A Guide To Thunder River
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Thunder River is an incredibly action-packed camping destination. A 3-day trip to Thunder River can include a stay on the Esplanade, the site’s famous slickrock “balcony on the Grand Canyon,” a visit to the uniquely beautiful Tapeats Creek, plenty of cultural and historical attractions, and enjoy the river itself in all of its glory. Don’t forget camping beneath one of the most spectacular star-filled skies you’ve ever seen, too!
Thunder River is a surprisingly short stream given all of its natural beauty. The river springs from a canyon wall and then runs directly into Tapeats Creek, a total distance of less than a mile. This makes it the world’s shortest river.
Visiting Thunder River
Backpacking is the only viable way to get to Thunder River. You’ll want to start by securing a backcountry camping permit from the Grand Canyon National Park. You’ll find all the salient details on the Park Service’s website. The following itinerary is strongly recommended:
- Upper Tapeats Creek
On the first day, you’ll take the Bill Hall Trail down to reach the campground at the Esplanade. This is a four-mile trip. Unless rainfall has been heavy in the past few days, you should plan on finding the campsite dry.
For day two, take the Thunder River Trail south from the Esplanade. Steep switchbacks will take you into Surprise Valley, where you’ll want to turn east to reach Thunder River and Tapeats Creek. Upper Tapeats Creek will be your overnight campground. Total travel for this day is roughly six miles.
On the third day, head up the Thunder River Trail again and camp on the Esplanade. This leg is also six miles. On your fourth and final day, you’ll head back up the four mile long Bill Hall Trail.
If you want to tackle Thunder River with the assistance of a professional guide, we strongly recommend the Wildland Trekking Company’s “Wonders of the Grand Canyon” loop. This 6-day hiking excursion includes both Thunder River and Deer Creek Falls.