Grand Canyon Backpacking – North Rim – Women’s Thunder River Loop

Trip Length 4 Days
Group Size 4–9
Activity level
Starting from
$999 for REI Members
$1,099 for non-members
Departures Sep 2022-Oct 2023

Backpack along one of the Grand Canyon’s most rugged and spectacular routes: the Thunder River Loop.

While most Grand Canyon visitors limit their stay to the southern section of the park, the rugged and more remote North Rim offers up pristine wilderness and endless opportunity for adventure. We spend four days backpacking the North Rim’s Thunder River Trail. Considered one of the canyon’s most challenging and awe-inspiring paths, our loop is a must for women looking for hard-earned big rewards. Jaw-dropping vistas, tumbling waterfalls, towering rock walls, ancient fossils and the mighty Colorado create an incomparable backcountry experience.

As highly experienced and charismatic women, our guides add inspiration, motivation and unmatched backcountry leadership. They’ll share a wealth of natural and human history in addition to helping us hone important wilderness and survival skills. And who doesn’t love a hearty delicious meal at the end of a long day on the trail? Our amazing guides have developed a scrumptious menu designed to fuel both body and spirit.

Enjoy spectacular views of the Canyon right out your front door.

Trip Highlights

  • Backpack with like-minded adventurous women
  • Cool off with a dip in the mighty Colorado River
  • Decompress with daily sessions of reflection, stretching and meditation
  • Learn the remarkable natural and human history of the Grand Canyon
  • Hone your backcountry skills as expert women teach and guide you

Activities

This trip is rated Strenuous [5]. Participants will be carrying backpacks of 30–45lbs over steep and rocky terrain for up to 11 miles per day. Participants should be prepared to hike over steep, rocky and sometimes exposed terrain, with constant and dramatic elevation gains and/or losses of up to 3,700'–5,000' per day on most days. Sections of the trail will be exposed and pass near cliff edges. This trip is not recommended for those with vertigo or an extreme fear of heights. We strongly recommend practicing with 30–45lbs in the pack you intend to use for the trip and making sure your hiking boots are broken in before departure. This is not a beginning backpacking trip. Previous experience is highly recommended and we ask you to review your personal health and preparation plan with your medical physician prior to traveling.

  • Backpacking

What's Included

Professional instruction and guiding; meals as noted in the daily itinerary; 2-person tents; group cooking gear; group first aid kit, water filter; campsite and backcountry permit fees.

Accommodations

Backcountry camping, 3 nights

Your Adventure Itinerary

Itinerary map for Grand Canyon Backpacking – North Rim – Women’s Thunder River Loop
Day 1

Tackle the “50 Switchbacks” before traveling over the otherworldly Esplanade

We kick off our adventure early this morning in Kanab, UT, where we meet for an orientation and gear check. With our packs ready and our appetites for adventure primed, we head out on a 1.5-hour caravan over paved and gravel roads to our North Rim trailhead. After a few final adjustments, we leave the rim behind and start our descent into the inner canyon. We conquer the challenging “50 Switchbacks” before hiking across the Esplanade to a breathtaking campsite overlooking the inner canyon. Dinner included.

Backpacking: 6–11 miles on rocky and exposed terrain with steep descents, Elevation loss: -2,000’–5,000’; Caravan transfer: 1.5 hours

Day 2

Backpack along Thunder River and take a plunge into the mighty Colorado

After a peaceful night's sleep and a hearty breakfast, we break camp, don our packs, and set out for another amazing day on the trail. Descending farther into the canyon, we travel through an area of cultural significance dating back to prehistoric times. The Tapeats Amphitheatre is home to three remarkable waterways, serving as a welcome oasis to intrepid travelers for centuries. We follow in their footsteps, enjoying the unique opportunity to splash, cool off and explore before a final push to our camp along the Colorado River. Breakfast and dinner included.

Backpacking: 7 miles on rocky and exposed terrain with steep descents, Elevation loss: -3,200’

Day 3

Search for fossils and splash in spectacular Deer Creek Falls

Our destination today is Deer Creek, which many consider the most beautiful spot in the Grand Canyon. As we ascend from the canyon floor, we’ll be treated to remarkable views of the Colorado River, soaring hoodoos and layer upon layer of colorful rock. En route to camp, we don our amateur geologist hats to hunt for prehistoric relics and fossils. Our final reward for the day is a splash in gorgeous Deer Falls, where we cool down, relax and commune with new friends and nature. Breakfast and dinner included.

Backpacking: 8 miles on rocky and exposed terrain with steep ascents, Elevation gain: +1,800’

Day 4

A final push out of the canyon ends with spectacular views from the North Rim

To beat the heat, we rise early and hit the trail as sun breaks. Our path across the Esplanade is the perfect primer for a climb back up the “50 Switchbacks”. Along the way we’ll enjoy our last glimpses of the interior canyon and the diverse ecosystem we’ve gotten to know so well. Finally, a last push brings us back to the rim where we bid new friends and the remarkable Grand Canyon farewell. Our finishing time varies due to many factors, so we recommend making return travel plans for the following day. Breakfast included.

Backpacking: 9 miles on rocky and exposed terrain with steep ascents, Elevation gain: +3,200’

Itinerary map for Grand Canyon Backpacking – North Rim – Women’s Thunder River Loop

Gear List

This gear list has been created to help you choose the best equipment for the trip. Try to bring only what is necessary, as this will help you and the field staff. The weather and other conditions at the time of your arrival will dictate what clothing and equipment you will be required to use each day and what (if anything) can be left behind. It may be a necessary precaution that you bring certain items on the list, even if it is uncertain whether or not they will be needed.

What to pack

Contact Us

Feel free to give us a call at 1 (800) 622-2236 should you have any questions regarding the gear list. The staff at our stores and Direct Sales ( 1 (800) 426-4840 ) will also be happy to help you with gear questions. Or check out REI Expert Advice , which has great information to help you prepare for your trip.