Forum Index » Post-Trip Reports » Escalante Route: Grand Canyon, Arizona (Apr. 24-28, 2011)


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Scott Truong
(elf773)

Locale: Vancouver, BC
Escalante Route: Grand Canyon, Arizona (Apr. 24-28, 2011) on 05/06/2011 02:24:59 MDT Print View

I just love it when things work out. I couldn't have asked for better weather. My first real backpacking trek in the Grand Canyon, and desert/Southwest US in general, went smooth as butter.

Being a lazy planner, I basically followed the itinerary found in Backpacker Magazine's #2 "Best of" Hike . And as promised, there was indeed lots of solitude, views, and the full "Grand Canyon experience". It really did feel like we had the whole canyon to ourselves.

I tried my best to give a good photo representation of the Escalante Route going from east to west (what the trail/campsites looked like etc). That is, leaving my car and starting at Lipan Point and coming out at Grandview Point. Both spots have overnight parking and can be found along Desert View Highway on the South Rim of the GC. Hitching back to your car was not a problem as there are lots of people up at Grandview.

I think going westward was the way to go. It seemed to be a lot more work going in the other direction. I tried to keep out of the photos, but it didn't always work out that way.

I personally wouldn't say it was a walk in the park, my legs were certainly tired and some days were very very long (especially my last day hiking out on the Grandview). Anyone who peruses this site should have no problems with it. The trail is pretty obvious, and where it is tricky to follow (rocky/boulder parts by the river), one just has to look for the cairns or use common sense/logic.

I'd also make sure my footwear was totally 100% dialed in. It sure felt longer than 33 miles.

Here are some photos. Enjoy.



4500 ft descent along the Tanner Trail, from the rim/Lipan Point where we left the car, to Tanner Beach where we'll camp and join the Escalante Route. After about 3-4 hours, with about 1000 ft to go, it opens up here and gets real pretty. Descending sucks. Nice for the lungs, but killed my legs. Redundant photos, but I liked these the best. Nice light at 4 pm.


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Tanner Beach/Rapids campsite. The next morning around 8 am. Looks like it's going to be a nice day. If you can push through another 2-3 easy hours the first day, you can bypass this site, which isn't bad but the campsite at Cardenas Gardens is much nicer. Sorry for subjecting you to the skinny fat guy shot.

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Heading out to Cardenas Gardens campsite. It looks like it's going to be an easy 3-4 hour second day/hike.

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I thought Cardenas Gardens was much nicer than Tanner Beach to set up camp. The river is 100 yards away with a nice beach. You CAN swim (well more like dunk) in the river. Cold and fast but doable. Very pleasant site. We had the whole place to ourselves.

After this point though, it's 3-4 hard hours of hiking and no water until you reach Escalante Creek. Then going through 75 mile Canyon and then a very rocky and somewhat sketchy stretch (the part with the cliff climb and scree scramble..see later photos) until you reach camp at Red Canyon. Very fun scrambling. I thought it was a good idea to camp at Cardenas Garden. I believe you can camp near Neville Rapids (around Escalante Creek), which could be an option for some.

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Heading west to Red Canyon, our next campsite. We'll be leaving the river for a while and heading inland. No water until Escalante Creek. Around 9-10 am when this picture was taken.


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I believe this is the bed of Escalante Creek (which is normally dry). It leads to the river.

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The top of the slot canyon at 75 mile Canyon. You walk along the top and then scramble down into and walk back through the Canyon to re-join the trail near the river (stay close to river, look for cairns).

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You climb down the part just behind me. It's pretty obvious and not sketchy at all if not wet.

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Out of the 75 mile Canyon, taking a breather. Boulder hoping, following trail along river to the cliff. Easy climb, just don't fall. For some reason I have no pics of it. I guess I was too busy worrying I wouldn't get stuck somewhere. And I think we ran into a rattler... something rattled, kinda freaked me out.

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The end of the scree/talus slope. The part before this did look kinda sketchy. It wasn't a problem, but I did take my time.

