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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.

South Canyon Route, AZ

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Guide 34 Triplogs  2 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Northwest > North Rim
4.5 of 5 by 17
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Difficulty 5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Round Trip 13 miles
Trailhead Elevation 5,580 feet
Elevation Gain -2,588 feet
Accumulated Gain 3,447 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 10-16 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 30.24
Backpack Yes
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9  2018-04-14 friendofThunderg
11  2017-12-16 gilbertnathaniel
65  2016-04-09
Grand Canyon River Running
59  2015-11-26
Shinumo and South Canyons
14  2015-10-29 Hippy
50  2013-03-30 Tough_Boots
50  2013-03-30 zukerrach
44  2013-03-30 John9L
Page 1,  2,  3,  4
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 → 7 AM
Seasons   Late Winter to Early Summer
Sun  6:14am - 6:28pm
Official Route
1 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Vasey's Paradise, Stantons Cave
by J&SHike

Likely In-Season!
First and foremost this canyon is not for beginners or acrophobic people. There are places where you have just a foot to two feet between you and a serious injury or death. Walking on loose scree in places and on five hundred million year old rock on a hiker made route make this canyon potentially dangerous.

With that said lets go! From the "Trailhead" if that's what you want to call it, head east over the rim. This is where you will think to yourself "This is the trail?". You'll first come to "The Chute" which is just what it is, a break in the cliff band. Hike down this chute, if your afraid of heights this is where you will first be tested as the chute opens up on the right side for a few feet and a view of the canyon below. It's really not that bad, but like I said if you fear heights turn back now.

The trail zigzags down the canyon with well-placed cairns to mark the route down. There are a few places where you'll have to scramble down some drops in here but nothing major. When you come to a flat place head to the right across fallen rock then head down the dry fall this is where you down climb/scramble a bit. At the base head left and around a boulder, it's narrow here and it drops off a bit on your right. Keep following the route down to the bottom.

Once at the bottom head down the canyon either on hiker trails that appear here and there or down the mainly dry creek bed. You'll come to a couple of minor drop offs which you can avoid by going to the right on the first two, the left on the third then to the right of a major dry fall. This trail around the dry fall goes up on creek right and is narrow in a few places with a drop to your left the whole way. Once down, a canyon on creek right enters, and past that a canyon on creek left enters this is Bedrock Canyon. Continue straight until you get to some smooth light colored Redwall Limestone. At this point you have a choice of going straight down the canyon narrows or looking up to your left, north, to a cairn and a trail that skirts the narrows. If you choose the narrows you need to be proficient in down climbing boulders and may even need a bit of rope, and in extreme cases rappelling equipment. There are seven chokestones to be negotiated and couple of minor ones at the end. These narrows change with every flood so go prepared.

If you chose the trail that skirts the narrows head up and follow the cairns along the Redwall bench, there's a short narrow path on one part in here with some exposure and on loose scree but just go slow and hang on to the boulder in front of you.

When you come to a nice view of the river head upriver a bit then down a rock fall down to the Colorado. Head downriver to some ruins along the river and to Stantons Cave, which have been found split willow figurines 3000-4000 years old and remains of giant Condors, saber-toothed tigers, and other animals 10,000 years ago. The cave is gated for protection but you can still walk in a ways. Past Stantons Cave is Vasey's Paradise, a lush, huge spring gushing from the Canyon wall and into the Colorado. When finished exploring head back up either the narrows or the trail. Going up the narrows is a bit easier then going down them. As mentioned above this narrow part changes with every flood so if attempting this go prepared! Have fun, be careful and enjoy this remote part of Grand Canyon.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

This is a difficult hike. It would be insane to attempt this entire hike without prior experience hiking.

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.

2004-02-26 J&SHike
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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 12 deeper Triplog Reviews
South Canyon Route
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I knocked out another trip to the Grand Canyon with CJ this weekend. This time we headed to South Canyon, the Nankoweap Trail and Saddle Mountain. We drove up late Friday night, as is the norm lately with us and woke up relatively early Saturday morning for our day hike of the South Canyon Route and the popular sites on the river.

