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Bill Hall Trail, AZ

907 42 2
Guide 42 Triplogs  2 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Northwest > North Rim
3.7 of 5 by 20
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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance One Way 2.55 miles
Trailhead Elevation 7,060 feet
Elevation Gain -1,790 feet
Avg Time One Way 2 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 5.53
Backpack Possible & Connecting
Dogs not allowed
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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16  2018-09-30 friendofThunderg
34  2018-09-19 The_Dude
8  2016-10-28
Deer Creek - Tapeats - Thunder River Loop
20  2016-10-12 friendofThunderg
15  2015-10-28
Thunder River / Deer Creek Loop
44  2015-10-26
Deer Creek / Thunder River AZ
69  2015-10-09
Thunder River / Deer Creek Loop
15  2014-10-25 joebartels
Page 1,  2,  3,  4
Author HAZ_Hikebot
author avatar Guides 16,882
Routes 16,052
Photos 24
Trips 1 map ( 6 miles )
Age 22 Male Gender
Location TrailDEX, HAZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   May, Sep, Oct, Jun → Early
Seasons   Spring to Autumn
Sun  6:13am - 6:34pm
Official Route
4 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Geology Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Popular Shorcut
by HAZ_Hikebot

Likely In-Season!
Hikers originally accessed Thunder River, Tapeats Creek, and Deer Creek via the trail from Indian Hollow, but the Bill Hall Trail east of Monument Point offers a 2.5 mile shortcut and, as a result, has become the primary trailhead.

Pass through the gate at the end of FR 292A and follow the rim west toward Monument Point. As the trail rises toward the point watch for cairns marking the place the trail leaves the rim and enters the canyon. The trail drops steeply through the Kaibab and Toroweap Formations north of Bridgers Knoll, then contours northwest to the Coconino descent west of Monument Point.

Many switchbacks provide passage through the Coconino Sandstone and on to a small drainage leading down to the Esplanade and the junction with the Thunder River Trail from Indian Hollow. A short rope may be useful to lower the packs at a short (15 feet) scramble.

Segments to Consider
Monument Point TH (7060 ft) to...
Thunder River Junction, AY9 (5400 ft)2.5 mi
Surprise Valley, AM9 (3600 ft)7.0 mi
Upper Tapeats Camp, AW7 (2400 ft)9.5 mi
Lower Tapeats, AW8 at River (1950 ft)11.5 mi
Deer Creek Campsite, AX7 ft)9.5 mi
Deer Creek Falls and River (1950 ft)10.5 mi

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.

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

2008-03-15 HAZ_Hikebot
  • 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 18 deeper Triplog Reviews
Bill Hall Trail
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I had been wanting to get back to this area for sometime now and decided a day hike was easier than applying for a permit. Originally, I had planned to make a loop with Tapeats via the river trail, but I will be honest I decided to enjoy the moment a little at the falls and skipped on turning this awesome day hike into a death march. Likewise, there were some nasty clouds rolling in and with a drive back to Phoenix still on the schedule for later in the evening, so discretion won out. Skipping the loop turned out to be the right choice, as the Tapeats area really got socked in for a moment with a pretty nasty cell, which I still got some of, but with a little less intensity it appeared.

Early start for this one. In fact, it was almost a real early start until I realized my phone had switched to Navajo time and I was eating my morning oat meal and drinking my morning coffee at 2:30 in the morning and not 3! I did as best as I could to rest for another 45 minutes or so and was on the trail at 4:20 a.m. I cruised on the descent and cruised across the esplanade, which set me up for the amazing experience of witnessing first light from above Surprise Valley. After the descent into Surprise, it was time for my summit of Cogswell Butte. The route is pretty straight forward and appears to be about the only way up from the perspective of descending into Surprise Valley. The route was a little loose and steep, but by Canyon standards the summit was a walk up. There was a pretty well visited register on top and the great morning light and awesome views west into the great gorge were amazing. After slipping and sliding down Cogswell, it was on to Deer Creek.

