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The Best Hikes of GC - Primitive Trails

868 Triplog Reviews in the GC - Primitive Trails
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14.59 mi • 5,082 ft aeg
Grandview Horseshoe Mesa Loop May22
Went out to Grandview last week for a multi-day on and around Horseshoe Mesa with my buddy Bryan. This was a very similar trip to one we took together exactly 8 years ago. We hiked down to Horseshoe Mesa and set up camp in the early afternoon… temps were getting above 90 but the wind gusts were approaching 40mph! Not so good for sleeping in a tent (as we would experience later that evening), but helped us get through the hot afternoon without feeling like we were baking while we rested. And rest we did after carrying 7-8 liters of water each down the short (3 miles) but steep Grandview trail. Water that would have to last us until the following afternoon. Plan was to camp overnight on the Mesa, then hike down to Tonto trail the next morning and day hike (clockwise) around Horseshoe Mesa and then back up to camp via Page spring trail.

We left early the next morning and enjoyed the beautiful day and cooler morning temps. Only took a few hours to hike the 6 miles or so around to the east side of Horseshoe Mesa and our most important stop… Hance Creek to fill up our bladders. Hance is perennial and, according to NPS, totally reliable… all I can say is that it was certainly flowing and a beautiful site this past Friday! We took our time enjoying the creek and shade before starting the grueling hike back up to camp on the Mesa with an additional 6 or so liters of water each. IMPORTANT NOTE: at the time of our trip, the NPS had just issued a HEALTH WARNING FOR ALL GC WATER SOURCES. Due to a number of hikers contracting a virus, it was advised that all water sources be filtered AND purified.

The hike back up to Mesa from Hance creek is only about 1.5 miles, but you have to gain about 1000’ in the last mile and the trail is filled with loose rock and includes a number of class 4 climbs. Unfortunately, we did not make the small side trip over to the beautiful Page (Miners) Spring… the other warning from NPS was that this source had been found to contain potentially unsafe levels of arsenic… no thanks. Back up at camp we relaxed the rest of the afternoon while the wind continued to blow… finally settling to an easy breeze at about 6pm… dinner time. Pad Thai noodles, chocolate chip cookie bites and some bourbon later, we hit the sack early and crashed hard…what a day!

Waking up early Sat morning, we enjoyed the sunrise, made some coffee and breakfast while breaking down camp and packing up. The hike out would be another grind… about 2,500’ of elevation over 3 miles. But, I would do it again tomorrow… what a hike and what a great trip!
23.72 mi • 7,727 ft aeg
Most magical hike of the GC so far! This is the GC spectacular. Seriously, this hike has it all. All the indescribable views, all the adventure, all the giant waterfalls, narrows, springs, wide open esplanade, ALL the fantastic ups, everything wonderful and nothing terrible.

DAY 1: Bill Hall TH to Deer Creek Camp AX7 (~8 hours, 8.7 miles, 634 ft aeg)
We camped up near the Bill Hall TH Saturday evening and started hiking around 7:30 am Sunday. Got all warmed up hiking the little bit of up to Monument Point before heading down down down...and then some more down. The views the entire hike down this section through the Kaibab, Toroweap, and Coconino Sandstone Formations are majestic. There are a couple of areas we had to sit & scooch or drop a bag down but nothing of any difficulty. It is pretty slow moving over the first couple of miles though. We reached the Thunder River Trail connection around 9:30 am and a couple of people in our group stashed water for the hike back out. From this point, the hike down is less steep and fairly smooth moving across the Esplanade. The Esplanade is an alien world and I love everything about it. Some of the people in our group were starting to get pretty warm hiking across the Esplanade; the rest of us were just in awe of the wild rock sculptures. We stashed water in the rock pockets just above the Redwall decent, chatted with a Park Ranger and showed him our permit, and headed down around 11:30 am. We were all feeling the heat now. The hike down the Supai and Redwall Formations to Surprise Valley is really hot mid-day, even in the cool Spring months. And it's A LOT, even going down. But the views are fantastic and that helps to ease the physical part. The fork in the trail (right to Deer Creek, left to Thunder River and Tapeats Creek) is marked by a couple of tall sticks haha. No formal sign or anything so keep an eye out. At the intersection, we headed west on the Deer Creek Trail. This is where it began to feel like the trail would never end & the sun/heat was sucking the energy out of me. I got a boost of energy as we started to descend toward Deer Creek buuuuut slowly realized there was still a long way to go. There's a sketchy turn in the descent and a sketchy crossing of scree but the narrow turn is super short and the scree is stable. AND this is right around the point where Deer Spring is visible. Finally FINALLY beautiful cold water! We played in the spring for a while, climbed up behind the waterfall, got refreshed and cooled down. There were rafters at the spring who had hiked up from the river and they looked much less rough than we did. We left the spring and just a few hundred feet down reached Deer Creek. A few from our group were hanging out under the big beautiful Cottonwood tree just as the trail meets Deer Creek. We all trudged the final half mile to the campground in a daze. Everything looked like a paradise after the hot long miles we had just come from. We got to Deer Creek camp (AX7) around 3:30 pm and found our perfect shady spots to set up camp.

