Deer Creek/Thunder River Loop

Trip Description

This adventure is for the strong hiker who wants a rewarding rim-to-river backpacking experience. Highly regarded as perhaps the best Grand Canyon loop hike, this trip has it all: endless vistas, slickrock expanses, turbulent streams, towering waterfalls, gorgeous narrow canyons, solitude and outstanding camping. Thunder River explodes right out of the canyon wall and cascades down through a shady oasis towards Tapeats Creek, another spring-fed stream that carves an impressive canyon as it tumbles its way towards the Colorado River. The Narrows of Deer Creek is one of the most beautiful places in all of Grand Canyon. Cool off in its sparkling pools, explore the sandstone ledges or just lounge around on “The Patio”. These rugged trails offer memorable views of the Colorado River, Great Thumb Mesa and Steamboat Mountain, and are a true testament to Grand Canyon’s designation as a World Heritage Site. This remote section of the Canyon will both challenge and endlessly reward the intrepid hiker that chooses to explore its wondrous depths. This is truly an adventure of a lifetime!  ***This is a very rigorous and challenging backpacking trip that will require each participant to carry 35 to 45 pounds while hiking.


Trip Details

Type: Backpacking

Days: 5

Distance: 30 miles

Difficulty: Advanced

Origin: Flagstaff, AZ

Cost: $1800/person


Trip Itinerary

Day 1:

This epic Grand Canyon hiking tour starts with a drive to remote Monument Point along the Grand Canyon’s North Rim. After final preparations, we will begin our trek down the Bill Hall Trail. The steep upper sections of the trail will demand your attention and a few “packs-off” scrambles will add to the adventure. After an initial descent of about 1500 feet, the trail will level out as we begin our traverse along the Esplanade, a broad slickrock bench studded with mushroom-shaped rocks, juniper trees and amazing cryptobiotic soil crusts. This “other-worldly” landscape will delight and inspire your inner photographer! Eventually we will arrive at our camp overlooking Surprise Valley and the Colorado River, still a few thousand feet below. Kick back and relax while your guide sets up camp and prepares a delicious dinner.
Drive Time: 4 hours
Distance & Elevation: 6 miles, 2000 foot descent
Light Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 2:

Today’s destination is the watery oasis of Deer Creek Canyon. The rugged descent through the Redwall Limestone follows an ancient landslide to Surprise Valley. From here, the trail heads west and makes another challenging descent into Deer Creek Canyon. The “Throne Room” next to Deer Spring is a delightful, shady grotto to relax in and enjoy lunch. Shortly after, we will make camp along the banks of Deer Creek, leave our backpacks behind and take a stroll through the Deer Creek Narrows, a stunning stretch of sandstone canyon, deeply incised by the creek. Then it’s down to Colorado River and the 200 foot Deer Creek Falls. Enjoy a dip in the creek before heading back to camp.
Distance & Elevation: 5 miles + day hike, 3000 foot descent
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3:

Today’s journey will follow a faint trail high above the Colorado River towards Tapeats Creek. The views along this stretch are unbelievable and you will feel as though you have the entire Grand Canyon to yourself. Upon reaching the mouth of Tapeats Creek, we will turn upstream for the last few miles to camp. The unique geology and colorful rock layers of this beautiful canyon make for a wonderful conclusion to this great day of hiking.
Distance & Elevation: 6 miles, 1000 foot descent/ascent
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4:

Onward and upward! Day 4 will lead us past the famous Thunder River, a huge, freshwater spring gushing directly out of the canyon wall. We will stop to rest and enjoy this wonderful spot before loading up on water for the hike across Surprise Valley and the steep climb back up to the Esplanade. Tonight’s camp will be somewhere along this slickrock wonderland, leaving a short hike back to the North Rim on our last day. Enjoy some well-deserved rest and relaxation. The sunsets here are breathtaking, as are the starry night skies. Take it all in as your guide prepares a final feast complete with unforgettable views.
Distance & Elevation: 7 miles, 3000 foot ascent
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5:

