat this trip.

Day One: Woke up at our campsite on the north rim and prepared for our descent. We drove to the trailhead and headed down. We mostly split up and met for long breaks on the Esplanade and Deer Creek Spring. We made it to our campsite at Deer Creek, set up camp, and then headed through the narrows and down to the falls.

Day Two: We broke camp and headed to Tapeats along the Colorado River. Smoke had drifted into the area from what we assumed were some controlled burns on the rim. This stretch of trail is pretty rugged with lots of ups and downs. We made it to Tapeats Creek and then headed up creek to our camp at Upper Tapeats. We had a beautiful and roomy spot for two nights. We set up camp and then headed up to check out Thunder River spring.

Day Three: I was not as adventurous as some and passed up a trip to Tapeats cave. As sore as my muscles were and the prospect of possibly hiking out the next day with damp shoes was, I opted to hike back down to the river and check out the boat beach a little upstream. Chumley showed me a route he found on satellite view. I attempted it but it was a bust. It disappeared pretty quick and I ended up a couple hundred feet up surrounded by nothing but skree. I came back down and took the route along the river. I met a few rafters and had a pretty nice day.

Day Four: Hiked out of that ditch. It was long. It was steep. It was awesome.


Thanks to Chumley for organizing this. Its probably the prettiest route I've done in the canyon so far.
Tapeats Creek
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Wonderful 'traditional' Deer Creek Loop - Bill Hall to Surprise Valley, east past Thunder River Falls to Upper Tapeats camp. Down the creek-left trail to Lower Tapeats and over to Deer Creek camp. Then up and out of Deer Creek, across Surprise Valley and back up to the Bill Hall T/H. But for the last 30 minutes (rain, thunder, lightning & hail) the weather was perfect.
Esplanade potholes were full in places, some not; regardless, do not count on them.
Traditionally travelled forest roads into Bill Hall are in awesome shape with beautiful autumn foliage.
Tapeats Creek
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Deer Creek/Thunder River Loop
After an hour's sleep, I met up with Dave, Bruce and Denny in Camp Verde in the middle of the night (morning?), then crawled into the Brucemobile for the long journey to the North Rim. The sun rose as we crossed the Colorado River, turning the Vermillion Cliffs...vermillion. Quite a sight. After a breakfast stop in Jacobs Lake, we headed into the wild woods on slightly snowy back roads, encountering several turkeys and a couple of "you shore got a purdy mouth" boys along the way. Dave led the way into the Canyon on the Bill Hall Trail...

The four of us descended to the broad red rock country of the Esplanade, with its Sedona like feel. We stashed water for the return hike before our big drop through the Redwall. It was a big drop indeed down jumbled blocks of massive landslide debris to the floor of desolate Surprise Valley, which looked like it would be HOT :sweat: during the summer. We searched for and found a little mesquite tree to cool off under and eat lunch, before continuing onto Deer Creek.

As we dropped into Deer Creek canyon, the sound of a waterfall greeted us below massive Redwall cliffs. Deer Spring poured out of a hole in a cliff. We cooled off and reloaded on water at the base of the falls, enjoying a little piece of paradise. Deer Creek itself started off beautiful and grew to jaw-dropping-amazing as we entered Deer Creek Narrows. I was blown away by the Narrows with its slot canyon and waterfalls. After a brief search, we found a route down to the base of enormous Deer Creek Falls, on the shores of the Colorado River. A beautiful and impressive waterfall, to say the least. :o We backtracked a bit to the beginning of the Narrows, and began our off trail journey up the Colorado River at dusk. A couple hours later we reached Tapeats Creek and our camp for the night. Mountain House never tasted better. Much needed sleep came quickly. :zzz:

Sunday morning dawned and we were on our way, making a steep climb up the western wall of Tapeats Canyon. High above the creek, we contoured along above the cliffs into a deep gorge of overwhelming scenic beauty, where a ribbon of whitewater snaked its way through a never ending series of red rock walls. I filled one memory card on my camera, then loaded another. Our route involved crossing the swift, chilly waters of Tapeats Creek a couple of times, which we did with care.

Two miles up Tapeats Creek, we reached its confluence with the thundering Thunder River. One last creek crossing and we began ascending Thunder River's course to its source. Aptly named Thunder Spring greeted us amidst a lush, leafy green canopy, below a sheer cliff of Redwall Limestone. We rested here awhile, enjoying the impossible beauty. Dave and I attempted unsuccessfully to reach the cave where the spring flowed out of. It was possible, but the move from one ledge to another over open air seemed too risky. We continued on, reaching Surprise Valley once again, where we fueled up for our push through the Redwall cliffs. Gerhardt, the German hiker we had met the day before, joined us for lunch.

Up the cliff and across the Esplanade once more, where we retrieved our water stash and rested for he final push to the North Rim. A lone bighorn sheep atop a cliff watched us for some time as we trudged up the Bill Hall Trail. The setting sun turned the Kaibab Limestone from white to gold as we crested Monument Point, exhausted. A short time later we arrived at the trailhead at dusk. A change of clothes and were racing down the back roads toward Jacobs Lake Lodge, where we enjoyed a well deserved, delicious post-hike dinner. Best burger I've had in a while.

Following dinner, four dead-tired zombies climbed back into the Brucemobile, and sped south into the night for home. An amazing, unforgettable, and perfect trip. I had a blast with you guys! :D :D :D Thank you for organizing this epic adventure, Dave! :worthy:


Directions
Map Drive
or
Road
FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

To Monument Point Trailhead
Jumping off point is Forest Road (FR) 22 located off of Highway 89A, just few miles east of the small town
of Fredonia, AZ. From FR 22 you will be turning onto FR 425. If you are heading to Indian Hollow and the
Thunder River trailhead, then turn onto FR 232 (this road ends at the trailhead). If you are heading for Bill
Hall trailhead, then continue further down FR 425 until you come to FR 292. FR 292 turns into FR 292A
and ends at the Bill Hall trailhead. Alternate access to FR 22 is from Demotte Park off of Highway 67.
During the winter and early spring deep snow and mud on the North Rim might close access roads and
cut off vehicle access to the trailheads.

From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 349 mi - about 7 hours 22 mins
From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 454 mi - about 8 hours 52 mins
From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 203 mi - about 5 hours 14 mins
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