DAY 2: Deer Creek Camp to Deer Creek Falls and Back (~2 hours hiking time, 1.5 miles, 500 ft aeg)
After a peaceful and beautiful night's sleep in the canyon, we woke up Monday and packed day packs to head down to Deer Creek Falls and the Colorado River. Whatever we were feeling from the day before, the Deer Creek Narrows awakened something special in every one of us. This is a sacred place. I felt like I was moving through a place where words lost meaning and people were instantly calmed and quiet. The narrows feel enormous but there are a handful of tight squeezes as you move closer to the river. A small daypack was fine but I would not want to carry a backpacking pack through the tight parts. There were groups of rafters moving through the Narrows as we headed down and everyone was kind and friendly. At the end of the Narrows you walk out of the canyon and get a spectacular view of the Colorado River...and 50 rafts on either side. Woah. It's a strange feeling to go from quiet & solitude to a bustling city of rafting trips. After a few switchbacks and a steep drop down along the trail...the great ginormous Deer Creek Falls in all its glory. We hung out at the falls (most of our group jumped in!) for about an hour before the people thinned out & the rafts left & we had the place to ourselves. What a treat! The GC is amazing. There are entire perfect worlds tucked away in her canyons. Deer Creek Falls and the Narrows are definitely one of the most magical canyon worlds. We hiked back up to camp & got ready for our early start the next day. Oh and hikers who came in late saw the pink rattler up near the toilet! We tried to find them but weren't as lucky.

DAY 3: Deer Creek Camp AX7 to Upper Tapeats Camp AW7 (~6 hours, 5.5 miles, 1,400 ft aeg)
Got up early to beat the heat & started hiking around 4:30 am. About a half mile in the trail splits & we stayed left to take the high route. We hiked a few miles of the river trail in darkness but it was straightforward to navigate. As soon as the sky started to fill with light the views of the Colorado River were unbelievable. We came to the "climb" at the mouth of Bonita Creek around 7 am and it is not bad at all coming from the Deer Creek side. Most of our group scrambled up with no problem. I passed my bag up & someone threw a handline down to me but I didn't need it. Honestly, it looked like a totally different story looking down from the top so I'm happy we got to climb up instead of down. We got to Tapeats Creek, took a break, and headed up and up and up and up. It felt like the up was never-ending. The trail along Tapeats Creek definitely had the most sketchy sections of trail (narrow trail with steep drops) and there were many of these sections. Those actually didn't bother me even though I'm afraid of heights but they bothered others in our group who are good climbers so go figure. The hike up Tapeats Creek has the most insanely incredible views of the entire trip the ENTIRE hike up! Maybe I was too obsessed with the views to notice how sketchy the trail was. We got to Upper Tapeats campsite (AW7) around 10:30 am and basically plopped down in the creek & sat there forever to cool down. There is not much shade during the day at the Upper Tapeats camp but luckily the water is right there & is nice & cold. We explored the little moss-covered waterfalls upstream and explored the rock ledges above our camp where my friend found a sleepy rattlesnake. One person in our group had bad blisters and another was feeling very anxious about the heat so we decided to only stay one night out of our planned two nights at Upper Tapeats. It was for the best since a group the same size as ours came to camp and wanted to stay at the site we were already set up at. We decided to hike to Thunder Spring in the morning and hang out there all day until evening when the sun would be blocked.

