Thunder River/Deer Creek Loop
​Grand Canyon Backpacking
An Epic Experience

Trip Details

Type: Backpacking

Trip Code: TRGC

Duration: 5 Days

Distance: 29 mi/46 km

Fitness: 5
Comfort: 1
Solitude: 4

Origin: Flagstaff, AZ

Cost: $1275/person

Trip Description:

The Thunder River/Deer Creek Loop Backpacking tour is possibly one of the most epic trips on a developed trail in all of Grand Canyon.  True to its name, Thunder River thunders forth from a limestone cavern, cascading spectacuarly onto the cliffs below before channeling itself into a swift creek, an incredibly unique and magical sight and peice of geology in this wonderful place.  The adventure itself is no less epic, as we traverse through the Esplanade, through slot canyons, camp at excellent sights, and are afforded numerous opportunities for exciting scrambles and downclimbs.  Even the drive to the trailhead will make you feel like you're in a world of your own, as it is far removed from even the far removed North Rim developments, making this adventure truly special.  Due to its remote and demanding nature, this adventure is recommended for experience backpackers only.

  1. Bill Hall Trail, Grand Canyon
  2. Thunder River Trail, Grand Canyon
  3. Thunder River Trail, Grand Canyon
  4. Deer Creek Narrows, Grand Canyon
  5. Deer Creek Falls, Grand Canyon
  6. Thunder River, Grand Canyon
  7. Thunder Falls, Grand Canyon
  8. Thunder River Trail, Grand Canyon
Request a Reservation!
Trip Itinerary

Day 1:

Our Thunder River/Deer Creek Loop Backpacking tour adventure will begin with a scenic drive from Flagstaff to the North Rim, with stops at Marble Canyon, Lees Ferry and the mouth of the Grand Canyon, The Vermillion Cliffs, the North Rim Lodge, and then out to our campsite near the Bill Hall Trailhead, roughly 1.5 hours west of North Rim amenities.  Along the way your geologist/guide will introduce you to the geology and history of the entire region, and there will be excellent photo opportunities as the Canyon reveals itself to us little by little.  We will make camp near the Bill Hall Trailhead, and prepare a great dinner while we think about the fantastic journey ahead.
Drive Time: 4 hours
Distance & Elevation: none
Light Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 2:

Day 2 will begin with a sunrise breakfast, and hitting the trail on our epic hiking route to the Colorado River.  As we descend, we will first see a plaque dedicated to the trail's namesake, Mr. Bill Hall, who was a ranger at the North Rim for many years.  There will be sweeping views of gorgeous Tapeats Amphitheatre and to the faraway South Rim.  A delightful traverse of the Esplanade follows, with more excellent views and an exciting downclimb, and a couple fords of Tapeats Creek.  We will then reach Thunder Springs and its River, a truly awesome sight.  A few more miles winding down the Tapeats Creek drainage will see us reach the Upper Tapeats camp and our excellent campsite, where your geologist/guide will set up camp and prepare and excellent dinner.
Distance & Elevation: 10.4 miles, 4500 foot descent
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3:

Your third day offers a tremendous hiking traverse to, and then above the Colorado River, with excellent views of the Inner Gorge, and some exciting route-finding, scrambling, and downclimbing on the way to our second night's camp at Deer Creek.  After arriving at Deer Creek, we will doff our packs in favor of something lighter, to hike explore the narrows of side canyons and tributaries.
Distance & Elevation: 7 miles, 1000 foot descent
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4:

Today’s exciting ascent will see us through excellent narrows to Deer Creek, similar to its partner Thunder River in that it issues as a wonderful waterfall from a groundwater spring on the side of the canyon walls.  Though less voluminous, the area is incredibly charming and lush, with spectacular views.  As we ascend through Deer Creek drainage, we will reach Surprise Valley, then on to the Esplanade where we will make camp and prepare for our ascent to the North Rim.
Distance & Elevation: 7 miles, 4000 foot ascent
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5:

Our final day on the trail is shorter and somewhat less demanding hiking than our last couple of days, as we traverse the pleasant topography of the Esplanade before we make our final push to the North Rim, retracing the steps from our descent.  More sweeping vistas, dramatic and unique scenery, and excellent adventure are in store.  After we come up topside, we will celebrate our Grand Adventure in the geologist's tradition: with libations at a local watering hole before we head back to Flagstaff, with a time-permitting stop at the famous Horseshoe Bend of the Colorado River.
Distance & Elevation: 4 miles, 1200 ascent
Breakfast, Lunch
Drive Time: 4 hours

*Final itineraries are occasionally subject to change due to permit/campsite availability, park restrictions/closures, weather conditions and/or road closures.