Waking up at the trailhead for the South Canyon Route is a real treat. An excellent location to watch first light hit the earth. After a quick breakfast we were on the trail, or perhaps more appropriately route. The first section is steep and comes as advertised, however, it was not overly difficult with a slack pack. Especially for us, as we were coming off a full pack descent of the Salt Trail, just a couple weekends before. After the initial descent, the trail is just boulder hopping and the standard off trail Grand Canyon side canyon travel, with your obligatory bypasses. We made all the popular stops once we hit the river. Stanton's Cave was cool and fun to take pictures in and watch the boaters go by. I also enjoyed Vasey's Paradise, however, after seeing what it usually looks like when I got home, it was a little disappointing to know we basically hit it at a trickle. After Vaseys it was a to the beach for a dip in the Colorado with poison ivy scrub. Finally, after nearly three hours on the Colorado, we started to head back. The hike up may have actually been quicker than the hike down, but we both agreed we were ready for the climb after all of the dry creek bed travel.

Final Notes:

This is a really cool destination hike in the Grand Canyon and despite Vaseys being a trickle, I really enjoyed it. The place is a little bumping with river runners, so I don't know how much I would enjoy camping down there, but the area in general piqued my interest for the potential of a river trip one day, or at least an ambitious pack raft in that area. Although, Carrie's explanation of, "groovers" and "grooving" may have put off the prospect of a river trip by a few more years at least!

South Canyon Route
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Backpacked the South Canyon Route with a group of 6.

Drove to the trailhead with an Xterra and Crosstrek. Road conditions were good.

The scrambling, exposure, and difficulty of the route was less than I anticipated. The route was well-cairn-ed. Route finding was definitely required, but I never felt the need to check my GPS. You are exposed to notable drop-offs, but the footing and trail width was always reasonable at these points. Salt Trail, as a point of comparison, was more difficult in my opinion.

We camped on the shelf right above the beach to avoid the sand. There was a private rafting group that set up camp on the down-stream end of the beach. They reported that they were 3 days into their trip.

We went and explored Stanton's Cave and Vasey's paradise. The footing getting out to Vasey's Paradise was a bit treacherous, fortunately the wet rock along the river was grippier than it looked.

There were a couple half-frozen pools of water right where we dropped into South Canyon. Sediment in the Colorado was minimal. Temperatures were in the 20s at night, 30s for much of our time spent hiking below the rim, and topped out in the 50s.

Overall it was a great trip. Bit chilly. The scenery was excellent and we got to explore a part of canyon that is otherwise only accessible to rafters.
South Canyon Route
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This is my third Colorado River rafting trip through the Grand Canyon. Wade and I did the same trip two years ago in 2014--a 12-day hiking-intensive rafting trip with Hatch River Expeditions. I love this trip! Wade gave this to me for my 62nd birthday. This time; however, I went alone. Wade did not want to go as he's "Been there, Done that!" I was quite worried about the weather as it was supposed to rain the majority of the time based on weather reports at Phantom Ranch. God was looking out for us as the weather was perfect! We traveled from Lee's Ferry all the way to Whitmore Wash, 188 miles down the Colorado River taking in both the Upper and Lower Canyon. These motor rigs are 35' in length and 16' wide powered by a 30-horsepower, four-stroke motor. They have two tubes on the sides with you can ride in rapids if you want a great thrill! There were only 9 passengers and three crew on the upper canyon trip. Four hiked out at the Bright Angel Trail near Phantom Ranch leaving only 5 of us to go the full 12 days. 24 people hiked down from the South Rim to meet the boats at Pipe Creek for the next 6 days. If you've never done this trip, I highly recommend saving your $$ for this trip of a life time. It's not cheap, but worth every penny if you are adventurous, love to hike fairly difficult hikes and don't mind camping on the beach every night. You'll get to HATE SAND! But, heck, it's only sand. I will write more about his trip when I edit this triplog later. Some of the hikes that I can't find links to on HAZ include Saddle Canyon, the confluence of the Little Colorado River, Miner's Camp (North Bass Trail.) I'm doing my best to keep my "being" below the rim. I'm just not ready for real life yet, but it is nice to have a hot shower!
South Canyon Route
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Well it was amazing. This was one of the most fun adventures I've had in the GC. We camped at the car on Friday night to get a nice early start on Saturday. There was quite a bit of water in the drainage as we made our way down. Most of it was dried up by the time we left Sunday so it must've rained quite recently. This route is about 20% hiking, 20% rock climbing and the rest scrambling over boulders. I made it to Stanton's cave, Vasey's paradise (where I filtered water), and Redwall cavern (where I got a ride across the river in a raft with two naked girls). There was a river party living it up at Redwall cavern. There were 12 ladies and 10 guys and they were all completely naked, drinking beer, smoking weed, dancing to music, and sliding down a makeshift slip n slide into the river. It was quite the experience. My hiking buddy Mark got a little ill on the way down so when we made it to camp he just chilled there (and missed the nudity). We hiked out in about 6 hours on Sunday. We took my car to save gas but unfortunately the last mile to the trailhead is not suitable for passenger cars so we had to walk an extra mile each way.

