|NATIONAL PARKS QUICKLINKS|
Rule #1 in the Grand Canyon: Leave the trails, and you lose the crowds. Rule #2: Hiking cross-country in the Big Ditch is really, really hard. This challenging loop has significant off-trail portions, and we strongly suggest only backpackers with at least five years of experience, class 4 climbing skills, and solid map technique attempt it. But the payoff is a Grand Canyon few hikers have ever seen.
Start at Thunder River trailhead and descend the Thunder River Trail. At mile 1.7, turn left to begin a clockwise loop. At the 3-way trail junction with the Bill Hall Trail, continue straight, heading southeast. From here, this route parallels the Thunder River-Deer Creek Loop for the next 2.5 days to Deer Creek. After that, things get tough. The final leg of this challenging loop—the Cranberry Route—is the boldest, hardest scramble our scouts have done in the Grand Canyon. Warning: Don't attempt this route without advanced navigation skills.
PERMITS: Required backcountry permits cost $10 per group, plus a $5 charge per person per day. Apply up to four months before desired departure date. Download form at nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/upload/permit-request.pdf.
WHEN TO GO: Spring, when water is more plentiful, or fall, with mild weather. Avoid summer, when temps soar well above 100°F in the lower canyon.
CONTACT: (928) 638-7875; nps.gov/grca