Another hearty breakfast and a beautiful sunrise will start our fifth and final day. Your guide will pack up camp before our final climb to the rim. Frequent rests will afford plenty of opportunities to gaze back upon this remarkable landscape. We’ll enjoy a delicious lunch back on the rim before loading up for the drive back to Flagstaff.
Distance & Elevation: 4 to 6 miles, 2000 foot ascent
Breakfast, Lunch
Drive Time: 4 hours

*Final itineraries are occasionally subject to change due to permit/campsite availability, park restrictions/closures, weather conditions and/or road closures.


What's Included

  • A professional, licensed and medically trained guide
  • All necessary gear: backpack, tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, trekking poles
  • All cooking/eating gear: bowls, cups, utensils (your guide will prepare all meals)
  • All meals from a light breakfast on Day 1 through lunch on the last day + trail snacks
  • Roundtrip transportation from your hotel in Flagstaff, AZ to Grand Canyon
  • Entrance fees and backcountry permits
  • 5% National Park Service Commercial Fee (a required fee that passes through to Grand Canyon National Park)

What's Not Included:

  • Transportation to/from Flagstaff, AZ
  • Lodging the night before/after the trip
  • Clothing, raingear, and footwear
  • Personal toiletries, sunscreen
  • Water bottles/hydration bladder
  • Headlamp or flashlight
  • Guide gratuity (suggested 10-15% of trip cost)

*Upon Booking you will receive a detailed trip information packet

How many people are in the group?

Most backpacking trips in Grand Canyon will accommodate 5 people plus one guide. On occasion, a group may be as large as 9 people plus 2 guides.

Are there age restrictions?

Children under the age of 13 are generally not permitted on backpacking trips. This restriction may be negotiable on private tours. Please contact us with any questions regarding this policy.

How do I sign up?

In order to confirm a reservation, we require an initial deposit of $250 per person, with the final balance due 90 days prior to the trip’s departure. If you book a trip within 90 days of the trip’s scheduled departure, then full payment is due at the time of booking.

Your deposit is payable 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 4pm Arizona time. 1-877-272-5032

Travel Logistics

Where does the trip begin/end?

This trip will begin/end in Flagstaff, AZ and you will need to spend the night prior to your trip’s scheduled departure in Flagstaff. You will want to fly into either Phoenix (2 hour drive) or Flagstaff.

Where do meet our guides?

We will hold a pre-trip orientation at 4:00pm the evening prior to your trip’s departure at the Little America Hotel in Flagstaff. Departure times and logistics for the following morning will be discussed at the orientation.

Departure times and logistics for the following morning will be discussed at the orientation. Most trips will depart between 4:30am and 7am. *This meeting is not mandatory, but highly recommended, as we will depart early the next morning. If you are unable to attend, please let us know in advance so that we can make alternate arrangements.

What do we do with our car and extra stuff?

We will provide all transportation to/from trailheads for the duration of the trip. We will pick you up at your hotel in Flagstaff and return you there at the trip’s conclusion. Guests staying at the Little America Hotel (recommended) can leave their cars at the hotel. The hotels will often store your luggage for you, as well. If not, we are happy to store extra luggage at our shop for the duration of the trip. If you are staying at a different hotel, you will need to check with them as to whether you can leave your car there.

What time will we get back on the last day?

Expect to be back in Flagstaff by 5pm at the latest on the last day of the trip. Many trips will return earlier but we cannot make any guarantees. In general, it is recommended that you do not plan to fly home on the same day your trip finishes. Since each trip has slightly different logistics, feel free to contact us with specific questions related to the expected return time for your trip.

