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Nankoweap Trail, AZPrint Full | Basic
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Description 17 Triplogs 4 Topics
RatedFavorite   Wish List Region
 
Mine
0
Friends
0
 North Rim
Statistics
Difficulty 4.5    Route Finding
Distance One Way 11 miles
Trailhead Elevation 7,575 feet
Elevation Gain -4,768 feet
Avg Time One Way 5-7 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 18.95
Interest Perennial Creek
HAZ Hikebot
Descriptions 12,265
Routes 10,377
Photos 17
Trips 1 map ( 0 miles )
Age 17
Location Arizona
Photos
Rated Viewed All Mine Friends
19  2013-09-22
 Nankoweap Granaries
 chumley
10  2013-09-22
 Nankoweap Granaries
 BobP
31  2013-09-21 Tough_Boots
40  2013-09-21 BiFrost
45  2013-09-21 chumley
25  2013-09-21 BobP
29  2013-09-21 John9L
32  2013-09-21 squatpuke
86  2013-05-09 bknorby
4  2011-06-10 toddak
10  2009-10-17 margotr
3  2008-07-14 kathleenkylee
Page 1,  2
Large Profile
Trailhead Forecast
Historical Weather
Radar
Map - Trails Illustrated Grand Canyon NP
Forest Kaibab
Backpack - Yes & Possibly Connect
Seasons - Late Spring to Early Winter
Official Route
 
Alternative Routes
 
Water
Nearby Hikes Area Water Sources
direct air miles away to trailhead
0.0  Nankoweap Trail #57
1.5  Woolsey Point - Cliff
1.8  Point Imperial Trail
2.5  Sullivan Peak
2.5  Saddle Mountain 8424
2.6  Mount Hayden
[ View More! ]
Culture
     Cairn
     Campsite
     HAZ Food
     Informational/Interpretive Tra
     Kayenta Anasazi Storage Buildi
     Snoozing Home
     Trail Signs and Markings
Space
Fauna
     Common Raven
     Eastern Collared Lizard
     Tarantula Hawk
Space
Flora
     Banana Yucca
     Claret Cup Cactus
     Colorado Four O'Clock
     Engelmann Prickly Pear
     Four O'Clock
     Palmer's Penstemon
     Skyrocket
     Winding Mariposa Lily
Space
Geology
     Esplanade Sandstone
     Redwall Limestone
     Supai Group


The Canyon most never see...
by HAZ Hikebot

Mobile Version
History: During his famous early explorations in the region, John Wesley Powell became fascinated with the area's complex geology. His continuing interest ultimately prompted him, in the 1880s, to send a geologist and trail crew to improve an old Native American route to the river. Subsequently, the trail became the northern terminus of the "Horse Thief" route. It's difficult to envision a horse traveling this trail now but, according to legend, outlaws would steal horses in Utah and drive them to the bottom of Grand Canyon, then across the river and out the Tanner Trail to ultimately sell them in southern Arizona.

Note: Distance and elevation loss listed on this page is for the National Park section One-Way. You must hike the Nankoweap Trail #57 (Forest Service Trail) from one of it's trailheads to reach the turn off for this trail.

28.0 mi RT From West TH
29.0 mi RT From North TH


The Nankoweap Trail has always been advertised as the most strenuous hike in the Grand Canyon by Park Rangers and experienced hikers alike. Any Hike from the south rim, no matter how long or challenging, would always be answered by the old crusty hikers by 'That's something, ya young whippersnapper, but it ain't no Nankoweap.' So the Summer of 2001 found me at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon with a day and a half on my hands, two friends, and a desire to see the untold beauty of the Nankoweap Trail. Here I come.

Disclaimer #1: Due to our time restraints, we had to complete a round-trip trip to the Colorado River and back on the Nankoweap Trail in two days. This timeframe is recommended by no reputable trail guide and strongly discouraged by Park Rangers. Two days for this trail made for a grueling hike for three quite fit 21 year olds with Grand Canyon Hiking experience-Four or more days would allow for less wear on the body and a more leisurely pace. Stashing of water is necessary. There is no reliable water in the 11 Miles between the Trailhead and Nankoweap Creek.

The beginning of the Nankoweap Trail is found in the cool confines of Aspen groves high on the Colorado Plateau within the Kaibab National Forest. The trailhead is relatively well marked as Forest Service Trail 57 (Saddle Mountain Trail). After dropping for less than half a mile, you begin the ascent to the Peak of Saddle Mountain, where you are greeted with expansive views of all areas east and south of Saddle Mountain (not including the canyon). After descending the Mountain on a series of switchbacks (which will cause much consternation on your return hike!), you will reach a flat area. Remain on Trail 57 until you come to an intersection where the National Park Service Nankoweap Trail begins.

