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Clear Creek Trail

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

The Clear Creek Trail, 18.4 miles roundtrip, is a great destination for those hikers staying at Phantom Ranch/Bright Angel Campground, located at the bottom of the Grand Canyon—you need not hike the entire 9.2 miles to Clear Creek, as there are several incredible destinations along the way. The first of which lies just 0.75 miles from the trailhead—called the Phantom Ranch Overlook, it affords the hiker with a bird’s eye view of Phantom Ranch and the Bright Angel Creek, 550 feet below. The overlook is reached via several steep switchbacks (gaining 430 feet from the trailhead elevation of 2,650 to the overlook at 3,080 feet), along which we encountered a deer skull that provided for an interesting, albeit macabre, photo opportunity. For those who are looking for a short day hike, the overlook is a great turnaround, but if you are up for a longer trek, keep following the Clear Creek Trail, as the views only get better. As we made our way further down the trail, we came across a distinctive resting bench—located just above the Phantom Ranch Overlook there exists a bench built by the CCC out of the Canyon’s Vishnu Schist—the perfect place for a photo op. After a rest stop at the bench, climb steadily up the long switchbacks towards the base of the Tapeats sandstone—along the way, keep watching for a short spur trail found off the right side of the trail. This hidden side track leads to a magnificent view of the canyon, complete with a panorama of the Colorado River, and views across to the brilliant red rock of the south rim, including the South Kaibab switchbacks—don’t miss it! As you traverse farther eastward you will come to yet another fantastic overlook—surveying the Inner Gorge, the river, the Black Bridge of the South Kaibab Trail, and the Silver Bridge of the Bright Angel Trail. We had planned to hike to this point and turn around, but the views of the Tonto Plateau and Zoroaster Temple drew us beyond—just a little farther. Hugging the rim of Granite Gorge, with cliffs plunging 1,000 feet from the trail to the Colorado River below, views both up and down the canyon are spectacular. Soon, we reached Sumner Wash where Sumner Butte loomed nearly 1,500 feet above to the north—to the northeast, Zoroaster Temple punctures the sky. We finally turned around just shy of the Clear Creek Use Area (reaching an elevation of nearly 4,000 feet), returning to Phantom Ranch along the same route for a roundtrip hike of approximately 5 miles—not bad for a “rest day” at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.



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