The area was pretty busy and full with hikers and boaters, but I did not mind. I was just happy the patio was free of people, as the last time I had went through that area I could not really enjoy it much because of all the people. Once I got to the falls, I decided I was just going to make this hike an out and back. I think I had the additional seven miles in me, but I decided swimming and lounging around the falls seemed like a more pleasant option than the hot hike across to Tapeats. There were some boaters there, but they were all pretty cool and even offered to move their chairs for me to take some pics. From the falls, it was the long hike back to the north rim. There were moments I felt very tired and then moments where I felt strong, but overall I think at times I was a little low on energy from a lack of eating. I had the food, but when it gets warm, my appetite goes away. I had to force myself to get some food in me during some dedicated breaks on the way up. Luckily, a storm rolled in and the thunder and lightning gave me that nice flight or fight boost of energy needed to reach the north rim.

Cogswell Butte is my 14th Grand Canyon summit.
Bill Hall Trail
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I have not posted in a while, mostly due to not having much hiking time, and those hikes I have done have all been the basic in town variety. This one was well worth a write up. I started out from the North Rim with a group of 5 others Wednesday afternoon for our planned 5 day excursion. We hiked down to the Esplanade on the first day after making the drive up, just a little over 4 miles on the trail. I started out with 2 and a half gallons of water since we were planning on dry camping the first and last night, so I left a gallon cached at our campsite that we were going to use on the way up. Beautiful area with lots of interesting flora for sure. The second day we broke camp fairly early and headed down the Redwall into Surprise Valley. Slow going on the trail, very rocky and steep heading down the wall, felt a little reminiscent of Piestewa with the big stone steps except I had a 50 pound pack on my back. We made our way through Surprise Valley and headed east towards Tapeats Creek. Our group had folks of different hiking abilities and ages, so we ended up splitting into a few groups. When I made it to Thunder Falls, I enjoyed a great rest cooling off in the shade of the trees right by the ice-cold stream. Absolutely fantastic, and possibly some of the best tasting water I have had in the backcountry. Now revived, we made our way to the Upper Tapeats camp area and secured the site right on the creek. The rest of the day we just took turns jumping in the creek and setting up camp. The water was really cold, but felt great after a long day of efforting in the heat, I would imagine it was right around 100 degrees at camp. We had planned to do the loop with Deer Creek as a day hike the next day, but some of our group were really struggling (a few were first and second time backpackers, I would suggest getting more smaller trips in before trying this one) so that idea was scrapped and we planned on hiking up the first major gain by Thunder Falls the next day once the sun went behind the canyon walls. I took off on my own in the morning to at least go down to the Colorado River to enjoy the scenery and try my hand at fishing. I took the west bank trail down to the river, and there was quite a bit of gain and some mighty thin trails. On the way back to camp, I decided to ford Tapeats Creek to get to the east bank, the crossing was a little dodgy but I found a good spot to make it across. Back at camp I enjoyed some lunch and then packed up my tent so we could make the afternoon ascent. Filled up as much water as I could at the falls since now the next two nights would be dry camps. We found a spot in Surprise Valley to sleep for the night so we could make an early morning approach on the Redwall. The next day I made it back to our first camp mid-morning, and then we waited a few hours for the rest of the group to catch up. Spent a lazy few hours in the shade soaking up the surroundings and reading a book. By the time everyone was back to camp, it looked like a few folks were running really short on water and would be hurting for the next day. I left over a half gallon for the group, and about 3 in the afternoon I decided to hike out to the car with one of the other guys. There was water at the car, so we would have as much as we needed once we got up top, even though we ran out on the way up. Climbing up the White wall with the afternoon sun blaring on my back was not the best, but we made it up with many breaks along the way. Got up on top of the rim just after the sun set and made our way by moonlight back to the car to set up camp on top. Greeted the sunrise the next morning from the use trail right to rim's edge with a cup of tea and my last Clif bar. We waited a few hours for the other folks to make their way up (they all got a real early start), and went and had lunch at the Jacob Lake lodge before heading back home to the Valley. All in all, a fantastic first backpack trip for me in the Grand Canyon!
Bill Hall Trail
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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!
Bill Hall Trail
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This was the main reason for my week long trip to the north rim and it did not disappoint. This backpack had been on my mind for a few years now. My permit was for four days, however, I was ok with returning a day earlier, as I had already had a very eventful fall break.

