Arizona: Grand Canyon National Park- Escalante Route- Lipan to Tanner- Day 1

Lipan Point to Tanner Rapids

Total Mileage- 9.0 miles

Total Elevation Gain- 0 feet

Total Elevation Loss- 4650 feet

Route on Map - From the East

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Our first day would take us from Lipan Point to Tanner Rapids. Being that this route is a point to point, a couple of the guys dropped our vehicle at Grandview Point and hitchhiked back to Lipan Point. Lipan Point trailhead travels directly to the Colorado via Tanner Trail.  This 9-mile route drops nearly a mile straight down which means you better have your trekking poles out and adjusted appropriately.  On this mid-April day the temperature at the rim was in the high fifties and we expected it to warm considerably as we descended… but it was also overcast with a threat of light rain.  Our first night camp destination was Tanner Beach.

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I would note that the common theme throughout our four day hike was that we spent more time looking at our feet than at the views.  Of course that is a bit overstated, because we got everything and more from the picturesque views at every point throughout the hike, but there is also some real truth to the fact that we spent an enormous amount of time looking down.  Without question, this was the most difficult, sustained terrain I have ever hiked.  That is not to say that it is the most difficult in the world, but just the most difficult terrain I have hiked to this point.  Case in point- despite trimming my toenails before the trip and lacing my boots tight… the descent wreaked havoc on my big toes, pressing them up against the end of my boots.  My big toes swelled twice their normal size and I am currently losing the toenails of each toe.  Too much info?  Probably.  But all that to say, going a mile straight down can really strain your body- ankles, knees, toes, etc.  Prepare well and do not push yourself too hard.  The park guidance states that it takes 12-15 hours to Tanner Beach… and the Backcountry Office told me that I should count on half of our group getting their butt kicked on the first day because of the length of the hike and terrain.  That’s a long day for sure, but we did it in about seven hours, and we were all intact when we set up camp.  In fact, we had some energy to spare.

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There was a really cool place where we took a lunch break.  I believe it was called Escalante Saddle.  It was really well marked with vertical rocks and had great views on either side.  It was a really nice spot to take a break.  The saddle was about 2.5 miles into the hike and about 1700 feet down from Lipan.

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The views that of the Colorado that become apparent are spectacular, even for an overcast day.  At about 2000 below the rim, the view of the Palisades with their magnificent and varying color is truly amazing.  I believe it was at this point that we were scratching our heads expecting the Colorado to be more brown than blue.  I was quietly hoping that we would be surprised by a clean river from which to pump.  My hopes would be realized for sure as the river became even greener and bluer the closer we got to it.

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As we approached Tanner Beach the temperature was in the low 70’s.  It was sure to be a warmer night than the previous night on the rim, which was in the mid 30’s.  There were several spots from which to choose.  I believe that Tanner Beach could accommodate 4-5 groups easily.  There were only two other groups in the area that night, but we would see even fewer as we started the Escalante Route the next day. The best surprise was that the Colorado River was, in fact, a nice blue-green color with hardly any silt. This was huge because we could use our water filters without any problems at all.

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The next day we would begin our march along the Escalante Route from Tanner to a site near at Escalante Creek Mouth, just a mile before the Papago Wall.  The gray skies succumbed to the blue and the sun was radiant.  Day Two would be a day to remember for sure.

You may also be interested in reading:

Planning a Grand Canyon Backpacking Trip

Escalante Route (Grand Canyon NP) Quick Summary

 

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12 thoughts on “Arizona: Grand Canyon National Park- Escalante Route- Lipan to Tanner- Day 1

  1. Certainly not for beginners, so I will leave it up to you to leave our mark on these trails. Glad you can see these beautiful sites that will always be transfixed in your mind. Thanks to God you all were safe.

  2. Hey Brandon, Thanks for a great trip summary! We have the same itinerary planned for next month, and your insights will be invaluable. Two follow-up questions please: Did you find aluminum sulfate before your trip? I have been unable to find a commercial source in case we are not so lucky with the river and silt. And where did you get those great tables with elevation/distance and the ability to map your campsites? Thanks. Best, Matt

    1. Hey Matt… thanks so much for the note. You will absolutely love this route, especially in October. The weather should be fantastic! We decided at the last minute to ditch the aluminum sulfate primarily because the water appeared (from Lipan Point) to not be very silty. We had been to Moab the previous year and the Colorado was a chocolate milk color, so we had anticipated it being much the same in the GC, but it just wasn’t. It was perfect for filtering and we didn’t have any problems. As a backup to the filters we brought some of the Aquamira drops.

      In terms of the tables/maps, one of the guys brought a gps unit that tracked us and then he subsequently pulled it into Google Maps for the overlay and then the elevation profiles. He simply took the data and made the tables after the trip. Since this trip we have upgraded a bit. A couple of us got Suunto Ambit3 GPS watches to record our route. I pull the gpx file into Google Earth for all of my route maps and profiles for the last few trips. I still have the gpx files saved for each day of the Escalante if somehow that would be beneficial to you. Just let me know. Otherwise, have an incredible trip!

  3. Brandon, Thanks for the great information. Can you teach me to fish with regard to pulling GPS coordinates into Google Maps? Is there a tutorial or FAQ you used to become familiar with the process? Please feel free to email me directly. Thanks. Matt

  4. I am hiking in this spring and have been trying to figure out the logistics for getting to and from the trailheads. How far apart are the trailheads? Parking at the end and hitchhiking to the start sounds like an option for us. Did it take long to hitch a ride? Thank you for posting about your trip. This is super informative!

    1. Hey Angela, thanks! The two trailheads are about 30 minutes apart, so the round trip is close to an hour. We dropped everyone (and gear) but two guys at Lipan and then they drove to Grandview and parked. It didn’t take them long to find a ride. Most people drive that main route so it should be easy to land a ride. Best of luck!

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