What’s Included:
A professional, degreed, licensed and medically trained geologist/guide
All necessary gear: backpack, tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, trekking poles
All cooking/eating gear: bowls, cups, utensils (your geologist/guide will prepare all trail meals)
All food, including a mix of fresh and pre-made backcountry meals
Roundtrip Transportation from your hotel in Flagstaff to Grand Canyon and all activities/attractions
Entrance fees, camping fees, and backcountry permits

Meals: what to expect
We provide all your meals from a light breakfast on day 1 through lunch the last day. Your geologist/guide will prepare a variety of meals on the trail that will fit the day's activity. Feel free to tell us about your food preferences, as we're more than happy to tailor the menu to your needs/desires. Some specialty diets may require an additional fee.

All meals will consist of one entree, prepared by your geologist/guide.  Fresh options will be limited, as backpacking typically requires liightweight, non-perishable foods.  There will be trail snacks that consist of nuts, fruits, chocolate, and other "gorp" style mixes.

We regularly accommodate vegan, vegetarian, kosher and non-gluten diets and will make adjustments for food allergies. These and other special dietary requests may require an additional fee.

What’s Not Included:
Transportation to/from Flagstaff, AZ
Lodging the night before/after the trip
Clothing, raingear, and footwear
Personal toiletries, sunscreen
Water bottles/hydration bladder
Headlamp or flashlight
Guide gratuity (suggested 10-15% of trip cost)
*Upon booking you will receive a detailed trip information packet

How many people are in the group?
Most backpacking trips in Grand Canyon will accommodate 5 people plus one guide. On occasion, a group may be as large as 8 people plus 2 guides.

Are there age restrictions?
Children under 12 are generally not permitted on any of Blue Marble's scheduled trips.  This can be negotiable on private tours, please contact us to discuss this policy

How do I sign up?
In order to confirm a reservation , we require an initial deposit of $250 per person, with the final balance due 90 days prior to the trip’s departure. If you book a trip within 90 days of the trip’s scheduled departure, then full payment is due at the time of booking.
Your deposit is payable over the phone by Visa, MasterCard, AmEx, or Discover. Checks by mail are fine as well, as are bank transfers ($35 transfer fee). Call our office Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm Arizona time. 1-602-904-2536
Travel Logistics

Where does the trip begin/end?
This trip will begin/end in Flagstaff, AZ and you will need to spend the night prior to your trip’s scheduled departure in Flagstaff. You will want to fly into either Phoenix (2 hour drive) or Flagstaff. Please visit our  Travel Resources  page for information on airports, shuttles/rental cars and recommended hotels.

Where do you meet our guides?
We will hold a pre-trip orientation at 4:30pm the evening prior to your trip’s departure at the host hotel in Flagstaff. Departure times and logistics for the following morning will be discussed at the orientation.  Most trips will depart between 5am and 6am.

*This meeting is not mandatory, but highly recommended, as we will depart early the next morning. If you are unable to attend, please let us know in advance so that we can make alternate arrangements.

What do we do with our car and extra stuff?
We will provide all transportation to/from trailheads for the duration of the trip. We will pick you up at the host hotel in Flagstaff and return you there at the trip’s conclusion. Guests staying at the host hotel can leave their cars at the hotel. These hotels will often store your luggage for you, as well. If not, we are happy to store extra luggage at a secure location for the duration of the trip. If you are staying at a different hotel, you will need to check with them as to whether you can leave your car there.

What time will we get back on the last day?
Expect to be back in Flagstaff by 6pm at the latest on the last day of the trip. Some trips will return earlier but we cannot make any guarantees. In general, it is recommended that you do not plan to fly home on the same day your trip finishes. Since each trip has slightly different logistics, feel free to contact us with specific questions related to the expected return time for your trip.

Trip Dates

2017 Dates
May: 18-22
October: 6-10

2018 Dates
May: 18-22
October: 6-10

More dates to come soon…
Don’t see your dates? Custom dates may be available!
Call 1-602-904-2536 or email us  for details.