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Deer Creek / Thunder River, AZ
mini location map2014-10-16
30 by photographer avatarJohn9L
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Deer Creek / Thunder River, AZ 
Deer Creek / Thunder River, AZ
Backpack avatar Oct 16 2014
Backpack29.50 Miles 8,700 AEG
Backpack29.50 Miles4 Days         
8,700 ft AEG
1st trip
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!
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