The Escalante Route – Grand Canyon National Park (32 mile trek)

Trip Overview: The ~32 mile Escalante Route is a challenging, yet extremely beautiful one way trek in Grand Canyon National Park. The trek starts and ends on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and includes over 10 miles of hiking on Escalante Trail along the Colorado River. Highlights include the SeventyMile Creek and Slot Canyon, Nevills and Hance Rapids, climbing the Papago Wall, Red Canyon, and wide open views of the Colorado River and Grand Canyon. This trek is best for backpackers with prior experience because it has some steep, exposed trails and requires scrambling and route finding in a couple sections. In this itinerary you enter the canyon via the Tanner Trail and exit via the Tonto and Grandview Trails.

grand-canyon-escalante-route-map
Overall map of the Escalante Trek in Grand Canyon National Park. This itinerary starts at Lipan Point and ends at Grandview Point. Day 1 is along the Tanner Trail (yellow), Day 2 (yellow) on the Escalante Route, Day 3 (blue) along the Tonto Trail, and Day 4 (red) is along the Grandview Trail.
  • Higher resolution version of the overall map for The Escalante Route trek (PDF)
  • Topographic map of Grand Canyon National Park for purchase (amazon link)

Jump to Day 1: Lipan Point to Cardenas Creek
Jump to Day 2: Cardenas Creek to Red Canyon
Jump to Day 3: Red Canyon to Hance Creek
Jump to Day 4: Hance Creek to Grandview Point

Shop Deal of the Day at REI Outlet (up to 50% off)!

 

Preparations:

Click here to read more about Permits

Permits:  Permits are required for overnight camping in Grand Canyon National Park. Permits cost $10 plus an additional $8 per person per night camped. Competition for permits along the Escalante Route is less intense than for sights along the rim-to-rim (“Corridor”) route, but backpackers should still plan to secure permits ahead of time.

The backcountry permit reservation system for Grand Canyon National Park is a bit convoluted. You must fax or mail in your permit application, and the application must arrive at the Backcountry Office within a specific time period in order to be considered for the permit lottery. The table below shows when permit applications are considered for various trek start dates.

grand-canyon-permit-calender

If you plan to hike the Escalante Route during May, you need your application to be received between Dec 20th and Jan 1st. All applications received within this time frame are then entered into a permit lottery. Winners of the lottery are typically notified ~3 weeks after the first of the month. If you miss the lottery application period, you can still submit a permit application. All late applications are considered on a first-come, first-serve basis after the lottery, assuming there are still permits available. There is also a waitlist and some last minute permits available to hikers who apply at the backcountry office in person before their trek. There is a complete explanation of the permit process and all available options on the Grand Canyon NP website. For this specific itinerary, you camp at Cardenas Creek on night 1, Red Canyon on night 2, and Hance Creek on night 3.

Click here to read more about Logistics

Logistics: If you would like to camp the night before and/or after trekking the Escalante Route, there are two campgrounds in Grand Canyon National Park on the South Rim near the trailheads. Mather Campground is a large campground (327 sites) located near the Grand Canyon Visitor Center. It has lots of amenities including showers and access to the park shuttle system. Campsites at Mather can be reserved up to 6 months in advance of your stay date. The Mather campgrond is ~22 miles from the Lipan Point (start of the Escalante Route Trek) and ~11 miles from Grandview Point (end of the Escalante Route Trek). The Desert View Campground is another option and it is located only ~3 miles from Lipan Point and ~14 miles from Grandview Point. However, there are only 50 campsites at Desert View and they are all first-come, first-serve.

No matter where you camp before your trek, you will need to figure out a way to shuttle between the two trailheads before or after you trek. Unfortunately, the free park shuttles do not travel far enough east to access the Escalante Route trailheads. If your group has two vehicles you can simply leave a car at each trailhead. For those with only one vehicle, it is generally easiest to drive Grandview Point the morning or your trek and leave your car there. Then, take a taxi to Lipan Point to start your trek on the Tanner Trail. This allows you to simply drive back to camp after you finish your trek. For info on how to schedule a taxi within the park, you can consult the NPS website, which lists phone numbers for taxi service.