Day one was a pretty standard hike down Bill Hall and the Deer Creek Trail. I really enjoyed the esplanade portion of the hike and think that this section of trail may get overlooked a little because of the attractions at the CO and along Thunder and Tapeats. However, I think its right up with them, in terms of scenery and beauty. Only two people at the Deer Creek site so that was nice. I was a little surprised at how rugged and steep the drop was into Deer Creek was, but I kind of enjoyed it and put it on par with other more rugged descents, such as Boucher. The narrows of Deer Creek were absolutely amazing and rival the attraction of the falls in my opinion. The only issue was the dozen or so rafters lounging around the narrows, makes for poor photos. It made me think, that the real threats to the canyon's treasures and solitude are not from the foot traffic on the rim, but the traffic coming up from the river. I kept chuckling to myself about how different the partying schlubs beached on the narrows and down by the falls were in comparison to the characters I was reading about in The Emerald Mile. I ended up being pretty beat, despite the modest day and was in bed not to long after the sunset.

On day two I took the traditional route back to Tapeats Creek and had my camp set up in the AV9 use area pretty early in the morning. I spent the rest of the afternoon exploring Tapeats Creek and it was simply amazing on so many levels. I got back to camp reeling with some adrenaline from the awesome day, but it quickly wore off and I was in bed again very shortly after sunset. The moon kept it pretty well lit in my area for most of the night and the temps were nearly perfect, as I never even crawled into my bag. I made the wet hike back to the Thunder River Trail the next morning, stopped for some pictures of the waterfalls and took some long breaks on the way up to soak it all in. I had to walk a little over a mile to get back to my campsite, but there waiting for me safe and sound was Jackie and the pups, so all was well.

A tremendous area, a tremendous hike and maybe my most memorable trip in the canyon to date!
Bill Hall Trail
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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!

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 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:
Bill Hall Trail
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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.
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. ... 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.
Bill Hall Trail
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Thunder River / Deer Creek Loop
After several hikes on the corridor trails, I decided it was time to expand our family's Grand Canyon experience to the backcountry! : rambo : Reading the triplogs of others and viewing the breathtaking photos, it was an easy choice to put the Thunder River-Deer Creek loop at the top of the list. So, with my wife and three of our kids (16, 13, and 12), we tackled our first "primitive" trail in the GC.

What a fantastic place! :y:

I put in a permit application for 6 on the first of June for an October permit, with the idea of going over fall break in my kids' school schedule. The NPS website says that all request received by 5 pm on the first of the month are eligible for "earliest consideration" and are randomly ordered for processing. I know October is a popular month for this hike, so perhaps not surprisingly, I didn't get my first (or second) choice on dates or camp locations. :| But, with the help and advice of the HAZ forum, I was able to work out an itinerary that turned out to be great. :thanx:

Day 1 (Thursday)--travel and camp on the rim near the Bill Hall TH;
We traveled up from Phoenix on Thursday with the intent of camping on the rim near the trailhead and getting an early start on Friday morning. The drive up was uneventful. We stopped for cookies at Jacob Lake, then headed down Hwy 67 towards the rim. There are several ways to access the trailhead, some more direct than others. Ultimately, we decided to take the NPS recommended route (FSR22 to FSR425 to FSR292, then 292A), even though it's one of the less direct routes (about 30 miles from Hwy 67). Despite the fact that it had rained for several days earlier in the week, the roads were in great condition. With the exception of a a couple of mud puddles near the very end of the trail, the bulk of the off-road ride is sedan-capable.

