Secluded Tonto PlateauTranscanyon Grand Canyon Backpacking

Transcanyon Adventure — Introduction to the Grand Canyon

The Trip

Hike for a day on the cool alpine trails of the North Rim. The Uncle Jim Trail which leads to an overlook of the North Kaibab is my favorite day hike. Then walk down the North Kaibab Trail to Cottonwood. Enjoy Ribbon Falls on your way to camp at Bright Angel Creek. See Phantom Creek or the hike 1.5 miles up the Clear Creek Trail to the North Tonto Plateau. After enjoying Bright Angel Creek, Phantom Ranch, and the River, hike up the Bright Angel Trail, an improved Indian trail that follows Bright Angel Fault in the Garden Creek and Pipe Creek drainages. For your last night camp at Indian Gardens where you can will enjoy the views from Plateau Point and play in Garden Creek. This trip is seven hiking days, two layover days with daily mileage ranging from 5.0 to 8.0 miles and elevation changes of up to 4800 feet. For the Grand Canyon, it is a Moderate trip.

Contact: gksprinkle (at) canyoncalls (dot) com for more information on this and other Grand Canyon trips.

Specific Route and Daily Trip Plans I Recommend

The best way to start your trip is to take the 1 p.m. TransCanyon Shuttle from the Bright Angel Lodge on the South rim to the Campground at the North Rim. Hikers who are without cars can camp in the Walk-In campsites for $4 a night [2002 prices, check with 1-800-365-CAMP for updated prices]. Your trip ends seven days latter on the South Rim. Eat on your hike up or leave early and have lunch in the Historic Bright Angel Lodge.

Camping space can be arranged on the South Rim the night before if you wish to arrive the day before your trip begins. This trip uses the following 7.5' topographic maps: Bright Angel Point; Grand Canyon Quadrangle; and Phantom Ranch. A Trails Illustrated plastic waterproof and tearproof map of the area is available at many camping stores and at the Canyon.

Please click on Thumbnails to see a larger image.

Reservation]Day One: Meet in the Lobby of the Bright Angel Lodge at 1 p.m. for your trip by Transcanyon shuttle to the North Rim. The shuttle travels along the east edge of the South Rim and through the Navajo Reservation, the painted desert, and alongside the Vermilion and Echo Cliffs. You cross the bridge over Lee’s Ferry and then ascend into the Ponderosa-Aspen forests that surround the North Rim. You arrive at the North Rim Campground at 6 p.m. to set up camp and make supper. You will arrive after dark from September through October.

Rim]Day Two: After breakfast you have the choice of hiking 5 miles on the Uncle Jim’s Trail around the rim. This will gives you spectacular views of the North Rim of the Canyon and your trail to Cottonwood. There will be some elevation change, but you will have an opportunity to adjust to the altitude and see what your hike down will be like. You can also hike the 5 mile Widfross trail [10 mile round trip] and view Transcept Canyon a Canyon hiddent from your view on the trail. Then spend some time enjoying the rim, buying souvenirs and any last minute supplies, and preparing for your hike to the bottom.


across North Kaibab]Day Three: Between May 15 and August 31, you are well advised to get up early to begin your hike down the North Kaibab at first light — about 4:45 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. You really want the earliest start possible to avoid the heat. Most people are completely shocked by how hot the Canyon is. Always walk as a group if you are with others. Itís much better to stay together than wonder if other members of your group are in trouble. Hike at a slow pace until your muscles are warm. It’s easy to rush down the canyon and then find problems with sore knees, toes, and calf muscles. Expect to arrive at Cottonwood at noon or a little before then. You are traveling approximately 7 miles with an elevation change of 4300 feet. Set up camp, eat lunch, and rest before playing in Bright Angel creek or doing an additional day hike Ribbon Falls. You can save Ribbon Falls for the next day if you are staying another day at Cottonwood. There are many beautiful and secluded routes around the campground. Just ask a ranger in the Backcountry Office at either the North or South Rim.

Falls]Day Four: If you plan a layover day at Cottonwood, you will have an opportunity to do a day hike to such areas as Ribbon Falls, Upper Ribbon Falls, or back up to Roaring Springs. Your elevation change varies depending upon the trip from 800 feet to 1300. You will have the opportunity to splash in Bright Angel or Ribbon Creek. You can duck under the mineral caves formed by the water of Ribbon Falls or climb over rocks in the Upper Ribbon area. There are also some great photo shoots in the canyon at these spots.


