It has come to my attention that Deer Creek Narrows is now closed to canyoneering as of June 2012! The closure was made suddenly and without many people knowing. Why it is closed, I do not know. What you can do is contact Laurie Parish, the superintendent of the Grand Canyon National Park, of your dissatisfaction by sending an email to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deer Creek Narrows or Lower Deer Creek Canyon is a stunning technical slot canyon located inside of Grand Canyon National Park on the North Rim. Deer Creek Narrows is a very short slot canyon being only around 0.4 miles (500 meters) long. In those 0.4 miles, there are four rappels, with the last one being a 190 foot rappel off of Deer Creek Falls that lands one right next to the mighty Colorado River in the bottom on Grand Canyon! Even though the canyon is so short, you still have to work very hard for it. There are three upper forks to Deer Creek Canyon too but this page will focus on the lower section of Deer Creek Canyon that is most often called Deer Creek Narrows. The approach to Deer Creek Narrows is around 20 miles round trip with around 10,000ft of elevation gain and loss. So not only are you able to do an awesome technical slot canyon, you are also able to to hike the beautiful Bill Hall trail inside of the Grand Canyon. Generally, people do this trip in 2-3 days. Some have done it in one very long day. I would recommend doing it in 3 days in order to fully enjoy the area.
Last Rappel- 190ft!
Inside the narrows
Deer Creek, like its neighbor, Thunder River, originates from springs in the Redwall Limestone that are a result of extensive faulting and fracturing. Because of this, Deer Creek flows year round and is an oasis in an area so dry and barren. In the spring, water levels increase because of snow melt so on can expect more flow then. The water in Deer Creek is cold year round, so wet suits are a must unless you are doing it in the heat of the day during the summer months.
Rating- 4CV (Click HERE for an explanation of the ACA rating system). The water in Deer Creek Narrows makes it fairly dangerous, especially during Spring runoff. This canyon is subject to flash flooding, like any other canyon. So be prepared for the worst! Anchor building and self rescue knowledge are musts for this canyon.
What to bring- webbing (50ft or more), wetsuits, helmets, two 60m ropes and then possibly one or two smaller ropes, bolt kit (optional), hexes and nuts (optional, but there are places at the rappels where these can be used), third hand and rappeling gear.
Approach- Start at Monument Point, which is the starting point for the Bill Hall Trail. Follow this down to the Esplande. Continue hiking over the Esplande to Surprise Valley. Take the trail right (West) once you reach Surprise Valley and head towards Deer Creek. While you are going down, you will pass Deer Spring on the left side (this is your last water source on the way up). At the bottom, you will reach Deer Creek. Follow this downstream until you reach the camping area and pit toliet. If your camping here and even if you aren't, I would recommend stashing all of your excess gear here. From here, follow the trail downstream for another 10 minutes and you will be at the start of Deer Creek Narrows.
Atop the Esplande
Looking down from near the top of the Bill Hall Trail-Long ways to go
Rappel 1- There are some neat falls and pools in this first section. Bypass these and head on the East (left) side of the canyon. Not counting the first large set of falls at the very beginning of the canyon, walk on the rim on the east side until you pass two narrow waterfalls (200ft or so). After this, you will see big boulders on the rim. Wrap these with webbing and rappel. Rappel 1 is around 30 feet (10m). Retrieve your webbing on the way out!
Start of Deer Creek Narrows
Bottom of Rappel 1
Rappel 2- Walk around 300ft down canyon and you will see some chokestones with webbing on them (you might need to use your own webbing here). This is an awkward rappel with lots of water that is around 15ft (5m) high.
One of the numerous small and easy downclimbs in this section
Kory on Rappel 2
Rappel 3- Rappel 3 is a two stage rappel. The anchors are located high on the wall on the right. Some people might want to be belayed up to the anchors. Use a 60m rope here. Go down into one pool and then head over and down another dry fall. The first part of this rappel is around 50ft and the second part is around 30 feet- 80ft (25m) total.
Rappel 3 Anchors
Midway on Rappel 3
Rappel 4 (optional)- You could stay on rappel from Rappel 3 and bypass this rappel. If you do this, you will be just at the ends of your rope by the time you reach the anchors for Rappel 5. Or, if you just want to be extra sure you have enough rope, you can use one of your shorter ropes here. There is one bolt and a fixed hexcentric on the right side of the wall. This rappel is around 15ft (5m).
The falls for Rappel 4. Taken from the anchors of Rappel 5
Hexcentric as the second anchor for Rappel 4
Rappel 5- This is the big one. Whether you chose to bypass Rappel 4 or if you used it, be sure to stay on rappel!! If you loose your footing here and you aren't on rappel, you will discover the quickest way down Deer Creek Falls and will probably reach terminal velocity. The anchors are located on the left side. They anchors were solid when we were there and there is evidence of lots of older pitons and homemade anchors. This area is only big enough for two to three people, so if you have a larger group, keep them atop Rappel 4. Use both of your 60m ropes here. Option two: If these top anchors are not there, rappel down from Rappel 4 around 20ft and there is a protected alcove with three bolts with room for about 4 people to stand. This rappel is around 190ft (55m).
