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Nankoweap TrailNorthwest, AZ
Northwest, AZ
Backpack avatar Apr 28 2018
Backpack43.50 Miles 13,700 AEG
Backpack43.50 Miles3 Days         
13,700 ft AEG
1st trip
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.

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