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Red Canyon. Very nice campsites. The trail out of here was a pain to find.
Go to the end of the beach (pretty obvious because then there are huge boulders) and follow the first large cairn you see going straight up through the boulders.

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About an hour or two on trail, out of Red Canyon heading towards Hance Creek. Pictures don't really do this part justice. You're very high up walking along these narrow ledges. Great section.

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Our campsite right by the creek at Hance Creek. It was nice to be near water. We rolled into camp early enough to kick back, hide from the sun and enjoy the afternoon. We camped at Hance Creek because it was the last campsite with water before a very long and steep uphill. Nice site along creek.

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This picture is of the trail up towards Horseshoe Mesa from Hance Creek (taken just past Page Spring). It's steep, rocky and narrow. Just off this trail is Page Spring (there's a sign).

When hiking out of Hance Creek, about a mile or so out, you want to take the high trail to the left. I think the one that goes around to the right (level trail) is the one that takes you to Cottonwood Creek (Tonto???). There are no signs.

Page Spring is the LAST place for water for a very long time until you're finished. The water was awesome. Very tasty, and Page Spring is a virtual oasis, shaded, cool etc. It's about another hour of very steep hiking to Horsehoe Mesa and 3-4 hours along the Grandview trail to the top of the rim/parking lot.

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Horseshoe Mesa. The Cave of Domes is along the main trail, past the cookhouse along the bottom of the butte in the (left side) photo about half a mile. The trail to the cave slopes left off of the main trail just before you go around the curve of the butte. When I was there, it was marked by a line of small white stones.

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Cave of Domes. Totally worth checking out. Shouldn't miss. I'm not sure if there were other caves up there. Wish I would have had more time to check things out.

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Soaking it all in, just outside the cave, before the trek up Grandview and out.

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Some parting shots from the Grandview Trail on the way out.

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The Grandview trail was absolutely beautiful and one day I'll go back and appreciate it more. It looks rather benign here, but this last part was very very very long for me. It would have been probably easier to have camped at Horseshoe Mesa.

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Either way, I had a wicked time. This trip was one of many firsts for me, with caves, narrow canyons etc. Nice way to shed the winter blues... and begin the season.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
Esca route on 05/06/2011 08:14:11 MDT Print View

Nice trip, nice report.

That right fork at Page is indeed the trail around/below Horseshoe Mesa. Grandview is my favorite trail down from the South Rim, such a cool place.

Trevor Wilson
(trevor83) - MLife

Locale: Swiss Alps / Southern Appalachians
Re: Esca route on 05/06/2011 09:20:17 MDT Print View

Great trip report. It looks like it was a really good time.

John Topping
(JohnT) - MLife

Locale: Peak District
Esca Route on 05/07/2011 04:23:56 MDT Print View

Scott,
Thanks for posting. Great report and sounds like you had a great trip. Another one for the list....

Dale Gundy
(FoolHardyHiker) - F
Beautiful pics!! on 05/09/2011 21:05:20 MDT Print View

We will be there in a week and a half and these pics have gotten me excited!!!

I'll have our pics posted here when we get back!

http://www.backpackingparadise.com

Edited by FoolHardyHiker on 05/09/2011 21:06:06 MDT.

Michael Winslow
(bigcharlie) - M

Locale: Manhattan, NY
Tanner Trail on 03/08/2012 12:08:13 MST Print View

I'm hiking with two of my friends next Wednesday and we doing this exact hike. I'm really nervous about the Tanner Trail especially the beginning. You really don't mention how treacherous it is. Is it? We've never hiked in the Grand Canyon but have hiked all over the East Coast. What should we expect? I know there will be some snow and ice in the beginning. Just some thoughts would be great.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Tanner Trail on 03/08/2012 12:23:11 MST Print View

Call the Backcountry Office after 2pm and ask about the trailhead conditions. If there is any significant snow and no one has preceded you, it will be very difficult to follow the trail. Dropping off the top is difficult on the trail - trying to "force a route" is asking for serious problems.