It is in my top three favorite GC adventures now

Here is a video of the trip:
South Canyon Route
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As I type this, I am sitting in a hotel ballroom in San Diego. It’s a work conference and I am wearing gym shorts and a tshirt because it would be impossible for me to get a pair of slacks and a real shirt on. I’m cracked out on Benedryl and it takes just two applications for me to empty a tube of hydrocortisone cream. People are looking at me as if I’m a leper! :scared:

You see, I did some research after this hike and learned that the word “vasey” (as in Vasey’s Paradise) isn’t really some guy’s name, but is actually an old Navajo word meaning plant of the red death. Modern linguists interpret its historical definition to mean what we now know of as poison ivy. This is a very rare plant in the Grand Canyon, and it never occurred to me to look for it. It is also spring, and the plant was leafless, making its identification even less likely. :(

And my body is covered. Arms and legs, stomach and chest. Fingers, ears, and neck. Somehow my back was spared, so I’ve got that going for me. I'd upload a photo of my body but I swear I get a little ill when I look in the mirror (yes, I realize I invited all kinds of comments here!)

So, if you ever go here, learn from me. Don’t climb to the top of the falls, seeing the source up close is not worth it!

Luckily, the allergic reaction to poison ivy doesn’t usually occur for a day or two, so the trip itself was great!

The route down to the canyon bottom is not for the faint of heart or inexperienced. It involves a few climbs and hands are required extensively. Once in the canyon, the going is easier, but still slow due to the bouldered terrain and lack of actual trail. After 6.5 miles you reach the river, where a beautiful beach and secluded camping area await.

I managed to procure a few beers from a rafting party that stopped at the beach for a while before setting off downstream once again.
The gate at Stanton’s cave is huge, and a marvel of engineering. Vasey’s paradise is a beautiful area but like a kid at the museum, look but don’t touch!!

Spent a fun night with the crew before getting a good night’s resr and hiking out in the morning. Surprisingly the ascent took the same amount of time as the descent, probably because there was no way to go fast downhill.

Good to see Larry and his 65lb pack again, and to inaugurate Rachel (and her 5lb pack) and of course Bootsie. Thanks to 9L for doing all the planning and legwork.

The ride home featured the requisite stop at Nimarcos for pizza and wings, and a lot of sleepy, drooly passengers.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I gotta try to contact my doctor again. I need some steroids, stat.
South Canyon Route
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Amazing hike and backpack. As always, 9L adventures don't disappoint, either in difficulty or in good times - of course it helps to have Chumley along to harass and goad.

I did minimal research on the actual hike, spending most of my study time around the cultural areas of interest at the river - Vasey's, Stanton's Cave, Ruins and mystery "skeleton". There really is a LOT to see/explore at this location and for those brave enough and fit enough to get to the beach, this becomes a fantastic Grand Canyon adventure.