DAY 4: Upper Tapeats Camp AW7 to the Esplanade (~4.5 hours, 3.4 miles, 3,160 ft aeg)
Got started around 10:30 am and hiked one hour (0.7 miles and around 1000 ft elevation gain) to reach Thunder Spring. And that's where we stayed until 5 pm. :sweat: Thunder River Falls is like a magical fairyland if fairies were into death metal. There are beautiful moss-covered pockets and crystal clear water and it is LOUD. It was a fun relaxing place to spend the day. We all made some food & filled up with cold water and headed on up to Surprise Valley with the sun blocked the whole way up. Surprise Valley was lovely in this light and seemed more lovely and interesting on this side compared with the Deer Creek side. We powered up the Redwall (which surprisingly felt much better going up vs going down - probably because of the lack of direct sun) and made it to the top and to the Esplanade just as it got dark (around 7:10 pm). The rest of our group got to the top and we found our water cache in the rock pockets where we had left it. At that point, it was 8:30 pm & dark dark. Hiking the Esplanade in the dark was too difficult so we decided to sleep on the rocks (not disturbing the cryptobiotic soil) and hike out in the morning. It was a crazy windy night but we were happy to have one big "up" behind us and a great view of the stars above.

DAY 5: Esplanade to Bill Hall TH (~4 hours, 4.6 miles, 2,025 ft aeg)
Morning Esplanade! I sure love this place. Started hiking at 7 am and reached the Thunder River Trail connection and the second stash of water an hour & 20 minutes later. Now for the real fun part. Those final 2.25 miles were a struggle and a half. But I just kept up my little train that could - slow & steady choo choo. We saw a number of groups heading down as we went up. It's funny, everyone wants to chat heading down but the feeling is not mutual going up. We took a break in the cave and kept going for the final push to the top. Made it to Monument Point at 10:30 am and what a relief! It did not feel like 3 1/2 hours...more like 10. Epic epic everything.

