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Nankoweap Trail, AZ

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Guide 24 Triplogs  5 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Northwest > North Rim
4.6 of 5 by 17
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Difficulty 4.5 of 5
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
Backpack Yes & Possibly Connect
Dogs not allowed
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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37  2018-04-28 friendofThunderg
11  2018-02-01 Hippy
42  2016-10-25 Mick
14  2014-09-29 quadman
19  2013-09-22
Nankoweap Granaries
10  2013-09-22
Nankoweap Granaries
31  2013-09-21 Tough_Boots
40  2013-09-21 BiFrost
Page 1,  2,  3
Author HAZ_Hikebot
author avatar Guides 16,882
Routes 16,052
Photos 24
Trips 1 map ( 6 miles )
Age 22 Male Gender
Location TrailDEX, HAZ
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Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Feb, Mar, Oct, Nov → 4 AM
Seasons   Late Spring to Early Winter
Sun  6:15am - 6:27pm
Official Route
2 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
The Canyon most never see...
by HAZ_Hikebot

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!!!

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

This is a more difficult hike. It would be unwise to attempt this without prior experience hiking.

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

2001-12-24 HAZ_Hikebot
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NPS Details
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 hiking 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.
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 of 11 deeper Triplog Reviews
Nankoweap Trail
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I have been wanting to do this one for a long time and it did not disappoint! Not only did it exceed my expectations, but it proved to be a perfect backpack to signal an end to the Grand Canyon backpacking season as well as a great way to honor my father’s birthday with something a little more special, which has been a tradition of mine for several years now.

The rough itinerary for this one included two days at Nankoweap Creek, the Granaries, a semi ambitious off trail loop incorporating Kwagunt Creek and a summit of Nankoweap Butte. We arrived late to the trailhead on Friday night, so we were not able to drag ourselves away from the air mattresses as early as we wanted and started around 7 a.m.

The hike down to Nankoweap Creek was the best of times and the worst of times. We both noted being a little fatigued and groggy for the 3 ish mile section to the saddle and point where you drop off the rim. From there, we both agreed the trail was not nearly as aggressive as we had thought it might be, but nevertheless we were both very happy the never ending traverse through the Supai was over. Then it was the steep hot descent to the creek. I am sure it could not have been more than 80 degrees, but that descent felt warm. In fact, it hit C.J. pretty hard at times and she experienced a little lightheadedness on the way down, which reaffirmed my decision that this was most likely our last major hike into the Canyon until fall. As one would expect, it was a great sense of relief for us when we finally hit Nankoweap Creek. However, instead of setting up camp, we took an extended break and decided to head for the much cooler water of the Colorado River, as neither one of us were much for the thought of sitting around at camp for six hours, while waiting for the sun to go down.

The hike down Nankoweap Creek was excellent and although fatigued, we both appreciated the pleasant creek and canyon. There are definitely more scenic creeks in the Grand Canyon, but Nankoweap certainly holds it own in my opinion. Once at the Colorado, it was a quick trip up to the granaries and then a dash to the river for cold water to filter and a quick dip. We found a decent little campsite near the beaches, but away from the blowing sand, made camp, ate dinner and got to bed pretty early. Speaking of dinner, there is nothing you can do this time of year in the Canyon to prevent a Reese from melting.

Day two was the big day for us. The plan was to hike along the Colorado River to Kwagunt Creek, where we would then hike up stream to the general area of the beginning of Butte Fault Route, which we would then take up to Nankoweap Butte and down the other side to Nankoweap Creek and back down stream to the Colorado and our campsite. The Colorado River portion of the hike was simply stunning, cool temperatures and some great morning light. Likewise, the route resembles a well defined trail more than an off trail canyon route, so the pace was relatively quick and the hiking pretty easy. This section of the Colorado may be one of my new favorite sections of river in the park. Kwagunt Creek was a gem in its own right, with tons of quaint cascades, fun geology and generally easy travel. But soon it was time for the climb to Nankoweap Butte and the toughest part of our day. I ended up opting for a route straight up the most predominant ridgeline in the area vs the drainage I had originally drawn a route to the summit from. I think the ridgeline we took may have been the actual geological feature described as the Fault Butte, but I am honestly not sure and need to do some additional research to find out. Either way, it was a very cool geological journey along that ridgeline to the saddle below Nankoweap Butte. Although, I am not sure if the ridgeline is the traditional Butte Fault Route. Despite seeming very close, the final climb tested us a little and gave our calves a wake up call. The summit was terrific and although probably not on par with some of the other ones I have done. However, I still found it rewarding and worth the effort. From the summit, it was the moon dust shuffle down to Nankoweap Creek, where we ran into some guys backpacking the Hayduke Tail, we chatted for a moment and then continued on our way back to camp. Once back at camp, we hopped in the Colorado to cool off and filter some water. Then it was breaking camp and heading back up Nankoweap Creek to the nice campsite we had taken a break at on the way in.

