Update: Search Under Way For One Overdue Hiker at Grand Canyon National Park

Waterfalls such as this one at Deer Creek Narrows lures backpackers to the Deer Creek/Thunder River area of the Grand Canyon National Park. Photo by Conor Watkins And J. David Rogers, Missouri University of Science and Technology,

Grand Canyon National Park rangers were intensifying efforts Thursday to find a lone backpacker in a remote and rugged section of the park. While initially they thought as many as four backpackers were in the group, after interviewing friends and family of Bryce Gillies they now believe there is only one missing hiker.

When Mr. Gillies' father first contacted park officials Tuesday night to report his son was overdue, there was a question of whether the 20-year-old had headed off into the backcountry with friends from Northern Arizona University. The backpacker reportedly left Saturday on a trip to the Deer Creek/Thunder River area after reading about the area in a magazine. According to park hiking information, the appeal of this area are 'booming streams of crystalline water (that) emerge from mysterious caves to transform the harsh desert of the inner canyon into absurdly beautiful green oasis replete with the music of falling water and cool pools."

However, the park also notes that "trailhead access can be difficult, sometimes impossible, and the approach march is long, hot and dry...but for those making the journey these destinations represent something close to canyon perfection."

On Wednesday morning rangers found Mr. Gillies' parked at the Bill Hall Trailhead, which is located about halfway between the North Rim developed area and Tuweep. A containment area was established at the exit points the young men might have used in the area, and an initial ground search was conducted at the Indian Hollow and Bill Hall Trailheads. A helicopter with three spotters also conducted an initial aerial search of the Tapeats and Deer Creek drainages as well as all trails in the area, but did not locate the young men.

Rangers also were able to contact Mr. Gillies' friends and acquaintances to gather more information. Based on the information initially received during these investigations, concerns grew that there might be as many as four individuals in the party of missing men. However, investigators have now contacted most of the friends it was feared might be with him, and have concluded that Bryce Gillies most likely came to the park alone.

Bryce Gillies is described as 5 feet 3 inches tall and 130 pounds with brown hair and blue eyes. When he left for his trip into the canyon, he also left word that he would return on Monday, July
20. On Tuesday, July 21, when Mr. Gillies still had not returned, he was reported overdue.

Search and rescue efforts are now focused on locating a lone male backpacker in the Deer Creek/Thunder River area. One ground search team was inserted Wednesday evening to begin a more thorough search of the area and two additional ground search teams are being inserted today. In addition, a helicopter will once again be searching aerially as weather permits. Additional rangers from Zion National Park and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area are being brought in to assist with search efforts.

Anyone who believes they have seen Mr. Gillies since Saturday, July 18, is encouraged to contact the National Park Service at 928-638-7805.


I hope all goes right for this young man. The Thunder River/ Tapeats Creek/ Deer Creek area is one of the absolute gems of the Grand Canyon, my personal favorite in the canyon. I've hiked the trail into Thunder River from the Bill Hall Trailhead. It's one of the harder trails in the canyon and it's very open with almost no shade. There are a couple of places on the hike out where you almost have to rock climb the slope is so steep. Because of poor winter/ spring road conditions getting to the trailhead is difficult. Summer is one of the only times you can hike in but it is brutally hot. You have to carry a LOT of water and hike really early in the morning, then find a shady spot to wait out the heat of the day, and then hike out to the trailhead in the early evening. It's recommended to cache at least a gallon of water at the halfway point (the Esplanade) so that you have an ample supply climbing out.

AZ Hiker, thanks for the first-hand information. Definitely sounds like a foreboding journey early on.

Bryce, I know the stars are beautiful but you have to come back. There are many that love you and would like to hear of your adventure.

The guy's an Eagle Scout. If anyone can climb out of there, he can.

They found his body about a half mile from the Colorado River near Bonita Creek.