Speaking of getting's a crazy steep trail...errr route.

We car-camped Friday night for a semi-early start on Saturday. The evening was very cool (almost "cold) yet still filled with fun and fire. Our resident bun-warmer (Longo), demonstrated and solicited his infamous "butt-coal" technique which actually proved quite effective (see photo #1). Rachel was carbo-loading and annihilated my bag of pretzels while Chumley and Kyle were their usual witty selves.

Early Saturday, we all seemed mentally tense (or maybe just hung-over) as we prepared for what we knew would be a serious trek; except, that is, our reposed marathoner Rachel, who was calmly "dry-shampooing" her hair with some flowery aerosol product. Once packed and ready, we launched past the trail-head sign and headed for the know you're in for a rough day when you need a cairn to mark the start of the route OFF THE RIM. SHEESH.

I quickly learned of the futility of trek poles. After the second down-climb, away they went - continuing to use them would have SEVERELY slowed me down. The first 45 minutes of this route is very PRECIPITOUS. I was using BOTH my hands and feet, easily 50% of the time. Once at the bottom, the route doesn't get much better. Many down-climbs (one in particular was a bit extreme and required removing my pack) and exposed areas made for a mentally as well as physically demanding hike. - - The group's initial descent... - - Squatpuke at the "tough" part - - Boots at the "tough" part - - 9L ascends that section with ease

The long, 4+ mile stretch of down-canyon boulder hopping and walk-arounds is finally concluded at the top of the "Narrows" where the traditional route CLIMBS back up the redwall several hundred feet. There are still several exposed area along this top-route and one must remain mentally sharp or risk becoming a statistic.

Finally, on top of the redwall, you come to a wonderful view point of the Colorado River and in the far distance, Vasey's Paradise. Don't high five your companions yet, there still is a bit of nasty down climbing to the sandy beaches below.

The beach scene for us was pretty awesome....clean, wide, sandy, clear river water and boaters handing out beer...(and almost a free dinner). The Colorado was ICY cold but I was still able to clean off the day's grime with a few 30-60 second speed baths....After the initial boater excitement, Chumley relaxed on the beach with a book while John and Rachel cat-napped. Restless Boots and I, laced back up and headed downstream to see the sites.

Stanton's Cave was no big deal, but very interesting nonetheless. Vasey's was indeed a paradise!! The hike over to Vasey's includes a very slick slope that must be cautiously misstep and you risk a 5' slide into a fast rapid. (this time, my hiking poles definitely would have been useful had I bothered to bring them...LOL.) Kyle and I baby-stepped our way across making sure each foot was solid before the next...was slow going, but VERY worth it. - - Boots goes first - - His Return Back - - Chumley and Rach attempt...Where's 9L?? - - Vasey's Paradise

I explored around the waterfall as Kyle killed the microbes his water. When we headed back up river, John, Rachel and Todd were on their way over from the Cave. We exchanged insults and Kyle and I continued upriver, exploring the areas above the beaches for ruins and art.

Evening fell as we all ate dinner, sharing spoons as needed (:D). I went off to pee on the rock wall around the corner from camp and counted several black widows along the cracks. I reported my findings and we all cautiously looked around our campsite; 9L was reclining (on a hijacked Ridgerest no-less) where we spotted a widow about a foot or two from his head!! :o (I was later told by a doctor friend that many a scrotum had been attacked by black widows in those old wooden outhouses...YIKES)

Needless to say, we regrouped in the middle of the beach and counted stars and satellites until exhaustion got the best of us...I'd say around 9pm!!

Next morning, we filtered more river, ate a quick breakfast and geared up. It was clear that I was the 'weak link' in our party, however that morning I felt very strong and kept up with the group all the way back to Boulder Canyon junction. Things were going fairly well till we hit our water cache just below the initial STEEP section. Kyle and I were mentally regretting this moment since we first came down, but with one foot in front of the other and some motivational mantras, we made it back to the top just as Chumley was cashing his first Social Security check... :D - - Squat's heart-attack..."aye aye aye"..hehe

This was indeed a great trip with awesome people and a very exciting location. I would have liked to have stayed another night and day-hiked to Redwall Cavern the 2nd day....maybe next time!!

