Thunder Creek to Deer Creek and Thunder Falls

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Grand Canyon National Park

Thunder Creek to Deer Creek and Thunder Falls is a 29 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Grand Canyon, Arizona that features a waterfall and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from May until October.

Length29.0 miElevation gain7,263 ftRoute typeLoop
BackpackingCampingHikingNature tripsBird watchingRunningRiverViewsWaterfallWildlifeRockyScrambleFeeNo dogs
Description
Waypoints (0)

Grand Canyon National Park charges a fee to enter. Fees are $35 per vehicle or $30 per motorcycle. If you are entering on foot or bike the fee is $20 per person. You can also purchase a park specific annual pass for $70. This is an excellent route ranging from the trackless beaches of the Colorado River to a good trail segment high above Granite Narrows, connects the Tapeats Creek and Deer Creek Trails, allowing backpackers the opportunity to trace a superb loop trip.

Weather
UV Index
Daylight
Reviews (24)
Photos (197)
Recordings (20)
Completed (54)
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Thomas gonzales
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarNovember 13, 2020
BackpackingGreat!RockyScramble

It was very challenging but very beautiful scenery recommended for experienced hikers and people who now the Grand Canyon very well I plan on doing it again soon do recommend.

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Andrew Mackles
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarNovember 2, 2020
HikingGreat!No shadeOff trailRockyScramble

Great hike, sometimes grueling, but wonderful throughout. Four nights out provides a great pace, could even see doing in five to explore some of the side canyons. Here’s some thoughts and advice for anyone considering and/or preparing: Day 1 - Bill Hall to Upper Tapeats (~7 hours not including breaks): Mostly downhill, decent footing. The first cliff area was OK, lots of handholds and steady rock. If this is too intimidating, would recommend turning around since much harder challenges later on the loop. Esplanade is beautiful, easy hiking, though keep close track of the cairns. The descent from Esplanade into Surprise Valley was challenging, lots of loose footing, very steep. We spent a fair amount of time around Thunder Falls, you can almost climb to the cave opening without any technical gear. Water was delicious to drink flavored with all the wild watercress. Finished the descent into Upper Tapeats for the night. Easy access to water and a pit toilet. Day 2 - Upper Tapeats to Lower Tapeats (~3 hours): Two trails on either side of the river to Lower Tapeats. We chose the left side (going downriver) because it was more direct and frankly we could find the right side ;-). It starts with an immediate river crossing right at the campground. For our crossing, water was thigh-deep so poles were definitely useful and water shoes helpful. Next up is a mostly flat trail along the river, beautiful cactus gardens, easy to follow, one cliff that required attention. Another river crossing (not as deep as the first), then a “two-boot wide” trail that has good footing carved into the cliff with finally very steep loose rock descent to the Colorado. Arriving around 1p, we set up camp and used the afternoon for swimming, bathing, napping. Incredible rock gardens, abundant sand, river sounds, SHADE! Lots of rafting groups but they did offer beer ;-) Talking with some other folks, we were glad to have descended on the left-side trail and the right-side was more typical up-and-over without being close to the river. Day 3 - Lower Tapeats to Deer Creek (~4 hours): After debating high path or low path, so after talking with Ranger Matt (who actually did both trails), we opted for the low path, but ended up missing the split and accidentally took the high path. Hike starts off along the river with many swimming opportunities, then ascends and descends into Deer Creek. Good footing throughout, only a few difficult areas on par with previous difficult areas. At Deer Creek, there’s a few campsites at the trail intersection, however, we opted to head upriver to some more private sites (and another pit toilet) with fabulous views. We used the afternoon to explore the slot canyon and to hike down to the waterfall. Enter the slot canyon on the right side (going downriver), however go up and around the very slippery rock (one of us fell about 10 feet) at the canyon entrance. There’s a few tricky spots through the slot canyon but no packs made them much easier. Trail down to the waterfall is very steep but you’ll be rewarded at the bottom with great bathing and swimming options. Without packs, the steep ascent was faster and easier than going down. Look carefully as there are petroglyphs in the slot canyon. Day 4 - Deer Creek to Esplanade (~5 hours): After much debate we decided to split the ascent out of the canyon into two days, and to start our ascent around 2p to avoid heat/exposure but give us enough time to get up toe the Esplanade. Finding the trail to Surprise Valley was challenging but it’s essentially a few hundred yards upstream and when you get to the big boulder, look behind you and across the stream and you’ll see the crossing. If you climb over the boulder, you’ve gone too far. Ascent was tiring with some loose rock in many places. We were very glad to have lighter packs and made camp as soon as we reached the Esplanade about 30 minutes before sunset. Day 5 - Esplanade to Bill Hall trailhead (~4 hours): Beautiful walk along the Esplanade followed by ascent to the trailhead. Moderately easier than ascent out of Deer Creek and Surprise Valley. The one cliff area seemed easy compared to other parts of the trail. Back at the trailhead, dropped our packs and spent a long while looking back into the canyon. Tips It was a good decision to split the ascent into two days and leaving in the mid-afternoon was a good decision to avoid heat and exposure. Plus the esplanade is incredibly beautiful at sunset. We should have cached water on the Esplanade. We each had five liters for the ascent, but that made our packs much heavier then they needed to be if we had cached water. It had rained four days prior and there were still enough water pools on the Esplanade we could have used, but that seems risky. It was a good decision to bring lightweight water shoes. It makes the crossings easier, but there’s just so much water having the shoes was worth the extra weight. It was a good decision to spend four nights out,...

