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Clear Creek Trail - GCNP
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mini location map2014-11-27
29 by photographer avatarJohn9L
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Clear Creek Trail - GCNPNorthwest, AZ
Northwest, AZ
Backpack avatar Nov 27 2014
Backpack43.59 Miles 10,049 AEG
Backpack43.59 Miles4 Days         
10,049 ft AEG
1st trip
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It was another memorable trip into my beloved Grand Canyon! Lee, Karl and I spent four days backpacking along the Clear Creek Trail. We had nice weather overall and made good use of our time.

Day 1 - November 27, 2014
The three of left Phoenix around 6am and drove up to the south rim. We dumped Lee’s car at the South Kaibab parking area and headed down the SK Trail starting around 10am. We made good time and cruised down to the Tipoff. At that point Lee and I decided to hike the Miner’s Route. Karl was feeling under the weather and would meet us at Phantom Ranch.

This was my second time on the Miner’s Route and it was quite a ride. The footing is very loose and off camber and a full pack doesn’t make things easier. We were able to slowly follow the route as it zigzagged down and both of us had no issues. We arrived on the River Trail and it was smooth sailing to Phantom Ranch.

We met Karl at the canteen and the three of us loaded up on water and then started up the Clear Creek Trail prepared for a dry camp. The trail gains over a thousand feet in the first two miles as you hike beneath the Tapeats and the Great Unconformity. We arrived at the two mile point and found some campers there so we continued the half mile to Sumner Wash and found plenty of good camping there. We set up camp and settled in for the evening. The sun set around 5:20pm and it was dark by 6pm. It got very cold and I was a little worried for the rest of the trip. We all headed for our tents before 8pm. Luckily this night was by far the coldest of the three nights.

Day 2 – November 28, 2014
We woke on Friday morning and took our time breaking down camp. Lee and Karl had plans to hit Brahma but Karl wasn’t feeling up to it due to being under the weather. The three of headed east on the Clear Creek Trail and dropped down to Clear Creek where we selected the main site nestled under a cluster of Cottonwoods. This is a sweet site and the creek is close by. A pit toilet is also available. There are lots of good camping sites in this area.

It was about noon by the time we had camp set up. Karl wanted to relax in camp while Lee and I headed up stream in search of ruins and Cheyava Falls. We both knew the falls would be dry (they flow in the spring) but wanted the adventure. We made decent time as we scanned the area for ruins. We found the main site roughly a mile north of camp. I didn’t realize it was a full complex with 21 rooms. There is also a register. Take a fresh notebook if you go because the current one is just about full. It dates back to 1999.

After the ruins we continued up Clear Creek and followed an established route to Cheyava Falls. We had to cross the creek a few times but never had to get our feet wet. It’s likely there is a stronger flow in the spring so be prepared to get your feet wet. We made good time and then could see the falls and yes they were bone dry. We got a little closer but were running low on time. I wanted to be back to camp by 5pm to avoid darkness. Lee did some quick exploring while I filtered water. We started our return around 3pm and cruised back to the camp. I didn’t realize how much elevation we gained until we headed down canyon.

We got back to camp and settled in for another evening. We were expecting it to be bitter cold but were pleasantly surprised to find mild temps. We set up the party lights in the Cottonwood trees and our neighbors were jealous. Funny thing the next morning one of our neighbors walked up and asked if we were camping at Deer Creek a month ago. She recognized the party lights. Sure enough yes that was us. We had a good laugh at what a small world it is.

Day 3 – November 29, 2014
Karl was feeling better and Lee was getting an itch for Brahma. They quickly packed up camp and headed back to our first night’s camp. I stayed behind. I wanted to do some exploring down canyon. I would meet them later.

I got my day pack together and told them my plan and I was off down canyon. I followed Clear Creek south and came to the intersection with an east arm. I scoped this out on maps ahead of time and wanted to take a look. I hiked in about a mile. The creek bed is dry through here and walls are really high. There is a mixture of Shinumo Quartzite and Bass Limestone among other formations. I want to return here when I have more time. I returned to main intersection and then headed a bit down Clear Creek. This is another amazing drainage and I want to return with more time to go all the way to the Colorado River.

After my brief hike downstream I returned to camp under the Cottonwoods and relaxed for an hour or so. During this time I ate and filtered more water. I wanted to be prepared for another dry camp at Sumner Wash. I left camp around noon and cruised the six plus miles back to our first night’s camp. Karl and Lee’s tents were set up. They were exploring the Redwall break and would return within an hour or two.

We settled in for our last evening as we ate dinner and then lay on our backs and did some star gazing. It was clear skies tonight but the moon was out and was very bright at roughly 60% full. I got lucky and saw a few satellites and a pair of shooting stars.

Day 4 – November 30, 2014
We woke fairly early and had camp broken down by 7am. We hit the trail soon after and cruised back to Phantom Ranch. My pack was noticeably lighter. I weighed it at the ranch and it was 27.5 lbs. It weighed 42 lbs on Thursday after I loaded up on water.

The hike up South Kaibab was the typical grind but it flew by. The skies were overcast and the temps were cool. We topped out around noon and then loaded up and headed back to Phoenix. Another wonderful trip complete!

This was a really fun trip and great company. I would definitely return to Clear Creek with more time to spend exploring. I would love to see Cheyava Falls gushing. That would be a sight to behold! Thanks Lee for picking up the permits and driving.
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