Click here to read more about Difficulty

Trail Conditions and Difficulty: Backpacking and hiking within Grand National Park can be very difficult given the high summer temperatures and lack of water in some sections of the trail. The Escalante Route is no exception. Backpackers should be prepared for exposed and narrow trails and will encounter the Papago Wall, which requires some exposed hand and toe climbing. Backpackers also will need to carry several liters of water since there are only a few water sources between the campsites. It is also advisable to avoid hiking during the heat of the summer.

The trails along this route are generally well marked and you will encounter fewer other hikers compared the more popular Bright Angel and South Kaibab Trails. That said, backpackers should have a map and compass and should be prepared for the extremes offered by the Grand Canyon. For info on the Escalante Route provided by the National Park Service, check out this info sheet.

Supplies: The main concerns with backpacking in the Grand Canyon are related to heat, sun exposure, and water. Thus, hikers should wear clothing (or sunscreen) that protects them from the sun and should have proper layers that allow for temperature regulation over a wide range of temperatures. Lastly, a large water bladder and proper water filtration system are essential. Many hikers also use trekking poles since they help your knees on the steep climbs and descents.

Below is a list of the gear recommended for backpacking The Escalante Route:

Hiking clothes

Clothes for camp

Hiking gear

Camp gear

Random

Food and drink

Jump to top of page

……….

Day 1: 12 miles; +790 feet / -5,520 feet; Lipan Point to Cardenas Creek via Tanner Trail

grand-canyon-escalante-route-map-day1
Map of the Day 1 hike (purple) on the Escalante Route in Grand Canyon National Park. From Lipan Point along the Tanner Trail and then southwest on the Escalante Trail to Cardenas Creek.

Map of the Day 1 hike along the Escalante Route

grand-canyon-escalante-route-elevation-day1
Elevation profile of the Day 1 hike (purple) on the Escalante Route in Grand Canyon National Park. From Lipan Point along the Tanner Trail and then southwest on the Escalante Trail to Cardenas Creek.

The hike on the first day is the longest of the trek at roughly 12 miles in distance. The majority of the hike is downhill, so while your knees will be tired, you will not be climbing any significant elevation. Given the length, it is best to start hiking early in the morning. This will allow you to get close to the Colorado River (your first water access point) before the temperatures really heat up.

The Tanner Trail starts at Lipan Point and leads roughly 9 miles down to the shore of the Colorado River. Along the route you are treated to some great views of the Grand Canyon. Once you reach the Colorado River, you have a ~3 mile hike southwest along the Escalante Trail before reaching the Cardenas Creek drainage area. There is a small beach here that makes for a good camping spot for your first night.

