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Thread: Kanab Creek, Grand Canyon via Colorado River, Cranberry route, Fishtail Mesa

  1. #1

    Kanab Creek, Grand Canyon via Colorado River, Cranberry route, Fishtail Mesa

    Needed a short hike for the spring. Settled on a rerun what we hiked 14 years ago but with a twist. Previously we hiked from Bill Hall TH to Deer Creek Falls to Kanab Creek and out Snake Gulch. This time we would to try the Cranberry Route and over Fishtail Mesa pass.....
    Here is a video, make sure you switch to HD:



    Some pics:
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    Day 1: Drive to Sowats Point TH. A long 49 miles from Fredonia, AZ. Had to take the low route as still snow on high road. Was going to be short hiking day ( miles). Very good trail switchbacking down. Nicev iews. Headed off the main trail at Kwagunt canyon and camped early just up stream from Jumpup canyon.

    Day 2: Headed out lazily, down Jumpup. Hiked up into the Indian Hollow canyon narrows for a ways then back on track. There was some water in the crack in Jumpup, but we didn’t need any. The junction of Kanab Creek and Jumpup was hot and dry. Headed on down Kanab Creek, destination was the Shower Bath Spring area for the night. Hit flowing water at about miles, not many big rocks through this section. Great campsite up higher on the left bench just before the spring.
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    Day 3: Another slow start, no hurry. Just needed to get to Whispering Falls for the day. Scotty’s Castle is neat. Hiked a ways up Scotty’s Hollow a ways. Really nice waterfalls. Saw bighorn sheep and wild bee honeycombs here. Headed on down Kanab Creek, some rough going for a couple of miles through this section, with lots of large boulders. Key in bypassing by climbing is don’t go to high above the river. Probably the toughest section. Camped on a low bench just across from Whispering Falls canyon. Whispering Falls and the pool is nice. Get there in middle of day to enjoy, it’s warmer. The pool by the falls is crystal clear and about 15 ft deep.
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    Day 4: Tried to get an early start, hah …. needed to make camp at Fishtail Rapids on the Colorado river. Uneventful hiking in this section of Kanab Creek…..except the limestone rocks are really sharp….grabbed one while slipping and ripped a 2” gash in my finger, lots of blood….lightweight leather gloves would be nice! This section is very colorful, with highwalls and neat overhangs. Saw trout in the 16” range, unusual. A half mile or so near the confluence we started seeing a lot of BIG carp and suckers somelooking over 20”. Looked like spawning season. As we hit the beach at the Colorado we met a private rafting group. After about a hour of relaxing/swimming we headed towards Fishtail Rapids. Lots of large rocks, really no trail to negotiate and most of the going was really slow and HOT. Seems like the route we picked was always up and down. Decided the sand beaches that always suckered us in were not the easiest way. Pick your route that stays about 50 to 100 ft from water line. This section of the Colorado river gets the sun all day long. Made it to camp tired at dusk. The next day was shaping up to be a killer…the climb up Cranberry canyon crack.