Also, be aware that the trailhead sign is on the right, before the parking area, and below the level of the road. If you are not looking there for it, you will miss it.

The dry trail itself is only difficult due to it length and elevation lost. Get an early start. Unless you've been doing hours of stadium stairs, expect to have some very overworked downhill muscles. Stop and stretch frequently. Take your time. You'll have light an hour+ past "sunset on the rim".

Michael Winslow
(bigcharlie) - M

Locale: Manhattan, NY
Tanner Trail on 03/08/2012 13:19:00 MST Print View

Greg

Thanks - been a bit nervous because we haven't hiked the Grand Canyon and don't want to underestimate this trail that is considered a 10 in difficulty. Worried about some of the narrow paths with several hundred foot drop offs. Is that the case? Do you remember?

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Tanner Trail on 03/08/2012 13:33:16 MST Print View

There is no exposure on this trail.

There are a few places where you may need both hands to lower yourself through a drop, but they are strength moves, not survival moves.

It is a wide and wonderful trail.

Now the Escalante on the other hand....

Michael Winslow
(bigcharlie) - M

Locale: Manhattan, NY
Escalante on 03/08/2012 13:47:04 MST Print View

Greg,

Thanks again - Yes have read some reviews of the trail and know about Papago wall - is that the exposure you're talking about?

Thanks for getting back to me just some pre hike gitters.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Escalante on 03/08/2012 13:57:46 MST Print View

Yes, Papago Wall and Papago Slide.

And before them, the high traverse between Cardenas and Escalante. For about 100 yards there is the potential for a long "angle of repose" slide. Just go slow and easy.

It is a great route. It just demands a little respect here and there. ;-)

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
That sure is on 03/08/2012 19:24:36 MST Print View

some beautiful country. Thanks for sharing your trip, Scott.

Michael Winslow
(bigcharlie) - M

Locale: Manhattan, NY
Re: Escalante Route: Grand Canyon, Arizona (Apr. 24-28, 2011) on 03/12/2012 07:38:01 MDT Print View

Scott

thanks for getting back to me about the Tanner Trail

I tried to send you a response but it didn't make it

Heading out this Wednesday - can't wait very excitied

hoping to keep the pack to 30 lbs - never know how it gets so heavy :)

Mike

Sidney Pow
(sidpow) - F
trail report on 03/20/2012 17:48:33 MDT Print View

Hopefully not hijacking,

I'm looking to do this trip next week and hopefully MIchael can post a trip report or trail conditions either here or elsewhere.

Couldnt figure out how to send a PM, but am curious of the conditions

Michael Winslow
(bigcharlie) - M

Locale: Manhattan, NY
Re: trail report on 04/10/2012 09:32:44 MDT Print View

Sorry it has taken me so long to write a trip report. Should have posted it before this and will post it in the next day or so. The top of the Tanner Trail had some ice and snow that was easily managed with crampons or spikes we used micro spikes. With the right equipment the upper Tanner Trail is no problem. BRING LOTS OF WATER. If you think you have a enough we each brought over 4 liters EACH and this is in the winter we used all of it by the time we reached Tanner Beach. However we did meet a hiker who had fallen and was very thirsty no water for 24 hours - still you drink a lot of water. I really don't know how or why people hike this trail in the warmer months - suicide. Conditions on the trails were great. If you have never hiked the Tanner Trail know this there are some tricky / dodgy bits that you have to pay attention to when hiking them or you will fall to your death. Just pay attention and take your time. Also my socks were slipping in my shoes and caused my big toe nails to come off. So make sure your feet are comfortable and if they are not be sure to attend to them. Also don't wear shoes or boots that have worn soles make sure you have boots or shoes that have a relatively new sole and great grip you will need it. Also don't hike this trail or any of them for that matter without poles.