Rachel...welcome to the group...nice job "putting up" with us!! :)
South Canyon Route
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This was one heck of a backpacking trip. Thanks to 9L for setting this up and Chumley for driving!

We drove up on Friday and picked up Larry in Flagstaff. We finished the long drive and finally made it to the trailhead after dark. We sat around the fire, had a few beers with some nice butt coals, and went to bed.

Woke up early on Saturday in no rush and headed down South Canyon. As we descended that first loose, precarious, and insanely steep first half mile I tried not to think about climbing back up it with 30+ pounds on my back. I put it out of my mind as best I could and made it to the canyon floor.

South Canyon is not so impressive at first but as you move further and further down, it turns pretty spectacular. Some stretches are quick to move through and some are pretty slow going and you even get a few climbs not so easily done with a full pack on.

We eventually hit the Colorado which was cold and clear. I could actually treat the water with just my steripen with no sediment problem. That was unexpected.

We set up camp, had a couple beers, checked out out the river crew floating through. Chumley talked them out of a few more beers for us and they headed on their way.

Everyone else wanted to relax a little longer so Larry and I headed out downstream to see the sights. We checked out Stanton's Cave which wasn't anything too amazing and then headed to Vasey's Paradise. Vasey's is pretty spectacular but took some daring to get to. You have to slowly work across a slick sludge covered area that will send you sliding instantly into the Colorado River if you happen to slip.

We hung around at Vasey's for a bit and I purified some water. We started heading back and could see the other three on their way to Stanley's. We decided to wait for them so we could hear them sputter and possibly fall into the river. They finally made their way over and there were no casualties-- although a certain member of our crew really had to be talked into crossing the slick area :sl:

Larry and I headed back towards camp and hiked above the camping area to check out the ruins. There are multiple sets and some really cool petroglyphs to see. We lounged around for the rest of the day. I took a short nap on the beach which was pretty nice and then we sat around with the stars overhead. At some point, Larry realized the camp area was pretty much infested with black widows and much of the rest of the evening was spent watching 9L combing the rock walls for these beasts.

We woke up and broke camp the next day. There were some filter issues getting water that were overcome and then we headed out. The first part of the hike out was crazy steep and in full sun. Eventually we fell into the shade of the canyon and trudged along dreading that final climb out-- almost 1,100 ft. in about half a mile :scared: . We took our time and slogged, scrambled, and climbed our way out. That hike kicked my butt.

This was an awesome overnight and well worth the effort :)
South Canyon Route
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Spent the weekend with a great group on a wild ride down the South Canyon Route! We departed Phoenix on Friday afternoon and picked up Larry in Flag and made our way to the trailhead. We enjoyed a nice campfire and turned in for the night.

We woke Saturday morning and took our time getting breakfast and packing up our gear. Shortly afterward we started making our descent. Right from the get go you start making the scramble-down climb. The going is very steep and our pace was slow & cautious. The route is well marked and there were obvious signs of recent foot traffic. We continued down and reached the creek bottom in roughly 40 minutes. From there we made our way down canyon. Some sections are slow as you scramble over and around boulders while other sections make for fast travel where the canyon is wide open. We stopped for a break at roughly the half way point and then proceeded down. There are a few minor down climbs along the way that slow progress but nothing is overwhelming. The last obstacle is right above the river through a break in the Redwall. You have to down climb and the loaded packs made it a little more difficult. After that we found ourselves on the beach and began setting up camp.

The rest of Saturday was spent relaxing and exploring. We made our way to Stanton’s Cave and Vasey’s Paradise. VP was very cool and I brought home a souvenir in the form of Poison Ivy! Besides that some rafters stopped for a bit and kindly gave us a handful of beer. They departed soon after and we had the area to ourselves the rest of the night. Later that evening Larry discovered Black Widows along the wall and we then spent some time looking for them. I would guess we found at least twenty in a little over ten minutes. They are beautiful and nasty looking at the same time. We spent the evening enjoying some cold beverages (The Colorado did an excellent job keeping the beer cold). We also did some star gazing in which we saw several shooting stars. Life was good!

