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Deer Creek - Grand Canyon National Park

Summary: A cool hike to a good spring (which flows year round), narrows and water fall. The route described starts at Indian Hollow Campground. This hike can also be completed from Monument Point via the Bill Hall Trail which shortens the hike by 2.5 miles each way.
Directions: From Flagstaff drive north on Highway 89.  Turn left on Highway 89A and drive to Jacob Lake. Head south on Highway 67 for a couple hundred feet then turn right on Forest Road (FR) #461. Drive 5.4 miles to the intersection with FR #462 and turn right. Drive 3.2 miles to the intersection with FR #22 and turn left. Continue on FR #22 for 11.7 miles then turn on FR #425. Follow this road 8.4 miles and turn right on FR #232 which you follow about 6 miles to the Indian Hollow Campground and Trailhead.  
Road Conditions: Passenger Car - well graded dirt roads
Navigation: Moderate - some faint sections of trail between Indian Hollow Campground and the Bill Hall Trail and at the beginning of the Deer Creek Trail
Length: 12 miles each way
Date Hiked: November, 2001
Weather Conditions: Nice - though cool
Required Skills:
Hike Description: From Indian Hollow Campground walk past the large trailhead sign and take a quick walk through the woods to the edge of the Canyon. The narrow Thunder River Trail drops a short distance then heads west along a ridge a ways to a point where break down at a bend in the canyon wall allows you to make your descent through the Coconino Sandstone. The trail switchbacks its way steeply down to the Esplanade and a sign post for trail #23. The path bends left (east) at this point and travels back under the point from which you started. The trail heads east for the next several miles around several large drainages of Deer Creek. The walk along the Esplanade contains a few minor ups and downs, but for the most part the path is quite level and easy. There are a few faint sections of trail through this section, though nothing terribly difficult - keep an eye out for cairns as you proceed. Five miles after starting your hike you will pass the unsigned junction with the left branching Bill Hall Trail (5 miles). The Park Service has made it a habit not to name landmarks for its employees, but for some reason made an exception for Mr. Hall who was killed in the line of duty as a seasonal park ranger on the north rim. Continue straight ahead on the Thunder River Trail which is more distinct at this point as it continues east over easy terrain before dropping steeply off the Esplanade through the Supai and Redwall Limestone formations into area on the Tonto Plateau called Surprise Valley. Just as you reach Surprise Valley, you will come to an unsigned junction with the right branching Deer Creek Trail (9.5 miles). Going left will take you to Thunder Spring and Tapeats Creek, however, we will head right onto the Deer Creek Trail. The path travels up and down a few low hills, passing a left branching spur trail which is used by hikers traveling from Tapeats to Deer Creek (or vice versa), before reaching a side drainage of Deer Creek. The trail travels moderately down this side drainage on one side or the other of the stream bed until you reach a point near a drop off and Deer Spring. At this point the trail heads right across a rocky slope, then begins descending steeply towards Deer Creek Canyon which you will see laid out below you. Continue down the steep rocky slope, with views of Deer Spring along the way, to the valley floor. The trail crosses the stream and heads left, down canyon. You will pass a short side trail and sign for a composting toilet, then hit a nice campsite by the stream just above the Deer Creek narrows. Drop your packs here (12 miles). The best part of the canyon lies down stream, so continue down to the mouth of the narrows. Deer Creek cuts an excellent stretch of deep twisty narrows before dropping into the Colorado. The trail passes on a ledge on the right, above the narrows, but you get some decent views down into them. It is possible to down climb into the narrows on the left side of the stream just past a 12 ft water fall. It would be very cool to explore this canyon, but warm weather would be needed since wading and swimming are required. The trail continues to the mouth of the canyon with a view down to the river. It then bends right then curves left to the beach below. Head east a short distance to an alcove for a great view of Deer Creek falls as it plunges ~75 feet to a pool below. Return to camp when ready & spend the night. Retrace your steps to Indian Hollow with an early start the next day.
Rating (1-5 stars):
The author and his wife camped at Indian Hollow then hiked down to Deer Creek in 6 hours. We dropped our packs then explored Deer Creek narrows (though it was too cool to actually go wading or swimming) and falls before sunset. We hiked out the next day, retracing our steps, in 7 hours.
Maps: Trails Illustrated - Grand Canyon National Park
Books:  Canyon Hiking Guide to the Colorado Plateau - Michael Kelsey
Photos: Click picture for larger view, click your browser's 'Back' button to return to this page.
The Esplanade. Falls at the mouth of the narrows. Deer Creek Falls.