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Difficulty:3B IV (v3a2 IV)
Raps:4-5, max ↨100ft
Red Tape:Permit required
25 Dec 2022
"Didn’t have a shuttle vehicle. We approached via the salt trail and broke off as the red wall began to soar. We skirted the terrace for a few hours en
A beautiful canyon with scenic springs, falls and narrows, followed by the spectacular sight of rushing, milky blue water (if conditions are right) through the deep, colorful gorge of the Little Colorado River.
The conditions in the canyon have changed a bit since the publication of Grand Canyoneering; since 2017 or so most of the deep water can be avoided with some fancy footwork. The pool at the bottom of the first rappel is about waist deep (you can cling to the left wall and get in farther down where the water is only about shin deep as well), the pool at the top of the second anchor can be avoided by traversing on the wall on the right, and the deep pool at the bottom of the second drop can be avoided by carefully clinging to the wall on the right, using a shallow under water ledge, then reaching across to the left wall and bridging the rest of the way - though not everybody will be able to make these moves alone the best climber in the group should be able to help the rest to stay dry here.
Generally speaking, don't plan on filtering or purifying any of the water on this trip, as only rain runoff in a few ephemeral pools above the spring in Big Canyon and above the river in Salt Trail Canyon would be suitable to drink since the water in the spring in Big Canyon and in the river is so loaded with minerals - bring enough water for the entire trip from the beginning.
Blue water in the Little Colorado River is condition dependent - since the blue water flows out from a perennial spring, when the river itself is flowing from precipitation runoff the river will flow brown from the sediments it carries farther upstream and dilute the blue color entirely. There is a flow gauge in the river near Cameron, AZ that can be monitored online here: https://waterdata.usgs.gov/monitoring-location/09402000/#parameterCode=00060&period=P7D You want the cubic feet per second to be zero for at least a week or two before the river will be dependably blue.
The shuttle route is in blue - there are a lot of dirt roads out there and it would be easy to get lost - this route may vary from the directions in the Grand Canyoneering book.
When exiting via Salt Trail Canyon, from Big Canyon follow the cairns up the LEFT side of Salt Trail Canyon up past where you can see the big KPH of Salt trail Canyon (maybe 2-3 hours of hiking.) Soon after this, when Salt Canyon flattens out a bit, the cairns cross over and go up the right side (DCL) of Salt trail canyon. As of 4/17 cairns led the whole way up to the TH of Salt Canyon. it took us 4.5 hours
A Navajo Nation backcountry permit is required to run this canyon.
As of June 2023, the best way to get this permit is to call the Cameron office (928-679-2303). You can pay with a card over the phone and they will email you the permit. It's $15 per person per day.
They keep normal business hours except when, sometimes, they don't.
- Super Amazing Map : Big Canyon
- HikeArizona.com : Big Canyon to LCR Gorge
- Grand Canyoneering Book by Todd Martin : Big Canyon
Trip reports and media
- Candition.com : Big Canyon
- Mark Kilian's Adventures : Big Canyon - LCR