Nankoweap to Phantom

This map (above) shows our overall route.

This is a backpacking trip that I've wanted to do for a very long time.  None of my usual Grand Canyon hiking partners had much interest until last year, and last year I was not in good enough shape.  But I did join them on the last three days of their hike, and in October, 2011, I had done a solo hike into Lava/Chuar and Carbon areas.  I had also been to Nankoweap a few times, and even over the saddle to Kwagunt Creek.  So I was familiar with parts of the hike.  When several of the hikers from last spring wanted to do it again, I began a program to get into shape and lose weight.  I lost 35 pounds and was hiking one to two hours every day.  By April I figured I was as ready as I would ever be.

The trek was nine days total, with no layover days.  All were off-trail except days 1, 8, and 9.  We also arranged for a cache to be placed by a river trip near Lava Creek beach.  We retrieved the cache on Day 4, and except for crossing the bridge at Phantom, this was the only time we reached the Colorado River.  For what it's worth (not much), this was my first rim to rim hike.

For the first 4 days we followed the Butte Fault section of the infamous Horse Thief route.  According to legend, outlaws would steal horses in Utah and drive them down the Nankoweap Trail, then along the Butte Fault to Lava Creek, then cross the Colorado and head to the South Rim via the Tanner Trail.  They would then sell the horses in Arizona.

Starting on Day 5, we headed towards Phantom Ranch via the high saddles route, crossing from Lava Creek to Unkar Creek via the saddle west of Juno Temple, then from Unkar to Vishnu Creek via the saddle NW of Vishnu Temple, and finally from Vishnu to Clear Creek via the saddle between Wotan's Throne and Angel's Gate.

We all met at the airport in Flagstaff at 11 am on Tuesday (4/2/13).  Bert had arranged for two people to drive us out to the Nankoweap Trailhead, then drive our cars back to the Backcountry Office at the South rim.  I left my car at the airport in Flagstaff.  It is a long 3-hour drive to the trailhead. When we got to the Kane Ranch house in House Rock Valley, we stopped to look around.  Ethan, who is soon to be the executive director of the Grand Canyon Trust (caretakers of the ranch), gave us a tour.  The ranch house is rustic, but nice, with lots of comfortable beds, and a large dining room and kitchen.  Because our drivers decided to spend the night and do a day-hike the next day, we all decided to spend the night at the ranch house.  Our drivers drove us to the trailhead in the morning (about 30 minutes away). 

Trip members included Bert , Marcey,  Jim , Ben , Tom , Ethan , and me.

This write-up is intended primarily to document the specifics of the route, the difficulties, water sources, and hiking times.  Therefore it may not be a fun read for those who are not Grand Canyon hiking fanatics.

Click on photos to see larger image.


Kane Ranch House in House Rock Valley

View from Ranch House

Vermillion Cliffs from Ranch House


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