Rock Garden - Grand Canyon Routes

Tapeats / Deer Creek Route, 02 Sep 2000


Travel along the river between Tapeats Creek and Deer Creek is a popular option to the trail through Surprise Valley. It can also be a day-hike from either area.

The Route

Tapeats Creek Along the River

From the beach campsite at the mouth of Tapeats Creek travel downriver along the riverbank. There are a few rocky areas, but the advantage of traveling the riverbank is that the rocks are usually stable and easy to walk upon. There is nothing unusual until approximately Mile 135 where a ridge of resistant black rocks juts out before reaching Bonito Creek. If river flows are low, scrambling around the obstacle just above the waterline is the most efficient passage. The other option is to climb over the ridge and return to the riverbank through Bonito Creek.

Before the Tapeats Canyon track descends to the river there is an option to follow the bench in the middle of the cliff around the corner and on to Bonito Creek. This track is easy to follow initially but the descent into Bonito Creek is really extremely steep.

Granite Narrows

A short distance downriver from Bonito Creek the granite layers rise up and there is no bank to walk. The track divides in two.

Upper Track

Ascend the slope following a well-worn track to the broad terrace above the narrows. Views upriver from here (Stone Creek and Bedrock Rapid) are very nice. The track continues level along Tapeats ledges and then drops into the drainage just before the saddle into Deer Creek. This is the western tip of the Cogswell Butte landslide (part of the slump and slide complex forming Surprise Valley) and a good place to look for interesting geologic features. The section of trail up to the saddle is quite steep.

Lower Track

The lower route follows a shelf between the cliffs and rises gradually with the rock layers. Going west to east, the more obvious track seems to be the one that descends into the lower valley from the saddle southwest of Cogswell Butte and joins this lower track. A feature of this route is a 10 foot section of narrow sloping ledge with a long drop to the river. To avoid this exposed place, choose the upper route.

Deer Creek

To locate this route from the Deer Creek end, just look up the slope to the east from along Deer Creek where the narrows open up into the valley (also known as "The Patio"). The route crosses Deer Creek at this point, follows the line of the drainage from the saddle, and goes over the saddle at the top of this slope.


Carry what you need, considering the short time away from the river and good water sources at either end.


This is an easy off-trail route becoming popular and easy to follow with increasing use. Avoid the south-facing slopes above Granite Gorge in the heat of the day during the hot season.


Variety and a shortcut between Tapeats and Deer Creek.


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