It was extremely windy all night, which prompted a tent relocation due to an arguably irrational fear that a suspect cottonwood in the area might come down on us. The wind made it tough to sleep, which made our early morning start on Monday a little tougher, but alas this is the backpacking life.

We left camp at six on the dot and although it was a slog at times and our muscles ached a little, we were back at the trailhead by noon.

Final Notes

This was a very satisfying little backpack. I remember reading triplogs about the granaries with a lot of envy years ago on HAZ, but at the time it was probably a little out of my league, but it remained in the back of my mind for a long time and I am glad I was able to finally knock it out, along with some additional off trail travel and a new summit, without using someone else's downloaded route. Speaking of route, one of the goals of this trip was to get a little taste of the Butte Fault Route for a perhaps a big trek towards Phantom Ranch from Nankoweap one day. I would by no means say I have it nailed down now, but I do believe I spotted the route to Melgosa Pass, which would be the next step in progressing along the rugged off trail route, so its a start. Also the route numbers are estimated, but I feel most likely pretty accurate. Its tough to get decent GPS routes in those canyons and there was too much spaghetti to clean up for my patience and I still kind of suck at route manager, so no posted route. However, I think I may be able to clean up the day two loop we did and will probably post that and attach it to this triplog one day. Finally, April 30 is always a special date and weekend for me and it’s been important for me to do something a little more special to honor my dad and this little trek certainly satisfied that. I really would give up every ounce of success and personal belonging I own for just five more minutes with the guy.

Nankoweap Trail
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This was fun!!
From the Saddle mtn wilderness Trailhead down to the Supai ledge Nankoweap Trailhead, a few hundred ft along Nanko trail the contour north then up up up this sweet locust and oak filled slope through the Coconino

2 false summits with saddles in between, no wonder they call this saddle mountain!

We had two friends in tow who opted out of the summit at Nanko th so Jamie and I charged up to the summit together.

Brrrrr wiiiindy but oholy beans gorgeous views!

House rock valley, mount Hayden, pt Imperial, Comanche, LCR, Desertview...yeah, this was worth it!

Found the geo marker and one triangulation marker but it's very brushy up top so failed to find any others. Oh well.

Hoping to head back to finish off Woolsey Butte next weekend! on the summit, this is a real time posting. Damn technology ;)

I like to see where I get signal, it's a fun game.haha
Nankoweap Trail
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So everyone bailed on me but I decided to go ahead and do this hike by myself. I had originally decided to go up Thursday and hike down part of the way but, since I was by myself I decided to compress the schedule. I left the valley around 1pm. I stopped at REI in Flagstaff and picked up a couple more things. I made it to the trail head at about 6:30 pm or so. I brought some extra water, and sausage and eggs for breakfast so I just camped at the car.

On Friday I woke up just after 6 and it was barely cold enough to frost my car a bit. But there wasn't any snow that I could see except in a few places on the north facing slopes just below north rim level on the mountain. I cooked my eggs and sausage, packed up my stuff and set off at 7:10 am. I started this hike at the saddle mountain trail head and hiked 3 miles and up 1500 feet to the North Rim to reach the actual Nankoweap trail head. The first half mile is a steady climb up but then I dropped quickly into a ravine and gave up all of that elevation I gained. Then I followed the bottom of the ravine for a while and then it started to steeply climb again. Just as I got to the sign indicating that I was entering the National Park boundary I hit the Nankoweap trail. After all of that climbing I instantly started to head down. The first quarter mile is a very steep decent. Then the next 4 miles or so were kind of like the level part of the hermit trail. I was hiking along in the redwall on the edge. It went up and down as I went never really changing my elevation much. There were a few sketchy places but it was mostly pretty easy to follow.

