I just finished the Escalante Route in Grand Canyon National Park and want to give a quick summary of the hike before I give a more detailed day-by-day account, which I will post soon.
My overall impression of this hike was AMAZING! It was, by far, the most strenuous extended hiking I have ever done… but some of that may be due to the fact that we packed six days of hiking into four days. We covered 40 miles of very difficult terrain from Tanner Trail, Escalante Route, New Hance Trail, Tonto Trail, and then out via the Grandview Trail. The views were stunning and everything about the trip was right on.
Here are a few things that really surprised me:
1. The Colorado River was a beautiful blue-green and not the dirty brown I expected. When I was in Moab, Utah last year… the Colorado was dirty brown. I am not sure what happened but our approach to water access changed dramatically. We just used our water pump filters like normal. Not only that but we actually got in the water to swim a couple of times. We planned for the worst and were pleasantly surprised at the Colorado. That was a huge relief.
2. If you do this hike any later than May… you are insane. The base was about 30 degrees warmer than the rim and we spent the majority of the time along the Colorado. If you add together the tough terrain, the physical exertion, and the heat… man it is rough. We were able to pump at our campsites at Tanner Creek, Escalante Creek Mouth, and Hance Creek. So we usually never carried more than 2-3 liters. But as we left Hance Creek, we took 4 or more liters because that would have to last to Horseshoe Mesa and then Grandview Point. Keep in mind that our trip was in mid-April… so water quantities will vary based upon time of season and how well you hike in hot conditions. I don’t happen to hike well in hot conditions, so April was ideal for me… even though it was toasty on our final ascent.
3. Escalante is not really a “route”… it is a trail. At this point… Escalante has been hiked by serious backpackers and the route has become quite noticeably a trail. You do not have to have navigational skills… other than following cairns and the occasional map orientation. While this was a small let down… it was still incredible. Should you take the Escalante seriously? Absolutely! But just don’t be afraid if you don’t have the best nav skills. You will make it. You should be more considered about your physical condition because the terrain will eat you up if you are not ready for it. We were… and had an amazing trip!
There was also tons of solitude. We only saw 20 passerbys over four days. We did, however, see a ton of helicopter tours passing overhead and quite a few rafters.
Here is the link to Day 1- Escalante Route (Grand Canyon NP)- Lipan to Tanner