Sunday arrived and we had breakfast and spent some time pumping water directly from the Colorado. The water was flowing clear and had minimal silt in it. After that we packed up and then made the ascent back to the rim. We spaced out a bit on the hike out but always regrouped for a quick break. The final climb back to the rim was a grind but went by quick. From there we loaded up our gear and made our way back to Phoenix. The real highlight of the trip was stopping for wings at NiMarco’s. Those golden bbq are something special!

This was another amazing trip! South Canyon is a dream and a must do for anyone looking for a challenge. The going can be slow and painful but it was worth it! Put this on your list if you love scrambling and down climbing and camping with Black Widows!
South Canyon Route
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This time I descended the canyon via Bedrock Canyon. I got this info courtesy of two HAZ members. Thanks guys!

This descent is ridiculously steep, so it made sense that I left my trekking poles at home. :roll: After a short distance, the trail hits a series of downclimbs that seemed kinda sketchy. I commented to my friend that it will be easier going up....more on that to follow.

At the bottom of Bedrock Canyon we turned left and a 5 minute walk brought us to the confluence with South Canyon. The trail down South Canyon is easy and we made it to the river in about an hour (excluding the descent down Bedrock). I spent a lot of time looking for Anasazi ruins and petroglyphs that I hadn't seen this past spring. In the process, I found some small caves that I hadn't seen before. We hung out for about an hour or two, exploring and photographing extensively.

Before we knew it, it was time to ascend Bedrock. According to my GPS track, it is only .7 miles from top to bottom. Slow and steady is the ticket here and soon enough we were ready for the vertical climbs that I thought would be easy. Boy was I wrong! While technically the climbing is easy, there is a lot of exposure and no way for your partner to spot you. I was totally gripped. My hands were sweating and my pack seemed to be getting in the way, threatening to pitch me down the canyon. That's what I get for schlepping photo gear around I guess. On the rim of the canyon, it was about 100 yards to the Jeep; this seemed to take forever to walk, my quads were totally burning. I never realized how much I depend on trekking poles.

All said and done, this was a great hike and I'd do it again in a heartbeat, only next time with a smaller pack.
South Canyon Route
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A foray into South Canyon to spend a night on the shores of the Colorado tempted me again....the element of intrigue for this edition of the venture was some vertical cliff climbing as we headed down to intercept the main South Canyon trail via a route (may be a trail ) that drops down from the tip of the intersection of Bedrock Canyon and South Canyon and ends up joining the main South Canyon trail just top of the drop off at Bedrock Canyon. As always was the tempting targets of riparian wonderment that is Vasey's Paradise. Trying to get across from Redwall cavern was an added element on the "to-do" list.

It was the usual cast (Todd, Linda, Diane, Tracy, Susan, Tim, Hank, Tom and Ambika).

What a wondeful trip 'twas....We made it down the "Stairmaster to Hell" descent (actually just a bunch of exposure - good hand and foot holds and stable scree for teh most part) ...basked on the beach, vistited Vasey's passed Stanton's Cave and did not get to Redwall Cavern View ......may be another time

Thanks to Suz and Hank for all the work pulling this together was enjoyable to just hike !

Permit $$
Information is listed below

Map Drive
FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

To hike
From Flagstaff drive north on Highway 89. Turn left on Highway 89A towards Jacob Lake. Between mile posts 559 & 560, turn left onto House Rock Buffalo Ranch Road (Road #8910, and a sign for South Canyon). Follow this graded dirt (good condition) road for 19 miles then turn left onto Road #632. After 1.5 miles turn right (before reaching the ranch). Fees: Day hiking is free. If you plan to spend the night you can at the trailhead, but once inside the canyon your technically in GCNP so you have to get permits, reservations and all of the other hoops you must jump through.
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