Forum Index > Trip Reports > utah flats - phantom canyon - cattle route loop gcnp 3.16-3.19.24
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rubywrangler
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Joined: 04 Aug 2015
Posts: 511 | TRs | Pics
rubywrangler
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PostTue Mar 26, 2024 9:59 pm 
Julia and I had penciled in a different Grand Canyon trip for this week, but I fractured my 4th metacarpal about a month ago so we switched to Buckskin Gulch-Paria Canyon as Plan B after Stefan confirmed it was probably doable with one good hand. Then a huge storm coincided with our permit, so we cancelled it, waited out the weather a couple days, and chose this as plan C. But it really deserves Plan A status! At the last minute I texted Shelby for some info and discovered she was free, so she joined. Day 1 South kaibab TH to cottonwood CG We got a purposely late start to let the roads thaw a bit. I had been a little concerned about ice on the South Kaibab trail but it was just snowy for about 1/2 mile and then muddy for the next mile. No problem with one trekking pole, but crowded. We took a break at Phantom Ranch and then continued up the North Kaibab trail to the very luxurious Cottonwood Campground (picnic tables! food storage boxes! toilets!), arriving just as it got dark. Surprisingly I had little trouble setting up my tent with one hand. lol.gif After dinner I passed out immediately and got my only good night of sleep on this trip.
snow on the rim
snow on the rim
typical upper trail conditions
typical upper trail conditions
pretty perfect in Bright Angel canyon
pretty perfect in Bright Angel canyon
Day 2 Upper/lower ribbon falls, cattle route to phantom canyon Around 9am we meandered out of Cottonwood and back up the NK trail to the turnoff for Ribbon Falls. The bridge across Bright Angel creek has been removed so it was the first of several shoes-off crossings for me that day. We visited the upper falls first, and then I checked out the lower solo - barely beating the first wave of dayhikers from down canyon.
Cottonwood camp views
Cottonwood camp views
Oza butte
Oza butte
upper ribbon
upper ribbon
upper ribbon
upper ribbon
lower ribbon
lower ribbon
We crossed BA creek again and backtracked another mile or so on the trail to a ridge where we could access the cattle route, a route possibly used to move cattle between Phantom Creek and the North Rim pre-park. We crossed the creek for a 3rd time and found a bootpath marked by a cairn. This cairned path led us up the ridge and through a maze of cool boulders and cacti to the first side drainage of the day. We debated whether to traverse around it or drop in and ended up doing a little bit of both. Once across we picked up another cairned route that led through a break in the Tapeats. The next hour or more was following game trails of varying quality and dodging dense fields of cacti (unsuccessfully). We passed through another huge and very pretty side drainage below Buddha temple with muav ledges and plenty of pools. The weather caught up to us en route to a third side drainage and we hiked the rest of the way to Phantom Canyon in the rain. A steep descent got us into the canyon just 100 yards from our campsite.
cattle route
cattle route
tapeats break
tapeats break
looking back from the break
looking back from the break
cattle route
cattle route
muav ledges
muav ledges
dropping into the 2nd side drainage
dropping into the 2nd side drainage
in the 2nd side drainage
in the 2nd side drainage
buddha temple
buddha temple
passing by a cottonwood grove on the tonto in the rain
passing by a cottonwood grove on the tonto in the rain
upper phantom canyon
upper phantom canyon
lower phantom is so high on my list
lower phantom is so high on my list
We got a good break in the rain to set up camp and eat dinner, then we hit the tents. The rain began again and lulled me to sleep but I woke up a short time later on the ground. Apparently one of the patches on my thermarest failed but I wasn’t able to pinpoint the leak in the dark. So I woke up every 2 hours and blew it up again. It was a long night. Day 3 Upper phantom, Utah flats We decided to explore Upper Phantom canyon and then move camp up to Utah Flats for better views and a shorter last day if the weather cooperated. Travel upcanyon was part bootpath, part hiking in the creek bed. First stop was a large overhang /campsite with faint petroglyphs. Then onto Hippie Camp, where a group of people lived in the canyon in the 60s or 70s. From there Shelby went to check out a redwall route and Julia and I went another ~mile in upper-upper phantom, which was the prettiest section. I really wanted to keep going to see how far we could get, but we were well past our turnaround time and Julia talked me out of it. We all hoofed it back to camp where I quickly attempted to re-patch my thermarest before we packed up and headed up a steep but well defined user trail to Utah flats.
