Trail Description : Beamer Trail
The Beamer Trail starts on the east side of Tanner delta and runs north-northeast for approximately 10 miles, along the south bank of the Colorado River, to its confluence with the Little Colorado River. The trail is fairly easy to follow and does not present much in the way of obstacles along the way. Assuming you have made it down the Tanner Trail to where the the Beamer starts, you should not have any problem following it to its terminus. The only real tricky parts of the trail are picking it up again after crossing some of the drainages that it crosses in the southern portion. The northern section is just plain tedious as it is constantly taking you in and out of all of the side canyons and drainages coming down from above. Though these are not nearly as large as side canyons like Hance and Grapevine and others along the Tonto Trail, there seem to be a lot more of them and they are very close together. You no sooner get out of one that you are heading back into another. This is not a lot of fun when you are pressed for time and are just trying to cover the distance.
The scenery along the trail, like just about every place else in the Grand Canyon, is magnificent. This trail has the added joy of being so isolated that not many people use it and depending on the time of year that it is hiked, you are quite likely to have the whole thing to yourself. The fact that the other end of the trail doesn't connect to any other trail gives people the impression that it goes nowhere and as a result of this may leave it alone. I attempted a day hike of this trail in late December, 1994 just because I wanted to actually see the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado. The key word in the past sentence is "attempted", I never made it all the way to the Little Colorado though I did get far enough to see it enter the Colorado. This trail is just too long to attempt as a day hike, all the way from Tanner, at that time of year, unless you are prepared to do some of it in the dark. Or, you could bring your gear with you and leave it someplace further along the trail so that you don't have to hike all the way back to Tanner. I did neither and paid the price. As a result of this I cannot offer any details about the last mile or so of the trail and its descent from the cliffs that it follows along the river, back down to river level.
Many sections of the Beamer Trail are more likely than not old routes used by the Hopi to reach their sacred salt mines along the Little Colorado River. Credit for actual trail construction, however, goes to Ben Beamer, another one of those prospectors who came to the Grand Canyon in the late 1800's in search of wealth. The section of trail actually constructed by Ben Beamer runs from Palisades Creek to his cabin at the mouth of the Little Colorado. This stone cabin is supposedly a old indian ruin that was rebuilt and put to use by Mr. Beamer.
The Beamer Trail starts on the east side of Tanner delta back near some low cliffs. Both sides of the delta are littered with trails, going every which way, that have been created by both hikers and river runners. If you start at the very tip of the eastern side of the delta, near where the the Tanner Trail ends, and work your way back towards the south-southeast you should run across the beginnings of the Beamer Trail. You will know when you are on the right trail as it will climb up into and around the cliff of Dox Sandstone to the east of the delta. The Beamer Trail is the only way across these cliffs to the beaches on the other side. Some sections of trail along the cliffs are very close to the edge and they might make you feel more than a little exposed if you happen to be carrying a large, heavy pack. Once past the cliffs the trail descends down to a beach on the other side.
From here the trail heads almost due north and follows the beach all the way to Comanche Creek. It crosses one major drainage and a number of small ones along the way. Look for the cairn marking the ascent out of the drainage on the other side before descending into it. Sometimes the ascent is not real obvious from the bottom of the creek bed and it's not always directly opposite from the side you entered. I missed one of these heading back the other way, ended up on some other trail, and got totally confused until I managed to work my way back to the real trail.
Shortly after crossing Comanche Creek the trail climbs back up into the Dox and stays there for the next half mile or so, before coming back down to river level. There are supposedly two routes crossing this section of Dox, an upper one and a lower one, which can only be traversed at low water. I only saw one so I would guess it was the upper one. The view was very nice from up there, especially as the trail wound its way past the huge sandbar on the left side of the river. Just as you start to approach the northern end of the sandbar the trail descends back down to river level.
After passing the sandbar the trail follows the beaches all the way up to Palisades Creek. The trail is a very pleasant stroll through the tammies in this section and is often lined with boulders, making it seem almost park like. The trail does not cross much in the way of other drainage is this section either but rather simply heads straight off towards Palisades.
After crossing Palisades Creek the real fun begins as the trail climbs up into the Tapeats Sandstone. The ascent is not really steep and it shouldn't take more than 15-20 minutes to get to the top, but the trail is littered with all sizes of rocky debris. Be sure to turn around and look back when you get to the top of this climb as the view of the Colorado River, Palisades Creek and Lava Rapids from this vantage point is remarkable.
The main trail follows along the top of the Tapeats all the way to the Little Colorado, when it again descends down to river level. This part of the trail, although not really difficult, is extremely tedious. The trail is constantly going into and out of the side drainages along the route. Although these are not nearly as deep as a lot of the side drainages found on the Tonto, there seems to be many more of them. I started counting them at one point and eventually gave up as my moral waned. Make sure that you can pick out the main trail on the other side of the drainage before descending into it. There are at least 2 different routes along some sections of this route and the higher one is more heavily travelled and much better. The lower one is much more faint, is not as level and gets a little too close to the edge for some people.
Two of the side drainages (6th and 7th heading towards the Little Colorado) along this route are of pretty good size and the route through them is not obvious at the start. Both of them start off as one large drainage that splits into two separate drainages a little further back, with a huge pile of debris in the middle, at the split. Instead of descending into drainage and going around this debris pile the trail goes back to it and uses it as the descent. The first one you encounter will take you to the back of the debris pile, out along it, descend into the floor of the drainage, and then make you climb the opposite wall to get back out. The second on is reversed in that you have to descend to the floor of the drainage first and then climb the debris pile to get out. It is during the ascents out of these large drainages that you stand a chance of loosing the main trail. As you ascend you will first come across the lower route, but if you go a little higher you will come back out to the main trail.
Don't forget to stop and look around from time to time, it breaks up the monotony. The scenery along this section of trail is magnificent. The views up and down the Colorado when you are right on the edge are awesome. You also get some very nice views of Temple and Chuar Buttes on the other side of the river, as well as the North Rim.
When the trail finally reaches the confluence of the Little Colorado it descends via a well worn path back down to river level. This is something that I get from another guidebook as I never made it that far. The remains of Beamer's cabin is still down there somewhere.