ACCESS: Tanner Trail or Red Canyon Trail.
MAPS: 15 Minute Vishnu Temple Quadrangle, 7.5 Minute Desert View, Cape Royal Quadrangles.
MILEAGE: Approximately 15 miles from Tanner Beach to Red Canyon Beach.
ELEVATION CHANGE: 2640' to 3600' and back to 2640'
WATER AVAILABILITY: Colorado River, seasonal seeps in Escalante, 75 Mile Canyons, and Papago Creek.
CAMPSITE AVAILABILITY: Tanner, Cardenas and Red Canyon use areas are at large camping.
TANNER TO CARDENAS At the Tanner drainage following the path West. The path parallels the river for a short distance then heads inland. There will be an obvious trail marked with numerous cairns. This trail will take you to Cardenas Creek, remaining distinct all the way. The trail crosses Cardenas Creek and begins contouring up the butte that overlooks Unkar Delta.
CARDENAS TO ESCALANTE You will now find yourself beginning a climb of about 1000'. At the apparent end of the trail, you will be on a high point looking down at the delta. From here, there is but one way to go: south and ever upward. There is a faint, windblown trail which becomes more obvious the farther you go. This will take you around the unnamed drainage just west of Cardenas Creek drainage.
Looking up to the right, you will see Butchart's Notch breaking through the Tapeats. As you get to the head of the drainage and begin going back north, be aware that the trail keeps ascending higher than you might think.
Soon you will be directly below the Notch. Here you can go through the Notch, or you can contour around the point still- following the trail. The contour is longer in distance but easier to negotiate. The notch is shorter, extremely steep but does present a spectacular view. Both routes will probably take about the same amount of time. (editors note: I didn't see this notch or this route. I would suggest going around in any case)
Be careful going down the west side Of the Notch. After the initial scramble down, you will slide down a talus slope all the way into Escalante Creek. It is certainly a great deal harder approaching Butchart's Notch from the west side and the contour should be considered in this case.
Walk down Escalante Creek for about 1/2 mile and look for cairns indicating the exit point from the drainage. If you get to the eight-foot pouroff, just back up until you see the cairns. Follow the trail over the hump and down into the next drainage, which is a side arm of Escalante. It is important to go down the first gully you get to and not to follow the trail which goes all the way up to the head of this drainage. Keep in mind UP, OVER, AND DOWN!, and you will save a lot of time. (editors note: this part confused us a bit. At Escalante creek the trail continues up the other side in plain view. However, the description says to go down the creek for 1/2 mile and so thats what we did. The cairns are on the left. We never did find out where that other trail went to. Also, after you climb out of the drainage, watch carefully for the next drainage. As you're heading down the gully, it's off to the left, but where the trail drops into the drainage is not apparent until you get very close.
Once you get into this gully, you will see cairns taking you down into the drainage. Follow the drainage downstream, exiting at the cairns, and eventually re-entering the drainage which will take you to the river.
ESCALANTE TO 75 MILE If the Colorado River is at low flows it may be possible to walk along the river bank. Most of the time you will have to follow the cairned trail up the cliff and head west a short distance until you are looking down at Neville Rapids. This is 75 Mile Creek. Follow the trail as it turns south and go for about 1/2 mile until you see the large cairns leading you down into the drainage. DO NOT CONTOUR AROUND THE DRAINAGE. You will need to climb down a twelve- foot pouroff into the drainage itself! You may want to carry some parachute card to aid in lowering packs. Between this pouroff and the river there is a new pool formulated by a flood in September of 1987. The water can be chest high making it extremely difficult if travelling west to east. It can also be dry. It's difficult for backcountry personnel to know in advance. Follow the drainage until you reach the river.
75 MILE TO RED CANYON You are again presented with a choice of routes: if the water is low enough, you can walk along the river west to Papago; if the water is high enough to cover the ledge you end up on, you will have to take the high route. Just west of Papago Creek, you will encounter perhaps the most interesting section of the Escalante Route - a steep rock outcropping which you must climb about 50' up and over. Although this is an easy climb if you are careful, you may want to rope up your pack. (editors note: take your packs off!) Getting to the top of this wall, follow the cairns as they ascend the steep slope. This is a spot to be easily confused. You need to keep going higher until you go through a small break and exit onto flat ground. You will then encounter a steep, talus, rock slide which you must descend. Extreme caution must be used here; (editors note: Amen!) the rocks are loose and could avalanche with you right in the middle. Stay close to the wall on the left so you can better retain balance. once at the base of the slide, just follow the well-defined trail over to Hance Rapids. Here the Escalante Route ends.