We arrived at Crazy Jug Point just in time to watch the sunset over the western horizon on the Canyon. 8) The main camping spot at the point was occupied (and, in any event, was not really in an ideal location, in my opinion [surrounded by trees w/ no direct view over the canyon]), so we continued down the road toward the TH until we found a fantastic camping spot with an established fire ring, right on the edge of the the Canyon. There were at least 2 or 3 other, similar campsites along the last mile of the road to the trailhead.

We set up camp, enjoyed some dinner and conversation around the fire, and then hit the hay. Despite the rainy weather earlier in the week, the forecast for our trip was nothing but sunny and clear days and moonless (i.e., star-filled) nights. The Milky Way was in full-view overhead, punctuated by frequent shooting stars.

Day 2 (Friday)--Hike from Bill Hall TH to camp at Upper Tapeats Campground (11.0 mi.)
After breakfast in the morning, we reorganized our packs a bit and took the short drive to the trailhead. The parking area was rather full (approx. 25 cars).

We shouldered our packs and had our first discovery of the trip--water is heavy! :pk: Each of us carried an extra gallon that we planned to cache along the route, which we did in three places: (1) 2 gallons near the Thunder River Trail junction (2.6 mi. in, at the bottom of the first descent); 1 gallon at the southern edge of the Esplanade just before the redwall break down to Surprise Valley (5.4 mi. in); and 2 gallons about halfway down the western fork in Surprise Valley (on the way to Deer Creek, where we planned to spend our final night).

The initial descent from Monument Point was our first introduction to "primitive" trails. I wasn't too surprised, but my 12-year-old daughter was not a fan. :scared: She was tentative at first, but gained confidence as we went and overall did great on the hike. All of us on the trip had done the one-day rim-to-rim at least once (my two youngest finished our most recent crossing with me just a couple of weeks before this trip), and my kids all run cross-country, so I knew they were in good shape. The other thing that helped was hiking poles. I'm not usually a fan of hiking poles, but they proved invaluable in this steep, rocky, and uneven terrain, particularly with the added balance issues of carrying a loaded backpack along the sometimes exposed ledges.

We were prepared for the somewhat tricky downclimb at 1.5 mi., and nearly all managed to downclimb with packs on. No ropes needed in my view. At worst, remove the pack and hand it down to someone standing below.

After the 49-switchbacks and joint-grinding, steep descent to the Thunder River Trail junction, we were glad to reach the flat reprieve of the Esplanade. The Sedona-like sandstone formations were very cool, and we had the benefit of seeing the area after some good rain. Many of the "potholes" in the rock were filled with water, and made for nice pools to dip our feet in and cool down before our descent into Surprise Valley.

By the time we reached Surprise Valley, the sun was heating up and the valley was living up to its reputation as a natural oven :guilty: --my mini-thermometer was registering in the upper 90s. At the Deer Creek/Thunder River fork, my son and I dropped our packs and headed down the western (Deer Creek) trail in search of a decent camping spot and place to cache our final 2-gallons of water for our last night in the canyon. As expected, we didn't see any super-appealing camping spots, but didn't want to expend a lot of time/energy searching, so after about .2 mi., we settled on a spot that was do-able, cached our water, and headed back to the fork to continue our trek over the Thunder River.

