Grand Canyon Northern Loop

The aim for our final week was to visit new territory to us on the northern side of the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park. We chose to try a loop hike, starting at the Indian Hollow trailhead and dropping down to Thunder River, before heading to the relatively popular Deer Creek and then to the Colorado River. From there we would hike along the river downstream off trail on rough bouldery terrain for about 7.5 miles to Kanab Canyon. We would then exit the Colorado and hike a long way up Kanab Creek then Jump Up Canyon, Sowats Canyon to reach the Jump Up-Nail trailhead. All that would be left then would be some jeep tracks and cross country over the wooded plateau back to Indian Hollow trailhead.

Saturday 13th October 2018 Starting from the town of Kanab, we drove towards the north rim of Grand Canyon National Park, firstly on tarmac, then a long good quality dirt road due south. There were lots of hunters camped along the way in cold and frosty sites in the high altitude and shaded ponderosa pine forest. The last 5 miles of off road driving turned a bit rougher with a few deep puddles, but with some nice autumnal aspen in the roadside forest. We were delighted to see a couple of Kaibab squirrels with their distinctive long bushy white tails and pointy ears.

Indian Hollow trailhead was still in the trees, but in a brighter open spot beside some wooden corral fencing. Leaving the car at midday with 6 days food, we looked forward to potentially the longest hike of our holiday, backed up by a reasonably positive weather forecast after the previous rainy couple of weeks. A short stroll on a trail took us to the edge of the forest and the lip of the north rim of the Grand Canyon- always an impressive sight!

We followed the clear trail down the first cliff band to the ‘Esplanade’ – a wide fairly flat terrace between cliffs- and this made for easy walking as we headed east to join with the more popular Bill Hall trail. Some cool slick rock slabs with good looking water in potholes provided an excuse for a stop to admire the scenery. Once on the Bill Hall trail we saw our first other hikers of the day but most were setting up camp and we continued on to the top of the next cliff band known as the Red Wall where we collected water from another pothole for our own dry camp tonight. Here we had our first view of the muddy brown Colorado River, still a long way below us and we descended steeply down a rubbly trail through the Red Wall into Surprise Valley.

The temperatures had been cool today and we felt that we had lucked out as this area can get oppressively hot even in the autumn! Surprise Valley itself hangs above the Colorado River and is the result of huge historic landslips. Once in the valley we headed east to set up camp just before the divide above Thunder Springs. There were rain showers passing through but we stayed dry throughout the night with our tent nestled in behind some boulders.

Sunday 14th October 2018 A great day! We take a short side trip down to the unusual feature that is Thunder Springs – a huge waterfall emerging from underground and through the middle of a cliff surrounding by lush greenery supported by this perennial water source. The views beyond were cool too with Tapeats Canyon snaking its way down to merge with the Colorado.

Picking up the camping gear we headed back on trail across the dry arid ground of Surprise Valley to cross the divide on its north side above Deer Creek, followed by another steep descent down to the creek. The low light and clear air resulted in beautifully coloured walls either side of us. There were gushing springs feeding into Deer Creek and we had a stop there under some cottonwoods. The hike down Deer Creek to the Colorado River was an absolute delight- initially through lush greenery and cactus then on rocky terraces through a steep striated and sculpted canyon. We found some hand print pictographs on the rock walls.

We exited the canyon all too soon but had the grand view of the Colorado River a few hundred feet below us now. Down at the Colorado we wondered around the stunning waterfall as Deer Creek plunges over the final cliff to the Colorado and met some other people as this is a popular spot for river rafting groups to take a break.

Thankfully the temperature was only a little warmer here as we now had an exposed bouldery, trackless walk alongside the Colorado River. We left the boating groups and started picking our way through boulders right down at river level, before using rock terraces to traverse under a ‘Tapeats’ cliff band to reach a small spit of sand. Resting here under a tamarisk we enjoyed a little breeze sweeping down the river and we debated the way ahead as we knew we needed to climb up steeply at some point to avoid being cliffed out. We noticed a few cairns just above the sand spit and climbed steeply up a scoop in the rock to reach a wide sloping terrace above which made for easier headway- and birds eye views down to the river.