    Day 5: Headed along the Colorado River on a good use trail that heads to Deer Creek Falls. It climbs above the tapeats cliffs and as soon as the trail started back down to the river we veered up, off the trail, towards the Cranberry slope. Eventually there is a bench that is easy hiking until the huge ravine you have to cross, very steep sided with loose rock. After crossing the ravine we were on the correct slope to access the Cranberry crack, about 2000 ft above us in the redwall. This slope is about the angle of repose, but the rock is pretty stable, just slow going picking your route up. When you reach the redwall it gets really steep up to the crack, take the left center one. It is now near vertical but with decent hand/footholds (if you don’t have a sliced finger) for about 20ft. A short distance you come to a vertical section, this is the crux. It’s about 20ft as well and not real good holds, but doable. We chickened out….sent one guy up to belay the rest of us. If you fell here you probably would get banged up and wouldn’t go all the way to the river. We were glad we were going up and not down. The talus slope above the redwall you need to cross is really steep and hard dirt, really exposed. We went up to just below the next cliff band and traversed left on a narrow shelf around the alcove then dropped elevation. This section had the worst pucker factor. About a half a mile around and you finally hit flat ground. The view from here up and down the Canyon is one of the best there is. This would be a great campsite but for the wind and no water. We headed up Cranberry canyon, light on water and the sun getting lower. Made camp at the drip spring and even had potholes nearby to resupply. It was easy walking on numerous use trails until the bench pinches off and you hike a short distance in the canyon bottom. Everyone was out early for the night.
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    Day 6: Headed up the bottom of Cranberry canyon, the left fork, fairly decent boulder hopping in this section, not tough. Some pretty neat hoodoos at the head of the canyon. Headed cross country towards the mushroom like rock that hides the Ghost figures and an old cowboy camp. Spent a littletime there cooling off. Then it was off, a long hike across the esplanade headed for the saddle at Fishtail Mesa. It was easy walking along flat benches,keeping at the same elevation. Nice views, the canyon is wide here. Stay onthese benches, if you get to high near the talus slope up there is a steep ravine blocking the way. The slope is steep, angle of repose, as well…but there is a decent use trail up. A sketchy narrow trail traverses across to the saddle. We took some time here soaking in the view. Dropping off the back there is no trail and its brushy and fairly steep, but not like the other side. As soon as you get to the bottom the wash is sandy and decent walking. We wanted to make the turn up Indian Hollow so the hike out the next day wouldn’t be too late. It was a good push, there were some inviting campsites along this stretch with sporadic water. Passed one pouroff but it had a way around. Turning up Indian Hollow there are a pouroff and rock falls to climb, then a deluxe campsite. Just what we needed after a long day.

    Day 7: The make it to the truck day. Just past camp there is a climb on the left to bypass a large pouroff. A little farther andthe route takes you left up to the flats that head back towards Sowats canyon. It’s pretty much just contour around for a few miles, staying on benches. There are some interesting canyons and rock formations along the way. We could see Indian Hollow springs, but didn’t go there. We intersected Kwagunt canyon atabout the same elevation the Sowats trail crosses. Then it’s back up the switchbacks gaining the rest of your elevation to the trailhead. After snacks, water and rest from the climb, the drive to Kanab for a decent meal was short.....All in all another great trip. Weather was perfect. Water was plentiful. Company was great.

    NOTE: The Cranberry crack and across the alcove is VERY exposed, and NOT for the novice.
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  3. #2
    Awesome, man. I've done the route 4 times...it's so spectacular. First time was in '94. Back then, there were lots of relics at the cowboy camp, but the last time through it seems that people have taken most of it for souvenirs. Is a horseshoe still there?

    Below Ghost Rock, at the bottom of the talus just as the "Tonto" like flats start heading over to the Redwall drop, there was always a small seep under an alcove to get water...did ya notice that?

    Anyway, awesome backpack...I'm jealous and ready to do it again!
    Life is what you make it. Everybody knows that...right?

  4. #3
    Very little cowboy stuff left. Not sure on your seep, but the one in the canyon that just drips was good. Didn't check out the spring at the head of Fishtail canyon either.

  5. #4
    Great write up and photos! Thanks for posting, looks like an awesome trip.

  6. #5
    Yes...the drip spring! You mentioned it at the end of your report...I missed it. Interesting that you did it counterclockwise. I've always done it the opposite, 'ala George Steck, so you get all the big elevation out of the way on day one.
    Life is what you make it. Everybody knows that...right?

  7. #6
    Let me add that the view from Kanab Point is absolutely stunning - no photos can do it justice!. At-large camping is ok with a permit from Grand Canyon Back Country office. Going own BLM1058 turn right onto a non-descript 2-track road 100 yds past Johnson Tanks (tank is usually but not always and earth pond).

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