The water in our camelbacks lasted us to the edge of Surprise Valley. Thankfully, by that point, we had Thunder Spring "in view" (and well prior to that, within "earshot") and the final, east-facing descent was shaded as the afternoon sun dropped towards the western horizon. A half-mile of steep down-climbing later, we were drinking from Thunder Spring and admiring the power and beauty of the shortest named river in the world (.5 mi.). :DANCE:

I wanted to stay longer at the spring, but my crew was ready to put their feet up at camp after a long day of hiking, so we soldiered on, passing a rattlesnake who said "hello" to us in their typical fashion, before slithering off under a nearby rock. I had intentions of heading back up in the morning, but after realizing that it was about a mile and 800-900 ft of elevation gain to go back from the campground, I contented myself with a lot of photos on the continued hike down in the pleasant early evening light. 8)

When we arrived at Upper Tapeats (around 6 pm), the two primary campsites were occupied, with a single couple occupying the larger site. The info said there was a third site, but the only area that seemed to look like a third site was too small to accommodate our three tents. The couple at the large site graciously offered to move to the smaller site, as they were planning to get up at 4 a.m. for a long hike out in the morning. We were grateful! :thanx:

Mountain House dinner never tasted so good, and we followed it up with an evening dip in Tapeats Creek to cool off our trail-weary feet.

With our food all secured in Outsaks for the night, we managed to escape unscathed by the marauding mice. [-X

Once again, the moonless night allowed expansive views of the nighttime skies as we tried to get some shut-eye. I never sleep very well while camping, but it was particularly challenging on this trip, as every night felt like Christmas Eve, packed with anticipation of the gifts of Mother Nature that I was going to be experiencing the next day!

Day 3 (Saturday)--Hike from Upper Tapeats to dispersed camp on a sandy beach of the Colorado at 135-mi. rapids
Saturday was our short day--about 4 miles of hiking. We were in no hurry to get out of the shady canyon of Tapeats Creek and into the hot sun along the Colorado River, so we took our time getting ready in the morning and then made a "field trip" back up to the confluence of Thunder River and Tapeats Creek, where we enjoyed some cool, jacuzzi baths and waterfall massages, before packing up camp an heading downstream.

We chose the NPS-recommended route along the east side of the creek, and found both creek crossings very manageable. Likewise, the two potentially tricky (but short) downclimbs along the east side were not much to get concerned about, and again, we generally managed to navigate them with packs on.

Just upstream from the crossing back to the west of the trail, we stopped at an overlook of the falls, which some call the "Niagara of Tapeats Creek," due to its horseshoe shape. At the creek crossing itself was a nice, shaded rock overhang where we stopped to have lunch. Being in no hurry, we threw on the water shoes and hiked right up the creek, back to the falls and enjoyed playing in, around--and even behind--the falls.

After lunch, we crossed the creek for good and enjoyed the somewhat exposed hike along west wall of the Tapeats drainage, as the narrows plunged farther and farther below. The steep scramble down to Lower Tapeats Campground was interesting and a little slow-going. At the confluence, the Colorado was still flowing "chocolate" from the recent rains, though the clear skies and direct sunlight had temps well into the 90's. A couple who we had met at Upper Tapeats and who were spending the night at Lower Tapeats and had arrived earlier invited us to join them in the the shade of one of the only trees in the area capable of providing much shade. We gratefully obliged, and then headed over to the creek to do some filtering in preparation for our dry camp another 1.5 miles down river.

We timed our filtering job just right, so that as we were shouldering our packs for the final trek of the day, the canyon shadows began to fall on the north bank of the river, protecting us from the afternoon sun.

Shortly after leaving Lower Tapeats, my youngest daughter twisted her ankle on an easy, non-descript, and relatively flat portion of the trail along the river (while successfully having just navigated well over 5,500 ft. of difficult, steep, rocky descending). :doh: Thankfully, after a short break, an ankle wrap, and an ibuprofen, she was back in hiking mode and managed the rest of the trip with little discomfort.

The big obstacle of the day was the steep and slippery downclimb just before the mouth of the Bonita Creek drainage. Of course, we had read all of the HAZ descriptions and seen the photos of this one, so we knew what to expect. I brought a 30' piece of 8mm rope, which we tied to the tree at the top and used as support to make the downclimb. I made several trips up and back to ferry down packs and then provide support from below, as my kids and wife downclimbed using the rope. My son went down with backpack on. Once all were down, I climbed up one final time to retrieve the rope. Although a rope-less descent wasn't too bad without my backpack on, I would consider a rope close to necessary for going down with a backpack on. 30' was sufficient length to get you down the steepest section.

