Phantom Canyon An extremely beautiful area. Access to the entrance of the canyon requires wading Bright Angel Creek; sometimes knee high and quite swift. The lower section of the canyon shows signs of frequent use, but the upper parts are quite isolated. Travel with a backpack is sometimes awkward in the narrow sections. Several short climbs are required to bypass pools and falls; most are on the south side. At one of these slippery spots there was a bolted cable assist but I believe this handline is gone now.
Routes The quickest way to the upper canyon is the high road across the plateau between Cheops and Phantom Ranch known as Utah Flats (see Utah Flats). Camping in the gorge below the 3600 foot contour is prohibited, but there really are no safe campsites in the area near the falls or below. From here one can go south directly up to the Cheops/Isis saddle and contour above the Quartzite cliffs into Trinity Canyon. Cheops offers a more challenging climb.
This is a lovely spot. The stream forms a nice waterfall over the lip of the gorge and winds through a sinuous narrows all the way to Bright Angel Creek (5 hours travel). At the south side of the fall there is sometimes a rope to make the climb possible; there is an alternate bypass of this fall by going over the slope to the north and back down to the creek at the red Hakatai slope of the next ravine. This area is a favorite hangout for the staff at Phantom Ranch.
Harvey B. describes another route to this place via the north side, starting in Bright Angel Canyon near Ribbon Falls and following the Tonto level around and into Phantom Canyon. The story is that cattle traveled this route to winter pasture. See Cattle Trail Route description.
It is an easy walk into the upper canyon; most of the useful trails to avoid boulder hopping are along the south bank. Midway is a huge overhang that makes for a nice campsite. Upstream a little from here is Haunted Canyon going north. The sidecanyon to the north at the upper end is known as Outlet Canyon, although the name could be changed to No-Outlet Canyon. At the joining of Phantom Canyon and Outlet Canyon is the spot called the "Hippie Camp" by George S., and there is a Muav seep-spring here. Near the upper limit of Phantom Canyon on the south side is a Redwall route that involves a rock climb and traverse along a narrow ledge. Harvey B., George S. and others have climbed it, but it does not look good for a solo hiker with a pack.
1982 June - Visit following ascent of Cheops. Pausing under a rock on a barren slope, a hummingbird flew up, attracted by my red shirt, looked me over and buzzed off. Lay around on the rocks for a couple hours and then passed on down the creekbed, finishing a superb experience. This year there was a fresh rockfall in the lower bed making a waist-deep pool, since washed out.
1989 April - Exploration of upper end of Phantom Canyon and Outlet Canyon.
1995 April - Guide CABA group into Phantom Canyon and back. Encounter George S. at base of Utah Flats access; George had been to Clear Creek were he experienced a minor earthquake.
1996 December - Water-stop coming back from Trinity. Head of Utah Flats descent into Phantom Creek connects with Isis/Cheops saddle and Quartzite terrace route to Trinity.
2003 December - Solo trip for Haunted Canyon and the Cattle Trail. Trip Report.
2004 April - Repeating the Cattle Trail for fun and to make a better route with good success. Checked down the Buddha side-canyon almost to the pour-off; access not difficult that far. Overnight camp at the saddle behind a small hill with a wonderful sunset view to the east. Attempted descent of the next drainage west, but utterly impassable with brush; then direct from there to the Phantom Creek pouroff.