grand-canyon-view-lipan-point
View of the Grand Canyon from Lipan Point, where you start on the Tanner Trail that leads to the Escalante Route (credit: N. Vetrovec)
Seen from the Tanner Trail in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
View of the Grand Canyon, looking over Seventyfive Mile canyon, from along the Tanner Trail as you head from Lipan Point to the Colorado River (credit: John Strother)
Seen from the Tanner Trail in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
View looking north towards the beach at the end of the Tanner Trail (credit: John Strother)
Seen from the Tanner Trail in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
View from along the Tanner Trail as you head from Lipan Point to the Colorado River (credit: John Strother)
Seen from the Tanner Trail in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
View of one of several buttes from along the Tanner Trail as you head from Lipan Point to the Colorado River (credit: John Strother)
Dan and Jean on the Tanner Trail in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Backpackers hiking along the Tanner Trail towards the Colorado River (credit: John Strother) (pictured: Osprey Atmos 65 Liter pack)
Seen from the Tanner Trail in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Grand Canyon view from along the Tanner Trail (credit: John Strother)
Seen from the Tanner Trail in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
View from the Tanner Trail in Grand Canyon National Park (credit: John Strother)
Seen from the Tanner Trail in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
View from the Tanner Trail in Grand Canyon National Park (credit: John Strother)
Seen from the Tanner Trail in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
A backpacker taking in the view of the Grand Canyon and Colorado River from the Tanner Trail (credit: John Strother)
Seen from the Tanner Trail in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
View of the Colorado River, the Tanner Rapids, and Tanner Beach from the Tanner Trail (credit: John Strother)
Seen from the Tanner Trail in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Zoomed in view showing the Tanner Rapids and Tanner Beach. This area is where the Tanner Trail meets up with the Escalante Trail (credit: John Strother)
Seen from the Tanner Trail in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
View looking north in the Grand Canyon from the Tanner Trail (credit: John Strother)
Seen from the Tanner Trail in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
View looking back towards Comanche Point from the Tanner Trail (credit: John Strother)
Seen from the Tanner Trail in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Grand Canyon and Colorado River view from the Tanner Trail (credit: John Strother)
grand-canyon-escalante-16-escalante-trail-view
View from the shore of the Colorado River near the junction between the Tanner Trail and the Escalante Trail (credit: John Strother)
grand-canyon-escalante-20-camp-cardenas-creek
View of the campsite at the beach near the Cardenas Creek outlet into the Colorado River, along the Escalante Trail (credit: John Strother) (pictured: REI Quarter Dome Tent)

Jump to top of page

……….

Day 2: 9 miles; +2,890 feet / -2,920 feet; Cardenas Creek to Red Canyon via Escalante Trail

grand-canyon-escalante-route-map-day2
Map of the Day 2 hike (yellow) on the Escalante Route in Grand Canyon National Park. From Cardenas Creek to Red Canyon via the Escalante Trail.

Map of the Day 2 hike along the Escalante Route

grand-canyon-escalante-route-elevation-day2
Elevation of the Day 2 hike (yellow) on the Escalante Route in Grand Canyon National Park. From Cardenas Creek to Red Canyon via the Escalante Trail.

On day 2 you tackle a moderately difficult hike of 9 miles with roughly 2,500 feet of elevation gain/loss. This hike follows the Escalante Trail along the Colorado River, so you get very nice views of the canyon and river. Since the trail gets close to the shore in a couple sections, you should not need to carry more than 2-3 liters of water at any given time. The main challenge of this hike is climbing up the Papago Wall at the ~7 mile mark. This requires some basic climbing with hand and toes holds. No technical climbing is required (i.e. no harnesses, pins, and ropes), but you must be comfortable scaling a few exposed ledges. At the end of the hike you reach a small beach at the outlet of Red Canyon, which makes for a nice camp site.

View of the Basalt Cliffs and Apollo Temple from the Escalante Trail in Grand Canyon National Park (credit: John Strother)
Seen from the Escalante Route in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
View of a hiker along the Escalante Trail in Grand Canyon National Park (credit: John Strother)
Seen from the Escalante Route in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
View from the Escalante Trail in Grand Canyon National Park, between Cardenas Creek and Escalante Creek (credit: John Strother)
grand-canyon-view-escalante-trail-4-tricky-footing
Backpacker negotiating narrow section of the Escalante Trail in Grand Canyon National Park (credit: John Strother)
A yucca in bloom on the Escalante Route in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
View from the Escalante Trail in Grand Canyon National Park, between Cardenas Creek and Escalante Creek (credit: John Strother)

