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 is capable of hiking 6-12 miles daily.  Trails are generally not maintained and have up to 5000 feet or of change in elevation.  Your backpack will weigh between 35-45 lbs.  PhD time traveling hikers must be in very good health with an elevated fitness level.  Previous backpacking experience is highly recommended, and may be required.

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. 



Hikers should have the ability to hike on and off marked trails, to scramble over obstacles and/or barriers with frequent changes in elevation for up to 15 miles per day, carrying medium to large sized packs of gear. All hikes are one-way, except in case of emergency, and are traveled at a steady 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.


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


2020 Trip Dates

June 10-14

geologic time travel primer


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

Give me some details!

What is included in the Trip Rate?:

  • Your geologist/guide with all professional, medical, and backcountry certifications
  • Gear: backpack, tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, trek poles
  • Kitchen: bowls, cups, utensils, backcountry kitchen
  • Food: Full meals and trail snacks
  • Transportation: Roundtrip from the host hotel to all activities/attractions
  • Fees: Permits, Entrance Fees, Camping Fees, all necessary trip fees

What is the Food Situation?:

 Blue Marble takes care of all meals on your tour.  Starting with breakfast on your first day through lunch the final day, your geologist/guide will prepare a variety of chef-inspired meals on the trail and in camp.  All dietary needs are accommodated, so please get in touch with us to give us details of your requirements. There may be times where special needs necessitate a small rate increase.

Meals with include one main dish, which is prepared by your geologist/guide. Fresh options may be limited, as backpacking typically requires lightweight, non-perishable foods. Trail snacks will include meats, cheeses, nuts, chocolate, and other filling, delicious, and varying backcountry food.

Is there anything that i need to provide myself?:

  • Transportation to and from the host city/hotel
  • Lodging prior to and following your trip
  • Gear such as clothes, rainwear, and boots/shoes
  • Personal items such as toiletries and sunscreen
  • BMAG does not provide water bottles or Camelback-Style bladders
  • Personal lighting such as headlamps or flashlights
  • We suggest gratuities for your guide, typically 10-15% of the total trip cost

*Booked guests will receive a detailed information packet

What kind of group size can i expect?

Standard backpacking tours will accommodate 6 people plus one geologist/guide.  The maximum group size is 10 guests and 2 guides.

Can I bring small children?

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

I want to book a trip, how can i do that?

Tour bookings can be completed through our online booking platform or through our office.  A 50% deposit is required, and the full trip rate will be due 90 days prior to trip departure.  Bookings within the 90-day window require payment in full.  Trip rates are 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.

Tell me more!


Where do tours start and finish?

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 Phoenix or Flagstaff.

Can I meet the guide before the trip?

A pre-trip briefing is held at the host hotel the evening before trip departure.  Any questions will be answered, and you will have the opportunity to discuss anything you wish with your geologist/guide. Most trips will depart between 6am and 9am the following morning.

ummm, what should i do with all my luggage and whatnot?

BMAG provides all transport throughout the trip.  Our guests staying at the host hotel may choose to leave their car at the hotel. Our designated host hotels will typically store your luggage if necessary.  In the event that this cannot be arranged, BMAG is more than happy to store luggage and personal belongings in a private and secure location during your tour.

how should i plan my travel after the trip?

In general, most trips can expect to be back to the host hotel by 6pm on the final day of the trip. Some trips may return earlier.  BMAG typically recommends that you do not plan to fly home on the same day your trip finishes. Each trip has its own particular set of circumstances and logistics, so please  contact us with any specific questions you may have.

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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.