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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.

Soap Creek Canyon, AZ

118 17 2
Guide 17 Triplogs  2 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Northwest > Jacob Lake N
4.2 of 5 by 14
Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Round Trip 8 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,197 feet
Elevation Gain 1,140 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 4-7 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 13.7
Interest Off Trail Hiking & Seasonal Creek
Backpack Yes & Connecting
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
24  2019-05-25
Soap Creek - North Fork
7  2016-07-02 paco14
3  2012-09-24 toddak
6  2012-03-28 AZLOT69
15  2011-07-30 JuanJaimeiii
10  2009-09-15 joebartels
19  2009-07-26 DarthStiller
14  2007-02-24 Hoffmaster
Page 1,  2
Author J&SHike
author avatar Guides 5
Routes 0
Photos 71
Trips 4 map ( 69 miles )
Age 45 Male Gender
Location Prescott, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Mar, Apr, Sep, Oct → 8 AM
Seasons   Spring to Autumn
Sun  6:14am - 6:26pm
Official Route
1 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Geology Nearby
Named place Nearby
A route to the mighty Colorado
by J&SHike

Likely In-Season!
Soap Creek provides a relatively quick access to the Colorado and Soap Creek Rapids.

After parking at the trail head just .6 miles off of Hwy. 89A head down the sandy wash. After about fifteen minutes of walking you'll come to a dryfall which you can bypass on either side. Downclimb the next dryfall which is only about a six to eight foot drop at an angle. Some more walking and a side canyon enters on creek right, go left or down canyon and continue on, this is where the fun begins. You'll notice as you hike the canyon walls start to rise higher as you drop further down toward your decent to the mighty Colorado.

You'll approach two distinct rockfalls, both you can either climb down as we did or find the steep trail around them. You'll then come to an area of slick rock which when approaching it looks as if your heading for a seventy-five foot drop, do not fear fellow canyoneers, you'll breathe a sigh of relief as you get closer. It drops about 6-7 feet which you can easily downclimb. But wait, what's this? Another dryfall? Ah yes, this one is a vertical drop of 20-25' but don't get bent out of shape just yet.
Option 1: Backtrack off the slick rock and find a trail leading up, over, and around on creek right.
Option 2: If you're a rock climber you can shimmy across on creek left then down.
Option 3: Climb down the falls via a rope and rope ladder that someone has graciously put there. We were hesitant about using it, the water has scoured out a hole above the falls where part of the slick rock sticks up, this is what the rope is anchored to. This rope is attached to another rope which has wooden rungs to step on. This thing is weathered and it scrapes the edge of the falls like a knife blade but both are beefy ropes which should last a little longer than most. I'm 275 lbs and it didn't break on me. Take your pick.

After all this, and a few more minutes of hiking brings you to another rock fall. The only way down this one is to find the cairn on creek right (boulder right) and you'll notice a black rope around a large boulder, use this as a hand hold and slide/climb down to a boulder that's not below you but to your right. After this it's pretty much smooth sailing to the Colorado. A major side canyon enters on creek left, this is the North fork of Soap Creek Canyon. Continue down the creek to a metal sign stating your in "Grand Canyon N.P." with all of its regulations. You then arrive at Soap Creek rapids and the mighty Colorado. Sandy beaches, good views upriver and down river await you and an awesome spot to eat lunch, fish and just relax. When your done head back up Soap creek.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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

2004-01-01 J&SHike
  • book
    area related
  • 100 Classic Hikes - 2007
    area related
    100 Classic Hikes - 2007
  • Grand Canyon Use Area Boundaries - Dynamic Map

BLM Division Details
This primitive trail goes down Soap Creek to the Colorado River below Glen Canyon Dam. It is a difficult but popular hike among day hikers and fishers because of its natural scenery and access to the Colorado River.
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 Triplog Reviews
Soap Creek Canyon
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Me and April aka Pathfinder left Phoenix after work Friday afternoon and arrived at Lees Ferry campground well after dark. Never been there before, so after we woke up and gawked at the cliffs all around us and moseying along the interpretive signs down by the ferry ruins we went looking for a hike that'd get us introduced to the Vermillion cliffs area. Saw the California condors hanging out under Navajo bridge, then found Soap Creek on Routescout and drove the 8 miles or so from the bridge to the trailhead on the side of 89A opposite the cliffs. The wash was dry and after a mile or so we started to get into some scrambling. Saw some petroglyphs! The first I've ever come across without previously knowing they were there. After scrambling down a few dry waterfalls we finally encountered about a 20 foot sheer drop with no obvious way around. With no rope and some more hiking planned elsewhere for the afternoon we decided to call it quits there and sat down to have a snack. Saw what was maybe? our first bighorn sheep silhouetted against the sky way up on the canyon rim. Either that or a deer.
Soap Creek Canyon
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The North Fork had a trickle of flowing water and therefore lots of mud-filled pools were guaranteed, so the South Fork was the better option. Fun route, with several sections of tricky scrambling, and a 15-foot rope is mandatory for getting down and back up the big pour-off, unless you want to brave the high bypass.
Soap Creek Canyon
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Day 2-3 Soap Canyon

