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Tapeats Spring
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mini location map2014-10-18
30 by photographer avatarJohn9L
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Tapeats SpringNorthwest, AZ
Northwest, AZ
Hiking avatar Oct 18 2014
Hiking6.21 Miles 1,690 AEG
Hiking6.21 Miles   5 Hrs   38 Mns   1.10 mph
1,690 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
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We had a rest day on the third day of a four day backpacking trip to Thunder River / Deer Creek. I was undecided on what I wanted to do. Part of me wanted to head back down to the Colorado River with Tough Boots for a relatively relaxing day. The other part of me wanted the adventure of heading up canyon to see Tapeats Spring with Chumley and Bifrost. After some internal debate I decided to go for the adventure part and I’m glad I did!

We left Upper Tapeats Camp around 9:30am and crossed Tapeats Creek at the confluence with Thunder River. This is the highest crossing we had to do and the water came up to my thighs. We had to be careful not to get pushed over in the strong current. It was fine and we started making our way to the east. This section is a mixture of trail, creek crossings and brush. We made decent speed as we looked for the easiest route possible. We passed two campsites that would be good for future reference. We continued on heading east.

After roughly an hour we neared the junction for Tapeats Spring. We turned to the north and started heading up. The route immediately becomes more difficult as you have to traverse on the east side of the creek. There is an established route the whole way but it can be a challenge to follow. You need to navigate across the creek several times and there is a large rock fall you literally climb over early on. There were a couple of sections that were confusing and sucked up time as we looked for the best route possible. We stacked some cairns on the return to help future groups.

After a half mile the route climbs up the east side away from the river. This section is a challenge as the terrain is sloped and the footing is very loose. I will admit I was borderline uncomfortable with some of this. There is plenty of exposure. It’s not the type to kill you. It’s more likely to send you home in a helicopter. We persevered on and headed toward the spring. Another thing with this route is I didn’t know what to expect. I figured there would be a spring similar to Thunder River but not as grand. I had no idea where this route ended and that was daunting at times.

Karl led the final push that led us to the cave opening. Right as we walked up we saw a group of cavers who were just finishing up. They told us about the cave and recommended we take a look around. We took our packs off and signed the cave register and then headed in. Tapeats Cave heads straight back. There are a few branches off the main chamber but they don’t go far. There is an easy eight foot climb we did and headed farther back. We then wrapped around a small pool and entered a large chamber with water flowing. Our headlamps could only illuminate so much. We wish we had more lumens. Chumley took a few pics and we did our best to “paint” the walls with our headlamps. Afterward we took a moment to shut our lights off and be surrounded in total darkness. It was a bit unnerving! Soon after we made our return to the entrance. This cave was such a thrill and treat to explore. We could have gone farther in had we been wearing helmets and wet suits. I highly recommend Tapeats Cave!

Our return flew by. The going was much easier as we headed back down canyon. All the tricky spots were much easier on the descent and we had no route finding issues. We got back to camp sometime around 3pm and told the others of our adventure. Thanks Chumley for coming up with this plan on our rest day. I’m really glad I joined you and Karl for this one!
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