Over the edge anchors..these are your second option for anchors on this last rappel
Looking Down the Big Rappel
Rappeling the last waterfall...all 190ft of it!
Half Way down the last rappel
After this rappel, you will be at the bottom of the Grand Canyon and right next to the Colorado River. Hike up along the hikers trail to the right (West) to return to Deer Creek Camp.
Deer Creek Falls from the River
Looking back up Rappel 5
Rappelling on the third rappel
Life Insurance- The unnerving aspect to this canyon is the fact that if the last bolts are not there (the ones for the 190ft rappel), you and your party are shit out of luck. Here is what we did for our life insurance. We brought two 60m ropes, two 30m ropes and one 10m rope. We had five people in our group. We did Rappel 1 and left one of the 30m ropes up at this rappel. We then left our 10m rope at Rappel 2. These two ropes could easily have been ascended if needed. On the Rappel 3, we sent three people down. One stayed at the half way point of Rappel 3 and the other two went to do Rappel 4. The first person to do Rappel 4 saw that the anchors were there for Rappel 5 and they gave the thumbs up to the person on top of Rappel 4. Then that person gave the thumbs up to the person at the half way point on Rappel 3. That person then gave the thumbs up to the people on top Rappel 3. They then went back and pulled the rope on Rappel 2. We pulled the rope on Rappel 1 on the hike out of the canyon. The only downside to this was bringing all the rope. Another option is to bring a bolt kit.
This is the hard part because there are a maze of forest roads that lead to Monument Point (the trailhead of the Bill Hall Trail, which provides one with access to Deer Creek Narrows). I would strongly advise carrying either a Kaibab National Forest Map or a GPS. We had a GPS and still got lost!
From Jacobs Lake-
Taken from AZHikes
Jumping off point is Forest Road (FR) 22 located off of Highway 89A, just few miles east of the small town of Fredonia, AZ. From FR 22 you will be turning onto FR 425. If you are heading to Indian Hollow and the Thunder River trailhead, then turn onto FR 232 (this road ends at the trailhead). If you are heading for Bill Hall trailhead, then continue further down FR 425 until you come to FR 292. FR 292 turns into FR 292A and ends at the Bill Hall trailhead. Alternate access to FR 22 is from Demotte Park off of Highway 67. During the winter and early spring deep snow and mud on the North Rim might close access roads and cut off vehicle access to the trailheads.
Taken from Todds Desert Hiking Guide.
Take I-89A to it's intersection with state highway 67 at Jacob Lake. Follow 67 south past the Kaibab Lodge. About a mile past the lodge turn right on Forest Road 422 (the sign is labeled 22). All roads in this area are prominently labeled so you shouldn't have much trouble - the Arizona Road and Recreation Atlas is a good investment as reference book for routes on Forest Service roads like this one. Follow 422 for 10.5 miles until you reach FR (Forest Road) 206, turn left on 206. After 3.6 miles, keep an eye out for FR-214 on the right, turn right on FR-214. Drive for 2.7 miles, when you reach a branch with FR-272, turn right on FR-272. After 6.6 miles turn left onto FR-292 which leads a short distance to Monument Point.
Waiting for Rappel 3
A permit is required to camp overnight in the Grand Canyon. Permit information can be found HERE.
Also, weather can be an issue. One could do this canyon in the summer, but you would have to deal with blazing temperatures that could very well exceed 100 Fahrenheit. If you were to do it in the summer, you would have to start very very early.
An important piece of Red Tape is that the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is closed seasonally. Gennerally, it is closed from the first big snowfall usually in late November or early December until May. Check HERE for current conditions.
Camping can be done all around.
In the Canyon-
If you are doing Deer Creek Narrows, it would be best to camp at the Deer Creek Campground (AX7 is the permit designation). There is a pit toliet, plenty of water, shade and easy access to Deer Creek Narrows.
Drying our gear at Deer Creek Camp
If you are looking to cut your hike out in half you could camp either in Surprise Valley (AM9) or on the Esplande (AY9). Those places have no water and have limited amounts of shade. If you were to camp here, you would either need to have a water stash or pack in lots of extra from Deer Creek or from Thunder River, which is close to Surprise Valley.
Tapeats Canyon and Thunder River
On the Rim- The rim is on Kaibab National Forest land and no permit is needed to camp. For current conditions and restrictions, HERE.
If you have any more additional information or photos, please contact me or add them to this page. This canyon is a very arduous undertaking. While I can provide lots of information about the canyon, flash floods always rearrange slot canyons and I cannot guarantee the information will be up to date. Always check for current conditions and go prepared for the worst. New beta will be posted as necessary. Thank you!
"I went to the woods becuase I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."
--Henry David Thoreau