Soap Creek Canyon is a large canyon entering on the east side of Marble Canyon. Soap Creek Canyon, like many of the neighboring canyons entering Marble Canyon, is fairly wide (not very narrow/slotty), strewn with boulders and very sandy in sections (almost like a wash). Most of the canyons are technically easy and this is the case with Soap Creek Canyon. This is a class 3 hike which mainly includes lots of boulder hopping and downclimbing/climbing over these boulders. There is one dryfall, but that can be bypassed easily. The route down is under five miles round trip providing one with excellent access into the heart of Marble Canyon. At the bottom, one is greeted with the roar of Soap Creek Rapid, which is a 4 (with high water) and a 7 (with low water) on the Grand Canyon River Scale
. There are a few nice beaches down at the bottom where many river companies will camp.
A few words about Marble Canyon... Marble Canyon is a large canyon that lays upstream of the Grand Canyon along the Colorado River. Marble Canyon starts at Lees Ferry and ends at the confluence of the the Little Colorado River and the Colorado River. Anything below that is considered the actual Grand Canyon. However, many people simply refer to Marble Canyon as part of the Grand Canyon for a few reasons. One is that people "rafting the Grand Canyon" put in at Lees Ferry and go through Marble Canyon. Also, Grand Canyon National Park extends way up in the Marble Canyon. Whether or not you consider this area a part of the Grand Canyon, the scenery is pretty much the same. The only real difference is Marble Canyon isn't as wide or deep. However, it is more remote in some cases and sees fewer visitors
|On the Soap Creek Beach |
|Running water in the lower parts of the canyon
Route InfoThere are two forks to this canyon. There is a south and a north fork. The north fork is possibly more technical (?). This page will focus on the South Fork of Soap Creek Canyon.
From the parking area (see getting there), head down the low angled wash. In the South Fork of Soap Creek Canyon, there are two forks: an Upper and Lower Fork. The Lower Fork is a wash for a very long time and not very interesting. The upper fork, is shorter and still pretty boring. The trail starts at the top of this Upper Fork. From the start, hiking is very easy with the only issue being the sand in the wash. The canyon then begins to drop.
Sandy Parts Vermillion Cliffs as a backdrop
Your first obstacle is a small dryfall. This can be avoided by going right. There is a small 3 or 4 foot drop, that you can either jump or walk down on to a little piece of wood and a pile of rocks (these might not be there after a rainstorm). Continue on slabs of rock for maybe 100 ft and you come to another dry fall. This one is maybe a 7ft down climb that is kind of slippery due to water polishing the rock. Shortly after this, you join up with the Lower Fork.
Note: After these two forks join, there are several petroglyphs. There a few on the north wall and some of the south wall. The best panel is on the south wall. Keep an eye out for these and more! As with all petroglyphs, pleae do not disturb! They have been there for centuries and we want to keep it that way! Also, in many cases, petroglyphs are sacred to Native Americans. Please be respectful!
|Our Group Downclimbing |
|Upper Fork. The canyon drops fast here Petroglyphs
Once in the main part of the Lower Fork, the going gets a little rougher. Lots and lots of boulder hopping ensues. You can find easy routes or you can spice it up and find harder routes. It just depends on your route finding ability. Cairns here and there do a pretty good job of helping you find the easiest routes There is one part in this section where you traverse way up to the right of the canyon onto a big talus field that is very loose. This just bypasses ten or so bulldozer sized boulders. After this, the boulder onslaught slows for a few. You then reach a section where there is a 6ft dryfall. Its a long jump onto uneven ground, but its possible. A better option is to do the easy downclimb. Right after this, the canyon narrows up some. Here is the 25 foot dry fall that can be downclimbed. Its a class 4 downclimb or you can traverse up along the cliffbands. The traverse starts on the right right after the previously mentioned 6ft dryfall. The traverse (a defined trail) follows a narrow cliff band and is somewhat exposed in sections. The cliffband then ends into a boulder/talus field and you are forced to drop back into the canyon (loose rocks!!).
More boulder hopping continues until you reach the crux. The crux is a bunch of house size boulders forcing you to do an awkward 5ft downclimb onto a slanting rock. This a a rope wrapped around a boulder (might not be there after lots of rain!!). After this, lots more boulder hopping continues until the North Fork meets up with the South Fork. After this, the hiking becomes alot easier (no gigantic boulders!!) as you just follow the wash/creek (there was some water flowing in sections when we went). Eventually, you start to hear the roar of Soap Creek Rapid. As Soap Creek Canyon begins to end, you enter the Grand Canyon National Park. The canyon then spits you out on a sandy beach next to the river.
|Fragile limestone cliffs prone to weather are the cause of all the huge boulders |
|There is where the route goes right up and around the cliff band to bypass teh 25ft dryfall
Note: At the confluence of Soap Creek and the Colorado, there is a very nice swimming pool with a nice sandbar. This little pool also has some excellent fishing as well. The fishing here is what lures (no pun intended) most of Soap Creek Canyon's hikers. I have heard stories of people catching 20 or more fish here in a day. Also, this is a great place to watch boats go through Soap Creek Rapid. This little pools also makes an ideal place to swim, however, the water is very very cold most of the time due to the fact that Glen Canyon Dam is not that far upstream.
|The Crux. You can see the hand line to the left |
|Water and calcite deposits in the lower section of the canyon Rafters going through Soap Creek Rapid The pool at the end of Soap Creek
Red TapeThere is no red tape involved for hiking Soap Creek Canyon. However, if you want to spend the night next to river, you will need a permit from Grand Canyon National Park. See external links for a link regarding Grand Canyon Permits.
Also, do not try and enter this canyon with any chance of rain! These canyons are very subject to flash flooding!
The view from our campsiteThere is excellent camping at the end of Soap Creek Canyon near the Colorado River. As mentioned above, you need a Grand Canyon permit to do this. There are two camping areas close to the river. The upper campsite is mainly used by river parties (its above the rapids) and the lower one is mainly used by hikers. With that being said, leave the upper campsite open for river parties. Its almost impossible for them to get into the lower campsite. Remember, practice Leave No Trace in this fragile desert environment. See THIS article about restoration projects for these campsites.
Anything above Grand Canyon National Park in Soap Creek Canyon is on BLM Land and has no camping restrictions (and its free). Also, established camping can be found at Lees Ferry.
Getting ThereFrom Flagstaff: Head north on Hwy 89. Take a left onto Hwy 89A and go across and Marble Canyon. Follow this for around nine miles. Once you get to mile marker 548, look for a small gate (w/latch) on the left and drive past a few small abandoned structures to the Soap Creek Canyon "Trailhead". Park here and hike! From Flagstaff, this is just over two hours of driving.
External LinksTodds Desert Hiking Guide
Lots of good information about Soap Creek Canyon.
Grand Canyon National Park permit information.
Current Weather Conditions
Current weather conditions of Soap Creek Canyon as forecasted by NOAA.
Bureau of Land Management Website with lots of information.
Tyler Williams guide to many of Arizonas Canyon. Good book.
Misc and DisclaimerIf 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 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!