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Trail Description : Royal Arch Route

Mileages are as follows (round-trip):

Approximately 45 miles from South Bass along Esplanade to Royal Arch, back to Elves Chasm and return via Tonto to South Bass.


ACCESS: South Bass Trailhead Point Huitzil Route, Apache Point Route and Colorado River

MAPS: 15 Minute Havasupai Point Quadrangle.
7.5 Minute Explorer's Monument Quadrangle.

WATER AVAILABILITY: Esplanade (Seep Spring) see note at end of description. Royal Arch Creek, seasonal potholes along the Esplanade and Tonto Colorado River. Garnet Creek is salty but drinkable. Copper Creek has water seasonally.

CAMPSITE AVAILABILITY: Elves Chasm is a day use area only and is closed to overnight use.

Follow the South Bass Trail down to the Esplanade. Cairns mark the junction of Bass and Esplanade trails. The Esplanade trail is indistinct in places. Seep Spring is located above the Esplanade, at the base of the Coconino, between Chemehuevi and Toltec Points. Some maps show a trail, starting East of Chemehuevi Point, leading up to Seep Spring. This trail is now overgrown and it is suggested that access to Seep Spring should be from directly below the Spring, i. e., from the Esplanade, go up the drainage located directly below the Spring. Sometimes water can be found in the center of this drainage, about water about 100 feet above the Esplanade. Note: this route is steep and the surface is unstable.

Royal Arch drainage is accessible through several of the forks. If the East arm of the creek is followed several pour-offs will be encountered along the way. 'These can easily be by-passed on one side or the other. Just before the junction with the West arm of Royal Arch Creek a large drop blocks the way. This can be passed on the left side via a trail with some exposed climbing. A belay may be desirable. The remainder of the route to the arch follows the drainage with much scrambling past waterfalls and dropoffs Lower in the drainage several deep pools can either be waded or bypassed high on the left side with a bit of climbing. Just below the arch the access to Elves Chasm is blocked by a 200 foot waterfall.

The Colorado can be reached by backtracking up the Royal Arch drainage about ½ mile to a point marked by large cairns. A steep trail leads out of the drainage on the east side and contours out to the Tonto Once on top of the Tonto there are two trails, upper and lower, the upper trail is more easily traveled. Follow this fairly distinct trail about two miles.

Before the trail reaches the next side canyon that runs NW of Toltec Point (Toltec Drainage) to the East, look for the cairns which lead toward the Colorado River. The trail goes down through a cliff band and requires a short rappel (a So foot rope is needed). Beware of old rotted ropes and slings at the rappel point. The remainder of the trail to the Colorado is steep but easy.

The route to Elves Chasm is not far but time consuming. Either hop boulders near the beach or follow the high trail above. Elves Chasm is beautiful but requires some moderate and exposed climbing. Elves Chasm is a day use area only and is closed to camping.

From the beach at Toltec drainage there are two trails. The lower trails involves boulder hopping until the next drainage to the East and then you must climb up to the upper trail The upper trail begins in the Toltec Drainage, about 100 yards up from the River The upper trail begins to ascend slowly until it tops out on the Tapeats in Garnet Canyon. The water in Garnet is salty but drinkable. If there is any water in the drainages to the west they are too salty to drink. The Tonto trail essentially begins at Garnet Canyon and is usually dry to the South Bass trailhead

Royal Arch is considered one of the more difficult routes in the canyon and requires much scrambling and climbing skills. A length of rope (50 feet), webbing (20 feet), rappel ring (optional) are needed for a rappel and some hikers may want a belay in places. Water availability is often a problem on the Esplanade and the Tonto Plateaus. Leather gloves strongly recommended.

Trail description and directions to trailhead courtesy of National Park Service

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Copyright © Bob Ribokas, 1994-2008, all rights reserved. This publication and its text and photos may not be copied for commercial use without the express written permission of Bob Ribokas.