Distance: 8 miles round-trip
Duration: 3–5 hours
Elevation gain: 400 feet
Trailhead: River right, mile 143
Whether you have time for a couple of miles or double that, Kanab Creek and its side canyons are fun to explore. Kanab is Paiute for “willow,” and desert willows grow in the lower canyon along with cottonwood, Apache plume, Mormon tea, agave, and cactus. There’s no trail, and following the creek bed means going around or over cobbles and boulders, with easier going across ledges of Muav limestone on the east side of the creek.
The mouth of the canyon isn’t very interesting, but the farther you travel from the river, the more intriguing the canyon becomes. It’s negotiable all the way to Kanab, Utah, 50 miles away. On his second expedition through Grand Canyon in 1872, John Wesley Powell and his crew left the river at Kanab Creek, deciding their boats were too worn to continue down the main canyon. It took them four days to hike to Kanab.
A little more than halfway between the Colorado River and the mouth of Jumpup Canyon, springs emerge from the Redwall Formation, giving lower Kanab Creek its perennial flow. To explore that far, you’ll need about two days; sometimes backpackers spend a week or more in this network of canyons, Grand Canyon’s largest tributary system on the north side.
A good destination for a long day hike is Whispering Falls Canyon, which enters from the east at about four miles. A short way up this canyon is the waterfall that gives the canyon its name, sliding down bedrock into a plunge pool surrounded by a grotto of stone.