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#199961 - 12/22/17 02:36 PM Grand Canyon April 2018
41253 Offline

Registered: 12/28/14
Posts: 93
After going twice last year I thought it would be a while before returning, but we just can't stay away. Here's the plan:

Fly into Las Vegas.

Spend two nights in a hotel just outside Bryce Canyon NP (day hiking trail ideas welcome).

Spend one night on the South Rim.

Drive to the Visitor Center and catch the first shuttle to the South Kaibab trail head. I figured out last time that it's much much more convenient to leave the car at the Visitor Center than in Grand Canyon Village: the buses are more frequent and the ride is much shorter. The plan is to grab a site at CBG, hang most of our stuff, have some lemonade and ice cream wink at Phantom Ranch, and head up towards Ribbon Falls or until we decide to turn around. We'll probably eat an early dinner on the trail rather than at the campground.

I'd really like to go up Phantom Creek just to see how far I can get from the bottom up and then see how close I can approach that same point from the top down in a few days. I'm afraid April would be a bad time for a trip up Phantom Creek, though. I was there this past July and although the air was well over 100 degrees the water was very cold. I stopped at the cascading pools after a mandatory swim (there's no way to walk around I could find) that was really pleasant in July but probably not a good idea in April.

The next morning we'll head up the Kamikaze route to Utah Flats and spend the night up towards the Hippy Camp.
The next day will just be wandering and exploring and we'll spend our second AP9-permitted night either at the Overhang Camp or maybe up on the Flats.

The next day will be a little long: we have a site at Horn Creek. I want to try to break off the Bright Angel Trail at the top of Devils Corkscrew to follow a section of the old Bright Angel Trail, within sight of the old phone lines, until it intersects the Tonto. I did this section of trail from the top down on a day hike from Indian Gardens in July in hopes of seeing some ruins but never found them. I've since done a little more research and want to try again. The plan is to spend a little time relaxing on Plateau Point, maybe having dinner there. I'd like to be there for sunset but am not sure how the two-mile hike to Horn Creek would be in the dark (ideas?).

The next morning we hike out and spend the night either on the South Rim (no reservations yet, watching the site for an opening) or somewhere on the way back to Las Vegas.

Any ideas or suggestions welcome. I'm especially interested in finding Native American ruins, my record so far has been pretty dismal in that regard.

Edited by 41253 (12/22/17 10:56 PM)

#199964 - 12/23/17 12:02 AM Re: Grand Canyon April 2018 [Re: 41253]
William Offline

Registered: 09/21/04
Posts: 27
At one time or another I've found dry bypasses in Phantom Canyon for all the deep pools that you can't just wade through. Of course when there's been heavy spring & monsoon season there are lots of changes in the depth of the pools and the boulder configuration in and around them so YMMV.

From the bottom the first barrier that stops most people is the water chute that looks like you have to swim through and then climb it; but you can make your way around to the left. Don't climb too high; go upstream and back towards the creek as soon as you can. Towards the end you're on very smooth slippery rock sloping sharply down to the creek just above the chute; either control-slide down into it and get your feet wet or cling on like a fly and make your way across the last 20-30 yards to dry footing.

Quite aways further after an easy bypass or two, there's a real overlander to the left, long and rough climbing high; maybe not worth it. Then three/four fairly straightforward ones. Finally about 1/4 mile below the barrier falls there's the standard long bypass on the right up to basically the Cattle Route and then down near the top of the Falls; cairned from the top down. Alternatively, sometimes people will leave a rigged climbing rope at the Falls though the Rangers take them down as soon as they patrol. I don't have the upper body strength to do a straight climb up the face but if it's long enough to swing over to the right there's a crack that is a pretty easy short climb with the rope for confidence and substituting for a couple of missing holds.

The water in BA Creek may be too high/swift to cross in April. With rope and technique you can ALWAYS get across but it may not be fun. Check that out from the bottom before you do your trip down Phantom Creek and find yourself stranded on the other side. Frankly the Lower Creek isn't all that pleasant until June not just because the water itself is very cold but the frequent narrows get little sun. It's chilly, particularly if you've gotten wet and there's wind howling through the slots.

You may find water in the lower area of the Flats maybe 1/4-/1/2 mile up from the Alley, in the drainage you have wanted to get out of for easier walking. Either stay in the drainage or keep looking down over the edge at the likely pooling spots. Having a water resupply there can really change the nature of a hike as you can wander around for miles and have water to get back to, and though the sun may be bright the temps are usually such in April that it's not oppressive being out in the open like that. In late May & on you'd fry.

In any case, enjoy!

#199969 - 12/23/17 04:32 PM Re: Grand Canyon April 2018 [Re: William]
41253 Offline

Registered: 12/28/14
Posts: 93
Thanks, William, that's great information. If what you're calling the water chute is the same thing as what I was calling the cascading pools then it looks as though I can make it down there from Overhang Camp on a day hike and turn around at that point. We'll have to see how the "real overlander to the left, long and rough climbing high; maybe not worth it" looks. We don't plan to hike much through Phantom Canyon with full packs.

I'm spending way too much time trying to figure it all out using Google Earth and Maps, but the shadows hide the interesting bits. The steep walls and shadows are one of the things that make that place so interesting.