Leaving Coyote Buttes North, UT we crossed the border back into Arizona! Took the opportunity to finish the final ten feet of the AZT as I was near the southern terminus three weeks ago :D

With South Canyon Route and Rider Canyon out of the picture Soap Canyon was our ticket. Starting at 1pm the hike in was toasty. All went well until we got to the part where the old ladder used to be. Kurt climbed both sides of the canyon looking for a route to no avail. I headed down again, with some more searching I spotted a "fallen" rope. After more fiddling around Steve went to check it out himself. Kurt got the keen idea to fetch the rope with one of the fishing poles. Adrenalin kicked in and I high tailed it back down to Steve. After looking at it again I said screw the rope and down climbed it as Steve kept me informed on my progress from above. It's just over body length so it's nothing to write home about. On the other hand I probably would have turned around if I was alone not knowing if I could climb back up without assistance.

On to the river in full force Kurt soon made a comment "looks like we have about a half mile to go". No clue if he was right at the time but it was the loooooongest half mile in my life. Looking at the maps now it's apparent it was two full miles. Of course we had to joke him about it on and on.

Finally after the 1+ hour "half mile" we arrived at the river. Unfortunately when Paria flashed it turned the Colorado chocolate. Nevertheless this was my first trip ever to the river so I was pleased to knock it out. Within minutes a commercial rig eased through Soap Creek Rapids.

We setup camp down stream a little on the sand. I tried to liven up the group with my patented "Cramp Dance Crawl" in the sand. Steve missed out but Kurt enjoyed it thoroughly. We enjoyed a perfect weather evening. Steve did have one bout with a pack rat in the middle of the night.

Headed out at 7am. We made much better time going out. The "climb" turned out to be even easier going up. What took 4 hours to figure out coming in was breezed with little effort in 2.5 hours going out.

I'm not sure where Tyler got 5mi RT for this one. It's 4.0mi one-way and 1140ft, so I'll update the page data. I could probably clear this canyon out-n-back in under 4 hours with a day pack. IMO it's not worth driving from Phoenix just for this hike but if you're in the area it's worth tagging on. The company made this one worthy ;)
Soap Creek Canyon
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This one turned out to be quite the adventure. I got an early start at 6am and needed every minute. This starts out very innocently going down the wash. As the canyon deepens, you have to make your way down some steep drop-offs. Nothing too bad in the way of exposure to falls. Then the wash junctions with the South Fork of Soap Creek. At this point you turn left and continue downstream. Not long after, the obstacles become much more formidable.

All thru this canyon are rockfalls, and even huge sections of the canyon walls that have eroded and collapsed across the creek bed. At just one of these sections, you have to boulder your way across the huge rocks. Not long after, look to your right for cairns that will guide your way up a huge rockslide. It was a little unnerving in some sections to make my way up and down this rockslide, seeing as some of the rocks/boulders weren't completely stable.

Once I got past the rockslide, a few hundred feet more downstream is the mega drop-off. I started out trying to make my way down this, since it was basically a series of smaller drop-offs. Finally, at the last one, I saw that it was a good 6-8 feet down, too much to risk an injury, especially hiking alone. I looked to my right again and saw one of the few sections of an actual trail for this hike, which very conveniently guides you past this mess. I made my way back up and to this trail, which gained even more elevation as it skirted the deep canyon below. The exposure on this section of trail is considerable, and the trail is very narrow, and loose in spots. Be very careful where you step and don't gawk too much at the scenery here.