I was going to cache water at Marion Point but decided not to before I left the car. Just below Tilted Mesa I stopped for lunch under a little tree. That was at 11:35 am. From there it gets really steep. It drops about 3000 feet in less than 3 miles. I made it to the Nankoweap creek at 1:05 pm. The creek flows really well and there are several cottonwood trees in the drainage. Up until this point there was no water from my car to here. I stuck my feet in the water, refilled all my water containers, and hung out for about an hour. Then I followed the creek for another 3 miles or so to the river. On the usgs maps and my gps it shows the trail heading off to the left when you reach the large Nankoweap creek delta. I headed that way for a while but the beach area was covered with boulders and over grown with cat claw. I searched around for a good half hour and gave up. I went back towards the creek and explored the area to the right (down river) of the creek. I found a decent sandy beach area and decided to call that good. I jumped in the river and washed my shirt. It was very refreshing. This was about 4:30pm. I made dinner, did a little more exploring and setup camp. I went to bed about 9 pm.

On Saturday I woke up again a little after 6 am. I got up, made breakfast and packed up. I wanted to visit the Indian Granaries before I left so I went searching. When you are initially hiking down the creek to the river, just when you reach the delta there is a hill running parallel to the creek off to the right. It runs to the river. There is a trail that takes you up on this hill. I decided to try and hike up on this hill. When I got to the top I could see the nice beaches I had been looking for on the other side of this hill. There was even a rafting party on one of them. There was also a very well used trail going up to the cliffs were the granaries were. They are up about 500 feet above the river and the trail goes almost straight up the hill to them. It was a steep climb. I got up there and then checked them out for while. Eventually I threw my pack on and started hiking up the creek. I made it back to the creek/trail junction around 9:30 am.

At this point I had a decision to make. How far will I go today? I had thought at one point about staying there in the shade until 4 pm and then hiking 3 miles up to Tilted Mesa and camping there. But It was only 10 am and I thought that if I left then I could make it to Marion Point or farther and have less to hike on Sunday. I drank almost 3 liters of water and then filled all of my water containers (4.5 Liters) and set off at 10:10 am. Climbing the trail up to Tilted Mesa was brutal. Like I said it is steep and it was very slow going. It took me three hours to go three miles. That was with a ton of breaks along the way. I crashed on Tilted Mesa underneath a tree and took a quick nap. I ate my lunch and some extra snacks and was feeling really good. I knew that from here on the elevation didn't change much until just before the climb out of the canyon. I started to think about making it all the way to the car and then camping at the trail head again.

I started to hike and made really good time to Marion Point. I started to realize that if I pushed a little harder I could make it to the car with enough time to drive home (about a 6 hour drive for me). I made it to Marion Point and was still doing really well with the water. Of the 4.5 liters in my pack when I refilled I had used almost 2. But the hardest part was behind me. I pushed on from there and I started to get a little worn out. The little ups and downs on the traverse from Marion Point back to the trail head were wearing on me. I pushed though and made it to the Nankoweap trail head at 4:30 pm. From there I started the downhill hike back to my car. My knees were pissed. "I thought this was a Grand Canyon hike? What is this downhill crap at the end?" they seemed to be asking me. It sucked. I had hoped to make that part in an hour but I made it to the car at 5:45 pm. I decided to just head on home. By the time I got everything packed up and stowed it was 6 pm. It took a little more than an hour to drive down the forest road back to the highway. The road is well graded and so I had brought my car to save fuel. If I had brought the truck I would have gone faster on the forest road. Anyway I made it home right around midnight.

So In total I was on the trail for slightly less than 35 hours (7:10 am Friday to 5:45 pm Saturday). I had two people on the permit for 3 nights but I only used 1 person 1 night. Oh well. It was a blast. The park service says that this is the MOST difficult of named trails in the canyon and I agree. If I had had friends with me I would have gone slower and enjoyed a little more. I didn't really like being my myself. It was boring so I just kept on hiking.

Nankoweap would probably rank on the lower end of my list of favorite GC hikes. It is also located right underneath one of those flight corridors so there were helicopters there all the time during the day. But I might consider doing it again some day. Doing it in March might be problematic if there is snow. Reaching the trail head might be difficult and I can't even imagine how scary the trail would be with snow on it. The temps were in the high 60s on the rim and the low 80s at the river. There was a nice breeze most of the time. Late March and definitely early April are probably the best spring times. Last week of October or first week in November would probably be the best time in the Fall. Provided that snow hasn't fallen yet.

