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Clear Creek Trail - GCNP
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mini location map2017-12-15
25 by photographer avatarbretinthewild
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Clear Creek Trail - GCNPNorthwest, AZ
Northwest, AZ
Backpack16.80 Miles 3,364 AEG
Backpack16.80 Miles2 Days         
3,364 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
Linked   none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Decided to take the side trip to Clear Creek during a 5 day trip in the canyon. First time out there.

We left Bright Angel camp in the morning and hiked out past Phantom Ranch. The Clear Creek trailhead is clearly marked to the east. The climb to the plateau starts almost immediately and dramatically. Accelerated heart rate always a good way to start the day.

Dayhikers were out taking in the views overlooking Phantom Ranch and the Colorado River. Definitely worth the effort if you only have time or plans to get up that far.

We pushed on, the trail winds east around and over side canyons on the plateau. I remember seeing strips of this part of the trail from South Kaibab Trail on our hike down.

Views from here include some amazing shots of the Black Bridge crossing the Colorado. Snippets of the river show up throughout the hike.

Soon, Zoroaster Temple looms large, with outstretched arms. We took a break at the "base" of the temple to wait for one of our slower members, who took his time getting up the initial ascent. We saw him an hour later from maybe a full mile away. It's a very open and well marked trail.

I can see how this hike would get hot in summer months. It is completely exposed with no water. But on this very pleasant December day, we were perhaps the happiest people in the world.

As the trail continues, it takes a left into a completely new and amazing viewshed. Directly in front is Clear Creek Canyon, stretching down to the river and up into the canyon where we realized we still had quite a ways to go to get to camp.

If I had done more research on HAZ I would have been prepared for this, but we were all surprised that the trail seemed to keep going up! The incline is slight and curves up and over many drainages and canyons, but we were exhausted near the end as you are basically going uphill all day.

The end of this hike is most definitely the sketchiest part but the payoff is worth the effort. The trail makes a final wind around to the left and ahead you see a giant red butte with the trail cut in the side. For about the last half mile or so, the trail meanders down and is maybe 2 feet wide, with a steep drop down some red scree that would most certainly not stop you from rolling down the 500 feet to the bottom. Have to focus to finish!

Once down and breathing a sigh of relief, cairns take you through the wash and to the trail again, past a nice compost toilet, and on to the camping areas near the creek.

We saw one other group, a couple of college kids, but they were probably 200 yards downstream. Otherwise we had the place to ourselves.

Clear Creek was full, beautiful and clear, as the name would imply. The camp sites are well developed and most are set up with easy access to water. We made dinner, stretched, played some cards and passed out.

The hike back was a breeze in comparison. The day was overcast and after the initial ascent up through the tight red butte trail section, it was mostly all downhill until we got back to Phantom Ranch for a round of beers.

Clear Creek has been on my mind a lot and I will definitely be back. You really feel like you're on the edge of the world out there. I'd really like to spend more time so as to hike to the falls and get down to the river.

Last note, this is my first HAZ post! Since I just officially joined I wanted to backlog this one. Thanks to everyone for many insights that have helped me plan some great hikes. Hope to contribute more in the future.
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