Hayduke Trail Day 37: The Fall of Deer Creek

Daily Neat Beat
Day 37
Total Miles: 9.4
Cumulative Miles: 626.2
Map of Hayduke Trail Day 37, Bill Hall Trail Down to Deer Creek in Grand Canyon

The waterfall from Deer Spring is DRY? Both Ray and I are shocked. Today we have hiked down to Deer Creek from the Bill Hall Trail on the north rim in the Grand Canyon. This is the fourth time I have been here and Ray’s fifth. There has always been water here flowing over Tapeats ledges. Deer Springs waterfall is the smaller, lesser known and pours from a cliff in Surprise Valley. It is not photographed as much as Deer Creek Falls that pours 180 feet into the Colorado river 1.5 miles from here. I feel a little worried when I see this. It is just more evidence of the very dry conditions this year and the continuing drought in the Southwest. Luckily Deer Creek and the larger dramatic Deer Creek Falls still has water as it is fed by a spring in the main drainage. But I wonder about the vulnerability of the system as a whole.

The waterfall from Deer Spring is dry.

We have started our next section of the Hayduke Trail where we hike down from the north rim to the Deer Creek, then down to the Colorado River, along the Colorado River to Kanab Creek, and up Kanab Creek to Hack Canyon. We plan on taking about 5 days to hike this section. Some of it will be slower as it will require bushwhacking along the Colorado River and in parts of Kanab Creek where there is not a trail.

The morning sun rose like a spotlight highlighting the demanding presence of the ponderosa pines. We started at an elevation of 7200 feet but knew it would get hot as we dropped 4800 feet in elevation today.


The morning sunrise at the start of the Bill Hall Trail

We started the day early and worked our way up to Monument Point and then started down through the Kaibab Formation. The lighting and views down on Bridger’s Knoll were spectular this morning.

Hiking towards Bridger Knoll

Morning light on Bridger Knoll from the Bill Hall Trail

After passing behind Bridger’s Knoll, we started contouring through the Toroweap Formation which forms the slope between the cliffs of the Kaibab Limestone above and the Coconino Sandstone below. There are great outcrops of gypsum in the Toroweap Formation which is mined for fertilizer, plaster and wallboard. Gypsum was deposited near the shore of a shallow sea where salty tidal mudflats were evaporated by a hot sun.

Gypsum deposits in the Toroweap Formation

We then work our way down through the Coconino Sandstone. Across the Canyon, is a feature called Owl Eyes.  Two large alcoves form the eyes of the owl which stares across the landscape looking for prey. The lighting on the bedding planes this morning make it look like the owl is blinking and the promontory below the eyes really looks like a beak. 

The lighting on “Owl Eyes” highlights blinking eyes and the beak of an owl

It is haunting in a way, especially knowing that a thru-hiker fell to her death below Owl Eyes six years ago.  Ray takes some great pictures of it. He is magical with his camera; always looking with an artistic eye and a scientific mind.

After 2.5 miles of switchbacks we are on the great Esplanade Sandstone which I love so well. “Esplanade” is such a perfect name for it, if you look it up in the dictionary it is defined as “a long, open, level area along which people may walk for pleasure”. 

The Esplanade Sandstone forms a bench partway down through the Grand Canyon

After coming through the cliffs of the Kaibab and Coconino, I am happy to traverse along the Esplanade, winding around the sandstone ledge and in and out of drainages. But all good promenades must end and soon we drop down steeply through the Redwall Limestone. It gets much warmer and more open as we cross Surprise Valley and then just like that we are in Deer Creek Valley with it’s lush and busy hubbub of plant and animal life; busy feeding off the life force of the clear and cool creek.

Zebra-Tailed Lizard (?)
The yellow monkey flowers were in bloom along Deer Creek

But there is no water from Deer Springs this time. I wonder if it will come back or how long the waterfall has been dry.

Ray and I hide in the shade and enjoy the Patio  in the afternoon.

The “Patio”, a popular spot for rafting groups to hike to from the Colorado River

The patio is a popular hike from the river for river runners and is composed of flat Tapeats Sandstone ledges with the tumbling Deer Creek getting forced through narrows. It is just gorgeous and there is no wonder why it is a popular river stop. Later Ray and I tumble into our tent and lay prostate on our thermorests. It is hot here I think to myself and fall asleep to the rumble of the creek.


  1. You have such clever blog titles. Putting cleverness aside, I must say it was sure easier to get to the patio buy raft then by foot. And I feel confident saying this even though I have never gone there by foot. It was wonderful to see a photograph of it once again and remember our times there.

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