Here is the video
Nankoweap Trail
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Started from Point Imperial. Cold and windy at the top. The first section of trail was wet from the previous day's rain. Walking through the tall grass and vegetation made my pants and sneakers wet. No bueno.
The trail is interesting and easy to follow but I didn't find anything scary. Once I got down to Nank Creek, there was no trail and I had to boulder hop and jump the creek many times to get to the bottom. Checked out the granaries and then headed back up. Ran into Ranger Foss, the same ranger Joe and I met out near Pasture Wash a few weeks ago. He started on Tuesday and was to come out on Monday. That's a long time down there!
Got sprinkled on a few times on the way out. Luckily the predicted t-storms never happened. Finished in the dark. Cold and windy again on top. Brought 6 liters, cached 3 on the way down, drank 4 total.
Nankoweap Trail
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Side trip to the granaries. Wow. Quite the climb, and straight up too. But the trail is well-built, with pretty good steps most of the way.

But the reward for your hard work is unmatched! Such an amazing site. Historic value of the place aside, the views are stunning. And getting out to the secondary granary (downstream direction) and the big cave (farther downstream) are a real treat of narrow exposed ledge fun.

There's an "upstairs" in the secondary granary, but getting to is impossible. I was able to set the timer on my camera and maneuver it up there for a photo, which was really neat.

We got to see three different boating parties (17 or 18 rafts in all) floating by while we were up there.
Nankoweap Trail
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The Nankoweap Trail has been a personal "nemesis" for several years. I think it's always been because of the hype surrounding the "scary part" and the overall level of difficulty that everyone seems to agree upon. Just about any material you read on this trail warns of imminent gloom and doom; even the name sounds a bit intimidating.

My first experience with Nank happened many years ago when the Fam was car camping at Marble Viewpoint (highly recommend). I drove out to the top of the North area (FR610) of the Saddle Mountain Trail. My goal that day was to hike to the "scary part" of Nankoweap and check it out for myself. I was solo and low on water when I basically got lost at the freakin' saddle and disappointingly never even found the Nank trailhead.

For the next several years, I continued to read more mystical stories (AZ Highways has a good one) and crazy triplogs about Nank and my anticipation for doing this hike increased each year.

Then last year Paul(PLC92084) had planned a very adventurous 5+ day adventure basically covering the entire region. My backpacking and hiking skills had exponentially increased and I felt very ready. However, family matters forced me to turn around and run home. Before leaving, I did get the lower (west) portion of the Saddle Mountain trail under my belt and easily found the actually Nank trailhead with Paul.

I now knew that a Nank-River journey would be my primary Canyon mission/focus and I was very determined to get this one under my belt. After coordinating times with John(9L) and Todd (Chums) I put in for a permit with the 3 month lottery (even coming to work to fax my app at 12:01am) and fortunately, won my first ever draw. Things were beginning to look good.

We knew Kyle(Tough_Boots) was solid. I left the filling of the last two permit spots to Chumley, figuring any impending deaths would be on his hands. I had hiked previously with the legendary BobP and was very pleased when I knew he was on-board (mainly because he brings sugar cookies). I believe it was Bob who subsequently invited Karl(BiFrost). [Karl decided to make his Nank experience a tad more difficult with an extra 2 miles and 1000 feet of gain on day one...(sorry again about the window Karl, I hate that it was my side that was accidentally left open)]. In my defense, I did carry our gallon of water up to the saddle for us to cache at the overlook). :)

Enough rambling, this trip was FREAKIN' awesome and a fantastic success. No injuries, and great weather and the Nankoweap Trail is just an awesome challenge!! There are a few sketchy parts where death is just an untied bootlace away, but nothing too serious. The steep down-climb on Tilted Mesa reminded me of the decent down South Canyon. I would argue this trail is tougher than Boucher (and New Hance) simply because of the persistent length of difficulty. The Nankoweap is just SO UNRELENTING and MENTALLY TAXING - I don't remember one section of the trail where you could really let go and relax your footing.

The graineries were very special and I thoroughly enjoyed the views. Very majestic!! My only beef is that my disloyal companions (the other 5 squids) TOTALLY dogged me for raft brewskis (and crappy PBR's at that) leaving me at the graineries all by my lonesome. (While there, I thought I heard the spirit of Paul Newman speak, but could not verify).

That evening, I did have a few issues...I had stupidly let a hot-spot on my 4th toe turn into a HUGE, painful blister. Secondly, the waist buckle on my pack broke. All of this (and the severity of the climb out) lead up to a rather anxious evening before we exited. Fortunately, the next AM, the hiking gods smiled upon me - - I effectively taped up the blister and the buckle actually held for most of the climb out. Like I suspected, climbing up Tilted Mesa sucked :pk: but once I reached that point, I knew I would see my kids again.

