5 NIGHTS | 32 MILES | NORTH RIM
Starts in Flagstaff, AZ
Discover some of the most breathtaking waterfalls and swimming holes in the Grand Canyon while exploring remote North Rim terrain.
Venture into an incredibly remote and difficult to access section of the Grand Canyon’s North Rim on an epic five-night, six-day trek to Thunder River. We’ll be accessing the North Rim on old forest roads to explore some of the most breathtaking waterfalls and swimming holes that the Grand Canyon has to offer. With just over 30 miles of trail, we’ll travel along slickrock and winding slots while following the natural curves created by wind and water throughout time. This guided Grand Canyon backpacking trip is all inclusive, easy to join, and open to fit and motivated individuals of all ages and experience levels.
Thunder River is the second trip introduced as part of our Grand Canyon Limited Edition experiences (2023), and will utilize the the Thunder River, Deer Creek and Indian Hollow trail systems.
- Roundtrip transportation between Flagstaff, AZ meeting point and your trailhead
- Guided week-long trek through remote Grand Canyon terrain
- Opportunity to extensively explore remote Grand Canyon trails, side canyons, historical sites and beaches
- All meals and snacks while in the back-country
- Backpack, tent, sleeping bag and pad if needed
- Personalized pack-check prior to departure
- Group gear and equipment
- Priority access to future Limited Edition experiences
- Flexible cancellation policy
- Inspiration for a lifetime
What’s not included
- Meals in the front-country
- Lodging in the front-country, pre- or post-trek
How it works
A $475 deposit is required upon registration with balance due 60 days prior to event. Treks dates may be adjusted +/- one day until permits are finalized 4 months in advance of departure (when Grand Canyon permits are issued). Maximum group size of 11, including two guides. An additional 5% charge will be applied when your reservation is made to offset new fees mandated by National Park Service. Private customized Grand Canyon backpacking trips available via TSX Pods. Cancel up until the day of the trip without the risk of lost money. View cancellation policy.
Thunder River photo credit: John Strother http://www.panafoot.com
Evening before departure, pack-check overnight in Flagstaff
On the evening before your trek start date, we’ll convene at 6:00pm for a one hour group orientation and pack-check in the main lobby of Little America Hotel in Flagstaff, AZ. At orientation we’ll hand out backpacks, tents and sleeping bags to those who requested them. We’ll also get to know our team, preview the trail and talk safety.
Day 1 – Thunder River Trail to Esplanade (5 miles, 850 foot descent)
We’ll get together in the lobby of the Little America Hotel, Flagstaff at 5:00am, load gear and water, then head out to the North Rim. Our 5 hour drive will include a short visit to the Navajo Bridge, overlooking the Colorado River near Lee’s Ferry. We will continue on to the Thunder River Trailhead, where our hike begins at 6,400 feet. After an afternoon hike down to the Esplanade, a bench of beautiful slickrock, we’ll set up our dry camp for our first night under the stars.
Day 2 – Esplanade to Lower Tapeats (9 miles, 3,450 foot descent)
On day two we’ll have an early start to beat the heat! We will descend into Surprise Valley and travel east towards Thunder River, one of the shortest and steepest rivers in the world. We will pass a series of waterfalls virtually appearing out of nowhere as they emerge from channels concealed within the Tapeats sandstone. Then it’s off to camp at Lower Tapeats, with our first opportunity to swim in the Colorado River.
Day 3 – Lower Tapeats to Deer Creek (5.5 miles, 150 foot ascent)
Day three will be shorter mileage but rugged terrain. We will spend most of this day traveling through a boulder garden along the Colorado River. As we near it’s end, Deer Creek falls and the enchanting Tapeats narrows will come into view. This camp is a true oasis in the desert.
Day 4 – Layover day for day hikes, swimming and exploration
Spend time relaxing and enjoying the Grand Canyon at your pace, with time to explore the hidden swimming holes, water falls, and side canyons of Deer Creek and the Colorado River.
Day 5 – Deer Creek to Esplanade (7 miles, 3,200 foot ascent)
Our trek transitions to working back toward the North Rim with a climb that includes incredible views of the Colorado River, and a camp that hosts an expansive sunset and night sky on the vast and open Esplanade. Camping out is highly encouraged! A hearty dinner with good company will prepare us for our final climb out of Grand Canyon.
Day 6 – Esplanade to North Rim (5 miles, 850 foot ascent)
Our last hiking day of this trek will feel familiar as we retrace our steps along the Thunder River Trail and up to the North Rim. After completing our hike, we’ll have a short drive to a hearty lunch stop and then continue on to Flagstaff.
Trek date confirmation
We apply for Grand Canyon permits through a lottery system on the 1st of the month, four months in advance of our planned trek date. Permits are typically issued and within two weeks of submission. You’ll receive an email from us as soon as the dates for your trek are confirmed. Once confirmed, you can start making plans for transportation and pre-trek/post-trek accommodations.
Pre and post trek accommodations
Secure a lodging reservation in Flagstaff, AZ as soon as your trek dates are confirmed. You can request a TSX “corporate rate” at Little America Hotel (flagstaff.littleamerica.com / 800.865.1401) in Flagstaff. We will be hosting our pre-trek orientation at the hotel and will depart from the hotel on the morning of our hike (prices typically $125-$175 with discount). The nearby hotels on Lucky Lane are also a popular option and within walking distance (prices typically $75-$105). If you plan on staying somewhere else, that is ok with us! Let us know where you end up and we’ll do our best to accommodate.
If traveling by air, Flagstaff is the preferred airport. There is a free hotel shuttle to Little America Hotel from the Flagstaff airport. If flying into Phoenix, consider taking a shuttle or bus to Flagstaff, or renting a car. Reserve your shuttle spot in advance with Groome Transportation (groometransportation.com or 928.350.8466), or book your Greyhound Bus seat from Phoenix to Flagstaff in advance. You may also be able arrange customized shuttle service with Uber or Lyft. If you are driving in from the West or North (i.e. California, Utah, etc.), you can alternatively plan to meet us on Day 1 at a designated meetup point about 30 minutes from Fredonia, AZ to reduce your drive time.
When scheduling flights or planning your drive, please allow enough time to arrive no later than 7pm the evening before your trek begins so that you can attend the pre-trek orientation (typically scheduled between 6:00pm-7:00pm at the Little America Hotel, Flagstaff lobby).
We plan on exiting the trail between 12pm and 2pm on the last day of the trek. However, the last day includes a long five-hour return drive back to Flagstaff. Please plan your return transportation accordingly. If flying out of Flagstaff on the same day, we suggest scheduling flights for departure no earlier than 8pm. Staying one additional night on the South Rim or in Flagstaff, and departing the following day is also popular option.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
Don’t own a backpack, tent or sleeping bag? We provide all major gear for those who request it at no additional charge. We also take care of all group items like stoves, food, water filters, first aid and more. Your guides will do the cooking and dishes. Just show up with your personal items ready to hike!
Download Our Official Gear Checklist!
Stay connected to TSX and download your gear checklist now: