blue marble adventure

Classic North Rim Backpacking


Extraordinarily unique natural features


Trail frequented by Clarence Dutton, primary geologic mapper and explorer of Grand Canyon


Exciting trek along Colorado River


Outstanding lariat loop with Deer Creek


thrilling route-finding, refreshing cascades of water





29 mi/46 km




Flagstaff, Arizona



The PhD geologist adventurer will be capable of handling daily hiking mileages of 7 to 10 miles on generally unmaintained trails with up to 5000 feet of elevation change, and a BackPack weight of 35 to 40 pounds. Trails are often steep with loose footing and there may be exposure to intimidating heights. Expect periods of rugged and physically demanding hiking. Participants should be in excellent health, regularly active and exercise 4 to 5 days per week.  Prior backpacking experience is strongly recommended.

Venture along one of Grand Canyon’s most unique, varied, and interesting trails from the remote solitude and grandeur of the North Rim

The Thunder River/Deer Creek Loop Backpacking tour is possibly one of the most epic trips on a developed trail in all of Grand Canyon.  True to its name, Thunder River thunders forth from a limestone cavern, cascading spectacuarly onto the cliffs below before channeling itself into a swift creek, an incredibly unique and magical sight and peice of geology in this wonderful place.  The adventure itself is no less epic, as we traverse through the Esplanade, through slot canyons, camp at excellent sights, and are afforded numerous opportunities for exciting scrambles and downclimbs.  Even the drive to the trailhead will make you feel like you’re in a world of your own, as it is far removed from even the far removed North Rim developments, making this adventure truly special. 



Guests will need the ability to hike on and off trail in places that may have physical obstacles or barriers with aggressive elevation change for up to 15 miles per day, carrying up to 40 pounds of gear. In every case other than an emergency situation, hikes are one-way and are performed at a 2 to 3 mph pace with breaks.


A real back-packing trip, comfort is what you carry with you. There are no showers or electricity on the trail and restrooms are primitive. Backpackers can expect to sleep on a sleeping pad outdoors or in a small tent. Food consists of single-entrée meals, some food are freeze-dried or dehydrated with a few fresh food selections. Meals are prepared by your guide and served “group-style” out of pots and usually eaten out of personal meal-kits while sitting on the ground.2


Hikers will visit the remote frontier. Guides will take you to the hard-to-reach and hard-to-find attractions that remain completely untouched by the crowds. Groups will see few, if any, other hikers through the trip. Overnighting is private and secluded.

Trip Dates

Don’t see your dates?
Custom dates may be available!

Call 1-602-904-2536 or contact us for details.

2019 Trip Dates


Trip Itinerary


Our Thunder River/Deer Creek Loop Backpacking tour adventure will begin with a scenic drive from Flagstaff to the North Rim, with stops at Marble Canyon, Lees Ferry and the mouth of the Grand Canyon, The Vermillion Cliffs, the North Rim Lodge, and then out to our campsite near the Bill Hall Trailhead, roughly 1.5 hours west of North Rim amenities.  Along the way your geologist/guide will introduce you to the geology and history of the entire region, and there will be excellent photo opportunities as the Canyon reveals itself to us little by little.  We will make camp near the Bill Hall Trailhead, and prepare a great dinner while we think about the fantastic journey ahead.

Time in the car: 4 hours
Elevation & Distance: none
Light Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner



Day 2 will begin with a sunrise breakfast, and hitting the trail on our epic hiking route to the Colorado River.  As we descend, we will first see a plaque dedicated to the trail’s namesake, Mr. Bill Hall, who was a ranger at the North Rim for many years.  There will be sweeping views of gorgeous Tapeats Amphitheatre and to the faraway South Rim.  A delightful traverse of the Esplanade follows, with more excellent views and an exciting downclimb, and a couple fords of Tapeats Creek.  We will then reach Thunder Springs and its River, a truly awesome sight.  A few more miles winding down the Tapeats Creek drainage will see us reach the Upper Tapeats camp and our excellent campsite, where your geologist/guide will set up camp and prepare and excellent dinner.

Elevation & Distance: 10.4 miles, 4500 foot descent
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner


Your third day offers a tremendous hiking traverse to, and then above the Colorado River, with excellent views of the Inner Gorge, and some exciting route-finding, scrambling, and downclimbing on the way to our second night’s camp at Deer Creek.  After arriving at Deer Creek, we will doff our packs in favor of something lighter, to hike explore the narrows of side canyons and tributaries.

Elevation & Distance: 7 miles, 1000 foot descent
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner


Today’s exciting ascent will see us through excellent narrows to Deer Creek, similar to its partner Thunder River in that it issues as a wonderful waterfall from a groundwater spring on the side of the canyon walls.  Though less voluminous, the area is incredibly charming and lush, with spectacular views.  As we ascend through Deer Creek drainage, we will reach Surprise Valley, then on to the Esplanade where we will make camp and prepare for our ascent to the North Rim.