As always, backpacking with with my fellow HAZer friends proves to be MOST enjoyable and entertaining.
Nankoweap Trail
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Our Nankoweap trip started on Saturday morning. The six of us drove up the day before and car camped at the trailhead. The road in is a little rough especially the last few miles. Anyways we all staggered off at separate times and made the hike up to the Saddle Mountain overlook. This part of the hike is 3 miles and you gain a solid 1,500 feet. Along the way we passed at least six backpackers on their way out. We didn’t see any other backpackers until our exit two days later.

From the saddle you drop down through the Esplanade and start the long traverse through the Supai. The going is relatively easy with minimal gain and descent. We passed Marion Point and dropped some water. We continued and started the descent toward Tilted Mesa. The views are just spectacular! The descent from Tilted Mesa really gets the heart rate up. It’s steep and loose. I kept thinking no way there is a trail down this. There was and I was careful every step of the way. Eventually things level off and we made the final push to Nankoweap Creek.

Once at the creek we selected a campsite that was nestled in some Cottonwood Trees. This will be our home for the next two days. After getting set up I was hit with exhaustion and took a very enjoyable nap. Evening set in and we had some fun conversation and then turned in for the night. It was a warm evening and I don’t think anyone slept inside their sleeping bag. I was comfy in my Bivy.

On day two we all made the three mile hike to the river. The going is very easy and very scenic. Nankoweap Creek is beautiful! After an hour we reached the river delta and we all split up as we explored the general area which is huge! Eventually we saw the first set of rafters and made our way to their landing point. We successfully begged for beers and hung out with them for a few. Afterward a group of five of us, excluding Larry, made the hike up to the granaries. I was surprised at how high up they are. The granaries are spectacular! We took lots of pics and enjoyed a long break there. I could spend hours enjoying the views and the camaraderie. During our break another group of rafters landed and a third passed down the mighty Colorado. After successfully begging for more beers we returned to camp and settled in for the evening. The temps were cool and pleasant on day two.

We woke very early on day three and wanted to get a jump on the sun. I was the last to leave camp and carried five liters of water with me. I wasn’t taking any chances on the dry hike out. I would only drink 3+ liters. The hike up Tilted Mesa had me a little on edge after our descent down two days earlier. I felt great and cruised up. It was much easier and I felt way more comfortable on the ascent. We regrouped on the saddle and then Chumley and I started the traverse out the Supai. The going was fairly easy but there are a few spots that are a little unnerving. There are no “OH MY GOSH” obstacles along this hike. However cumulative they all add up to make for an anxiety filled day. We debated on if Nankoweap is more difficult than Boucher. I personally think it is however the others had a different opinion. We’ll need to continue the debate another time.

We reached the saddle and then Chumley and I made the final descent back to the vehicles at the trailhead. We had some celebratory beers as the others stumbled in. From there we returned to Flag for NiMarco’s and then back to Phoenix. This was such a memorable trip! I will definitely hike it again and could not recommend it enough!
Nankoweap Trail
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Wow. Sweet trip! I hurt a little bit! :)

Hike Info: The first 3 miles up FS Nankoweap Trail 57 to the NPS boundary is a killer grind. With a full pack, carrying water, etc. it'll get to you!
The rest of the hike is long but not terrible. The previously reported "scary spot" has been improved and is not particularly scary. Not to say that just anybody should be out here. Plenty of people would not be comfortable on any of this trail. It is exposed, angled, and there's lots of scree. It is definitely not for the inexperienced canyon hiker.

I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of shade. Don't get me wrong. It is a south and west facing hike almost the entire way. But I was happy that there are some occasional junipers and little overhangs or drainages that provide a brief respite from the blazing sun. But there are not many.

The traverse seems to go on forever, and when the trail finally drops off Tilted Mesa, the footing becomes spectacularly loose. I was happy to have trekking poles to help with stability (a heavy pack on your back certainly doesn't help), but still managed to fall twice.

Once at the creek, we found a suitable camp site in some cottonwoods just across the creek and slightly downstream of where the trail enters. There is a good flat area for camping several hundred yards upstream as well, but there is very little shade there. A bit over a mile upstream there is another good camping area, this one shaded and flat, but unless your route is taking you upstream, I wouldn't consider going that far to camp.