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Ashley Adams
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarOctober 27, 2020
Hiking
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Ashley Adams
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarOctober 27, 2020
Hiking
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Ashley Adams
Yellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarOctober 25, 2020
Hiking
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Don Risser
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 4, 2020
BackpackingNo shadeRockyScramble

This is truly an epic hike. However, no good reviews on what to expect. So here’s some very sound advice if you plan on tackling this trail. 1. It is extremely challenging. Loose rock all the way. Kills the feet. Sometimes you’re walking on very narrow ledges with loose rock. You will have to use hands and feet to climb at the white wall and trekking poles often for balance . I did it in three days and probably should have done it in five. Would recommend first night at esplanade, second at either deer creek or upper tapeats (your choice on direction), a third night opposite second, and a fourth at either the esplanade or surprise valley. You will enjoy it more and your feet will thank you. 2. WATER! Plan on taking no less than 6L on you and caching another gallon either above the red rock climb out or around the esplanades. You’ll need it. 3. It can be a challenge to navigate at times. Pay very close attention to the cairns or even just boot prints. Sometimes that’s all you have. 4. Shout out to Matt and Dianna! My heroes in more ways than one. Not only did they bail me out with water, encourage me throughout the last six miles, They crushed the whole trail in two days. Veteran ranger told them it wasn’t possible and he’s never seen it done. Go Captain America :-) Last tip: If you are comfortable navigating in the dark then do most of your hiking after 4pm. The sun is killer with very limited shade. Just be very careful of the snakes. They seem to like sleeping on the trails at night.

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Matt Kottman
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 3, 2020
HikingNo shadeRockyScramble

This trail is a test on your endurance. I have hiked several GC trails, and so I thought I knew what we were in for. Typically, I do about 3.5mph on flat or declines in the GC, and about 1.5mph going uphill. But this trail was no usual trail. I was just as slow going down as up (avg 1mph). The trail is steep in areas with very loose rock. Other areas you are basically rock hopping, and keeping your eyes out for cairns (finding these in the dark is a no bueno). There is also minimal shade on the entire trail. Expect to have the sun on you 95% of the time, so if you go when it is 90+ at the bottom, you will feel it. If you're not familiar with GC hiking, there is usually about a 20-25 degree F differential from top to bottom. If it's a comfortable 70F at top, it will be 90+F on bottom. Also, the rocks as the day rolls on radiate the heat, so even in the cool of the day, it is often not as cool due to the sauna rocks. Deer and Tapeats creeks, and Thunder River (and even the Colorado) provide ample water, but unless there is a monsoon or snow run off, once you ascend out into Surprise Valley, there is no water above those sources! We cached 4 liters for 2 people (which turned out to be for 3 people... hi Don, glad you could be our travelling buddy!) on the Esplanade. The views are fabulous and expansive. The water is wonderful down below, both for drinking (I always filter) and splashing around. If you take enough days to do this hike, it will maximize your enjoyment. My wife and I are in excellent shape and did it in 2 days (because of personal time constraints) and it tested us! If you are prepared for the difficulty of the trail, it's an amazing trip, 5 stars. If you're not prepared, 1 star.

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Julia Roland
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarSeptember 18, 2020
BackpackingNo shadeRockyScramble

The hike had some beautiful views but definitely harder than expected. The trail is also hard to find sometimes, making the difficult trail even harder. But still a great experience!!

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Alexandra Evans
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJune 1, 2020
BackpackingFeeNo shadeRockyScrambleWashed out
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Emily Scruggs
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 1, 2019
HikingRockyScramble

We hiked this amazing trail over four days, camping in Surprise Valley, at Lower Tapeats, and on the Esplanade. The descent from the trailhead is steep and rocky. Another steep, rocky descent follows after Surprise Valley towards Deer Creek. I found the rocky descents, with lots of loose rocks, to be harder than the climb out of the canyon. There are also a number of water crossings. I trained for several months to do this hike and found it hard but doable. The experience was epic and gave me an appreciation for how vast and deep the canyon is, a perspective you can’t get from the rim. We saw a few hikers along the way but were mainly alone. If you’re fit and up to the challenge... do this hike and you will never regret it.

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Ashley Lucero
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJune 5, 2019
Hiking

This trail is wonderful and leads to a beautiful creek called Deer creek. I only went from the Bill Hall trailhead to deer creek because my partner and I had a late start and got off track for a bit and had to wait out the sun. I would definitely do it again but it should be rated hard because it went on for quite a while and we didn’t even finish the whole hike!

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Enid Tillett
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJanuary 12, 2019

I have a question... do I have to get any special permission to hike this trail? Do I hv to buy any permit or contact any special tour?

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Blake Emerson
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarDecember 18, 2017

Amazing views.

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