Trail Description : Granite Narrows Route (Lower Tapeats to Upper Deer Creek)
This route has become very popular in recent years for doing the Thunder River and Deer Creek area as a loop backpacking trip, using this route to connect the Lower Tapeats camping area with the camping area at Deer Creek. The Granite Narrows Route is a very scenic route and definitely makes the trip a lot shorter than having to go back up through Surprise Valley, which is really the only alternative, and is what I did on my trip in May, 1995.
The eastern terminus of this trail is located on the western end of the beach where Tapeats Creek enters the Colorado River. The western terminus is located at Deer Creek, just above (north of) the narrows. The route is described here going from east to west.
Mileages are as follows (one-way):
The start of the route, at the western end of beach at Tapeats Creek, is cairned and fairly easy to find and follow. The boulders that predominate the eastern side of the beach, nearer to Tapeats Creek, give way to lesser boulders and more sand on the western side.
At slightly less than ½ mile from Tapeats Creek there is a granite outcropping that comes directly down into the river and blocks further access along the beach. Follow the cairned route up and over the outcropping and down into the Bonita Creek drainage on the other side. The short scramble up on the east side is fairly easy and the down-climb on the western side only slightly more tricky. The only problem with the down-climb is some fairly large "steps" that are higher than most peoples' legs will reach and require locating some intermediate foot holds.
On the other side of Bonita Creek the route continues along the beach until it reaches Hundred and ThirtyFive Mile Rapids, a little more than ½ mile further downriver. There is a nice little beach, with easy access to it, located just below (west of) the rapids and this provides a great area to rest before starting the climb up to the Cogswell Butte saddle.
Beyond the beach you need to make a choice between the high route or the low route for the portion that goes up to the Cogswell Butte saddle. The high route is about ½ mile longer but the low route has some exposure that anyone with a fear of heights may not care for. The lower route stays closer to the river and traverses a lower shelf, a couple of hundred feet above the river, which is where the exposed section is located. Since I had a couple of people on my trip who were not fond of the word "exposure" I decided to use the upper route.
Once you leave the beach area at Hundred and ThirtyFive Mile Rapids the high route starts to climb for the next mile or so, through a large amphitheatre located on the southwest side of Cogswell Butte, until it reaches a high point on the western side about 600 feet above the river. There are some magnificent views from the high route.
The next ½ mile or so of the high route mostly traverses westwards towards the saddle. There are some little ups and downs along the way but nothing major until you reach the western side of another, smaller amphitheatre just east of the saddle, which is where the lower route comes back up and the two routes rejoin. From there the route climbs another hundred feet or so until it reaches the top of the saddle and the final descent into Deer Creek.
The descent to Deer Creek is slightly less than ½ mile from the saddle and brings you right down to the creek, just above Deer Creek Narrows. In the process the route drops about about 300 feet. The trail to the camping area, about ¼ mile to the north, as well as the trail down through the narrows to Deer Creek Falls at the Colorado River, about ¾ mile to the south, is located on the western side of the creek.
[ last updated May, 2003 ]