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South Bass to Silver Bell via the Tonto Trail, AZ
mini location map2015-03-19
45 by photographer avatarJohn9L
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South Bass to Silver Bell via the Tonto Trail, AZ 
South Bass to Silver Bell via the Tonto Trail, AZ
 
Backpack avatar Mar 19 2015
John9L
Backpack53.75 Miles 10,500 AEG
Backpack53.75 Miles4 Days         
10,500 ft AEG
 
1st trip
Another memorable trip to the Canyon is complete! A group of six of us made the trek along the Tonto through The Gems over the course of four days. This was an amazing hike and we covered a lot of ground. Water was our biggest concern but we found plenty. Shade was also a premium. The following is a day by day triplog of our adventure.

Wednesday, March 18
Our group left Phoenix on Wednesday evening in two vehicles and made our way to Flagstaff where we topped off gas and grabbed some food at Crystal Creek. From there we drove all the way to the South Bass Trailhead. FR328 was completely dried out and relatively easy to follow. The Havasupai Gate was unmanned but we had to pay the following morning when arranging the shuttle. We camped at the South Bass Trailhead and turned in before midnight

Thursday, March 19
We woke on Thursday morning and started getting geared up. Karl and Lee left fairly early in the two vehicles to set up the shuttle. They paid a Havasupai member at the entrance gate to shuttle them between FR2501/2506 and the South Bass Trailhead. The total came to $100 ($25 for each vehicle and $50 for the shuttle). This worked out really well!

The rest of us started hiking around mid-morning and took our time dropping down the South Bass Trail. This trail was dried out and in excellent condition and easy to follow. We made decent time as we reached the Esplanade and then started the drop into Bass Canyon through the Supai and Redwall. This Redwall break is quite possibly the easiest break outside the corridor. The trail makes an easy descent through the break and then it’s high speed along the Bright Angel Shale. We arrived at the Tonto junction and gathered all four of us and then made the last few miles to Serpentine Canyon where we found cool and clear water and plenty of campsites.

About an hour after getting camp set up Karl and Lee showed up to our surprise. They told us about hiring the shuttle and this saved them at least two hours of hiking. They got situated and then our group day hiked to the Colorado River. The route down the wash is fairly easy to follow with a few minor obstacles in the way. We took a break at the Colorado River and I filtered three liters with my Sawyer Squeeze. The river was murky but easy to filter. From there our group returned to camp and settled in for the evening.

Friday, March 20
Our group started hiking around mid-morning as we only had ten miles to reach Turquoise Canyon for our second night’s camp. The going was easy at first but became more difficult as the sun beat down and temps rose into the 80’s. We reached Ruby Canyon around the five mile mark and took an extended break there. Ruby provided the rare opportunity for shade and there were a few small pools of water right at the trail crossing. We all rested here and filled up on water and drank electrolytes. From there we continued the final five miles to Turquoise Canyon where we set up camp.

Turquoise Canyon had lots of good camping available. FOTG and I selected sites under an overhang while the others set up just below us. There was good water available about a minute up canyon. After getting camp set up I went for a solo walk down canyon. I was surprised to find a full blown creek about a quarter mile down canyon. This area is so lush and beautiful! I spent just under an hour exploring. I wish I had more time and energy. I was curious if one can walk all the way to the river or if any obstacles impede progress. Anyways I returned to camp and all of us settled in for another night in paradise!

Saturday, March 21
All of us left camp fairly early around 7am. We have a long day ahead of us. We need to cross three major drainages and make it the fifteen miles to Boucher Camp. We wanted to get a jump on the heat. The first few miles were in shade and the temps were cool. All of us made good time as we reached Sapphire where we found good water at the crossing. We continued on and reached Agate which was dry. It was another five miles to Slate where we took an extended break in the shade. There was plenty of good water at the Slate crossing. Once again we refilled and drank electrolytes. From there we continued east and passed the monument that provides access to the bed of Slate Creek. FOTG and I wanted to go down there but didn’t have the energy. We want to plan another trip in the future.

It was a long day hiking but we finally reached Boucher Camp and set up camp. Afterward the four of us settle next to the creek in a shaded area and waited for Karl and Kathy to arrive. Sitting and relaxing is such a treat in the Canyon. It’s nice to not move after the long mileage day! Karl and Kathy arrived soon after and set up camp. From there the five of us, excluding Kathy, day hiked down Boucher to the river. This is a very easy hike and it was nice seeing the river up close for the second time. We all returned to camp and settled in for our last evening in the Canyon.

Sunday, March 22
All of us were dreading the hike out Boucher. The plan was to start early and exit the Canyon via the Silver Bell Trail. We’ll have to walk a few miles cross country through the forest and connect to the Boundary Road where the two vehicles are parked. The hike up Boucher was the typical grind but was easier with the early start. I hit the trail right at 6:30am and had cool weather and shade all the way to the top of the Supai. I continued the sunny traverse to Dripping Springs were I saw FOTG on the lower portion of Silver Bell. He said he would wait for me near the top.

The hike up Silver Bell was a joy! The old route has deteriorated but is easy to follow although very steep and loose in places. I didn’t realize how much elevation you gain there. You basically have to climb the Coconino, Toroweap and Kaibab layers. The climb is around a thousand feet and it took some effort! I met FOTG when the trail levels off in the forest and we followed an old road for a bit and then went cross country through the forest to the Boundary Road. Once there we headed west and connected on FR2506. The vehicles were about fifteen minutes down the road. We were both very happy and spent when we reached the vehicles. From there we played roundup and gathered the entire group. After that it was off to NiMarcos in Flag for pizza and wings!


This was one hell of a trip! We covered a lot of ground and saw a large portion of the Grand Canyon. Be careful when planning this hike because some of the drainages are seasonal and will dry up in the hot months. Thanks to Chumley and BiFrost for driving! And the entire group was a lot of fun and I look forward to the next adventure!
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