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mini location map2008-05-14
13 by photographer avatarkeepmoving
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Nankoweap TrailNorthwest, AZ
Northwest, AZ
Backpack avatar May 14 2008
keepmoving
Backpack11.20 Miles 4,768 AEG
Backpack11.20 Miles2 Days         
4,768 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
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I attempted to hike this trail as a 4 day backpacking trip, my goal was to arrive in the early morning hours and hike out to Tilted Mesa, continue to hike to the Colorado river on the second day, then camp back at Tilted Mesa on the third night before I hiked out of the canyon. Unfortunately, my trip did not go as planned, and I got snowed into Flagstaff until mid morning, then had difficultly locating FR445 which leads to the access point I was using. Apparently the trail head is located off of FR 8910, and not FR445 as all trail descriptions say.

I started heading up Trail #57 shortly after 3pm, and was concerned about the amount of snow on the trail. I ended up stopping to camp at the intersection of Trail #57 and the Nankoweap at approximately 5:45pm, at a relatively flat spot overlooking the canyon. I wanted to start down the Nankoweap that evening and get some extra miles under my feet, but was concerned I would have some difficulty locating a decent campsite before nightfall. In retrospect, I would have been fine continuing down the trail, as there are quite a few decent campsites on the Nankoweap between Trail #57 and Marion Point.

I hit the Nankoweap the next morning at 6:30am, the trail starts off worse than I thought it would, and the amount of snow and water only made it even more difficult. I made it to the difficult spot on the trail just before Marion Point by 8:00am. Make NO MISTAKE, anyone interested in hiking this trail should know this spot is worse than any pictures could possibly make it look, and should be comfortable with the possibility of knowing they might not return. The NPS actually posted an update on their website on 5/15, stating that major erosion has made this spot of the trail even worse than ever before, they are not mistaken, and I am amazed that the trail is not closed for repair. There is a two to three foot section of trail that has completely crumbled away, and I was forced to crawl on my hands and knees along a ledge just to the left of where the trail used to be. The spot is so tight, that I had to take off my pack and drag it across the section after I passed through it. If you were to begin to slide off the trail, there is no way of stopping or slowing your fall, and you will sail right off the cliff. Anyone preparing to cross this spot in the trail should know, it is just as difficult, if not more difficult, passing back through it on the return trip.

After passing Marion Point, I continued along my way to Tilted Mesa, but the going was slower than I thought it would be. By 10:30am I sat down and reassessed my situation. I realized that my late start the previous night had set me farther back than I had thought, and although I might have enough time to make it to the Colorado River, I would have to increase my pace to an uncomfortable speed, and would most likely have to set up camp in the dark. I also figured that if any further erosion occurred at the difficult spot during the next two days, I might not be able to make it back across on my return trip and would have to find an alternate way out of the canyon. Since I already had plans to hike some trails in Sedona after the Nankoweap, I made the difficult decision to turn around before reaching the Colorado River.

On my return hike I encountered two other hikers who were heading out to hike the trail. I let them know about the erosion and increased difficulty at the scary spot in the trail. Seeing as how their packs were even larger than my 60 pound pack, and that it would be even more difficult for them to crawl thru the ledge above the trail, I showed them pictures of the trail so they could make an informed decision as to whether or not to continue. After showing them the pictures, they promptly decided to turn around and attempt another trail in the surrounding area instead of risking their lives.

I regret not having enough time to complete the entire hike. Hopefully the NPS can do some trail repair in the near future to repair the erosion and I will be able to complete this hike.
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