In the early 1930s, nature hiking was in its pioneering stages and the Grand Canyon was slowly showing its potential as a scenic hiking destination rather than the mineral gold mine many of its first prospectors ambitiously hoped it would be. With this new shift in interests, new trails were born to accommodate the interests of visitors. Clear Creek Trail, for example, was built to provide access to a side canyon and ultimately, Clear Creek, which years ago, allowed fishing privileges.
Clear Creek Trail’s appeal lies in its isolation and the fact that it is the only trail on the north side of the river providing access to the Tonto Platform. The Cheyava Falls is also a huge tourist magnet, although the great waterfall only flows after snowmelt, thus the meaning of its name: “Intermittent Waters”.
The trail is one of the few options hikers can enjoy in the colder months as its position means it gets more sun in the winter (on the other hand, it is too risky to hike in the summer as the temperatures can reach dangerous highs). At 5 miles (8 km) to the creek, the trail makes for an easy day hike.
Another unique Clear Creek feature is its access point. Rather than beginning at the rim, this trail begins about a fourth of a mile from Phantom Ranch, at the North Kaibab junction point. In other words, you’ll have to get to Phantom Ranch first and then think about the possibility of a day-hike. For those staying at Phantom Ranch or the many campsites nearby, a hike to Clear Creek is definitely recommended. Especially if you are staying below the rim for a few days.
The trailhead will begin as a gradual climb toward Phantom Overlook,where you’ll be able to see the ranch spread out beyond a series of sharp switchbacks. From here, the path continues to climb, until the next two points are reached, the base of the Tapeats Sandstone and the Tonto Platform, passing along the way two drainage areas and Sumner Wash (another area just outside the no-camping zone, 2 miles from Phantom Ranch).
Next along the way is Clear Creek Canyon and the beautiful sun-kissed panorama of the Zoroaster Canyon. Just when you glimpse Brahma Temple, you’ll notice that the trail ceases to be, replaced instead by a faint path leading toward the creek. The trail is exactly what it looks like- a creek bed requiring endless scrambling and crossings to reach your destination. The path here is very risky and will require caution and experience. Only weathered hikers should proceed beyond this point.
While it’s a beautiful day-hike option for those staying below the rim for a few days, be aware that the last portion of the hike requires steep downhill climbing as well as experience orienting yourself along a creek bed.