The Trail begins with a series of vague switchbacks through heavily wooded south facing slopes. After reaching the red Supai slopes with a sandstone cliff rising on your left, you will begin a long traverse along the Supai. The trail is easy to follow, with Cairns in difficult spots. When in doubt, stay on the Supai formation. There is a 100-foot drop on your right and a 100-foot cliff on your left! After about two miles you will reach a point (Marion Point) with some campsites down a well-worn path straight ahead. The trail here continues along the Supai, and you will turn north, beat down some shrubbery and find the trail continuing. There is a small water seep near here, but not enough to count on. The trail will now continue through another two-mile stretch of Supai traverse, crossing a drainage and continuing on the north side of the side canyon. Just when you think that you were cheated and the trail does not ever go any further down, it will begin to slope downward and soon you will reach the Tilted Mesa ridge. Here you will have a broad panoramic view of the Canyon, with Nankoweap Creek visible on the right, Tilted Mesa in front of you (tilted upward, of course) and more scenery on the left. Now is when the descent begins.

Keep on the right past a campsite and soon you will begin the descent by a couple of 8-10 foot ledges that may require you to lower your pack, but there are some strategically placed trees which can be used as handholds. Following is a series of brutal switchbacks, incredibly steep at times but in good condition. You will probably drop 2500 feet in elevation within the next 3 miles, so pop the ibuprofens and bust out the hiking poles. After these switchbacks a steep traverse will down a slope will lead you closer and closer to Nankoweap Creek, easily identifiable by the verdant greenery found there. After a short walk along flat desert land, you will find the creek. We camped right under a cottonwood visible by the trail once you see the creek. There is lots of shade, the water is cool, and there was a large lizard on the tree which seemed to scare any mice away.

The hike down to The Colorado River has no particular route, it just follows the creek. It is a three-mile hike to the river so make sure you budget plenty of time. I can attest that maneuvering up the creek in near dark after hiking fifteen miles is not desirable. Once you reach the River there are a series of vague trails off to your right-pick the one with elaborate Cairns and steps that will lead you up another 750 feet to Anasazi granaries. I did not go up to the granaries, but they are not fenced so please respect the ruins-I've heard the view from up there is one of the best in the canyon. From the river you will see a cliff on the opposite side that rises 300 feet to the opposite rim. It's very impressive.

Disclaimer #2: Avoid the sun during the summer. We broke camp at 4 AM each morning to avoid the sun, and it was still unbearably hot. Stash water on the way down; Marion Point and Tilted Ridge are good places. Also, don't forget that once you get out of the Canyon you still have a mountain to hike up and down. Have fun!!!

-

NPS Reports This is a mostly waterless trail, with significant exposure in places. This trail is not recommended for people with a fear of heights. The majority of hikers take two days to complete the journey, spending the night on the way down at either Marion Point or Tilted Mesa; to do so requires carrying plenty of extra water. Hikers up to the challenge are rewarded with magnificent views, excellent chances for solitude, and fascinating human history.

Forest Service Trailheads to NPS Boundary: Both Forest Service trails #57 merge at the canyon rim, National Park Service boundary (trail 57 actually connects the two trailheads). The trail from FR 610 is straight forward. Long pants are advised because of dense, thorny brush. The trail from FR 445 leaves the parking lot and follows an old road south (uphill). It soon becomes a proper trail and descends into a deep ravine. At a fork in the trail at the ravine bottom, bear right to follow the creek. The trail crosses the creek several times over the course of about a half mile, then exits the creek bed to the south and travels continuously upward through forest toward the saddle.

NPS Boundary to Marion Point: As you enter the canyon you enter the Supai Formation. The trail turns south and descends quickly through the uppermost Supai cliffs (Esplanade Sandstone). At the bottom of the switchbacks you begin a lengthy traverse, remaining immediately below the Esplanade for the next five miles or so. On a map it appears to be fairly level, but in reality the trail continuously ascends and descends and there is much exposure. The trail is often only one footprint wide, loose and gravelly, with a 10-150+ feet of drop off. This trail is not recommended for people with a fear of heights. One place that may be confusing is where the trail passes Marion Point. Here it makes an immediate turn to the north continuing the traverse and does NOT continue out to Marion Point. Just beyond where the trail passes Marion Point, near the head of a canyon, it passes just below a very small seasonal seep under a ledge.

Marion Point to Tilted Mesa: The traverse continues in a rising and falling pattern until it approaches the ridge leading down to Tilted Mesa. There it begins a gradual descent through the remainder of the Supai and becomes more steep on the ridge. Two short cliffs are descended with the aid of a couple of trees. Excellent campsites are located at the top of each of these cliffs. The trail soon reaches the top of the Redwall limestone on the isthmus between Nankoweap and Little Nankoweap Canyons. The trail continues on or near the ridge until dropping off to the southwest and beginning the descent through the Redwall.