We crossed a little gorge and Martina took water by scrambling down to a small pothole perched above a steep drop- one of our best water sources ever! Shortly after that we came across Siesta Spring which also had good water- and it was running. Onwards, we pass a cool jumbly conglomerate wall then drop back to the river at Cranberry Canyon. We decide to stop at the confluence of Fishtail Canyon and the Colorado River. A short stroll up Fishtail revealed some cool canyon walls and more clear water in large potholes. Also near our camp we saw some ‘scraping rocks’ which must have been used in the past to sharpen tools.

Monday 15th October 2018 The going along the river was slow, mostly through boulders with very occasional trail and some bushwhacking near the river. We make steady time though and take about 3.5 hours to cover the 4.5 miles to reach Kanab Canyon. The scenery was stunning with the shadows shifting as the sun rose through the morning and we enjoyed this cross country hike under the towering cliffs of the canyon. A few rafts pass us on the way and they helpfully ask us if we need anything or would like a lift down to Kanab Canyon! Brian was tempted but Martina resolutely wanted to keep hiking!

The water was flowing strongly out of Kanab and is a brown muddy colour- a sign that the recent storms are still having an effect. I (Brian) was concerned that we may not make it up the canyon as I had read that there are tricky deep pools to negotiate even at normal water levels. We knew we could expect the extra obstacles of high water levels, soft sand and mud and some storm debris of logs and branches.

A challenge can be good for us though(!) and we set off anyway and at a fast pace up the cobbly river banks with frequent muddy river crossings. Kanab is a beautiful canyon with unbelievably high limestone walls and constant twisting and turning. We passed under a sublime huge striated alcove with water dripping over the edge in a curtain from above. After about 2.5 hours we made it to the junction with ‘Whispering Falls’ canyon and its strong clear flow of water. This was to be our turn around point if things were too difficult, but we had no thoughts to that now and kept wading up canyon heading for a possible camp near a landmark tower at ‘Scotty’s Hollow’.

The going got tougher with a series of large dank muddy pools and car sized boulders to scrabble over and round. Each presented a test for us to work out how to get round them- wade deep pools, burrow under them through gaps or scramble up the canyon side? Surprisingly, we meet a large group of student age hikers coming down canyon- if they have made it thus far then we could relax in the knowledge that we should be able to make it up river.

Eventually we arrived at Scotty’s Hollow, a large side canyon from the west with clear running water and at a tight ‘u bend’ in the canyon overlooked by the lofty ‘Scotty’s Tower’. We found a good camp above the river (in case it floods again) but under a cave with loose looking rock unfortunately which made us a wee bit nervous lying underneath protected only by tent fabric. That was a 10 hour day of wet, silt, boulders, pebbles, scrapes and cuts but we both are feeling good if a bit tired. Interestingly for future planning, our pace up Kanab in these conditions was about the same as that boulder hopping along the Colorado River.

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Tuesday 16th October 2018 Survived the night with no rock fall! We headed up river, still wading the muddy stream and scrambling over huge boulders. Reaching another landmark that is Showerbath Spring, we admired it’s cool hanging ferns streaming with clear water. The going eased a bit from there for 2.5 hours before we hit the junction with ‘Jump Up’ canyon- our exit from Kanab Canyon and a chance for dry feet as it was bone dry! Resting here we watched some ubiquitous but always fascinating ravens soar alongside the canyon walls.

Jump Up was narrower and, with smaller canyon walls, provided quite a contrast. The limestone canyon provided lots of ammonite fossils in the pebbles as well as colourful red agates. These limestone canyons have quite a different feel to the sandstone canyons further east, such as the Escalante canyons, which have smoother sweeping walls of the Navajo and Wingate sandstones. Here the limestone is more broken, but equally colourful and full of variety as well as fossils.

As we climbed upcanyon it soon opened out and we split into another side canyon called Sowats- this had clear running water and was greener with cottonwoods now appearing.

The hiking was now mellower and we stopped to take water for overnight at the gushing ‘Mountain Sheep Spring’ and looked at some pictographs on a nearby wall. A cairned trail provided an easy exit out on the south side of the canyon and back onto the Esplanade terraces. We hunted around a bit for a good campsite away from the trail and on the sandstone slickrock before claiming a viewful spot perched on a rock ledge above a small overhanging rock.