As we were navigating the downclimb, a rafting group passed by on the rapids next to the cliff and provided some entertainment for us. They pulled in for camp just down stream on the south bank, and we leapfrogged them on our way to our campsite on the north-side beach, at 135-mi. rapids, just below where the trail veers away from the River and up the walls of the Granite Narrows.

Our campsite on the beach was awesome and my favorite of the trip! :y: Thanks to HAZ member Mazatzal for cluing me into the fact that the Surprise Valley Use Area (AM9) goes all the way down to the river! We ditched the tent for the night and slept under the stars with unobstructed views of the the heavens above (saw at least a dozen shooting stars) and were lulled to sleep by the soothing, rumbling sounds of the nearby, churning River.

Day 4 (Sunday)--Hike to Deer Creek and the falls, then up to dispersed camp in Surprise Valley
We didn't get an early enough start on Sunday morning to avoid the sun on the exposed climb away from the River and over to Deer Creek, which turned out to be a hot, sweaty grind, albeit with nice views of the River and the Canyon along its narrowest section.

Arriving at the Deer Creek patio around 11 a.m., we shed the packs and ate lunch before heading down to what I anticipated to be the trip highlight--Deer Creek Falls! The traverse along the edge of the narrows was exciting, and although the exposure is real, I found it less disconcerting in real life than I did in watching others traverse it in videos and photos. Unfortunately, our mid-day arrival made for poor lighting in the narrows for purposes of photography. Oh well.

Deer Creek falls was absolutely, as advertised. Incredible! The spray from the mist at the base of the falls was so refreshing, but also made it difficult to get some photos without having the lense first covered up with water droplets! We had the falls all to ourselves for some time. Two rafting groups were also in the vicinity, but by the time they made there way to the falls, we were more or less on our way out.

After backtracking to the patio and picking up our packs, we headed up to the camp area, where we changed out of our water shoes in preparation for the hike up to Deer Spring and Surprise Valley. While doing so, the couple who shared the shade with us in Lower Tapeats approached us and said they had room for seven on their permit for the Deer Creek campsite, but since 5 in their party had bailed, we were welcome to stay with them for the night, instead of heading up to Surprise Valley. We were grateful for the offer, and Deer Creek is a beautiful area (especially compared to Surprise Valley), but ultimately we decided we would be better off getting one of the 3 big climbs under our belt today, instead of having to do the whole enchilada in one day. So, we politely declined and pressed on towards Deer Spring, where we intended to fill up on water for another dry camp in Surprise Valley.

As we climbed toward Deer Spring in the shade of the late afternoon, I kept listening for the sound of the spring and looking for water in the drainage. By mileage and elevation, I knew we were getting close, but still no sign of water. Finally, the tell-tale crack in the canyon wall appeared but, to my surprise, no water was flowing from the spring at all. :o If we had known that, we would have tanked up at Deer Creek. The thought of going back down at this point was unappealing, both in terms of elevation and time. As we got right up to the spring, there was still a residual pool of water, from which we could filter. However, it was a little tougher filtering than what we had been used to. We took turns on the filters and in the off-time, relaxed a bit in the nearby "throne room." As the time ticked by, we decided to eat our dinner at the spring and prepared to climb out to Surprise Valley in the dark.

