Nearly 150 years after John Wesley Powell's pioneering trip through the Grand Canyon, the park still conceals remarkable places no humans have ever seen. Contributing editor John Harlin joins a crew of explorers on a journey of discovery.
Todd Martin, author of the new Grand Canyoneering: Exploring the Rugged Gorges and Secret Slots of the Grand Canyon ($30, toddshikingguide.com), recommends these routes to suit a range of skills, time, and fitness. Avoid all slot canyons when flash flood conditions exist. Permits required for all camping in the park (nps.gov/grca).
1) Havasu Creek “From Havasu’s famous waterfalls, experienced hikers can brave the chain-assisted sections and follow the aquamarine stream all the way to the Colorado River.” Stats: Strenuous, 3 days, 36 miles, easy navigation. ACA (American Canyoneering Association) rating: 1C VI*
2) Tuckup Canyon “One of the best long slots in the park that’s completely non-technical, though there are some moderately challenging climbs to get up and down a few boulders and pour-offs. The canyon features several natural arches and a particularly pretty section of Muav limestone narrows.” Stats: Strenuous, 2-4 days, about 30 miles depending on the route, moderate navigation. ACA rating: 3B V-VI
3) 150-Mile Canyon “This is the longest and most scenic Redwall slot in my book. Come prepared for wading or swimming in cold water (wetsuits recommended), short rappels, and fixing ropes on the way down. Rope jugging and challenging climbs are required on the return.” Stats: Strenuous, 2-4 days, 13.5 miles, moderate navigation. ACA rating: 3B VI
4) Garden Creek “This gem is hidden right next to the most popular trail in the park. The canyon is technical, featuring rappels to 200 feet, and it requires a mid-wall rope transfer to descend a stunning horsetail falls. Bring wetsuits.” Stats: Strenuous, 1-2 days, 13.5 miles, easy navigation. ACA rating: 4C IV-V
Note The first descents mentioned in the story were discovered after Martin published his guide.
*The ACA rating categorizes technical difficulty, water hazards, overall risk, and time commitment. See canyoneering.net/docs/ratings.pdf for details.