Wednesday 17th October 2018 Great to see the return of the sun in the morning after a cloudy chilly day yesterday. We set out south on a clear path along the Esplanade to reach a clump of cottonwood trees marking our exit climb out of the Grand Canyon. It was cold as we climbed up the trail in the shade to the Jump Up Nail trailhead and we grabbed the chance to take a rest when the sun first hit us. Lots of fossils beside the path and expansive views back across the Esplanade to the other side of Kanab Canyon. At the trailhead we hit a dirt road for a few miles back on the rolling plateau and pinyon -juniper vegetation. To get back to the car we mostly cross countried southwards from here and luckily for us the going turned out to be easy and rather pleasant through open woodland crossing a few dry washes. We got hit by a couple of hail showers though which forced us to keep up a good pace to stay warm!

Back at the car, we didn’t hang around as snow started falling and we were keen to get through the initial jeep tracks before the snow started lying. It was a sprint but we made it back to the town of Kanab and the end of a fantastic mini-adventure!

More photos here

 

Hayduke other links

Mike Coronella Co-founder of the trail and co-author of the guidebook.

Hayduke website Co-founder of the Hayduke Joe Mitchell’s website.

Hayduke Trail guidebook If you are thinking of hiking the Hayduke then the book is a must…

Across Utah! Jamal David Green’s excellent and extensive website describing his crossings of Utah with lots of Hayduke overlap. Also includes a superb Hayduke section. A treasure trove of information- nice videos too!

Grand Enchantment Trail Brett Tucker has created many other backpacking adventures in the south west including the G.E.T, the Northern New Mexico Loop and the Sky Islands Traverse. Each has a mapset and planning pack-superb!

Andrew Skurka Hayduke map bundle and resources pack.

Nicolas C Barth Sublime Hayduke photos and well described alternates with maps.

Michael Kelsey’s guidebooks These are wonderful guidebooks covering a lifetime of adventure on the Colorado plateau. ‘Canyon Hiking Guide to the Colorado Plateau’ is a must for inspiration and researching alternates but the others are great too!

Edward Abbey Writer, environmental campaigner and inspiration behind the Hayduke Trail.

Grand Canyon permits You will need a permit for your Hayduke hike through Grand Canyon National Park…..

Slot canyons of the American south west Lots of information on hiking the canyons.

Arizona Trail The Hayduke makes use of this trail for around 60 miles in Northern Arizona. The AZT continues all the way south through the state of Arizona for 800 miles.

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Hayduke hiker links

These are some Hayduke trail accounts that we have come across, all of which make great reading. I have still to catch up the latest few…!

The Onion Garret Christensen Autumn 2020 Westbound Hiked in a (hopefully) unusual year with Covid-19 restrictions and at an incredibly dry time.

Endlesssummer Autumn 2019 Westbound

Bearlee Chronicles Spring 2018 Westbound

Kerrie and Ray- Thru we go Spring 2018 Westbound

Isaac Takes A Hike Autumn 2018 Westbound

Arlette Laan Spring 2017 Westbound Lovely photos and descriptions. Hiking with Prana and Haiku. Makes you want to get out there and hike!

Treehugger and Blisterfree Spring 2016  Westbound Two experienced desert hikers set out westbound March 31st from Arches NP and another excellent journal. Interesting comparison of Grand Enchantment Trail with Hayduke from the GET’s creator.

Carrot Quinn Spring 2016 Westbound From the author of ‘Thru Hiking will break your heart’ – Carrot and Dan’s 2016 hike.

Drop-n-roll Spring 2016 Westbound The two Kate’s hike in 2016 – including packrafts and a return to Moab by bike!

Katherine Cook Spring 2015 Westbound Superb account of a daring hike taking in many variations into wild terrain.

Erin Saver ‘Wired’ Spring 2015 Westbound Wired’s blog partly with Katherine and partly with Gavin. Another great trip account. Wired’s web site has lots of hiker info plus a link to a Hayduke introductory article written for Trail Magazine.

Niki and Tenny Autumn 2014 Westbound Nice blog and photos.

Lisa Curry and ‘KCop’ Autumn 2014 Westbound An enjoyable read of a recent hike on the trail in autumn 2014 with dog Shilo!