The trail fades away at another rockslide that is also very well cairned. At the bottom of this rockslide, there is some more bouldering that includes a rope strung around a boulder to help you lower yourself. After this, the creek finally levels out, allowing for some more normal hiking. At one point during this last bit of bouldering, I made the mistake of allowing my feet to get into one of the mud puddles. The mud in this creek is very slippery, hence the name Soap Creek.

At the junction of the North and South Forks of Soap Creek, North Creek had a trickle of water, which was just enough to make the rest of the hike an exercise in trying to keep the mud off my boots. At some points it seemed almost inevitable, probably mainly due to how tired I was getting. By the time I reached the Colorado, I had drank my entire Camelback bladder, 3L.

At the river, I ate lunch, drank another liter of water, and filled up with 3 more liters. The forecasted temperature for Marble Canyon today was 100 degrees. Down at the Colorado, it was easily 110. Making my way back up Soap Creek was somewhat difficult in the unrelenting sun. The first milestone for me to reach was to get past the junction of the north and south forks, so I didn't have to keep dodging the mud.

Getting back up the big dropoff and rockslides turned out not to be as bad as I was afraid off. Some shade had crept in at that point, and as my elevation increased, so did the temps drop just enough. It also helped immensely that some clouds had drifted by just in time as I started to ascend.

At the rope, I discovered that it was great for lowering yourself, but not so good for pulling yourself up and out. I actually backed down and tried to find another way, only to find that any other route was impossible. I managed to make it up on the 2nd try, using a belly flop move to anchor my center of gravity on the upper level area, thereby preventing my falling. This resulted in my being covered in the fine dirt powder, which subsequently turned into mud as it made contact with my sweat soaked clothes and became worked into the fabric. My new white longsleeve summer hiking shirt is no longer white, and probably never will be again. [Update note: The rope ladder that is shown in older picture sets is gone now. There is only one rope that is badly placed. Be prepared for a challenge to get yourself out of this canyon, or else bring an extra rope to leave on your way down.]

Once I finished, I had a nice 5 hour drive back to Mesa, fighting winding roads, traffic, and monsoons.

My GPS lost the signal a few times in the narrow portions of the canyon, resulting in the GPS locating me at a wrong area and then back again, adding to the total mileage. Upon inspection of the route on my computer, I would guess that the total round trip mileage for this is about 10 miles.

As a sidenote, I went thru 9 liters of water on this hike, which I believe is a personal record for me.
Soap Creek Canyon
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Epic hiking and epic fishing. I ended up doing this one solo, which I do not recommend. My friend flaked at the last minute because he "had to paint the house before the new bed his wife ordered arrived." Is there some rule about painting with a bed in the house that someone can enlighten me about here? No furniture conflicts at my house, so I was not about to burn a 3 day weekend watching the zombie box (I did manage to catch game 3 of the Western Conference Finals at the Vermillion Cliffs Lodge).
I Camped at the trailhead Friday night and headed down into the canyon at first light. Wow! Incredible scenery and an equally challenging hike. This is not for the faint! Bring some rope to lower your pack and I recommend wearing gloves, your going to get on all four for this one. At times it is difficult to find the trail through the boulder fields, but look for the rock cairns, footprints in the sand, and mud stains on the rocks. You will at times have multiple paths to choose from that pretty much break down into the bouldering category or the high steep trail category. For the trip down, because gravity was with me, I took the boulder route. The hike out is uphill all the way, and because I was a wearing a heavy pack, I took the high steep trails out.
Campsite was a river front, white sand, barefoot beach, just above Soap Creek rapids on the Colorado River. This is a popular spot with rafters, so be prepared to share. I was invaded by a group from Durango, Colorado, who shared their fresh salad, fettucine and a cold beer as a peace offering for invading my camp. Thank you Eric and Lorelei for your generosity.
The last day of fishing was one of my best. It took a while to find the fish, but easily brought 20 fish to hand in an afternoon when I figured them out. I packed in waders and boots, but this gear is not necessary. Plenty of fish are accessible from the shore.
I will post pics when they are developed.

Permit $$
Special Use

No NPS entrance fee. NPS backpacking permit required to camp below the rim.

Map Drive
FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

To canyon trip
The trailhead is located off Highway 89A, about 8 miles west of Marble Canyon.

Take Hwy. 89 North out of Flagstaff. When you reach the junction of Hwy. 89 and 89A take 89A over the Navajo Bridge and through Marble Canyon. Just past mile marker 548 turn east or left onto a graded dirt road. Go through the gate and go 0.6 miles to the trailhead.
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