Backpacking & Photography Trip
the Grand Canyon

South Bass/Royal Arch Loop

Brian & Doug; October 2001

Brian and Doug took a road trip from the Denver, Colorado area to the Grand Canyon, to hike the South Bass/Royal Arch Loop, in October 2001. The total hike mileage was approximately 45 miles, with altitude changes in the range of 6,000 ft., done over 5 days, with 4 nights spent below the rim.

Travel Trip Photo: Royal Arch (Natural Bridge), South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Website photos, with captions, and slideshows (with music):

South Bass trailhead to Royal Arch We took 2 days driving to the Canyon, stopping the first night to camp along the Colorado River just northeast of Moab. The second day we reached Grand Canyon Village and then took the (always exciting) 3 hour drive out to Pasture Wash and the South Bass trailhead.

The following morning we began our hike, first dropping ~1,400 ft in just under 2 miles, down to the Esplanade and the junction with the Esplanade spur trail out to the Royal Arch drainage. We hiked a short distance down the drainage and set up camp for the night at a small pothole containing water (the first we had encountered since leaving the rim and the last we would find until the next afternoon).

The next morning we continued down the drainage. Going was fairly smooth until we reached the infamous 10' ledge that had to be traversed before we could drop down in a lower drainage. After scouting the area we decided to rappel down, and so we did. After that the going got rockier, with down climbs, crawling over, around and though openings in downed boulders. Finally we emerged out of the typical Grand Canyon dryness and entered an oasis, with water seeping out of the canyon walls, ferns and several small and then a large pool that had to be waded across. Completing that we were there - the Royal Arch of the Grand Canyon. It is technically probably a natural bridge, formed more by water than wind, but who's being technical?

We had planned to reach Royal Arch in time for a late lunch and, then, to continue down to Toltec Beach, spend the next 2 nights there and go Elves Chasm on the 'rest' day. But we didn't reach the Arch until almost 4:30 and decided we needed to 'drink in' Royal Arch, so we stayed the night there.

The following morning we backtracked up the Royal Arch drainage, above the water pools and boulder scrambles (again slower than originally expected), to an exit route out of the drainage and onto the Tonto platform above. From there we worked our way down to another well-known landmark, a 20' rappel with a fixed rope. We lowered our packs down and then more climbed down the rope than rappelled. We made it just fine, but had one significant calamity - somehow the camera that Doug had stowed away in his pack's belt bag had been jostled ... and had 'died'.

Hike Out Following the rappel, with the demise of Doug's camera, there were no more photos for the rest of the trip. We continued down to Toltec Beach and the Colorado River, where we spent the afternoon and the the night. But since we got down there later than expected, there was not enough time to hike over to Elves Chasm and back.

The next morning we had a long day, 15-18 miles, all the way back over to the lower South Bass Trail. The first section paralleled the river, to Garnet Canyon, through sharp limestone, requiring wearing gloves to keep hands from being cut. At Garnet we climbed out of the drainage, up onto the official beginning of the Tonto Trail. From there it was on to Copper Canyon, which we reached at 5pm, some 10 hours after we had left Toltec. The final leg was 4 miles and 2 hours over and down to Bass Canyon and the South Bass Trail, where we spent our final night. After searching, and finally finding water, we made a late last supper and turned in for the night, exhausted.

The final day's hiking/climbing consisted of hiking up the South Bass trail, through the Redwall to the Esplanade, over the junction with the Esplanade trail back to Royal Arch, then onward and upward to the rim, a total of ~7 miles and ~3,500 feet of gain ... the finish of a marvelous, difficult, but very rewarding hike!