upper phantom
upper phantom
upper phantom
upper phantom
view upcanyon from the large overhang
view upcanyon from the large overhang
upper phantom
upper phantom
upper phantom
upper phantom
hippie camp collection
hippie camp collection
more muav
more muav
upper upper phantom
upper upper phantom
turnaround point
turnaround point
Although the weather had been improving all day, it started raining again as soon as we started climbing. After a couple hours we turned the final corner to Utah Flats and could see more weather coming our way. The torrent unleashed just as we were setting up tents in a very scenic spot above the slickrock flats, and then it rained off and on for a few hours. For some reason my new patch didn’t work and then I couldn’t get another patch to stick despite several attempts... until I ran out of patches. I ended up improvising a sleeping pad out of my zrest sit pad, my pack, and all of my spare clothes. It was lumpy and my spot was rocky and not exactly flat.. so another long night waah.gif
leaving phantom canyon
leaving phantom canyon
in the rain again
in the rain again
clearing again
clearing again
lower phantom from above
lower phantom from above
deva & brahma temple
deva & brahma temple
beginning the descent to utah flats
beginning the descent to utah flats
incoming weather
incoming weather
utah flats
utah flats
Day 4 Utah flats to south kaibab TH By morning the weather was calm and we spent awhile exploring the flats before hiking out. It is a really cool spot, especially now when there’s lots of water. Julia and Shelby searched for evidence of ancient Puebloans while I wandered around taking too many photos. Eventually we packed up and got back on the utah flats route, which passes through “piano alley” (so named for piano-sized boulders) before a very steep descent that spits you out at the last campsite in Bright Angel campground. Then back up South Kaibab to finish.
good morning!
good morning!
utah flats
utah flats
utah flats
utah flats
utah flats
utah flats
utah flats
utah flats
utah flats
utah flats
utah flats
utah flats
utah flats
utah flats
beginning the descent to bright angel
beginning the descent to bright angel
entering piano alley
entering piano alley
julia in piano alley
julia in piano alley
This loop had been on my list of potential trips for a couple years but always got bumped because descriptions of the cattle route don’t make it sound very enjoyable, but I thought the whole trip was pretty great! And a big thank you to Shelby for being my other hand when needed, filtering water, and helping me pack up my tent. Trips totals: 44 miles, 11,400' of gain

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GaliWalker
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Joined: 10 Dec 2007
Posts: 4930 | TRs | Pics
Location: Pittsburgh
GaliWalker
Have camera will use
PostWed Mar 27, 2024 6:49 am 
Spectacular! Both the scenery and the photos. The sleepless nights were totally worth it.

'Gali'Walker => 'Mountain-pass' walker bobbi: "...don't you ever forget your camera!" Photography: flickr.com/photos/shahiddurrani

rubywrangler
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Stefan
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Stefan
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PostWed Mar 27, 2024 8:40 am 
Wow. Great pictures! Way to have a backup plan. Sorry the Buckskin thing did not work out this time--next time it will work out!

Art is an adventure.

rubywrangler
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Eric Hansen
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Location: Wisconsin
Eric Hansen
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PostWed Mar 27, 2024 6:20 pm 
+1 on Cattle Route is great! Somehow I think the word "Cattle" leads to people negative framing. That and Upper Phantom is pretty elegant.

Off trail rambler

rubywrangler
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jaysway
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jaysway
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PostThu Apr 04, 2024 10:59 pm 
Stunning! Great report. Added to the bucket list smile.gif.

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