grand-canyon-view-escalante-trail-6-view-NE-cardenas-beach

grand-canyon-view-escalante-trail-7-washout-cross
Backpackers crossing one of several wash outs along the Escalante Trail (credit: John Strother)
grand-canyon-view-escalante-trail-9-nevills-rapids-top-75-mile-canyon
View of the Nevills Rapids at the outlet of the Seventyfive Mile Canyon. This is view is from the top of the canyon (credit: John Strother)
grand-canyon-view-escalante-trail-8-raft-escalante-creek
Rafters in the Colorado River traversing rapids near Escalante Creek (credit: John Strother)
grand-canyon-view-escalante-trail-9-seventyfive-mile-canyon
View looking into Seventyfive Mile Canyon from the Escalante Trail in Grand Canyon National Park (credit: John Strother)
grand-canyon-view-escalante-trail-9-seventyfive-mile-canyon-hiker
Hiking into Seventyfive Mile Canyon on the Escalante Trail in Grand Canyon National Park (credit: John Strother)
grand-canyon-view-escalante-trail-10-sevetyfive-mile-canyon
Hiking through Seventyfive Mile Canyon on the Escalante Trail in Grand Canyon National Park (credit: John Strother)

grand-canyon-view-escalante-trail-11-sevetyfive-mile-canyon

grand-canyon-view-escalante-trail-12-sevetyfive-mile-canyon-outlet-north
View looking north from the beach at the outlet of Seventyfive Mile Canyon (credit: John Strother)
grand-canyon-view-escalante-trail-12-sevetyfive-mile-canyon-outlet-south
View looking south from the beach at the outlet of Seventyfive Mile Canyon (credit: John Strother)
grand-canyon-view-escalante-trail-13-a-towards-papago-beach
View of Papago Beach at the outlet of the Papago Creek (middle left). After reaching the beach you must climb the Papago Wall (credit: John Strother)
grand-canyon-view-escalante-trail-13-b-drop-down-to-papago-beach
Backpacking descending down the Escalante Trail to Papago Beach (credit: John Strother)
grand-canyon-view-escalante-trail-13-c-papago-wall-ledges
Backpacking working their way up the several ledges on the Papago Wall. This does not require a harness and ropes to climb, but does require hand and toes hold climing (credit: John Strother)
grand-canyon-view-escalante-trail-13-d-view-ahead-from-top-papago-wall
View looking west along the Escalante Route from atop the Papago Wall (credit: John Strother)
grand-canyon-view-escalante-trail-15-descend-after-papago
After climbing the Papago Wall, you then must descend the Papago Boulder pile in order to get back on the trail that follows the Colorado River shore (credit: John Strother)
grand-canyon-view-escalante-trail-16-descend-after-papago
Backpacker descending the Papago Boulder slide (credit: John Strother)
grand-canyon-view-escalante-trail-17-hance-creek-outlet
After hiking along the river shore for a little ways, you reach the outlet of Red Canyon and Hance Creek where you can set up camp for the 2nd night. This is one of the views from the beach (credit: John Strother)
grand-canyon-view-escalante-trail-19-hance-creek-outlet
Another view from Hance Beach at the outlet of Red Canyon along the Escalanate Route (credit: John Strother)

Jump to top of page

……….

Day 3:  6.5 miles; +1,840 feet / -760 feet; Red Canyon to Hance Creek

grand-canyon-escalante-route-map-day3
Map of the Day 3 hike (blue) on the Escalante Route in Grand Canyon National Park. From Red Canyon to Hance Creek.

Map of the Day 3 hike on the Escalante Route

grand-canyon-escalante-route-elevation-day3
Elevation of the Day 3 hike (blue) on the Escalante Route in Grand Canyon National Park. From Red Canyon to Hance Creek.

The hike on Day 3 is short at 6.5 miles in length and only climbs ~1,500 feet. A strong and fit backpacker could combine days 3 and 4 and hike all the way to Grandview Point in one day. However, it is safest to split this day into two and not try to hike all the way from the Colorado River to the South Rim in one day. Doing the full ~11 mile hike from Red Canyon to Grandview Point would be a very long day and would want to leave camp quite early in the morning to avoid climbing up Grandview Trail in the mid-day sun.

