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The Ropes Trail, AZ

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Guide 14 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Northwest > Jacob Lake N
4.6 of 5 by 8
Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
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Difficulty 4.5 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance Round Trip 3.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 3,942 feet
Elevation Gain -794 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,588 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 3 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 11.44
Interest Off Trail Hiking & Perennial Creek
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
Dogs not allowed
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15  2018-12-29 chumley
14  2018-12-29 John9L
12  2018-07-29 ddgrunning
10  2017-04-10 hikeaz
13  2017-01-15 arizona_water
2  2015-05-22 toddak
21  2013-01-16 sirena
9  2012-03-31 amos68
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Author PaleoRob
author avatar Guides 137
Routes 111
Photos 5,253
Trips 942 map ( 2,097 miles )
Age 38 Male Gender
Location Grand Junction, CO
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Oct, Apr, May, Mar → Early
Seasons   Autumn to Spring
Sun  6:14am - 6:23pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Culture Nearby
Don't lose your lifeline!
by PaleoRob

The Rope Trail provides one of the few ways to access lower Glen Canyon from the rim, below Glen Canyon Dam. The trail is steep in the extreme, and requires the use of cables to successfully navigate. It is occasionally used by kayakers to haul their boats down to the Colorado River.

Warnings cannot be overemphasized on this trail. You are dropping 700 feet down to the river via an almost sheer cliff. The access is by joints and cracks in the Navajo Sandstone, and steel cables are the only way to regain the rim. Be aware of the extreme exposure, the lack of potable water and shade along the route, as well as the strenuous nature of the hike/climb out of the canyon. The bottom of the canyon will consistently be warmer/hotter than the rim. In addition to these dangers, there are also weather related dangers - thunderstorms that sweep the area in the summertime can present lightning and flash flood dangers. This route is recommended for experienced hikers only! If you have any doubts about this route, do not attempt it! If you ask the Park Service at the Carl Hayden Visitor Center about this hike, they will do everything in their power to dissuade you from taking this route. Take safety seriously with this hike.

The Ropes Trail exploits one of only a handful of natural routes to the Colorado River between Lee's Ferry and Glen Canyon Dam. When it came into existence and why are subject to discussion and debate however, with no authoritative answers to be found.

While hikers were in former times able to take the old radio tower road (and some renegades still attempt to), I cannot encourage this - if you do chance it, you risk an encounter with a Bureau of Reclamation security guard. This means a slightly longer hike, unless you are willing to forge around in deep sand with your truck. From the parking area just off of US89, descend into the wash between two sandstone ridges, trending southwest. The eastern ridge will be topped with transmission towers. After clearing the end of both ridges, head southeast. The route down to the river will start in a depression underneath a set of power lines. As you approach the rim, you will notice a series of metal poles with eyelet-type fixtures on the top. These mark the way to the river. The upper sections of the Ropes Trail has had the cable removed, so you will have to scramble down/up this section without aid, unless you string your own rope. You will have to descend down through a joint in the rock (again following the poles) and then a slickrock bulge before reaching the river. The last section of the trail is considered by some to be the most strenuous portion of the trail. You will definitely need the cable to help you back up this stretch, though perhaps not for the descent, depending on your skill level. The trail ends at The Ropes Campsite, one of the dedicated places to camp within lower Glen Canyon and a pretty spot besides. You can pack down your camping gear, but remember that unless you hitch a ride with a boat, you'll have to pack it back out too.

Water Sources
The Colorado River flows cold and clear at the bottom of Glen Canyon year-round, but pack in all your water anyway, unless you really want to drink the river.

Possible at the base of the trail, at the designated campsite. Otherwise all other portions of the trail are day-use only.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your canyon trip to support this local community.

2010-07-13 PaleoRob
    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.

    Most recent Triplog Reviews
    The Ropes Trail
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    We were heading north for Toroweap and car camped in Page on Friday night. We had temps drop into the upper teens and it was a long night. We woke on Saturday and geared up for The Ropes Trail.

    We drove over from our campsite and started from the west side. It took some navigation to find the upper portion of the route. Once we found it, we made quick time down. The route is a lot of fun! There are several eyelets to follow and things get fun when you come to the first notch. There was a solid rope that makes the descent straightforward. Once below that, it's careful going as you work your way down. There were a few more ropes and the final drop to the bottom involves a long drop. You have the option of a steel cable or a rope. I had garden gloves with a rubber grip and went with the cable.