The Escalante trail if you have not hiked it is treacherous and dangerous and you need to pay attention all the time. If you want to look around STOP and find a safe place to stand then look around. I don't have many pictures of the most treacherous parts because it wasn't safe to stop and look. I know there will people jumping all over me about my describing the Escalante as dangerous and treacherous but I don't care. The trail in sections is no wider than a few inches and this goes on for miles and in some spots if you fell it would suck but you would not die and in other sections one wrong step and they are planning your funeral. BUT this is the Grand Canyon and 4 million people visit and less than 20 died last year from all sorts of reasons so most people don't fall in fact very few do. You really need to pay attention on the Escalante or you will be one of the select few. There were no rock slides and the trail is relatively easy to follow and it is SPECTACULAR. The views and scenery will be some of if not the most beautiful you'll ever see.

I will in the next day put up a full report. Sorry again for taking so long.

We had extreme weather for the last half of our hike. The night we camped at Hanes Rapids we had torrential down pours and very powerful wind gusts. At the rim they were having a blizzard that closed Desert View road to close. Luckily we had a SAT phone and were able to get the weather and road conditions. On our last day we left Horseshoe Mesa and hiked up the Grandview in 2 feet of snow so we experienced all the weather one could possibly ask for.

Please feel free to e-mail me if you have ANY questions. winslow.michael-AT-gmail.com

Edited by bigcharlie on 04/10/2012 10:20:23 MDT.

Michael Winslow
(bigcharlie) - M

Locale: Manhattan, NY
Re: Re: Escalante on 04/10/2012 09:38:14 MDT Print View

Greg now I know what you were talking about in terms of the Escalante - Holy Shit it was scary at times. It was without a doubt the greatest hike I've ever been on. The hardest mentally and physically. Such spectacular views. Full trip report coming. Thanks again for your advice.

Michael Winslow
(bigcharlie) - M

Locale: Manhattan, NY
Re: Escalante Route: Grand Canyon, Arizona (Apr. 24-28, 2011) on 04/10/2012 09:41:42 MDT Print View

Scott - thanks again for your advice for the hike. It was spectacular and we had really no problems - will write a report and all the details of the trip. The Tanner was like you said manageable if you go slowly and we each drank most if not all of our 4 liters of water we brought. The Escalante was very scary and dangerous. WOW. We did it but that is a really tough trail. All the best - Mike

Michael Winslow
(bigcharlie) - M

Locale: Manhattan, NY
Re: Re: trail report on 04/10/2012 09:42:54 MDT Print View

4 liters each of water for the Tanner Trail.

Scott Truong
(elf773)

Locale: Vancouver, BC
RE: Michael on 04/11/2012 11:56:26 MDT Print View

No problem Michael. Weird, I never got your second email. Glad you went and enjoyed it in the winter/early spring. We were lucky with the weather when we went.

Yikes! I wouldn't want to walk up the Grandview in 2 feet of snow. I nearly passed out doing it in perfect weather from Hance Creek. And you're right, doing it in hotter weather would suck very much. Pretty exposed.

I guess you see how the trail could be a problem if you have two left feet. Yeah I was paranoid about my feet the whole time too, walking on rocky trails with any foot issues would have been a very bad thing.

Speaking of rocky trails.

I really should post some pictures up, but if you ever get a chance, you should go and check out the GR20 route in Corsica, France. Go in the fall and definitely do it the non-traditional south to north way. It's much more high traffic, idiot proof navigation (though I did get lost for half hour), and well supported, but lots of scrambling, walking on rocks, open vista walking (though not as wide as the GC obviously).

Again, it's not quite a "walk in the park", definitely carry a small pack, be reasonably coordinated, and comfortable with heights. Though it's also not rock climbing, if you enjoyed "picking your line" and climbing/navigating through rocky terrain, you'd like the GR20. They "say" it's the hardest trail in Europe, though there are showers, cold..ish.. beer, and you can wash your clothes at the end of the day.

Edited by elf773 on 04/11/2012 12:12:14 MDT.