From camp, you take the Tonto Trail southwest towards Ayer Point. After climbing for ~3 miles, the trail will flatten out as it traverses around Ayer Point. When you reach Hance Creek, find a nice campsite and refill your water from the creek, which typically runs year round.

Tonto-trail-hance-rapids-T-Hayden
You start day three on the Tonto Trail. It quickly heads upward from the Colorado River and Hance Rapids and begins to climb to a large mesa (credit: T. Hayden)
Seen from the Grandview Trail in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
As you climb you get some very nice views of the Colorado River and Grand Canyon behind you (credit: John Strother)
grand-canyon-escalante-tonto-trail-8-above-hance-rapid
View looking northwest into the Grand Canyon from up above the Hance Rapids (credit: T. Wiggins)
Seen from the Grandview Trail in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
View from the Tonto Trail between Red Canyon and Hance Creek (credit: John Strother)
grand-canyon-escalante-tonto-trail-9-wotans-throne
View looking north towards Wotans Throne from the Tonto Trail (T. Wiggins)
Dan and Jean on the Grandview Trail in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
The Tonto Trail eventually flattens out after about the 3 mile mark and it is ~2 miles of flat hiking to reach Hance Creek (credit: John Strother)
grand-canyon-escalante-tonto-trail-7-hance-creek-canyon
The Tonto Trail eventually leads into a canyon that the Hance Creek flows through (credit: T. Wiggins)
Tonto-trail-hance-creek-campsite-R-cockrell
At Hance Creek, you can set up camp for your third night and can fill up water from the creek (credit: R. Cockwell)
grand-canyon-escalante-tonto-trail-6-red-wall
There is a large red wall that sits to the west of Hance Creek. This makes for a nice backdrop (credit: T. Wiggins)

Jump to top of page

……….

Day 4: 4.9 miles; +4,360 feet / -650 feet; Hance Creek to Grandview Point

grand-canyon-escalante-route-map-day4
Map of the Day 4 hike (red) on the Escalante Route in Grand Canyon National Park. From Hance Creek to Grandview Point.

Map of the Day 4 hike along the Escalante Route

grand-canyon-escalante-route-elevation-day4
Elevation of the Day 4 hike (red) on the Escalante Route in Grand Canyon National Park. From Hance Creek to Grandview Point.

The final hike leads from Hance Creek to Grandview Point over the course of ~5 miles. There is a fair amount of climbing on this hike, so plan to hike relatively slow. The Grandview trail provides some great views so be sure to stop and look around once in while. At the 1.5 mile mark, you reach a junction with the Grandview Trail. If you have extra time and energy, you can do a side trip out to Horseshoe Mesa (i.e. head north on the Grandview Trail). Otherwise, head south along the Grandview Trail which climbs steadily up to Grandview Point. Ideally you should have a car parked at the Grandview Point, so you can drive back to camp (or home) after finishing your trek. There is one water source along this route. It is Miners Spring (aka Page Spring) and it is located neat the junction between the Tonto Trail and Grandview Trail. Since this is only ~1.5 miles from camp at Hance Creek, you likely will just fill your water at camp and hike all the way to the trailhead without refilling.

View from the Grandview Trail in Grand Canyon National Park (credit: John Strother)
Seen from the Grandview Trail in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Tanner Beach seen from the Grandview Trail in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Seen from the Grandview Trail in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
View from the Grandview Trail in Grand Canyon National Park (credit: John Strother)
grand-canyon-escalante-grandview-trail-5
View from the Grandview Trail in Grand Canyon National Park (credit: John Strother)

Jump to top of page

……….

 

Here are some similar trip reports!

Zion Traverse – Zion National Park (51 mile point-to-point)

North Circle Loop – Glacier National Park (52 mile loop)

Grand Canyon Hiking – South Kaibab and Bright Angel Trails (17 mile hike)

Continental Divide Loop – Rocky Mountain National Park (45 mile loop)

Rae Lakes Loop – Kings Canyon National Park Backpacking (41 mile loop)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s