Spiderwoman and The Brawn Autumn 2014 Westbound Lots of detailed Hayduke tips in word document format.

Brian and Martina Spring 2014 Westbound This site! Our blog, photos and hiker tips including alternatives such as yellow rock and kayaking the Colorado from Moab to the Green River confluence.

Brian Tanzman ‘Buck30’ Spring 2013 Westbound Excellent account of his successful Hayduke hike with Skittles including detailed hiker advice.

Rich Larson ‘Skittles’ Spring 2013 Westbound Another excellent trail journal with Brian Tanzman.

Dirtmonger Spring 2013 Eastbound Part of a massive ‘Vagabond Trail’ hike including the Arizona, Hayduke and Grand Enchantment Trails.

Nicolas C Barth Autumn 2013 Westbound Sublime photos and alternates. Unlucky to be halted by a Grand Canyon park closure.

Pace and Whitefish Spring 2012 Westbound Nice trail journal from experienced hikers.

Cam Honan Spring 2012 Westbound Cam hiked westward on the Hayduke to the Grand Canyon south rim before continuing on the Arizona Trail and then the Grand Enchantment Trail to complete a ‘Southwestern Horseshoe’ route- sounds fun!

Ben Mayberry Spring 2011 Eastbound Part of a mega hike on the Arizona Trail, Hayduke, connection to the Continental Divide up to Canada to finish on the Great Divide Trail.

Sandra and Larry Taylor Spring 2011 Eastbound Great blog of a Arizona and Hayduke Trail journey plus more!

Pony Express Autumn 2009 Eastbound Enjoyable trail journal of Pony Express, Lindy and Sharon’s charity eastbound hike.

Andrew Skurka Spring 2009 Westbound Early February start. Andrew created a Hayduke map bundle and resource as a result.

Whiptail and Caron Spring 2009 Westbound Nice blog and paddled the Colorado for a few days from Moab.

Dave and Michelle Spring 2009 Westbound Their first long backpack and another great journal.

Ryan Choi Spring 2008 Westbound A classic! Ryan’s descriptive account with Ben Deumling and heap’s of detours.

Justin Lichter Spring 2008 Westbound ‘Trauma’ completed the first ever Pacific Crest Trail hike in winter 2014-15 with ‘Pepper’.

Shawn ‘Pepper’ Forry Spring 2008 Westbound With ‘Trauma’.

Mike Coronella Spring 2005 Westbound Co-originator of the trail and co-author of the guidebook with fantastic exploration. Lots of trail updates on the website.

Brian Frankle Autumn 2005 Eastbound
The first continuous Hayduke hike- and a great account too!

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Hayduke notes-South Rim to Zion

We started by crossing of the Grand Canyon from the South Rim to the North Rim via the Bright Angel and North Kaibab trails. Then we succumbed to the heat of the canyon bottom at the end of May and missed out the western part of the Hayduke’s Grand Canyon traverse and instead skipped forward to finish with a sweltering hot hike through Zion National Park.

Section 12|Bright Angel Trail We enjoyed the mix of hiking up to South Rim on the South Kaibab Trail and then descending back to the Colorado River via the Bright Angel Trail. We dropped from the rim at about 4.45am to get some early hiking in before the heat of the day hit us and that worked out well. I think we made it to Phantom Ranch in the canyon bottom by 8am or so. It was already blisteringly hot in the sun by then though (26th May).

Section 12|28.1 Ribbon Falls are an oasis in the heat of the North Kaibab Trail. Our afternoon was spent in the shade and dipping in the falls before we felt it was safe to head on to Cottonwood Campground.

Zion

Below the East Fork drop off (chimney on the right of the picture)

Section 14|54.2 East Fork Virgin River. There is a drop off here and we followed the climb up a gulley on the left bank about 50 feet before the drop off. Then turn right (downstream) before dropping down a chimney between huge boulders back down to river level. We had to hand packs down this stretch to get through but it was ok (see pic on right). More details from’Across Utah’ website

Section 14|54.9 Once you negotiate the drop off, you have about 0.7 miles to go before the exit out of the East Fork. There is a canyon coming in from the right as a marker at this point and the exit route is straight ahead- a vegetated steep corner. It is a bit of a scrabble up the corner with the easier line heading out right away from the corner- but if you have got this far it will be fine! There are some rock slabs at the top of the vegetation and then the odd cairn and trail heading north. ‘Across Utah’ website describes a better sounding alternate

Section 14|57.4 There was a good trail heading up the draw to the narrow saddle. This has now more use than described in the Hayduke guidebook from hikers returning back north to the road from canyon trips.

