Thunder River Backpack

Autumn is an ideal time to hike trails that cannot be accessed in the winter or are too hot to endure in summer. A day trip to the Esplanade and back or a three day backpack to Thunder River and down Tapeats Creek to the Colorado River are perfect for the cool days of November. If you enjoy scenic drives to remote places, be sure to visit Crazy Jug and Monument Point. These little known view points in the Kaibab Forest that offer spectacular views of the Grand Canyon.

Photo Album: Thunder River Pictures
Trail Map
: Thunder River Trail Map
Driving Map: Monument Point Driving Map
Day Hike: This is not recommended. This trail is best done as a three day hike. Do not attempt to hike down to Thunder River and back in one day.
Distance: 25-miles round-trip
Average Hiking Time: 3 days. 5 Hours From Monument Point Trailhead to Campsite on the Esplanade. 3 Hours From Campsite on the Esplanade to Thunder Spring.
Equipment: Sleeping bag, pad, tent, rugged hiking shoes, extra socks, clothing, jacket, rain gear, hat, first aid kit with blister treatment and ibuprofen, personal hygiene accessories, wag bags, stove and fuel, pot for heating water, freeze dried foods, electrolyte replacement Powder, 1.5 gallon water containers for each person, water filter or purification treatment, map, compass, zip locks for trash and toilet paper carryout. Hiking poles can be useful. Keep weight as low as possible.
Difficulty: Strenuous. Skills are needed for navigating remote backcountry areas and a small scrambling section. The descent from the rim (and the climb back up again) from the trailhead to Thunder River is beyond what most backpackers are comfortable with.
Sun Exposure: You will be in full sun during most of the hiking.
Permits: Yes, for camping. A permit can be acquired by logging onto, go to the Grand Canyon directory and look for backcountry permit procedures. A downloadable, faxable permit registration will need to be completed; including the dates you anticipate camping, where you will be entering the Grand Canyon and where you plan to camp. At the time of this report, a permit request is $10 and $5/person per night while camping in the Grand Canyon National Park. There is no guarantee that you will get the requested dates that are submitted, so if there is some flexibility in your schedule then you may wish to submit second date choices.
Trail Conditions: This trail is hot in the summer. Consider hiking in the spring and fall.
Trailhead: Bill Hall Trailhead at Monument Point - Grand Canyon North Rim
Trailend: Same as trailhead
Book:  Favorites hike in and around Zion National Park - including Bryce CanyonTrail Access: The roads in the Kaibab National Forest are good, but they are dirt roads and can be impassible when wet, have fresh snow on them or there is melting snow. The roads tend to dry out quickly even after a heavy rain storm and can usually be traveled the next day.
Best Season: Spring and Fall
Elevation: Highest Elevation near Monument Point- 7166 feet
Elevation: Rim of the Esplanade – 5000 feet
Elevation: Thunder River –-3850 feet
Colorado River 2000 feet
Total Descent:
5250 feet
Total Ascent:  5120 feet
Off the Beaten Path: Yes
Water Availability: Thunder River - purify before use.
Restrooms: None. Pack it in, pack it out including toilet paper. Use 6" cat holes and stay away from any water source.

Zion National Park Map Zion National Park Map Coral Pink Sand Dunes Map Zion National Park Lodging Cedar Breaks and Dixie National Forest Map Bryce Canyon and Red Canyon Map Grand Staircase-Escalante Map Monument Point and Trailhead – From Fredonia, Arizona, drive south on AZ 89A toward Jacob Lake for 1.5 miles and look for Forest Road-22 on the right. Set your odometer here at the junction of AZ 89A and FR-22. Turn right onto paved FR- 22 and follow the road, driving past several intersections and signs that indicate various vistas. The pavement ends after about 20 miles and changes to a maintained dirt and gravel road. At mile 28, notice the Big Springs Field Ranger Station. At 33 miles, turn right onto FR-425, headed toward Monument Point. Watch for signage leading to Monument Point.  Do not follow signs to the "Thunder River Trailhead". Remember that you are headed to the Bill Hall Trailhead. There is another intersection at mile 41, continue straight on FR-425. Look for remnants of a corral on the right side of the road and a “Y” in the road at mile 43, where you will turn right on FR-292. The road will narrow and climb. Continue for .3 miles to the next “Y”, staying on the same road as it changes now to FS-292G.  At mile 43.5 a sign indicates the way to Monument Point, follow it, taking FR-292A towards Monument Point.   There is one more intersection at 44.5 miles. Continue straight through it and drive 2 more miles to the Bill Hall Trailhead and Monument Point.

