Rock Garden

Clear Creek — The Clear Creek Trail connects Bright Angel to this large and interesting side-canyon. Easy trail... one of the best on the north side of the river. The trail starts a mile up from Phantom Ranch and climbs at a steady grade to the point below the Tapeats cliff, looking down to the south on the Black Bridge. At one switchback is a rock bench and a scenic pull-out with a view down onto the Black Bridge. The trail contours at the base of the Tapeats cliff and then goes up the first ravine. The first camp sites on the way to Clear Creek are at Sumner Wash and there may be water there in potholes depending on the season, but don't count on it. Another useful camp is the dry streambed of the next side-canyon beyond, but the best location is near a few large boulders on the ridge just east of Sumner Wash.

After reaching the point above the mouth of Clear Creek, the trail turns north (interesting geology here), passes through Zoroaster Canyon, and continues at the Tonto level well north into the canyon, descending a slope of Hakatai Shale to the bed just below the narrow opening in the Shinumo cliff that leads into the upper basin and Cheyava Falls. Some wading may be required to go upstream. There is a chemical potty and lots of space for camping - 4 good sites. The cottonwoods that give shade to campsites are embedded in a somewhat recent debris flow, so there can be severe flooding in this place. In several visits over the years changes in the streambed near the camp area are quite evident and gradually eroding a deeper channel.

Water sources are numerous in every branch away from camp, so the possibilities are almost without limit for diversion and exploration. Good water supply makes for a good living so there are numerous archeological features as well. This includes a rather well-known ruin site under the cliff near where all the streams come together in the upper central region of Clear Creek - a log book in a can records many visitors, many names known from the Grand Canyon Hikers listgroup. Changing streambed conditions in the first narrows upstream from the main camp area make an obstacle course. Then there is a consistent track above the east bank, crossing at a large rock slab, blocked by a massive old collapse from the west, look for the group of rare agave phillipsiana just before the crossing at Obi, then back up onto the flat for a long way. Keep right going upstream to reach Cheyava Falls, there are two extensive clearings for possible upper camps and then a bubbling spring, and then the bed goes dry for a long way.

The hike down the bed to the river is a good all-day excursion, but the lower fall is a little tricky to bypass (hook webbing on a projecting rock for an extra hand hold). There are very few dry footsteps to be found in the narrows below this. There is no beach or suitable camp at the mouth, but there is a good camping beach just downriver.

Another good day-hike is going up the east fork with a narrow section and a nice open valley with a flowing stream. The lower Shinumo begins with high walls that close in to make a narrow gap, then the canyon opens up to a broad Tapeats-rim valley. An easy slope goes up north to Tapeats ledges - typical location with good sun exposure for Anasazi dwelling sites. A series of breakdowns and slumps forms a steep rise to the south, with a game-track starting up on the eastside (upstream) slope - this access makes an approach to the Angels/Wotan saddle. Springs occur at different locations in the bed for water stops all the way to the end below Cape Royal. This is a long way to go to turn back at the end, but a really superb Redwall bay with lush vegetation and big cottonwoods - a place few will ever know,

Trails — The CCC constructed Clear Creek Trail connects Bright Angel through Sumner Wash and Zoroaster Canyon to upper Clear Creek.

Routes — A steep and slidy off-trail route connects Zoroaster Canyon with lower Clear Creek. Another route goes back up to the Tonto level on the east side in the next drainage upriver (not explored). A short sidecanyon and steep ravine just up the east fork leads to the Tonto level beside The Howlands; eventually one can pass through a series of nameless drainages to reach Vishnu Canyon. Travel upstream allows access to Cheyava Falls. A more adventurous route goes west over the Brahma/Deva saddle to Bright Angel near Ribbon Falls - the standard departure for this is at the upper end of the Hakatai section of the trail.

1995 October - First exploration. By CC Trail to upper camp. Side hike up east arm; break south to Tonto viewed. Followed bed to the river and camped on beach just downriver. Hiked downriver and up lower Zoroaster a little way. Rejoined CC Trail by climbing shale slope just above falls in lower Clear Creek.

1996 April - Attempt to reach Cheyava Falls; abandoned when reported dry. Another attempt down Zoroaster Canyon; major drops in the bed. Moonlight hike out Kaibab Trail and rescue of hiker collapsed 1 mile below top (4AM).

1998 May - Resting under the cottonwoods and stopping for Camp 2 just up the east arm. Kick-off for the push east on the North Rim Passage. Plenty of water. Stream crossing difficult, although flows had been even higher recently.

2003 April - Four nights of a 10-day trip with Alessio. Successful visit to Cheyava Falls flowing; also up the east fork and down to the river. Streambed much altered from the last visit. Flow not very high and travel upstream or downstream fairly easy.

2005 November - Hike with Tom Bourne exploring the west arm up from the Obi ruins and tracking all the way to the end of the east arm to below Cape Royal. Camp 3 nights and then head for Brahma/Deva saddle.

2006 December - Return visit to archeology sites in the 3 major forks. To Cheyava Falls (not flowing). The ultimate objective obtained.

2012 February - In and out in 3 overnights, Indian Garden, Zoroaster, end of the east arm again, BA Camp and out.


Catalog of Places - Trips - Routes - Notes