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Grand Canyon’s Escalante Route

This backpacking trip has it all – a little bit of adventure, steep trails, and climbing mixed in with mellow, sweeping trails that allow you to look up from the trail and appreciate the canyon’s awesomeness. The Grand Canyon is like an accordion of rock layers until you reach its creator at its center, the Colorado River. Each time you pull a layer back, a new one with new colors, features and characteristics appears and sometimes presents an obstacle to overcome.

Escalante Route

My partner Jake and I drove 12 hours from Boulder, CO to join six hikers from the Arizona Backpacking, Canyoneering & Hiking Club on their Thanksgiving Backpack. The group welcomed Jake and me warmly, despite the fact that we were distant “outsiders”. Our one connection to the group, had fallen ill the day of the trip and cancelled… so we didn’t know anyone.

backpacking Escalante Route

Of course, it didn’t take long for us to become quick friends. The eight of us spent the next four days, 32 miles, and extreme elevation and temperature changes exploring the folds of the Grand Canyon. On the first day, we lowered from the snowy South Rim down to the agreeable 50-degree hiking weather of the canyon. The second day, we breathed in the canyon’s grandeur with wide open vistas and subtle contours. The third day, adventure kicked in with some scrambling, tight canyon-walking, mellow climbing and sliding. The last day, we were rewarded with views from the Grandview Trail’s steep switchbacks hardly noticeable with the distracting views (they made no mistake in the name – see photos below for the once-in-a-decade phenomenon we experienced).

To conversational Clams (Jason), quirky hippie Ed, laughing Heather, our leader John, quiet graceful Lucie, dry humor Stephanie and especially flu-ridden Lucky (Dave): COME VISIT US IN COLORADO! And, extra-special thanks to my non-backpacking partner Jake for being open to accepting an invitation to backpack with me and trust me to pack for him. He was comfortable during the chilly nights and flew through the trails with his light pack. On the drive home and again a week after the trip, Jake asked me when and where we could do another backpacking trip like this again… and my inner voice screamed “hooray!”

Check out part 2 for Itinerary, Recommended Gear and Planning Notes

11 Responses to Grand Canyon’s Escalante Route

  1. SlatonWhatley March 18, 2014 at 9:33 am #

    Great write up! I was just there in February! A friend and I hiked from the South Bass Trail to the Little Colorado River Confluence and back up the Tanner Trail (131.8 miles total) including the Escalante. I think the Escalante was my favorite part of the entire trip.

    • Canyon walker March 16, 2016 at 7:03 am #

      The 5 mile stretch between Boucher and Hermits Creek has the best view of the Colorado from the Tonto Trail

  2. Clams March 18, 2014 at 6:52 pm #

    Excellent write up Trinity! Great trip! I am grateful to have experienced it with you and Jake. I would love to visit you two in Colorado. San Juan’s??? Btw…. Conversational Clams….. Nice! Is that a polite way of saying I talk too much 🙂

  3. g2-8f March 21, 2014 at 12:23 pm #

    I am going with REI on a trip into the Grand Canyon (south rim) backcountry in April and am *very* excited. I’ve never even seen the Grand Canyon.

  4. heyjt March 23, 2014 at 10:36 pm #

    Nice write up and photos. My wife and I have been trying to get time to do the rim-2-rim but haven’t found the right long weekend yet. I guess we will have to try harder…. Good job!

  5. April 8, 2014 at 8:36 pm #

    Thanks for the write up. Such a great trip! I just hiked it last week with some buddies. Early April is a beautiful time in the canyon.

  6. Call me Ishmael September 30, 2015 at 12:30 pm #

    Backcountry Permits are now $10 + $8/person/night.

  7. Bill Pope March 16, 2016 at 10:57 am #

    I have done this trip at least 4 times, including one in the reverse. To me it’s the all ’round best trip in the GC. However, you guys did it too fast! You need to add another night along the river at Papago Beach (just under Papago Wall). You can also add another night at Cottonwood to make it a 5 night trip. (May as well spend as many nights as you can justify!) Awesome trip!

    • Jerami D marsh November 15, 2016 at 4:21 pm #

      I’d like to do this between December 27th and January 1st this year. How likely is that it could take an extra day or two (don’t want to miss my flight home in LVN on the 2nd)

  8. Aria Zoner March 16, 2016 at 5:08 pm #

    Thanks for taking us DEEP.

  9. Rob of the WV March 28, 2016 at 9:56 am #

    The Escalante Route, and attached Beamer and Tonto Trails are glorious indeed.
    I suggest you discuss the use of alum in any writing about these sections because much of the water source is The River.

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