Trip Dates

Grand Canyon issues permits for backpacking trips approximately 5 months in advance via a lottery system. We can request permits for any date you like so be sure to contact us before the deadlines (noted below). Permits for the most popular trips will sell-out immediately during the initial lottery. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that you contact us prior to the deadline for the month you are hoping to hike. Pre-registration is free!

2024 Dates

September: 23-27

October: 15-19

Permits for the dates below have not yet been issued. Request these dates or choose your own.

November: 3-7 (Pre-registration Deadline July 1, 2024)



Don’t see your dates? Custom dates may be available!

Call 1-928-525-1552 or email us for details.

Guest Testimonials

Guest Testimonials

“My friends and I have booked an annual camping/backpacking trip with four season guides for the last three years. I cannot say enough about how amazing every trip is.This year my best friend wanted to celebrate her 35th birthday by backpacking the Grand Canyon with a core crew of friends. There wasn’t a question about who we would book the trip with.

We spent 5 days and 4 nights backpacking the Deer Creek Thunder River loop. Not an easy hike by any means, but worth every moment. If you’re looking for breathtaking views, water features, a great workout and total seclusion—this is the hike for you! We crossed paths with a handful of people on the trails.

The guides and owner Dave are really just the best people—knowledgeable, funny and fun. Although we carried all of our food for 5 days the food was delicious and plentiful. The hike itself was incredible—water features, amazing views, great camping spots. I travel quite a bit and this really is my favorite annual trip. Thanks Matt and Quin for leading the way, being great company and feeding us well! Until next time.” – Andrea P.

“We just returned from an epic 5 day/4 night trip trip to Deer Creek/Thunder River in the Grand Canyon. This was our 5th trip using FSG and the reason we keep coming back is their high level of customer service and friendliness. We had the pleasure of Jeremy and Lily leading our brigade. They are genuinely nice people who are really good at what they do. They had planned out every little detail whether it be visiting an architectural area and regaling us with the history of the era to french pressing our coffee in the morning. If you want a first class experience to some of nature’s greatest wonders, FSG will ensure every detail is perfect.” – Tony H.

“Just returned from my 5th group Grand Canyon hike with Four Seasons. We have become annual FS hikers, asking Dave to increase the level of difficulty each year. Deer Creek/Thunder River did not disappoint. Challenging terrain but we were amply rewarded with beatiful waterfalls, gorgeous views, and a chance encounter with a bighorn sheep cooling in the midday shade. Our guides were first rate, preparing great meals, sharing history of Grand Canyon pioneers, aiding blistered feet, and going the extra mile to ensure our comfort and safety. Do yourself a favor, train hard before you take on this trip. You will want to brag about it.” – George H.

“3rd trip with FSG! This time to the Grand Canyon. Wow! What another phenomenal hike. The surrounds, of course, defy description–descending through the layers of the Grand Canyon, only able to approach the side canyons through the ancient landslide that is Surprise Valley. Serpentine slots, desert oases, archeology and history, waterfalls bursting through the red limestone! It was a privilege to hike with Bob and Karne again. They are expert, fun guides and bottomless wells of knowledge about all things Grand Canyon. They managed all of the crucial details, allowing me to immerse myself in a Grand Canyon backpacking trip. I have never seen the canyon from on-foot before and the slower pace of walking (vs rafting or driving along the rim) is perfect to revel in the intriguing details and sweeping vistas of the Grand Canyon. Bob and Karne are very professional, guiding our team safely and comfortably through this desert hike. I deeply trust FSG’s guides in the backcountry. As always, preparing for such a trip was a cinch with FSG. Dave coordinated all of the details such that I was adequately prepared for this strenuous adventure. I highly recommend exploring with FSG.” – Diane W.

When booking your Grand Canyon backpacking trip, make sure that you book out at least 4+ months in advance due to Grand Canyon National Park’s permit system. The deadline to apply for backpacking permits is on the first of the month, 4 months prior to the month you intend to hike (i.e. January 1 deadline for all May trips, February 1 for June, March 1 for July…etc.).