Seriously, I want to live here. Or visit all the time. It's all hard. And usually hot. And pretty darn real. And I think people probably come out changed. These places will be a part of me forever. They are that special and I'm grateful to get to visit.
42 mi • 5,000 ft aeg
It had been 11 years since my brother John had flown out from Michigan to bag Whitney and Langley on a 46 mile loop in California's High Sierra. It kicked my :pk: , but we were due for another trip.
I had eliminated the Royal Arch Loop from my solo Bucket List due to the rappel, but John and I had done some climbing together so it seemed like a good choice.
I had hoped that the closure of the reservation would be over by our permit date, but it was not the case.
Some people have posted that they drove to the trailhead anyway, but those roads are officially closed.
We started on Sunday, knocking off the first easy seven to the dry trailhead for the night. We carried 64 oz for the evening and morning, and cached 32 for the way out.
Day 2 was a monster - our goal was Royal Arch where we knew we would have good water. 14 miles of progressively more difficult trail then route. I've done over 200 miles of trails in the canyon, along with the Utah Flats and Escalante Routes, and this was easily equal to all of the hard parts of them put together. I had never even taken my pack off for an obstacle, and I took it off at least 6 times. We arrived at the Arch at 9:30 pm.
The next morning we talked and decided that a recovery and rehydration day would be a smart choice, and that returning the way we came would make more sense after the loss of a hiking day. This allowed us to spend an entire day at the Arch, kicking back and enjoying the slowly changing light on it's towering architecture.
The gentle sound of running water, the slight echo off the stone walls, and an ever-changing chorus of frogs serenaded us through the day. Bliss.
This plan allowed us two days to cover the 14 mile return to the rim, and we stopped about halfway after replenishing our water at one of the good, clear pools found in the Royal Arch East drainage. John found some Mountain Lion tracks in the sand, and now that we were out of the narrow canyon we had a nice view of the moonless night stars. It's probably been at least 10 years since I have seen the Milky Way - I usually plan my trips for the Full Moon.
We arrived at the rim camp right on schedule, finding a Toyota Tacoma in the parking area that was not there when we arrived, but had not seen anyone on the trial the whole time. Odd.
I had time to wander a bit, and found a nice open view of the canyon about 200 yards west of the trailhead, where we watched the sunset on our last night.
The hike back to the truck was punctuated by free-roaming horses who we kept spooking up the trail. You could feel the vibration of their gallop in the Earth -a wonderful, slightly scary sensation.
I hope the Forest Service opens and improves the "road". I understand the right of the tribes to not allow access to cross their land, but now that an alternative illegal route is developing they might as well make the best of it. As it stands, the road requires high clearance and 4WD is recommended.
We had an InReach Mini, but it did not work almost anywhere in Royal Arch canyon. We had some luck at the ledge pour off below the Arch, but even that was hit or miss. Apparently you need a big piece of sky above you.
Royal Arch is spectacular. It's location deep in a canyon makes it both grand and intimate. The work required to get there was substantial, but experiences like these rarely come easy.
6.9 mi • 4,435 ft aeg
A Tanner-Grandview backpack cut short due to a hiking partner's knee issue we needed to ascend the Red Canyon (New Hance) Trail. I had sworn off of this punkin' trail about 20 years ago when I descended it, and with a 5-day, bad weather backpack I reaffirmed my disdain. It was a beast uphill with a backpack. Not for the faint.
57.8 mi • 12,000 ft aeg
GC Waterfalls Trek
Sumi, who organized our great 2019 GC trip, snagged these permits last year and the memory of hard parts of that last trip had dimmed enough that I jumped at the chance.
Participants were Sumi, her son Aidan, Rebecca and Katherine. We’ve hiked some 14ers with Rebecca in CO over the years. Katherine lives in Grand Canyon Village and one of her photos has been on the National Parks Pass. I wish I could have posted her photos instead of mine.
Day 1 – South Kaibab through Phantom Ranch, Clear Creek Trail to Sumner Wash
Despite snow the day before, it was clear and warm from the start. The shuttle was crowded with dayhikers, but the trail much less so. We had it pretty much to ourselves after O’Neill Butte. The only exception was mule station at the Tip-off. Somewhat before we had passed a freshly euthanized, tarp-covered mule and the wranglers were grim and tense.
Another train passed as we crossed the Black Bridge in the blazing sun. After napping at the trail junction while the rest caught up, we hung out in the shade at Phantom Ranch to wait out the heat. We eventually cooked dinner there to haul less weight back up to the Tonto.
The climb up the other side was a slog. Fortunately, the late afternoon views were a welcome distraction. I was asleep for the night about 45 minutes after reaching Sumner Wash.
Day 2 – Sumner Wash to Clear Creek
This was a shorter day in theory, but warm. The classic Tonto in-and-out and up-and-down in bright sun would have been tough if not for a few well-placed shady spots behind boulders. The descent into Clear Creek on the red scree slope was relentless, too, so the riparian campsites at the end were a big relief.
We set up tents under quickly gathering clouds and light rain commenced just as we finished. We all napped until it was over and started on dinner. Around that time, we met the only other party there, a family from Colorado with young kids returning from a day hike. A bit more rain fell and I was asleep before dark.
Day 3 – Dayhike to Cheyava Falls
The first and last miles each way were poky, scratchy bushwhacks with a handful of stream crossings. The route in between was more trail-ish with some classic filtered sunlight views. Cheyava Falls itself wasn’t running but, another quite impressive falls was running nearby and we stopped for a nice lunch.
Back at Clear Creek, everyone collected water, a bit less tired than the previous nights. We learned at dinner that nobody was looking forward to climbing back up the scree slope onto the Tonto. Once again, I was asleep before dark.
Day 4 – Clear Creek to Phantom Ranch
We knew the sun would shine early on the climb out, so Rebecca and Katherine left at the crack of dawn, with me in the middle a bit later. I put my head down and powered out as fast as possible. I got out quick, but the heat was already building on the Tonto. I pushed hard to Sumner Wash, which was pretty well baked by then. It was a slog from there down to the Ranch.
I dumped my pack at the nearest picnic table and saw Katherine and Rebecca drinking lemonade and eating potato chips in the shade. It was cheating, but I committed a similar retail transaction (twice) before Sumi and Aidan trudged in.
The thermometer read 87F by then. The Ranch was jammed with ultrarunners on the final leg of their Saturday rim-to-rim-to-rim, and they were suffering. One of them was Katherine’s husband, whose appearance was a total surprise. We lolled a couple more hours in the shade and changed venue to the campground. I waded in the creek, ate dinner, and was asleep again before dark.
Day 5 – Dayhike to Ribbon Falls
Rebecca and Catherine left before the crack of dawn again to beat the crowds to the falls. Sumi opted for a rest day, so Aidan and I followed them at a departure time more normal for someone 23 years old. However, we also followed at a 23-year old pace, reaching the crossing to Ribbon Falls (where our buddies had recently started waiting) in an hour and 50 minutes, .
We crossed easily and spent at least three hours enjoying the splendor of this cool oasis. Amazingly, only a few other groups stopped by in that time and none stayed long.
The trip back in wet boots was slower and much hotter, but there was a treat to look forward to. Many months ago, Sumi had scored dinner reservations at the canteen. Not only was it real food, it was food we didn’t have to carry. It was a lot of food, though. Except for Aidan, we could hardly finish it. I guess riding mules gives you bigger appetite.
We waddled back to the campground and watched the stars turn to clouds. I reluctantly pulled my tent out of the stuff sack, but only used it as a blanket during a few minutes of rain.
Day 6 – Out
Rebecca and Katherine unsurprisingly left at the crack of dawn. I was next, with Sumi and Aidan a way behind. I allowed myself one long glance at the distant rim. The sky was clear and bright from very early and I thought of nothing but getting out as fast as possible. It was bright but still cool when the Devil’s Corkscrew rose to slow me down. I pressed on to Indian Garden for my first break. A downhill mule ride arrived at the same time and blocked me from the water, and an uphill ride did the same. I guess backpackers go last here. I battled the squirrels constantly while trying to snack. One even hissed at me when I flung it off my leg with a hiking pole.
I broke further only near the 3 Mile and 1 ½ Mile Rest Houses, which were increasingly clogged with dayhikers. They weren’t much impediment and not the yahoos I remembered, though many lacked enough water, perhaps ignoring the many signs about the water being off. As the ascent wore on, it brought cooler air that kept me going. I emerged still quite mobile after 5:30 of hiking time (1:30 of breaks).