[Bright Angel Creek by Cottonwood]Day Five: Hike from Cottonwood through a wide valley, about 3 miles, then into the narrow Canyon often referred to as “The Box,” about 3 miles, to your campsite at Bright Angel Creek near the Colorado River. You will walk beside and sometimes in Bright Angel Creek. Your approximately 7 mile trip has an elevation change of almost 1800 feet. While the scenery is gorgeous, “The Box” can be incredibly hot even in the Fall. For that reason plan on leaving Cottonwood no later than 7 a.m. to arrive at your camp close to noon. Spend the rest of the day splashing in Bright Angel Creek, hiking the 1.5 mile River Trail at sunset, writing postcards at the Phantom Ranch Canteen, and listening to talks by Rangers on the ecology, geology, and history of the Canyon.

Creek at Bright Angel Creek] Day Six: Your layover day at Bright Angel Campground. If the weather is good a day hike directly in Phantom Creek is a fabulous hike during the summer months. The hike is DANGEROUS if there is rain anywhere in the Phantom Creek Drainage area. If there are clouds anywhere, be sure and ask the Rangers before hiking this incredible slot canyon. The second largest drainage into Bright Angel Creek, Phantom Creek is a narrow, steep canyon with beautiful waterfalls, deep still pools, and incredible scenery. You hike directly in the creek bed itself. You will have an elevation change of approximately 1000 feet and go through 3 to 5 pools of water about 5 feet deep. Plan to leave Bright Angel Campground around 9 a.m. and expect to return around 3 p.m. On your return through “The Box,” you may find a deep pool to cool off in Bright Angel Creek just half a mile from where Phantom Creek intersects the Creek.


[Bright Angel
Creek from River Loop]For those who are looking for a more relaxing day, you can hike 1 mile along the Clear Creek Trail to the Phantom Ranch overlook or do the 1.5 mile River Trail. These treks are also available after dinner for those who want to get in more hiking.


[Devil's Corkscrew]Day Seven: If you have any nonessential gear and realize, too late, that you have carried much more than you need into the Canyon, you can sometimes get a mule duffel before your hike of 5 miles to Indian Gardens on the Bright Angel Trail ascending 1300 feet. Plan to leave no later than 7:00 a.m., earlier in summer monthsk, to ensure you hike the Devil’s Corkscrew in shade. Expected arrival at Indian Gardens is between 11:00 a.m. and 1 p.m. Set up camp and explore Indian Gardens. This area includes tree shaded areas and Garden Creek. One mile below Indian Gardens is a small path leading to Garden Creek and a deep pool for swimming. You can stop on the way up or take a day pack and go back down to enjoy the creek. Just beyond this point, the trail goes through the Tapeats Narrows — a cool and shady spot most of the day.


[Bright Angel from Plateau Point] Late afternoon trips to Plateau Point provides you with spectacular views of the river and Pipe Creek. This trail is the flattest trail in the canyon, but the entire 1.5 miles is in direct sun so it must be done late in the day or very early in the morning.

[Top of
the Bright Angel Trail] Day Eight: Hike 4.5 miles and ascend 3600 feet to the top of the South Rim on the Bright Angel Trail. This is about a 4-5 hour hike depending upon your aerobic ability and the heat. Plan to start no later than 6:30 a.m. This ensures that you miss some of the mule trains and that you hike in shade most of the trail as well as help you if you have a plane reservations that day. Expected arrival at the Bright Angel Trailhead is between 11 a.m. and one. You will get any gear you sent up and showers are available at camper services. You can leave immediately or stay that evening in the campground or at one of the lodges.

Special Considerations

On this trip you hike in creeks and around creek boulders as well as directly in creek beds with pools up to five feet deep. Good shoes such as old hiking boots that can get wet or some kind of water shoes are strongly advised for hiking in creeks since you do some scrabbling over rocks. Sandals will leave your feet too vulnerable. Be sure and bring some zip lock bags or other closable plastic bags that can fit inside your day pack for your lunch and other gear you want dry. Some days you may get up and prepare for your hike in the dark. I strongly recommend that you bring a head lamp and extra batteries. Also most people find that a walking stick greatly helps them hike in the canyon.

Last Updated November 27, 2003
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