    Once down, we headed over the main area where there are two nice campsites and an outhouse loaded with TP. After enjoying the area for a few, we started our return. The climb up went really well. The rock has good grip and the exposure isn't as bad since you're looking up. We topped out and then headed back to the vehicles. From here we are heading for Toroweap.

    This was a really great hike but it's not worth doing stand alone. Add this if you're already in the area. It only takes 2-3 hours and is time well spent.
    The Ropes Trail
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    This is by far my favorite hike I have done in the Page area. It is also one of my favorite short day-hikes ever. Thanks so much to @paleorob for the beta on this route. The adrenaline rush of going down each drop as you descend to the river is thrilling. I highly recommend this route, but caution you to assess the quality of the cables before descending/ascending. Some of them are starting to rust out. I also would not recommend doing this route after it rains. It had rained the day before we arrived, and most of the sandstone was dry. But it was still difficult to get good traction with vibram soles. It was still doable, but felt a little sketchy without the normal dry sandstone. The plus side of doing this hike in the winter: hardly anyone was around :D
    The Ropes Trail
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Yet another after-work Ropes excursion, went with Edmonia this time. Actually went over the to the campsite and saw the petroglyphs this time, and visited the water for a couple minutes. Drank a couple handfuls of river water, it was fantastic. Got dark on the way back to the car again, but no problems.
    The Ropes Trail
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Showed my co-workers Kyle and Glauco the Ropes after work. Ran out of time on the descent and turned around a little past halfway down the cliff as we didn't want to be climbing the exposed route after dark. Still had about a mile of walking in the darkness on the return to the car but never even needed the headlamps as there was a full moon at our backs. Good times.
    The Ropes Trail
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    After hearing about my great experience on my first trip out here, my roommate Paul wanted to do it with myself as his guide. He got off work late so we didn't start until nearly 6pm. I brought my tripod because I wanted to shoot this pool up by the radio towers, but I didn't want to take it all the way down ropes so I stashed it for the way back. I navigated us directly to the drop-off point without a hitch, and we started our descent. I think Paul was a little rattled by the exposure so we went slow and steady and made it down to the bottom without incident. We hung out for a minute or two but needed to head right back up due to the late hour. We crested the canyon rim right when the sunset was just ending and the light was fading quick as we tromped back toward the mesa. It was dark by the time we reached the foot of the mesa but navigated up its slickrock jungle easily and retrieved my tripod with no detours. So much for photos of the pool! We decided we didn't like the sound of the off-trail descent down the northwest side of the mesa so we just took the radio tower road back down, which apparently has two different gates to keep cars from driving up there. Yet another successful Ropes trip in the books.
    The Ropes Trail
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    I'd heard about this route for a long time, and I was definitely anticipating it being hairy, so I'd put off doing it until I found company to join me. My co-worker Mike had gone solo about a week before and tested it out, but he got nervous down near the bottom so we decided to join forces for an after-work hike, and coerced another co-worker, Brittany, to come along too. On Mike's solo hike, it sounded like it took him a couple hours of poking around to find the actual route down off the rim. Using his memory, and my photographic memorization of mapped route here on HAZ, we were able to climb up and over the radio tower mesa and find the drop-in point without much trouble. I had a bit of trepidation seeing the exposed sandstone tongue containing metal posts (minus the cables or chains that they once held). I even told Brittany something along the lines of, "I don't have a problem turning back if it gets too gnarly." The sandstone tongue soon led to a notch in the sandstone that, had I been alone, probably would've caused me to turn back out of unnecessary fear. With a bit of coaching from Mike, it turned out to be a breeze to down-climb. After another brief semi-exposed slickrock walk, we encountered another pitch similar to the first. Both actually had ropes fixed, but were wholly unnecessary, and one in particular was not a rope designed for climbing, or of very good quality, and was also fraying to the point of probably multiplying the danger instead of mediating it. After another stretch of ledge-walking we got the the spot where Mike turned back, a long, steep embankment of sandstone equipped with a long cable to use as a climbing aid. We figured out that it looked worse than it was, and there was plenty of traction to "friction climb" up and down the slope without use of the cable. I attempted to use the cable just to try it out, and I actually found that since the cable just went straight off the steeper parts of the pitch, it didn't follow any of the natural avenues to climb up or down, and therefore I preferred moving completely under my own control than with the "aid" of the cable. It's really more for novelty or show than anything. We hung out down by the river for a good half hour and soaked up the scenery before heading back up. As always the climb up seemed easier (in respect to the technical aspects of the climbing), but it's a real lung buster, and I wasn't really in shape for the blistering pace at which Mike attempted to ascend. We got back to the car uneventfully, but fully satisfied with the trip. In my opinion, this is the best option for a really good hike in the direct vicinity of Page.
    The Ropes Trail
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Five friends and I drove from Flagstaff to the Wahweap Campground, set up our tents, and then drove back toward Page about 300 yards on Highway 89. We took a two track road about two miles southwest, parked, and then continued walking along the two track. The road eventually ended under twin high voltage towers. From there we kept walking northeast until we saw the two foot post sticking out of the rock that marks the start of the Ropes Trail. The trail/ route follows a diagonal crack to the southwest. There were two places where we had to down climb and two other places where there were fixed cables. The total drop was about 700 feet. We spent about 4 hours by the Colorado River fishing, "swimming", and just hanging out. I did catch a rainbow trout that I later had for dinner. The hike down was rather warm as we were in full sun. We waited long enough for shade to cover the first part of the climb. We spent the night at the campground.