Sumi and Aidan topped out ninety minutes later and before long we were enjoying end-of-the-trip burgers at Yavapai Tavern. It wasn’t quite the pre-pandemic El Tovar feast after our Confluence/Escalante trip, but it was mighty satisfying. I was asleep not long after dark.
After the others left, I lingered the next morning on the Rim, walking from Kolb Studio to Mather Point and back. My constant hill workouts really paid off, since I didn’t have even a hint of soreness, although I was moving slower than usual. Unfortunately, it was time to go back to real life.

A few each in flower: yuccas, globemallows, sego lilies, paintbrush, primrose, prickly pear
26.46 mi • 8,135 ft aeg
Escalante Route-ish
This trip was a condensed 3 day/2 night trip along the Escalante Route. We entered the canyon on the Tanner Trail, took the Escalante Route west and then exited the canyon on the New Hance Trail.

Day 1:

With a slightly late start, we left Lipan Point and headed down the Tanner Trail at 10:00 AM. The weather was clear and sunny with temps in the 40's. The first mile of the trail was covered with ice and snow that made traction a necessity. This was my first time using Black Diamond's Blitz spikes (fore-foot only) and they performed well. Our pace was slowed by the ice and we managed to cover just a single mile within the first hour. After that the ice gave way to a great trail that descended into the canyon. Camp was set at Tanner beach, where the Colorado was running a beautiful blue-green shade. There is a pit toilet there as well as several dispersed areas for single tents. Total mileage for the day was 8 with a descent of 5070'.

Day 2:

This was our longest day of the trip and the goal was to hike the entirety of the Escalante Route down to Hance Rapids. Weather was slightly cloudy which helped keep things relatively cool throughout the long stretches of sun exposure. The first 3 miles of trail meander near the Colorado before turning south and heading higher in elevation. Around this point the trail splits into a high route and a low route. I'd recommend taking the high route to check out the ruins of a stone building on top of the hill that overlooks Unkar Creek Rapids. Shortly thereafter the trail skirts the edge of a ~600' cliff with amazing views of the Colorado.
From this point on the main climb of the day started. We hiked up along a red ridge before cresting over and dropping down to Escalante Creek. This is a great spot to take lunch, but don't be tempted by the immediate access to the Colorado. Once you reach the river, hang a left (down stream) and you'll find Escalante Beach. It's a beautiful crescent-shaped beach that we only noticed once we had continued hiking and the trail climbed back up the canyon wall. Next time, I guess. We were soon greeted with the mouth of 75 Mile Canyon and a breath taking view down to the floor below. From here the trail skirted the eastern rim until we reached a point at the end where we could safely drop into the slot canyon. Being surrounded by narrow and towering walls was a nice change of pace after spending the morning in the expanse of the main canyon. Once we exited 75 Mile we were back in the pattern of dropping down to the river, and climbing up from the river.
The next big feature of the day was the Papago Wall. After dropping down to the river again (surprise!) we were a little disappointed by the wall's diminutive size. Reports that we had read, and videos that we had watched, all hyped up the climb up the Papago Wall, but it was a quick and easy task for everyone in the group. The Papago Slide, however, lived up to the hype and was a nice descent to navigate down to our camp at Hance Rapids. Like Tanner Beach, there were several small sites hidden amongst the vegetation as well as one large one. I really enjoyed pitching my tent on a soft and sandy surface compared to the rough patches I've become used to here in Arizona. Total mileage for the day was 12.4 with a climb of 2798' and a descent of 2548'.

