Hiking & Backpacking Trip
North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park

Thunder River - Deer Creek Loop

Brian & Doug; May 2003

Travel Trip Photo: View of Deer Creek Falls from the Colorado River beach at Deer Creek, north rim of Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Brian and Doug took a road trip, from the Denver, Colorado area to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in May 2003, to backpack the Thunder River, Deer Creek and Bill Hall trails. Typically, hikers enter and exit the Grand Canyon either at Monument Point or Indian Hollow, but we decided we wanted to do both and to make the trip into a continuos 37+ mile loop instead of a series of "out and backs."

Website photos, with captions, and slideshows (with music):
Drive to the Canyon, Rim Hike, Thunder River trail to Jim Hall trail: The first day of the trip consisted of driving from the Denver area across Colorado and eastern Utah to Green River, where they camped at Green River State Park. Day 2 was spent driving down US Highway 89, through the beautiful Sevier River Valley, between Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park and on the the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We camped that night at Indian Hollow trailhead on the north rim. The next morning began the improvised route, since we only had one vehicle, ie we couldn't shuttle between the two trailheads. So we left our backpacks cached in brush, drove back to Monument Point, parked our car and dayhiked along the Canyon rim, ~5.5 miles, back to Indian Hollow, the trailhead for the Thunder River trail. There we donned our cached packs and headed down to and across the Esplanade, for 5 more miles, to the intersection with the Bill Hall trail, (which connects up to Monument Point), where we camped for the night;
Hike down to Thunder River: Day 4 was spent hiking down the Thunder River trail, first on the Esplanade, then down through the Grand Canyon's famous Redwall and, finally through (very hot) Surprise Valley and into upper Tapeats Canyon at Thunder River and the magnificent Thunder River Falls, where we spent the night. The Falls are trully a wonder, surging out of Mauv Limestone cliffs at the base of the Redwall. It is notable that one hears the falls for quite some time before one actually sees them. Camp 4 was a nice site on the edge of Tapeats Creek. Two more notables: (1) this is supposedly the ony place where a river (Thunder) flows into a creek (Tapeats) and (2) because this is a very popular area, there tends to be a plethora of rattlesnakes, which hunt the mice that scavenge through the human trash. Fortunately (or not) we did not encounter any;
Down Tapeats Canyon to Colorado River, over to 135 Mile Beach: Day 5 consisted of hiking 2.2 miles from Upper Tapeats Camp to Lower Tapeats Camp at the Colorado River. The hike was short but steep and much of the time was spent hiking along ledges that worked their way down through the 1 billion plus year old Grand Canyon Supergroup. After having a leisurely lunch at the confluence of Tapeats Creek and the Colorado, we followed a faint trail along the river for 2-3 miles to 135 Mile beach, our camp and home for night 5;
135 Mile Beach to Deer Creek: Day 6 was a relatively short day of hiking, 4-5 miles along the Colorado River and then climbing back up to the Tonto to the designated camping area along Deer Creek, above Deer Creek Falls. We spent the afternoon exploring the area - the beach and main falls which plunges out of sandstone cliff, the various smaller upper falls and pools, the narrow gorge the creek has carved in the rocks over the eons and the breath-taking views up and down the Colorado River from overlooks high above;
Deer Creek to the Rim: The following morning we packed up and headed up the Deer Creek Trail, stopping at the Upper Deer Creek Falls, then back to the junction with the Thunder River Trail, up through the Redwall and across the Esplanade to our final camp, where we had cached water, at junction with the Bill Hall Trail. On our final day, we climbed up the short but steep Bill Hall Trail approximately 2.5 miles to the rim and our awaiting car at Monument Point.