    We walked out to Horseshoe Bend on our way back to Flagstaff the next day.
    The Ropes Trail
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    I had a dilemma during the day; join a group of friends at the movies after work, or go for a solo hike down The Ropes to the Colorado River and do some fishing. Both had their appeal, but I reasoned that the movie would soon change to something that I had more of a desire to see than Twilight: Eclipse, so I headed home to get changed. I also found that I had no decent river bait, and with only about 2 hours of usable daylight left, I didn't want to screw around waiting in line a Wal-Mart, so I turned the trip into a photo hike instead. I rolled out to the parking area, descended into the old cable trough between the two ridges, and hiked out to the sand hills beyond.
    It had been too long since my last time out to the West Rim, so I hit the rim further west than I needed to be. I lost some time, and probably could have made the river had I cut further east. It turned out alright, though, since I was able to enjoy some beautiful scenery along the rim.
    The drop down into The Ropes was slightly sketchy, since I was off of the usual approach, but I got down into the main basin (hoping I'd be able to get back out easily), and immediately picked up the "trail" - poles in a line, leading off of a steep edge. Steep, but walkable: I love Navajo Sandstone. I headed down a ridge with a nearly sheer drop off to my left down to the Colorado River and a deep fissure between the ridge and the cliff face to my right. It was then that my Camelbak decided to fail - the stop valve popped out and water started gushing. I saw where the valve landed, however, and with the pipe in my teeth I downclimbed into the fissure and retrieved it. Restoring functionality to my hydration pack, I came to the first downclimb. I was only moderately concerned, since I was solo, but a quick test allayed my concerns. The handholds were large and the toeholds obvious. I downclimbed the 6' drop and continued down the ridge towards the second downclimb, with a steep landing at the base. Another quick test and I went for it, reaching a broad ledge without a problem. I was getting close to my turnaround time, judging by the shadows on the canyon wall, so I followed a fissure down to a slickrock apron where the last pole stood, anchoring the "rope", in reality a length of steel cable that allows hikers to go down (and back up) the otherwise impassable slickrock dome. I knew I didn't have time to make the river, but I did set up my camera and snapped a picture of myself on the "rope", climbing back towards the anchor. It was time to go.
    The going up was much tougher than the going down, and I certainly got a good cardio workout gaining the rim ~700' above the anchor. The sun was just dipping below a local horizon, casting some of the rocks in a stunning light. I was glad I brought my camera, so I shot away. I found old crawler tracks in the sandstone, from when builders were running the lines to the towers in the 1960's. The steel treads were strong enough to leave permanent marks in the Navajo Sandstone. I cruised past the substation and up into a draw with some more lovely photographic opportunities. I dropped back down from a plateau into the original cable trench and then climbed back up to my truck just as the sun was dipping below the true horizon of the Paria Plateau. All in all, a nice after-work hike!

    Permit $$

    Glen Canyon Recreation Area National Park
    Glen Canyon Entrance Fee - 1-7 Day Vehicle Pass - $25

    Boat fees additional, follow provided NPS link above.

    Map Drive
    FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

    To canyon trip
    From Page, drive north on US89 and cross Glen Canyon Bridge. After passing the Carl Hayden Visitor Center, turn left on the first dirt road, before you get to the Wahweap South Entrance turnoff. The road will branch almost right away, with the left branch being closed. Take the right branch, then make the first left to the broad gravel area. Park your vehicle there, and begin your hike between the two ridges to the southwest.
    page created by PaleoRob on Jul 13 2010 4:29 pm
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