Grand Canyon North Rim Road Map

Directions to North Rim Grand Canyon: From Zion National Park, take on U-9 through the park to Mt. Carmel Jct. Turn south on US-89 to Kanab. There is only one stop light in Kanab; this is where US-89 changes to ALT 89. Fredonia, Arizona is 6 miles. In Fredonia take 89A to Jacob lake (36 miles), then take AZ 67 to the Grand Canyon North Rim park entrance.

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Thunder River at the Grand Canyon

Thunder River is a beautiful area in the Grand Canyon.


Lodging Zion National Park
Lodging Zion National ParkLodging and services are available on the gorgeous east side of Zion National Park, where guests are close to Zion National Park (12 miles), Bryce Canyon National Park (60 miles), Cedar Breaks National Monument (45 miles), Coral Pink Sand Dunes (12 miles), and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon (85 miles). It's where city traffic is absent and the skies are bright and clean.


please link to meDay 1 – Bill Hall Trailhead: Monument Point to the Esplanade
Start early in the morning, taking advantage of cooler temperatures  for the 5.4 mile hike to the Esplanade. Once at Monument Point, locate the sign for the Bill Hall Trailhead and begin the hike. The descent is steep and in full sunlight. Be sure to carry enough water for the first day of hiking, cooking at camp and the strenuous downhill trip to Thunder Spring the following day. Initially, the trail descends but then begins a gradual climb up the ridge to the west. The path will eventually bring you to the southern slopes of the point. Looking south are views of Bridgers Knoll, the Colorado River and the Esplanade. The rock formations of the Esplanade are absolutely stunning showcasing expanses of slickrock, large smatterings of hoodoos and an ample display of weather cut canyons. Far below and to the southeast is Tapeats Creek and to the west is a glimpse of Deer Creek Canyon.  After traversing to the west for a half-mile, you will find a weakness in the limestone cliff where a steep descent begins once again. A short section in this area might require the use of a rope to assist unsure hikers or to lower packs. Many switchbacks later, the trail dives into a final descent to the slickrock below. After passing the Indian Hollow Trail the dirt path changes into slickrock strewn with cairns. Hike across the rock for the next 3 miles, heading toward the descent trail into Surprise Valley. Cairns will generally mark the path across the Esplanade.

Camping on the Esplanade - Choose a previously used campsite and try not to disturb the ground and avoid all cryptobiotic soil. Campfires are not permitted.

Day Two - Thunder Spring
Hiking from the Esplanade to Thunder Spring promises a full day of adventure and exploring.  Descend the steep path into Surprise Valley carefully since the foot path tends to be loose in places. The path is in full sun so carry plenty of water and, of course, take all empty containers to refill at the spring. After descending 1600’ and doing a little over a mile of hiking you will arrive at upper Surprise Valley and the upper intersection to Deer Creek. A little farther down the trail is the lower intersection and trail to Thunder River. Once on top of the ridge, the scenery is amazing as Thunder Spring appears far below. The next half-mile and 400’ descent is rough and steep, but the terrain is quickly forgotten when you see the rush of water cascading hundreds of feet through the rugged limestone.

Thunder River & Tapeats Creek - Continue a half-mile past the spring, contouring above Thunder River. The river will eventually flow into Tapeats Creek. From the junction of Tapeats Creek and Thunder River it is 2.5 miles to the Colorado River and the Tapeats Rapid. If you are lucky you may spot a river trip as it runs this exciting section of the river. You have now hiked half of the 25 mile round-trip this adventure entails and you have dropped 5250 feet since the start of the hike at the Bill Hall Trailhead. Allow plenty of time to head back to the spring and fill containers and to hike the 3 miles from Thunder Spring (2100 feet ascent) back to camp on the Esplanade.
Day 3 - Esplanade to the Bill Hall Trailhead
Again, leave camp early in the morning so the long, steep ascent to Monument Point is done during the cooler part of the day. Hiking back through the slickrock of the Esplanade gives a totally new perspective from the hike coming down just two days previous.


Option - Continue past Thunder Spring and down Thunder River which flows into Tapeats Creek. It is a 2.5 mile hike to the head waters of Tapeats creek which are found in a cave. From the junction of Tapeats Creek and Thunder River its 2.5 miles downstream to the Colorado River. It's a 25 mile round trip hike (5250' elevation change) from the Bill Hall Trailhead to the Tapeats Creek rapids.

Option - Camp at Surprise Valley for shorter day hikes, but a longer backpack out on the final day.

Option - Stay another day and hike to Deer Springs, Deer Creek and the Colorado River or stay on more level ground and explore around the Esplanade.

zion National Park CanyoneeringGPS Coordinates WGS84 Datum

Monument Point Trailhead

Bill Hall Trail Begins Descent

Descent from Esplanade into Surprise Valley Begins

Thunder River Spring



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