Toroweap – Apr 2014

April 10-11, 2014

I first learned about Toroweap last year. It is an overlook on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, due south from Colorado City, Arizona, sitting 3000’ above the river. The shortest route to Toroweap is over a 60 mile dirt road. Needless to say, the place is remote. I first wanted to ride there on my dirt bike, but since most of my riding buddies do not have street legal bikes, I was not able to put a plan together. So, my wife and I decided to make the trek in our Jeep Wrangler.

Our Jeep loaded with camping gear

We invited our friends Paul & Liz Bradley to join us.

Clayhole Road

There are three roads that lead to Toroweap. The most popular route is called the Sunshine Trail (County Road #109). It is about 61 miles long, but is subject to sharp rocks (flat tires), wash-boarding, and dust. It leaves Highway 389 eight miles west of Fredonia.

We elected to take the Clayhole Road, which leaves Highway 389 just outside of Colorado City. This route goes almost due south, but it is impassable when moist. The road was in excellent condition, so we were able to make really good time.

Our GPS track

Our GPS track

We took the third and longer route out, going over Mount Trumbull to St George, Utah. This road was also very nice and the most scenic of the three options. This road is about 90 miles long, so plan on going at least 150 miles between fuel stops.


Clayhole Road

The first part of the Clayhole Road is in the middle of nowhere. The terrain is very flat and you can see for miles. The scenery improves as you head south, getting closer to the Grand Canyon National Park boundary.

Entering the park

As you enter the park, the road quickly becomes much more rugged. The last mile to the rim of the canyon is extremely rough, requiring a high clearance 4WD vehicle. The Jeep made it fine, but it was a very rough and bumpy ride.


Adams Leaning Wheel Grader

Shortly after entering the park you come across this old road grader. It is a popular photo stop.


Early glimpse of the Grand Canyon

About 3/4 of a mile before the rim there is a side road that leads to the Tuweep campground. There are 9 individual first-come, first-serve sites with a limit of two vehicles per site (which makes it difficult for motorcycle groups). There is also one group site that can be reserved in advance. It is common for this campground to fill during the spring and fall.

We arrived at the campground at 11:00 AM on Thursday, and there were only two other groups already there. The campground was full by about 9:00 AM on Friday morning.

Entering Tuweep campground

The road into the campground is pretty rough, requiring a good 4WD vehicle. There are three sites to the right of the T-junction, and seven to the left. The left route is pretty rough.


Tuweep campground, campsite #3

We stayed at campsite #3, which had a few nice tent spots and it was close to a restroom. Some of the other camps didn’t have very nice places for tents, but they offered shade under the cliff.

Toroweap is not a good place for those that are afraid of heights. You can stand on the edge of the cliff directly over the huge cliff, about 3000’ above the river. Most of the rocks are cracked and could tumble over the edge.


3000′ above the Colorado River

Those with the nerve can get some spectacular photographs.

If you walk about 100 yards to the west you can look down upon Lava Falls, the largest rapid on the river. I was hoping to watch some rafts negotiate the rapid, but there were no boats in sight while we were there.

Lava Falls Rapid

As we approached the rim, a group came in from the Bar 10 Ranch, riding street legal ATVs. One of them offered to take a picture of Kim and me above the river.

Looking west, above Lava Falls

I also took a few photos using the timer on the camera. It was a little scary trying to get in position before the timer took the photo.

Looking east

The Bradley’s arrived at about 3:30 PM. After setting up camp, we returned to the rim to take some photos with the setting sun. As usual, my photos didn’t turn out as good as I hoped. Hopefully Paul got some great shots.


Evening shot


Mount Trumbull Road

After breakfast we packed up camp (with a large group waiting to take our spot) and headed for St George. We had all day, so we took our time and enjoyed the spectacular scenery. I was really impressed with Mount Trumbull. It is a beautiful forested mountain. Too bad it is so far away from civilization. Or maybe that is good.

We took a short detour and hike to visit the Nampaweap rock art. We also stopped for lunch in the forest, and did a little target shooting.

Nampaweap rock art

After leaving the mountain, we stopped to visit the historic Mount Trumbull Schoolhouse. Years ago vandals burned down the school, so it has been rebuilt. It is an impressive site.

Mount Trumbull was a primary location for getting lumber to build the St George Temple. So years ago, there was quite a large population living out here.

Mount Trumbull schoolhouse

We worried a little bit about driving all the way to St George in the Jeep since they aren’t the most comfortable vehicle for freeway riding.  Because we had low expectations, it really wasn’t all that bad.  And the ride on the Clayhole and Mount Trumbull roads was very pleasant and well worth doing.  The final miles into Toroweap are very rough, but the scenery makes the trip totally worthwhile.  We had a great time!


About gardinerfamilyadventures

A really great family!
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