Day 3:

Our final day of the trip was the shortest with regards to miles, but the toughest when it came to elevation gained. The New Hance Trail starts in the wash of Red Canyon before heading up the canyon wall at roughly mile 1.5. Save yourself some time and head straight to the wash from camp rather than trying to bushwack your way to the trail like we did. This was a long grind of a hike but the ever-changing views kept me motivated. I've never hiked on another stretch of trail that had such vivid colors from the rocks, sand, canyon walls, and vegetation. The trail was very easy to follow until roughly the 3 mile/5000' point and then it became more of a route where I relied on cairns and footprints to guide me. Most of the final stretch is up the higher reaches of Red Canyon where you come close to hitting the saddle before turning south and switchbacking up the final ~1000' to the edge of the rim. Traction was needed for the last ~1/8 of a mile. When we left Lipan Point on Friday morning Sunday's forecast was calling for a 60% chance of rain in the canyon and snow on the rim. Much to our surprise and satisfaction this was completely wrong and we were able to hike out on a clear and sunny morning. Total mileage for the day was 6 with a climb of 4734'.
27.94 mi • 4,979 ft aeg
South Bass to Tonto to Boucher. South Bass is in good shape. Trailhead had four cars at it, all high clearance AWD or 4x4, except for one high clearance 2WD. Spoke with group headed out who said 2WD high clearance vehicle struggled on driving the unofficial fence line/boundary route they used to bypass the reservation. camped at Serpentine the first night, and hauled all water up for next 2 days from the Colorado river. Outdated and/or inaccurate water reports from backcountry office and FB users meant we left Serpentine with 20 liters of water for two people. The following is the water notes collected:

-South Bass Trailhead to Serpentine Canyon is Dry. No water up canyon (5 minute walk). Muddy pools (10 liters) found at Tonto crossing. Muddy pools found sporadically to the Colorado. Easy walking to the Colorado; we filled 23 liters from the river for the next few days.

-Tonto dry till Ruby Canyon. 8 pools found near Tonto crossing. Pools vary in size from a few liters to half a bathtub worth. Pools continue downstream (within a minutes walk from Tonto). No pools found above Tonto crossing (3 minute walk).

-Tonto dry till Turquoise Canyon. Small pool found downstream from Tonto crossing. Easy down climb to access pool. 10+ liters worth at pool. Pool is located in spot with partial sun exposure. Upstream (1 minute walk under a 15ft dry fall) there is a large clear pool (1’x 2’) 4’ deep. Pool is well shaded.

-Tonto dry till Sapphire Canyon. 4’x4’ 5” deep pool found at trail crossing. No pools upstream (3 minute walk). No pools downstream (1 minute walk).

-Tonto dry till Slate canyon. Small 1 liter pool at trail crossing. Moderate pool located 10 seconds down canyon on East side. Pool can be seen from trail crossing. A small down climb is required to access pool. Pool is 4’x3’ 5” deep. Murky water. We pulled supplemental water from here.

Cut the trip short by a night and hiked out Boucher due to burning through more food then we planned. Boucher is not in the best of shape. Bits have held up well, others would be difficult to descend with a loaded pack. The Tonto Trail between South Bass and Boucher occasionally required stopping and guiding using GPS. Trail would fade and then reappear. Lots of fresh growth from the rains this year. Cacti is doing great! Only saw one other person on the Tonto at Serpentine.
35 mi • 0 ft aeg
We entered the Canyon on 5/25 via Point Huitzil and exited via Royal Arch Route and South Bass on 5/29. There are road routes to get to South Bass TH that are perfectly legit that stay off tribal and private land. I have the track we followed to get to South Bass TH and linked it to this triplog. It was circuitous and added an additional 90 minutes of drive time. We ran into two other groups that said there is a road that skirts the Havasupai fence line at the locked gate that stays off private and tribal land and was a quicker route to connect with pasture wash road. Both routes require high clearance 4x4. This is where I get annoyed with the park service as the backcountry rangers were adamant there is no road access to get to South Bass TH and we would need to park at the gate and hike an extra 7 miles!!! But I digress.

This was the most focused I have ever been on a backpack. I lost track of the numerous points along this trip where not being sure footed or sure handed for the scrambles risked death or serious injury. I was out of my comfort zone for a good amount of time on this trip, but had two solid people with me that helped calm my nerves.

