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Deer Creek / Kanab Creek Loop, AZ
mini location map2021-10-27
148 by photographer avatarJohn9L
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Deer Creek / Kanab Creek Loop, AZ 
Deer Creek / Kanab Creek Loop, AZ
Backpack52.00 Miles 6,000 AEG
Backpack52.00 Miles5 Days         
6,000 ft AEG
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1st trip
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This hike has been on my list for a few years now. I hiked the Deer Creek Trail in October 2014 & I was in the Kanab Creek area in March 2018. I wanted to see the lower reaches of Kanab & learned about the route along the river that connects the two drainages. One can hike down Deer Creek & then link up to Kanab along 8+ miles of river. I thought this made for a great loop! I didn’t realize how difficult & demanding this route would be. The route along the river is known for “extreme exertion” and the route did not disappoint. The following is our day by day triplog from the adventure.

Day 1 – Bill Hall to the Deer Creek Patio
We would drive up the night before & car camped near Sowats Point. We had two vehicles & we left one at the Jump Up Nail Trailhead & then we all packed into one vehicle & drove to Monument Point & started hiking around 10am. You start by climbing a couple hundred feet to Monument Point. From there you drop & then traverse & make a healthy drop to the top of the Esplanade. We continued on & took a break by the junction of the Thunder River Trail. We noticed several potholes of water in the slick rock. The area had ran a couple days before & that made the drive in a muddy mess. We would continue & take another break at the top of the Redwall & then made the final push to the creek. We passed the “Throne Room” and noticed the waterfall shooting right out of the wall was dry. I would continue down while the others made stop. I arrived at the camp area & found two tents set up. They were a couple of guys from Albuquerque that were doing the Deer Creek Thunder River loop. We would set up our tents & then spent some time at the Deer Creek Patio as dusk set in. We would spend the rest of the evening enjoying dinner under our camp lights.

Day 2 – Deer Creek to Kanab Creek via the Colorado River Route
We started day 2 relatively easy as we packed up and headed out around 8am. We have a very hardy day planned with 8+ difficult miles along the river. I had some anxiety about this stretch. I’ve known about this route for years & knew it went but I didn’t know the details as well as I should. There were only a few triplogs & they commented on the difficulty & sun exposure. Plus they spent two days crossing the section. We’re going for one day.

The route started with our descent through the Deer Creek Patio & then the exposed narrows & then Deer Creek Falls along the Colorado River. That all went well & we took a variety of pics. The route was on my mind & I was eager to begin. We would start out along the river & pushed through some reeds & other brush. It was obvious this was going to be difficult. We found some semblance of a route but it was not consistent & disappeared at times. About a mile in we climbed high to avoid a possible cliff along the river. I started questioning if this section was a good idea. It was hot & I knew we’re in for a challenge. The others assured me they were good & this reduced my anxiety. We would climb up a ridge to the top of the Tapeats & then started a long stretch several hundred feet above the river. This section was cairned & relatively easy to follow. I focused in & pushed through with a quick stop at a spring along one of the drainages. I would continue as a set of boaters passed below. I was wishing we were lower & could thumb for a boat ride to Kanab Creek. We were too high up & that was not possible. I would eventually drop back to the river & took a break and waited for the others. We were about a third of the way across & I knew the rest of the route was right along the river. We were fully committed at this point.

The others joined me & we continued after a break. The next mile went well & we took another break at Fishtail Canyon. This is the spot most people camp. We were in good shape so Karl got some water from a pool a few minutes up canyon. After that it was a long slow grind along the river. Some sections made for relatively quick travel while others slowed us down. It was hard & slow travel but we made progress. We were delighted to see shade as the sun was low in the sky & was blocked by the south rim thousands of feet above. We kept at it as the day ticked away. I filtered water at some point & we took another break. Next up was a section that had large boulders & slowed progress. I had sweat dripping off my face but knew we were running out of daylight. I pushed ahead and arrived at the mouth of Kanab Creek right before dusk. I would canvas the area & found a decent campsite a few hundred yards down river. The others arrived around nightfall & I led them to our camp. We were finally done & couldn’t be happier! The hike pushed us to our limits & is the hardest segment of a backpacking trip I have ever done. I was glad it was over. We would settle in to dinner & a fairly early bed time.

Day 3 – Kanab Creek to Scotty’s Hollow
Our day 3 had a slower start but we knew we have another hard day ahead of us. The going up Kanab Creek is not easy & we wanted time to explore Whispering Falls & Scotty’s Hollow. We would walk out of camp around 9am and headed up Kanab Creek. The going went well as it was a relatively wide canyon with a good creek bed. We could tell the creek flashed a few days before due to all the mud. This was not an issue as we made our way up canyon. We arrived at the junction with Whispering Falls around 11:30am and took a short break & then started the hike up canyon. We arrived at the lower pool and Karl filtered water. We would climb the embankment & headed up stream for Whispering Falls. You arrive at a pool that appears to be a swimmer. There’s the option to wade through waist deep water on the right or hug the wall on the left. The left wall worked well and once across the pool you climb a narrow slot & then arrive at Whispering Falls. It’s a stunning grotto that feels indoors. Another group arrived at the same time as us & we all enjoyed it together. Some of them swam but that water was too cold for my desert blood. After we had our fill we returned to Kanab Creek & loaded up and continued north.

