Hiking Deer Creek Trail in Grand Canyon

A shallow stream runs between striated rocks along the Deer Creek trail.

Hiking the Deer Creek trail can be difficult, but the destination is remarkable. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service/Erin Whittaker.

Deer Creek Trail

Grand Canyon National Park

Starting from the river, the trail climbs around Deer Creek Falls and enters a labyrinthine narrows of Tapeats sandstone.

  • Level: Strenuous
  • Total Distance: 10 miles round-trip
  • Hiking Time: 4-6 hours
  • Elevation Change: 1,700 feet
  • Trailhead: River right, mile 136 (see map)
Strenuous hikes are 6–10 miles long and with an elevation gain or loss of 1,000–2,000 feet.×
Travel map of the Thunder River Trail in the Grand Canyon

Thunder River Trail

Most river trips stop to enjoy Deer Creek Falls and hike the Deer Creek Trail to the head of Tapeats Narrows, a challenging 0.5-mile hike, or to Deer Spring, 1.5 miles. The waterfall is a refreshing sight after floating through the dark confines of Granite Narrows, bursting from the cliffs 100 feet above the beach.

Starting from the river, the trail climbs around Deer Creek Falls and enters a labyrinthine narrows of Tapeats sandstone. With the creek flowing below, the trail hugs the cliff inside the narrows, a serious challenge for any hiker with acrophobia or claustrophobia. The trail exits the narrows at Deer Creek Valley, where cottonwoods shade a few campsites.

From here, the trail climbs toward a spur trail that leads to a smaller waterfall created by Deer Spring. The main trail ascends through Muav limestone to shadeless Surprise Valley, where it joins the Thunder River Trail at five miles. Most hikers starting from the river will turn around long before this point.


Options

From the Thunder River Trail, it’s another 10 miles to the North Rim and the forest service campground at Indian Hollow, though backpackers can shorten the hike by taking the Bill Hall Trail to Monument Point. Connections to Thunder Spring and Tapeats Creek are possible for multiday backpacking loops from the rim or a pleasant day-long loop from the river.

Get more information about the Deer Creek Trail in this PDF from the National Parks Service.


Excerpted from the Sixth Edition of Moon Grand Canyon.

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