My biggest concern was navigation. I had researched the trail to know that this section is both difficult, not only because of the steep elevation gain, but also the rocky terrain which crosses numerous small washes and other obstacles that make it very easy to lose the trail. So, with a bit of trepidation, we donned our headlamps and headed up--nearly straight up from where the deer creek trail meets the side trail to the spring. :scared:

Finding cairns became the task at hand, as the trail was very indistinct in places, and in the absence of any sunlight (and no moon), other visual clues that normally make navigation easier (e.g., being able to see a more distinct stretch of trail further down in a particular direction, or to line up more than one set of cairns, or to seen signs of foot traffic in the dirt or worn sections of rock) were unavailable to us. Even when we were able to locate a cairn, it wasn't always obvious which direction to head from that point. We got off track more than once, but with the exception of one section (where I climbed up about a 100 ft. of particularly steep canyon wall, thinking we needed to get one band higher before wrapping around an outcropping), were able to correct ourselves without too much wasted energy. My kids, meanwhile, entertained themselves, by keeping track of how many spiders, scorpions, and stink bugs they saw as we made the 1.5 mi., 1300 ft.climb to the junction with the Surprise Valley connector trail. Ultimately, I adopted a "Flatiron" mentality, telling myself that the goal is to climb up the drainage. And even though there was no moon, the starlight allowed me to pick out the outline of Cogswell Butte against the dark sky at the southern end of Surprise Valley as a bearing point.

At length, we made it to the junction and breathed a sigh of relief, as the terrain leveled out and we knew our water cache was near by. :pray: We veered left at the junction and headed towards the Thunder River junction and our precious water cache. Along the way, we came to what I think is probably one of two "trees" (i.e., oversized bushes) on the west side of Surprise Valley. The area surrounding it was relatively flat and clear--a better spot than we had scoped out a couple of days earlier--so we dropped our packs around 8:30 pm, and made camp there, while my son and I retrieved our water cache another .25 mi. down the trail. [Note: We passed several flat, clear campsites on the east side of Surprise Valley, closer to the Thunder River descent.]

I was tempted to sleep tent-less again, but my wife convinced me to set up the tent. That was a good call, as I think the smell of our three days on the trail attracted every mosquito for miles around. :kf: Although we were "safe" in our tents, I could hear them all night long, just outside the tent trying to figure out a way in to the fresh meal inside ...

Day 5 (Monday)--Hike from Surprise Valley out
We woke up before dawn on Monday in an attempt to beat the sun up the Redwall to the Esplanade. We were mostly successful, though the sun caught us on the final .25 mi. of the ascent. The trek back across the Esplanade was pleasant. Most of the pools of water we had seen on the way down and dried up in the interim.

Just before we reached the Bill Hall junction, we crossed paths with a ranger who was making his way down canyon to do the loop we were just finishing. He checked our permit. We told him that that Deer Spring was not running, so he could pass that info along to others along the route.

Stopped for lunch at our cache site at the bottom of the final 2.6 mi., 1,700 ft. ascent. Ended up dumping out about 3/4 gallon of the water we cached (after filling up what we needed for the climb, and dousing our hats/shirts/bandanas, etc.).

We made steady progress to the top, and passed a handful of groups on their way down. The "tricky" area 1.5 mi. from the top was much easier to climb up. We celebrated upon topping out at Monument point, but the still had what seemed to be an inordinately long .7 mi. back down to the TH from there.

After stowing our pack and donning our "victory shoes" (sandals), we drove over to the RV campground just south of Jacob Lake and availed ourselves of much needed showers (9 quarters for 5 minutes), before hitting Jacob Lake Inn for well-deserved burgers and fries! Topped it off with a pit stop in Flagstaff for frozen custard at Freddy's.

Arrived home, pooped but supremely satisfied, at 11:30 pm.

What a trip! Going to be hard to top this one! :y:

**Unfortunately, something in my GPS track got corrupted, so I was only able to download the track for the last day. The mileage is what shows on my GPS watch (seems a bit high, but maybe--with various side trips and backtracking at points). AEG is a best guess.
Bill Hall Trail
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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.

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 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!

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.
Bill Hall Trail
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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.

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!
Bill Hall Trail
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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!

Permit $$
no fees or permits reported

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Map Drive
High Clearance possible when dry

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
2+ mi range whistle
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