Top 5 Hikes Starting at the River

Slots, springs, and summit views at Tanner Trail, Tabernacle Butte, Thunder River, Matkatamiba Canyon, and National Canyon.
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The narrows of Matkatamiba Canyon. Photo by Whit Richardson

The narrows of Matkatamiba Canyon. Photo by Whit Richardson

1. Tanner Trail

Mile 68.5: While much of the floating and hiking on a Grand Canyon river trip keeps you within the Colorado River Gorge, a trek up the rim-to-river Tanner Trail offers a rare opportunity to climb out of the inner canyon and gain sweeping, panoramic views. It's 9 miles (one way) to the South Rim, but just hiking a few miles from the river up Tanner wash (take the right fork) and following the switchbacks up Tanner Canyon will open onto terrific views.

2. Tabernacle Butte

Mile 74.1: From Rattlesnake Camp on the river, it's a steep 2,200-foot climb to get to the top of the towering Grand Canyon butte called the Tabernacle. Cairns mark the way up a ledge and then through Tapeats sandstone. From the summit, you'll enjoy big views of eastern Grand Canyon, including Furnace Flats and the Palisades of the Desert.

3. Thunder River

Mile 133.7: Forming one of the shortest rivers in the world, Thunder Spring roars out of the Muav limestone in a 100-foot high waterfall and then travels 1,200 feet to Thunder River's confluence with Tapeats Creek. Hike 2.5 miles on the Thunder River trail to reach an awesome view of Thunder Spring.

4. Matkatamiba Canyon

Mile 148: A 10-minute scramble up from the river will take you into this twisting corridor of serpentine narrows that lead to a large amphitheater. The slot canyon through Muav limestone is cut by a small stream that sometimes contains pools which can only be crossed by swimming or body-stemming above the water.

5. National Canyon

Mile 166.4: Squeezing to just a few feet wide in places, National is one of the most spectacular slot canyons in Grand Canyon. Follow National from the river for about a half-mile to reach the first set of narrows and a shallow stream. Stop here, or if you have the climbing skills, follow the Class 4 move up the left side of the canyon and explore more narrows.

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