We saved time coming down Point Huitzil, but I would never recommend that route for anyone with a fear of heights. There is a lot of exposure on this route...but then again that is pretty much the norm for Royal Arch route as well. A lot of intermittent parts of this route that leave little room for error. The route posted by Bifrost was a huge help and spot on.

There was water just below where Point Huitzil meets Royal Arch route in the tinaja's which is pretty amazing considering the dry winter and lack of measurable precipitation the last few months so I would feel pretty confident there is water here year round other then maybe end of June before the monsoons hit. Might dry up...but IDK the holes were pretty deep and seemed like they would last. Trying to figure out how to add that location to the water report for this hike. The frogs loved them!!! And some of the nastiest water I've ever drank. Tasted like dirty aquarium water. But it's the best you're gonna get this time of year so when in Rome. I hiked in enough water (3 liters plus two 12 ounce Gatorade bottles and my emergency 10 ounce water pouch I drank) to make it to the spring at Royal Arch...well we ran out maybe a quarter mile before we got to the spring. So my recommendation is to bring four liters and five if coming in South Bass this time of year to avoid the frog water. Or just plan on drinking frog water.

From the river I hiked up 4.5 liters. I used that as my bladder water which got me within a few hundred yards of the South Bass TH on the hike out before I ran out. The frog water was our overnight camp for the hike out and I cooked and dropped orange flavored electrolyte tablets into my nalogen bottle to make it more palatable in an effort to save as much of the river water as possible to drink while hiking.

Absolutely loved Royal Arch!!! Spent the second day and night there to relax and recover from the hike down and had the place all to ourselves enjoying the pools under the arch. I would stay there over Toltec beach this time of year since it's so hot at the river. It's a bummer no camping at Elves' Chasm, but would just as soon not have to drag my gear beyond Toltec beach as the route to Elves chasm has some exposure as well. Tried to get a private raft group to hitch us a ride to Elves, but no luck...but did score three beers. :) .

I don't climb much, but being on belay my partners were able to pull out the slack as I made my moves so I could rest and didn't have too much trouble climbing up the rappel. The trickiest part is the beginning and then as you climb the hand and footholds get better. The young kid (32) with us didn't even harness and just used the rope to climb up and down so it just depends on your comfort, skill level, and physical abilities. I'm a 50 year old man who hates heights with kids and a wife and can't make moves like I could 20 years ago so I'm all about being locked in.

We decided to go back up Royal Arch and avoid the death trap we felt the Tonto could give us with the heat and water reports stating no water until South Bass Beach. We started hiking as soon as there was enough light to see without headlamps day's 2-5 to avoid the heat. On our way out when we got to the redwall climb it was getting hot and knowing there was little shade at the water holes for our camp we bedded down for six hours under an alcove until the redwall had shade then made our way up and through the rabbit hole to get above the big dryfall.

All in all a stellar trip, but would be better I'm guessing to hit this one earlier in the spring or in the fall to avoid the heat and have better opportunities for some decent drinking water, but the water sure felt good to jump in!!!
Here's a link to a video of this madness. Enjoy the 20 seconds of frogs chirping in the darkness. [ youtube video ]
29.87 mi • 7,324 ft aeg
Second ultra Grand Canyon dayhike of the season, this one on the North Bass Trail. Weather was near perfect, except no clouds for shade/photos. Only saw a group of 2 guys all day - no one even at the river. With all the vegetation and creek crossings it was slower hiking than I had planned, and then I took over 250 images. So, a longer day in the canyon than I had hoped for, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. ; ) .

I took the direct route to the river, utilizing the Tonto Bypass. After lunch at the river, came around and up lower Shinumo. Then opting for the lower White Canyon narrows on the way up. Chose to forgo the planned out-and-back of upper Shinumo as I wasn't moving as fast as expected. See pic of map for route taken.
(29.87Miles/ 7,324' AEG. 16:13 Total Time, 12:22 Moving, 3:51 Stopped)

That's it for my training for, and completion of, these two Grand Canyon ultra dayhikes. Back to photographing for my Digital Landscape Portfolio - still many places on the shoot list. So, probably won't be posting much on here, but will continue to follow you all - Happy Trails!

