Distance: 15 miles to the Colorado River
Duration: 4 days or more
Elevation change: 4,400 feet
Trailhead: Indian Hollow Campground in Kaibab National Forest
In several locations along the North Rim , access to trailheads is on U.S. Forest Service land. Trails enter the national park as they descend from the rim, as is the case here. The Thunder River Trail is a challenging multiday trip to see one of the world’s shortest rivers and the impressive waterfall near its start.
The trail descends to the Esplanade, turning east to intersect with the Bill Hall Trail (an alternate start to this hike). The Bill Hall Trail shaves three miles off the hike to Thunder River—but the trailhead is higher, requiring a steep descent with downclimbs before reaching the intersection with the main trail.
From this intersection, the Thunder River Trail heads south across the Esplanade for about three miles. At the Redwall formation, the trail drops sharply to Surprise Valley, hot and shadeless in summer. In Surprise Valley, the Deer Creek Trail  intersects the Thunder River Trail from the right.
Turn left (east) to continue to Thunder River. You’ll hear the river before you see it tumbling 100 feet from the cliffs. Thunder River ends at the confluence with Tapeats Creek, only 0.5 miles from its spring-fed origins. The Upper Tapeats campsites are near the confluence. The trail crosses the creek and continues toward the Colorado River, where the Lower Tapeats campsites are located.