This canyon scramble is the "easiest" and most popular of the Inner Canyon routes. The NPS even recommends it to visitors for their first inner-canyon hike. Despite this, the unmaintained trail can be a formidable descent on a steep drainage that's covered in loose and shifting rocks and scree. At the bottom, there's an outhouse and spot for three campsites if you're inclined to stay overnight.
If the challenges of this hike sound like an agreeable adventure, get your Wilderness Use Permit from the visitor center and make your way down the east side of the Oak Flat Trail
loop. Look for the "River Access. Permit Required" sign to hone in on the start.
The Gunnison Route begins with a series of user-built braids that eventually all funnel down to a long chain about a third of the way down the descent. Take your time navigating the steep sections and be wary of the possible people below (calling out "rock" is a good idea if you send one hurtling downhill).
An 80-foot length of chain is anchored to a tree and provides a welcome aide through a particularly rough section. Continuing on, the tread alternates between loose talus rocks and gritty sand as the shifting scramble continues.
Once at the bottom, hikers are welcomed by a narrow length of rocky shoreline perched on the edge of the rushing water. All around are dramatic cliffs and craggy outcroppings that are a salute to the 1,800 feet of tough descending it took to get here and a reminder that the only way back is the way you came.