Section 14|58.7 Confirming Li’s map statement that there are many deep stagnant pools in the slickrock as you approach the road.

Section 14|65.6 Stave Spring. This was as good as dry when we passed by (2nd June) and it looked like it dries up in the heat of summer – but you only have another 4 miles to Weeping Wall and Zion Canyon!

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Hayduke notes-Arizona to South Rim

Arizona State Line to South Rim Grand Canyon
A hike through the high level forested Kaibab plateau then a drop down into the Grand Canyon and a superb journey along the Colorado River to our resupply by climbing to the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park.

Kaibab Plateau- This is quite forested with limited views but does allow quick miles. We enjoyed Jacob’s Lake with its bakery though and met some other hikers on the Arizona Trail heading northward which was nice as you are out on your own for much of the Hayduke!

Section 10|57.7 You can reach the North Rim lookout tower that Edward Abbey worked at for four seasons by following the AZT south from here just before the park boundary at mile 57.9. Its probably about half an hour hike one way to the tower. You can climb up but we couldn’t see a way into the lookout hut at the top.

Section 11|1.0 We camped here on the small plateau between the two Nankoweap Trailheads. It is dry but with great views and makes for a quick start down to the Colorado River in the morning.

Section 11|2.0 The Nankoweap Trail was easier than we had read about (at least when descending early in the morning as we did). I wonder whether the trail has been improved recently as it was pretty straightforward rough narrow trail all the way down- and of course very spectacular! The increase in temperature for us on the last of the descent to Nankoweap Canyon was formidable! We arrived at the canyon and its stream around mid-day on 20th May and measured a temperature in the high 30’s Celcius.

Section 11|7.8 Nankoweap Canyon had good flowing water and shady cottonwoods- lovely!

Section 11|10.6 Nankoweap Graneries are wonderful- it takes about half an hour to hike from the river. There are probably a few more use trails around here now than mapped as the rafting companies seem to stop here and climb up.

Section 11|19.2 Colorado River crossing. We waited a couple of hours before spotting a rafting company and they kindly gave us a lift across. There is a perfect little shady cave under the tapeats rock layers here to wait out for rafts just back from the beach and you can dip in the river here too. To be honest we could happily have sat in the shade all afternoon chilling out!

Section 11|21.0 As reported by Dave and Michelle in 2009 , there is a camp spot by the river about a mile on from the Little Colorado crossing. It is just at the ‘Y’ of Grand Canyon on the Skurka and Li maps and there is a small use trail down from the Beamer Trail to the river.
We too found the going tough in the Grand Canyon compared with the mapped mileages!

Section 11|37.5 The Escalante Trail is one wild trip and a highlight of the Grand Canyon for us! There is a good campsite at the mouth of Escalante Canyon with easy access to the Colorado and water.

The water sources are rather critical between Section 11|39.7, Red Canyon, and climbing up to the South Rim (or crossing the Colorado at Ghost Ranch). The trail heads up away from the river onto the Tonto benches which are arid, dry and super exposed to the sun.

Section 11|45.4 Hance Creek was flowing well (23rd May).

Section 12|1.0 Cottonwood Creek south was flowing – at least with a trickle. But enough for us to stop, camp nearby and fill up on water. Cottonwoods around here for shade too (as per the name!). We didn’t check the northern source as we passed by in the dark.

Section 12|6.6 Grapevine Creek. There was no water at the trail crossing but we split and searched for a while. Martina found a spring upstream and I found some dirty water in potholes in slickrock downstream.

Section 12|12.0 Boulder Creek. Dry, but we didn’t search upstream from the trail.

Section 12|14.9 Lonetree Creek. Yes- water in a ‘strong trickle’ and small pools. This was an important one for us (24th May)!

Section 12|17.7 Cremation Creek. No water here, not even close, it looked bone dry.

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Next Hayduke notes – South Rim to Zion