#200858 - 04/26/18 10:39 PM Re: Grand Canyon April 2018 [Re: 41253]
41253 Offline

Registered: 12/28/14
Posts: 93
Wow what a trip! First of all, thanks to William in this thread and arizona_water from instagram and hikearizona. Their information on Phantom Canyon helped us have an amazing journey down the creek.

My son, daughter, and I spent four nights below the rim in mid-April. We'd come in via Las Vegas a few days earlier and done some day-hiking in Bryce Canyon. We scored a 6:30 PM reservation at the Tover (I'd had no luck securing anything reasonable by email weeks before) and enjoyed a fine last civilized meal and then a listened to a talented folk singer for quite a while in the El Tover lobby afterwards (Drew Williams).

We took it easy the first day with an 8 AM start and a site at Bright Angel Campground. The last time the three of us had camped together was in the Ouachitas about 20 years ago so this was quite different. For one thing, I didn't have to carry anyone even once!

After getting settled at the campsite we talked to a ranger there about our plans for the next few days and he and another ranger gave us some pointers. Then we wandered as far north as the box and on the way back I split off at the Clear Creek Trail for maybe a mile, just past the first river views and the beginning of the crescent sweep below the Tonto level. For some reason I love that area, maybe because it's so recognizable from the south rim Village. I got back to Phantom Ranch just in time to meet the kids for a ranger talk on geology and then we went to the river to chill for a while. We had our traditional first-night steak, cooked over a stove this time instead of a wood fire. It still tasted pretty good. We headed to the canteen when they opened and ended up shutting them down at 10 PM.

In the morning we headed up Utah Flats. I'd been part-way up the hill before to just before the 15-foot cliff. The path is looser than I care for but the exposure isn't so bad except for the cliff bypass. I think if I do it again I'll climb the cliff instead of taking the bypass to the right and pull my pack up with a rope. After that we took a break at a cool, sheltered spot and then had a blast climbing over big rocks in Piano Alley. It was like being in one of those obstacle parks. A path was well-cairned but I'm sure that there are many ways through and it's impossible to get lost. As we came out of the red slick rock wash at the top the path was less clear. I was glad I'd printed out the guide at:

Before proceeding after we lost the cairns I climbed the hill to the north of the wash and confirmed that pretty much every direction except the one we'd settled on was a dead end. I was glad for the mild weather and that we had good directions and plenty of water, it would be a touch place to be in the heat. The rest of the way was as cactus-covered as advertised, making me question my Merrill Trail Glove shoe choice. Those shoes were just the thing, though, for the slippy path we'd just come from and even better for the wet rock hopping trip down Phantom Creek a few days later. The rest of the way to the Phantom Creek waterfall was hard but not complicated: there are a few more steep ups and downs than we'd hoped for but the trail is easy to follow once you get close to Cheops. Towards the end the path gets very steep and loose on the climb down starting at Isis's SE arm. It's sort of like log-rolling except on bowling balls instead of logs and with a much less forgiving substrate. We were glad to finally make it to the beautiful site just above the barrier falls.

We settled in at the first site just after the descent and kept that site for both nights. I wandered up as far as the Overhang Camp and the merging of Phantom and Haunted Creeks but we didn't see any reason to move our camp upstream. Dinner on the second night was my daughter's pasta recipe with real cheese and on the third night was re-hydrated Fanny Farmer Chile con Carne that I'd made and dried for the trip a few weeks before.

In the morning after the second night we packed up and headed down stream. The rope down the barrier waterfall seemed scary at first but was less so after I went first and realized that even before any hand-over-hand climbing my feet were only a few feet off the ground. It just feels strange at first. From then on the trip was fun and wet. There were a number of mandatory swims and a few water slides. I even had to go back and do one of the slides a second time. Our packs got measurably heavier along the way as our spare clothing picked up water. At least our sleeping bags were well-protected. We emerged at the North Kaibab about 3 or 4 hours after starting and dried out at Phantom Ranch over some lemonade. On the way back down the corridor trail we realized that we hadn't seen another soul in two days. I meant to ask a ranger if anyone else had permits for our section but never got around to it.

We started up the Bright Angel Trail in the mid-afternoon, spent some time at the Garden Creek Ruins, and spent our last night at Indian Gardens. There was talked for a while with Ranger Della, who told us that she has hiked UP Phantom Creek to past the barrier waterfall! There were several spots that seemed pretty one-way to us, so she must be a good swimmer and/or climber. The last night was very windy so we were glad to have a place with some blocking shelter.

All in all it was a great trip. We got lucky with the weather: lows in the 40s and highs in the 60s with low wind until the last day. I wouldn't want to take on Utah flats in anything but ideal weather, certainly not in the sort of gusty wind we had that last day. The highlight of the trip was definitely the lower Phantom Creek trek: there's something about the narrow canyon and winding cliffs that make that place really interesting and fun.

#200870 - 04/29/18 02:41 PM Re: Grand Canyon April 2018 [Re: 41253]
41253 Offline

Registered: 12/28/14
Posts: 93
I posted some pictures to

#201095 - 06/04/18 04:19 PM Re: Grand Canyon April 2018 [Re: 41253]
troutstalker Offline

Registered: 06/02/18
Posts: 38
Loc: CO
Looks like a very nice trip and thanks for sharing.


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