Tilted Mesa to Nankoweap Creek: The trail in the upper Redwall is clear and relatively well constructed. Where it is gravelly, the rocks are angular and large enough to be stable. Things deteriorate when the trail makes a couple of loose traverses, then a couple more, then descends straight down a loose ridge of yellow shale. A walking stick is helpful. At the base of this distinctive yellow shale slope, the trail then turns back to the northwest and onto a plunging ridge of semi-stable, conglomerate boulder debris. Though more stable than the shale, the trail down this ridge is VERY steep. When it approaches a large colorful knob the trail turns back to the southeast onto another narrow and loose traverse through the Bright Angel shale. This lasts about ? to 1/2 mile.

After traversing the lower reaches of Tilted Mesa, the trail continues a mild descent down the top of a wide, round, stable ridge. It goes through the Tapeats Sandstone via a few switchbacks and some multiple trailing. Then it drops into a small saddle and off to the southwest down a ravine separating the gray Nankoweap Formation and Black Cardenas Lavas. This ravine empties onto a large alluvial terrace above Nankoweap Creek. The trail stays on the terrace until dropping down to the creek.

Nankoweeap Creek to Colorado River: There are large springs above and below the point where the trail meets the creek. Those upstream provide tastier drinking water (this must be treated of course) than those below. There is an excellent campsite here but watch out for flash floods. From the campsites at the trail's first junction with the creek, the remainder of the trail follows Nankoweap Creek to the river. Once you reach the river, please stay on the established trails to decrease the erosion and confusion (beach trails are outlined by rocks).

Notes: This trail is classified as MOST difficult of the named trails in Grand Canyon. It has the largest total rim-to-river drop (5640 ft / 1735 m) and is one of the longest trails. Hikers must be experienced in canyon route finding; this trail is not recommended for inexperienced or solo hikers. The Nankoweap Trail is not enjoyable as a summer hike as there is no water and little shade until Nankoweap Creek. The hike will require a minimum of 4 to 6 liters of water per person, per day.

Water Sources: A very small seasonal seep is located just above the trail approximately 150 yards past where the trail passes Marion Point. Permanent water sources include Nankoweap Creek and the Colorado River. It is advisable to cache one half to one gallon of water per person along the trail for the hike out. Be sure to label all caches with names and dates and place in a location that is not visible from the trail. Remove all caches when you leave the canyon.

Campsites: Camping is available in the Kaibab National Forest near the National Park Service trailhead, at Nankoweap Creek (AE9), and at the Colorado River. There are 4-5 small sites located along the trail in the Supai rock layer between Marion Point and Tilted Mesa. For more river privacy, camp near the delta in the smaller beach areas and you won't be invaded by raft trips.
One-Way Notice: This hike is listed as One-Way. When you hike several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.

Directions Preferred Months Feb Mar Oct Nov
Water / Source:Possible seep 150 yards past Marion Point, CO River - BRING
Preferred Start4 AM Cell Phone Signal??? Sunrise5:55am Sunset7:03pm
Road / VehicleFR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay
Fees / Permit
NPS

Directions
Print Version
To Saddle Mountain (West 8800ft) Trailhead
Take Highway 67 South from Jacob Lake, Arizona. Follow this highway for about thirty miles until you reach an intersection with Forest Road 22 going off to the right and Forest Road 611 going off to the left. The road to the left has a sign that say 'Viewpoints'. Follow this for about a mile and then Forest Road 610 bears off to the right with a sign for Saddle Mountain. Veer to the right on Road 610 which is really scenic through Aspens and whatnot. About 7 miles down the road a road to Marble Point branches off to the left. Do not take this road and continue on Forest Road 610 for another six miles to the Saddle Mountain Parking area. There are plenty of nice campgrounds if you want to get some sleep before or after your hike.

The above is for the west trailhead approach, it's a 3.0 mi hike to the official trailhead. The roads are closed Nov? through April?. There's also a north trailhead (6800ft) that is suited for cars in dry weather and is a 3.5mi hike to the trailhead. Both trailheads are called Saddle Mountain and both access trails are called #57.

Directions for north approach: About 20 miles east of North Kaibab Visitor Center on US 89A turn south on FR 445: go 27 miles to the trailhead. (Stay on right-hand fork of FR 445.) This approach is a half hour longer drive time.

AZ-67 is normally open: Mid-May through Mid-October. Opening and closing dates of the north rim may vary depending on the weather.

From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 358 mi - about 6 hours 30 mins
From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 463 mi - about 8 hours 0 mins
From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 212 mi - about 4 hours 22 mins
Login for Mapped Driving Directions
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

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