It was coming up on 1pm and we had a lot of miles ahead of us. We pretty much put our heads down and pushed onward. The other group mentioned a couple of swimmers but admitted there could be a bypass. I was hoping for a dry way around. We followed the canyon & weaved our way around rocks & other obstacles. The deepest water we encountered was knee deep but we spent a lot of time & energy working our way around the deep pools. We eventually hit an area I had a waypoint labeled “difficult boulders”. I looked ahead and saw the channel lined with rocks of varying sizes and some ranged up to the size of a small house. This section was a lot of fun as we searched for a dry route. With much effort we found a manageable route. It took a lot but we were getting through. We eventually found a deep pool that appeared to be surrounded by large boulders. I’m sure the other group swam here. I looked around and found a potential route on the left. I climbed up and found a wedge on the far left wall. I took a closer look and found it very awkward & slippery but I was able to scramble up. I noticed an easy way down the other side & we had our dry bypass! I yelled out to the others and we worked as a team to get everyone up. We continued on.

Our plan was to make it to Showerbath Spring & that’s after the side trip with Scotty’s Hollow. It was approaching 4pm & we only had about two hours of daylight. Plus we’re all tired from hard hiking. Chumley & I talked & agreed to start looking for campsites, preferably something near Scotty’s Hollow. We kept hiking & found a couple of possible sites along the way but we’re hoping for something right at the turnoff for the Hollow. We arrived at the mouth of the side canyon but there wasn’t a camping site there. We would backtrack five minutes to a nice site just above the creek. It was another long day & we had just enough time to set up camp before nightfall. It was another evening enjoying dinner & then on to bed around 9pm.

Day 4 – Scotty’s Hollow to Jump Up
We have another big day planned so we packed up relatively early and were hiking around 8:20am. One of the challenges of this hike was short days. Sunrise was 6:45 am & Sunset was around 5:30pm. Mornings were cold & we were slow to get started. After cutting our hike short the day before, we started with Scotty’s Hollow. This was my first time in this section but we had time constraints. We admired the waterfall at the start of the side canyon & then scrambled up the rabbit hole. Once above we headed up canyon which is wonderful! There is flowing water & fantastic geology. We wanted to go to the turnaround point roughly 1.5 miles up canyon but had to turn around short due to timing.

Once back to Kanab Creek we loaded up and continued heading up canyon. The going went well and we navigated more boulder problems and crossed in knee deep water. It took us just over an hour to get to Showerbath Spring and sure enough there was one final pool right below the spring. We were able to climb over a boulder & had to pass packs over. Once we were over it we took an extended break at the spring. I’ve been to Showerbath in March 2018 when it was my turnaround point. I knew we had relatively easy going for the rest of our hike. After our break we continued hiking & worked our way north. The going is easy as the rocks are smaller and easy to hike through. We took a break at the junction with Kanab Creek & Jump Up Canyon. From there we headed up Jump Up and enjoyed a few miles of narrows. This section is a real treat. We made a short side trip up Indian Hollow and then continued up and passed Kwagunt Hollow. The last few miles to our camp was a grind but we arrived with about an hour of daylight. We would camp just above the junction of Jump Up Canyon & Sowats Canyon. We would settle in for our final night in the canyon.

Day 5 – Jump Up to Sowats Trailhead
Our last day in the Grand Canyon. We had a moderate hike ahead of us but we have a long drive back to Phoenix. Once again we were up fairly early & on trail around 8:15am. We would follow Sowats Canyon to the Jump Up Nail Trail and follow that back to one of the vehicles on the rim. Sowats Canyon had a light flow in the creek & is a bit rocky but was fairly easy. We worked our way up canyon as the sun beamed overhead and the temps rose. We made a stop at Mountain Sheep Spring and admired the glyphs by the campsite. From there we hiked the last mile to our trail junction exit and we took a short break there. We would then hike up the first real trail we’ve seen in four days! It’s a solid climb to the Esplanade but was nice heading up. Once up top we traversed across the top and headed for the Cottonwood trees near the final junction that led back to the rim. We took another short break at the water just a bit downhill. From there it was the typical grind back to the rim. I was delighted to top out and that ended our trip. The others would top out and we then drove back to Monument Point and retrieved the other vehicle. From there it was a solid six hours back to Phoenix with a stop at NiMarcos in Flagstaff. Another trip comes to an end!

Final Thoughts
This was an extremely difficult hike. Especially along the river route & the section of Kanab Creek below Showerbath Spring. I honestly don’t recommend this hike.

Kanab Creek is an absolute joy to hike but takes a lot of time & effort. I wish we had another day or two for this trip.

We had good water at each of our campsites. The Colorado River was mostly clear despite rain a week before. The bottom of Kanab Creek was muddy but cleared as we ascended the canyon.

The short days was a blessing & a curse. Mornings were cold & we were slow to begin. And then it was dark by 6pm. Longer days would be nice but that means more sun exposure along the river route.

Thanks to Chumley & Karl for driving!
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