The hike downstream to the river was pleasant and relatively easy. Once near the river, stick to the use paths and head south to the beaches and the Granaries trail. Following the creek into the delta to the river will get you tangled in a mess of tamarisk and other scrub brush.

On the hike out, we left at sunrise, and in the 2+ hours it took to reach Tilted Mesa we were pleasantly surprised that about half the hike was shaded. This will be less true later into the fall as the sun rises farther south than in late September. Once on the traverse, the only shade was found in the occasional drainage, overhang, or small treel.

Don't underestimate the last 3-miles once you reach the saddle. It lasts forever, and the 400-foot climb about a mile from the car is the last thing you want to deal with after 5-6 hours of hiking already!

Fun Stuff:
Great group of people. Good to meet Karl for the first time. I think BobP was there, but he likes to hike when normal people are asleep, so I'm not really sure. I think he did about 40 miles the rest of us skipped. It was a very safe trip, with some taking safety more seriously than others, for which I was supremely thankful. Not sure why rafters carry PBR on the river, and I might have complained, but that's not like me, so I just shut up and enjoyed a Modela instead. Also had a pretty G'Knight. Or 4. Slept great! :)

First night was warm for sleeping, but a cold front pushed through with crazy winds late Saturday night and Sunday. Got sand blasted on the beach by the river a little bit. Went for a swim in 47-degree cold Colorado river. Very refreshing. :o Sunday night was much cooler and very pleasant for sleeping. The Mountain House dinners were good I suppose. I was disappointed nobody brought bacon, but somehow survived anyway.

Of course this all ended at NiMarcos where everybody (not just 9L) consumed more calories than we could have possibly burned hiking out earlier in the day. Pizza and wings make for a pretty good post-hike snack.

Fun trip. Thanks for getting the permit Larry!
Nankoweap Trail
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That is one steep trail.

We made camp at the trailhead Friday night and headed out early Saturday morning. After making your way to the edge of the rim, you make an initial steep descent. The trail quickly evens out into an extremely long traverse. As you approach Tilted Mesa everything changes. The hike quickly becomes a real toe smasher and continues that way all the way to the bottom. It's painful. Its definitely worth it-- its not the prettiest trail in the canyon but it's still the Grand Canyon so it's awesome by default. The rumored "sketchy spot" is not at all sketchy. The only areas causing concern are while hiking on the steep skree areas.

We got to the creek pretty early. I hung out and let the others scout around to pick a camp area. Bob had left at like 2am and he was still out exploring. The guys returned with a camping decision and they had picked up a Bob along the way. The creek is nice and clear and Chumley made us a nice little pool.

Sunday morning we took our time getting up and headed down the creek to the river. Its nice hike down there-- no real obstacles and you can avoid getting wet. Everyone split up by the time we hit the river and we eventually all found each other. We scammed some beers from some rafters and then headed up to see the ruins. Its a steep trail up there but the view from the granaries is awesome. We hung out for a bit and then headed down when we saw a new crew of rafters hit the beach-- we would scam more beers from these folks. We eventually headed back up creek and relaxed the rest of the day.

Monday morning we woke up early. I got up at 5am and apparently didn't get around fast enough to eat breakfast since we wanted to get the steep part done before it warmed up. I would see how 5,500 ft feels on nothing but Cliff Bar power. I was getting nervous about the hike the night before but it turned out to not be so bad even with a heavy pack on. We had cached water on the way down so no one would have to ration. Karl and I stayed near the back of the crew and we trudged our way out of the ditch.

We finally made it back to the trailhead around 2pm and enjoyed some cold beer-- well worth the effort. We headed back to Flagstaff to watch 9L suck on some wings at NiMarco's as usual and then back on home to Phoenix.

Awesome weekend! Thanks for setting this up, Larry! :)
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Spectacular, beast of a hike. Started from the west (FR 610) trailhead, reached Nankoweap Creek by mid-morning. You don't want to be starting the climb back out in the heat of the day, so I wandered slowly down to the Colorado and back, stopping frequently to eat, drink, rest and soak in the gorgeous water. I had visited the granaries on a raft trip a few years ago, so I didn't feel the need to hike up and see them again. Waited until about 4PM to start the climb out, reached the park boundary by nightfall and finished by headlamp and moonlight. I'd rate this as easily the toughest GC hike I've done yet.

Permit $$

Map Drive
FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

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
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