Elevation & Distance: 7 miles, 4000 foot ascent
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner


Our final day on the trail is shorter and somewhat less demanding hiking than our last couple of days, as we traverse the pleasant topography of the Esplanade before we make our final push to the North Rim, retracing the steps from our descent.  More sweeping vistas, dramatic and unique scenery, and excellent adventure are in store.  After we come up topside, we will celebrate our Grand Adventure in the geologist’s tradition: with libations at a local watering hole before we head back to Flagstaff.
Elevation & Distance: 4 miles, 1200 ascent
Breakfast, Lunch
Drive Time: 4 hours

*Final itineraries are occasionally subject to change due to permit/campsite availability, park restrictions/closures, weather conditions and/or road closures.

Trip Details

What's INcluded:

  • A professional, degreed, licensed and medically trained geologist/guide
  • All necessary gear: backpack, tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, trekking poles
  • All cooking/eating gear: bowls, cups, utensils (your geologist/guide will
  • prepare all trail meals)
  • All food, including a mix of fresh and pre-made backcountry meals
  • Roundtrip Transportation from your hotel in Moab to Dark Canyon and all activities/attractions
  • Entrance fees, camping fees, and backcountry permits


We provide all your meals from a light breakfast on day 1 through lunch the last day. Your geologist/guide will prepare a variety of meals on the trail that will fit the day’s activity. Feel free to tell us about your food preferences, as we’re more than happy to tailor the menu to your needs/desires. Some specialty diets may require an additional fee.

All meals will consist of one entree, prepared by your geologist/guide. Fresh options will be limited, as backpacking typically requires lightweight, non-perishable foods. There will be trail snacks that consist of nuts, fruits, chocolate, and other “gorp” style mixes.

We regularly accommodate vegan, vegetarian, kosher and non-gluten diets and will make adjustments for food allergies. These and other special dietary requests may require an additional fee.

Whats Not Included:

  • Transportation to/from Escalante, Utah
  • Lodging the night before/after the trip
  • Clothing, raingear, and footwear
  • Personal toiletries, sunscreen
  • Water bottles/hydration bladder
  • Headlamp or flashlight
  • Guide gratuity (suggested 10-15% of trip cost)

*Upon booking you will receive a detailed trip information packet

How many people are in the group?

Most backpacking trips in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument will accommodate 6 people plus one geologist/guide. On occasion, a group may be as large as 10 people plus 2 guides.

Are there age restrictions?

Children under 12 are generally not permitted on any of Blue Marble’s scheduled trips. This can be negotiable on private tours, please contact us to discuss this policy

How do I sign up?

In order to confirm a reservation, we require an initial deposit of %50 of trip cost per person, with the final balance due 90 days prior to the trip’s departure. If you book a trip within 90 days of the trip’s scheduled departure, then full payment is due at the time of booking. Your deposit is payable through our online booking platform or over the phone by Visa, MasterCard, AmEx, or Discover. Checks by mail are fine as well, as are bank transfers ($35 transfer fee).

Call our office Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm Arizona time. 1-602-904-2536, or contact us for more information.

Travel Logisitics


Where does the trip begin & end?

This trip will begin/end in Flagstaff, Arizona and you will need to spend the night prior to your trip’s scheduled departure in Flagstaff. You will want to fly into Flagstaff or Phoenix. Please visit our travel page for information on airports, shuttles/rental cars and recommended hotels.

Where do you meet our guides?

We will hold a pre-trip orientation at 4:30pm the evening prior to your trip’s departure at the host hotel. Departure times and logistics for the following morning will be discussed at the orientation. Most trips will depart between 6am and 8am.

*This meeting is not mandatory, but highly recommended, as we will depart early the next morning. If you are unable to attend, please let us know in advance so that we can make alternate arrangements.

What do we do with our car and extra stuff?

We will provide all transportation to/from trailheads for the duration of the trip. We will pick you up at the host hotel and return you there at the trip’s conclusion. Guests staying at the host hotel can leave their cars at the hotel. These hotels will often store your luggage for you, as well. If not, we are happy to store extra luggage at a secure location for the duration of the trip. If you are staying at a different hotel, you will need to check with them as to whether you can leave your car there

What time will we get back on the last day?

Expect to be back at the host hotel by 6pm on the last day of the trip. Some trips will return earlier but we cannot make any guarantees. In general, it is recommended that you do not plan to fly home on the same day your trip finishes. Since each trip has slightly different logistics, feel free to contact us with specific questions related to the expected return time for your trip.

Ready for an Adventure?

Join Blue Marble Adventure GeoTourism on geology-themed hiking and backpacking adventures! Find the perfect Grand Canyon hiking tour, Utah Canyon Country Tour, Vermillion Cliffs Backpacking or hiking.

Explore Further, Be Wild, See Through Time.