30.6 mi • 9,608 ft aeg
In the three years it had been since I was able to backpack the Canyon, a lot had happened. The most relevant being a diagnosis of moderate to severe arthritis in both knees. ](*,) This realization caused me to sort the remaining Grand Canyon hikes on my Bucket List in descending order of difficulty. Fortunately there also exists hyaluronic acid, which is the closest thing to a miracle drug I have ever experienced. That, along with a plan of low daily mileage and low pack weight was my best shot to knock off Nankoweap.
Day One - 8 miles
Snow still remained in the shade at the west trailhead, and as I approached the edge the wind was incredible. I was able to lean into it well enough, but it actually would sweep my foot so my steps did not land where planned. Glad that it was pushing me away from and not over the edge, I made my way through the ups and downs to the Nankoweap Trail proper. The drop down was pleasant enough, and I contoured around to Marion Point, where I met 4 women retrieving their cache. The campsite was small and bumpy, but Marion Point is gorgeous.
From there I continued the traverse, where I found the exposure and obstacles less than say Boucher, Deer Creek, Escalante, or Utah Flats.
I reached Tilted Mesa and set up camp just in time for some light rain. I had dinner and watched the sun set through the snow that was falling on the rim above. Dry under my GoLite, comfortable in my Flexlite, I celebrated with my Magic Flight at the end of a perfect day.
After about 5 hours of blissfull sleep, I woke up around 2 am to hard rain and my 25 year old tent deciding to leak from multiple points. I did the best I could mopping and catching, and gradually the rain softened, leaving me to try in vain to get some sleep before dawn.
Day Two - 7 Miles
The rain stopped entirely in perfect time for me to break camp, and then resumed as a light drizzle as forecast for my hike down to the Creek. The clouds were rolling down off the rim and the rain brought out the colors that surrounded me. The going was steep at times, but I was being super slow and careful with my knees, and had no slips or issues. GoLite umbrellas are lousy in high winds, but in a drizzle they rule. I reached the creek and had a PB+J Burrito under the big tree, listening to introduction of birdsong after the relative silence above. The next three miles meandered, and soon I was at the northern beach. I set up camp, this time using the 1 ounce mylar emergency blanket between my tent and the fly, just as the rain picked up again. Perfect timing.
When the rain stopped, I headed to the empty beach to do my traditional immersion and wash up, coming back to my tent just as the rafters arrived. I loaded up my pack for the granaries and was headed up a little after 4. My plan was to shoot them at as many times as I could to get different light.
On the way up I ran into a group of rafters from the south beach wearing day-glo Tu-Tu's. I asked them the significance, to which the woman replied "It's Tu-Tu Tuesday!" Raft trips sound like fun. She also said it was her second 17 day raft trip through the Canyon, and that in her opinion the Granaries are the best view anywhere.
When I reached the top and looked back, I don't think I would argue. Beautiful perspective lines, foreground interest, river reflections, blah, blah, blah. It was sweet.
Over the next 3 hours or so I cooked dinner and waited for the light to change, eventually putting LED tea candles in the openings and trying to photograph their glow in the now dark canyon. I can't say those turned out very well, but it was fun playing around up there listening to the rafters party it up below from precisely 7 to 8 pm, when all the lights went out and the canyon was once again silent.
Day Three - 9 Miles
I woke to clear skies and headed up the Creek, and then began the ascent to Tilted Mesa. While stopped to take a picture, I was startled by a girl jogging up the trail behind me. She was a rafter who decided to "bust a move" and bop up to Tilted Mesa on their rest day. She was from Montana, so we talked a bit about Glacier before we parted ways, with her moving up the steep grade like it was nothing.
Having reached the Mesa by around 2 pm, I decided to continue on to Marion Point, as I thought the photography there would be better. I found Marion Point empty, but had to spend some time breaking up the dried, lumpy mud that made up the only level spot. It was worth it, I spent some time exploring the point, stumbling across an amazing nest condo that I think was made by some kind of swallow. Camp improvement, dinner, sunset, another perfect day.
Day Four - 6 Miles
Up at 5 like always, on the trail by 6:30, this time meeting two Hayduke Trail guys who had already logged over 500 miles. It did not sound like my thing, with all the road walking, but total respect for the dedication.
Realizing it was almost over, I slowed down even more and tried to take everything in - it's easy to spend all your time watching your step or trekking pole placement that you miss where you are.
I reached the rim and looked back, this time the air was still and peaceful. There's something about the Canyon's ability to shift from howling winds to dead silence so completely. One moment you're thinking how inhospitable a place it is, the next you're dumbfounded by soundless cinemascope. Man, I love this place.
I felt relieved that my knees had been fine, and I was filled with incredible gratitude to have one more chance to live a chapter in the Canyon's Big Book. I opened my Trappistes Rochefort, reclined in the Gravity Lounger I had stashed in my truck, and felt a tinge of excitement about how much weight I would save on my next tent.

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