DISTANCE
12.2 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
4,366 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

backpacking

camping

hiking

nature trips

trail running

beach

river

views

rocky

scramble

snow

no dogs

backpacking
6 months ago

This is a breathtaking way to experience the Canyon and miss all the crowds, but you're going to have to work for it. A wisely operated high-clearance, two-wheel drive vehicle can make access to the trailhead. Plan on spending two hours + or - 30 minutes on the dirt road heading out and back. Six hours down and seven to eight coming out are reasonable time estimates for fit, experienced backpackers with base pack weights of less than 20 lbs without water. As noted elsewhere, cache water on the Esplenade, (Immediately before dropping down toward Bass Canyon is a great place.) One gallon per person will get you back to the trailhead in hot conditions. We did this hike with daytime highs on the river of 100 degrees and are Phoenix heat-acclimated. I would NOT recommend doing this hike in 80+ degree river temps if you are not used to hiking all day in the heat, as you will find no shade during most of the day. When you get first sight of the river on the way down, start looking for an old fireplace ruin on the left side of the trail. When you reach it, turn right and drop steeply down to the river. There are several beach sites to choose from for camping. Mind the ants and the cold water, and guy out your tent to keep it from blowing into the river. 5 AM is a fine time to start heading back out if you're expecting heat. The last two hours of the hike in are the hardest of this trip. If you can make it down, you can make it out. The load on your feet and legs will feel different going uphill compared to down. Trekking poles and a light-as-you-can make it pack are a must. A practical trip plan might be to drive in and hike down to the Esplanade on the first day, hike to and camp at the river on the second day, then hike out and drive home or camp at the trailhead on the third day. Breaking up the descent would take a lot of stress off of your knees and eliminate any question of ability to make it to the river in one day. For reference: We're in our mid-40's, are reasonably fit and have a lot of backcountry experience. This hike is not for unguided beginners.