View upriver from Toroweap Overlook.
The View from Toroweap Overlook
3000 vertical feet above the Colorado River, is breathtaking; the sheer drop, dramatic!
Equally impressive are the volcanic features, cinder cones and lava flows, which make this viewpoint unique in Grand Canyon National Park. Renowned Lava Falls Rapid is just downriver and can easily be seen and heard from the overlook.
Toroweap, a Paiute term meaning "dry or barren valley," refers to many local features, including the geologic formation and fault, the valley, and the overlook. Tuweep came into use to describe the local white settlement and later the park district. Tuweep in Paiute refers to "the earth," but this place name may be derived from a longer Paiute word meaning "long valley."
A visit to this area can be challenging, but rewarding. Since the National Park Service manages the area for its primitive values, improvements and services are minimal.
The Bureau of Land Management Arizona Strip Visitor Maps are sold at the Arizona Strip Information Center in St. George, Utah, at nearby Pipe Spring National Monument, and at the Kaibab National Forest office in Fredonia, Arizona.
- Because of primitive road conditions, 22 feet is the maximum vehicle length. This includes towed items.
- Day Visitors: The Tuweep/Toroweap Valley area (Overlook, Campground, Trailheads, etc.) has a maximum vehicle carrying capacity. Being able to visit, without a wait or delay, is not guaranteed.
- Day Visitors travelling together with > 2 Vehicles: When the area is busy, your visit is not guaranteed. If admitted, please carpool and stagger vehicles at 1 mile intervals.
The area can be reached from Arizona Highway 389 near Fredonia or Colorado City, Arizona, or from St. George, Utah.
- Sunshine Route (BLM road #109), the primary access route, leaves Highway 389 about seven miles/12km west of Fredonia. (6 miles east of Pipe Springs NM) It is 61 miles /100 km long and is the most reliable route, but is subject to washboarding and dust.
- Clayhole Route (BLM Road #5) leaves Highway 389 at Colorado City. It is also about 60 miles /100 km long, but may be impassable when wet.
- Main Street Route (BLM Roads #1069 and #5) from St. George is about 90 miles/145 km long and is the most scenic route. It may be impassable in winter due to snow on the slopes of Mt. Trumbull.
- Winter Travel December through March these roads, including the main Sunshine Route, become muddy and impassable when covered by melting snow. Travel may be possible when the road surface freezes at low temperatures (below 20°F /-7°C) but roads become impassible again as the temperature rises. During the winter, roads often are passible only between 4:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m., if at all. Click here for current Tuweep temperature.
- Summer Monsoon Travel during July and August heavy monsoon rains can wash out these roads making travel difficult. Road conditions can change rapidly after intense isolated thunderstorms and visitors are advised to be prepared in the event they are stranded during a flash flood. Vehicles have become stuck for several days during these isolated storms
Roads may become impassable after heavy summer rain.
NPS photo by V.I.P. Marjorie Casse
All routes are secondary county roads, graded occasionally, and generally in fair condition. Dust wallows several feet deep may appear during dry periods.
The last three miles across the slickrock are the roughest, requiring a high clearance vehicle.
Allow two to three hours travel time from the highway to the overlook. RVs, trailers, or low-clearance vehicles are not recommended.
All routes may be impassable after heavy rains and are subject to flash flooding. Twenty-five percent of visitors experience one or more flat tires. Dangerous curves are often unmarked, and posted mileages may be inaccurate. Cell phone coverage is spotty or nonexistent in this area. Since there are few, if any, year-round residents, assistance is not guaranteed on any route.
For these reasons, no one should attempt the trip without ample preparation and knowledge of the hazards associated with remote desert travel. Travelers should carry:
• Extra water, food, and gasoline;
• Good tires including at least one usable spare;
• Parts, tools, and knowledge to handle vehicle and tire repairs.
--Include tire plugs and a portable air compressor.
A tow costs $1,000 - $2,000.
Recreation: Tuweep, accessible year-round, is managed for its undeveloped recreational experiences: solitude, natural history exploration, photography, camping, and limited hiking. Trails in the campground area are relatively easy. The Tuckup Trail is mostly flat to Tuckup Canyon, but has few water sources. It can be difficult to follow.
Fees: There is no charge for campground or day-use. A permit and fee are required for backcountry camping.
Campground: Camping is allowed only in the Tuweep Campground within the Toroweap/Tuweep vicinity. Nine primitive sites (sites 1-9) for up to six people and two vehicles are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Camping is free.
- ONE Campsite is allowed per group traveling together. A group may include, but is not limited to, friends, family, acquaintances or internet affiliation.
- A group may have a maximum of 2 vehicles (except by permit)
Sites may fill during spring months and during holidays and weekends. Picnic tables, fire grates, and composting toilets are provided. Bring your own water and firewood. Collecting firewood or kindling from the national park is strictly prohibited.
One large group site (Site 10) for 7-11 people and up to four vehicles is available via reservation only up until noon the day it is needed. The group site may be reserved, free of charge, up to four months in advance Submit an email request here. Please include the following in your email: name, address, phone, license plate, date(s) you are interested in, and organization name (if applicable).
Ravens, mice, skunks, and ringtails are common. Always store your food, scented items, and trash securely or in your vehicle when leaving your campsite unattended.
Backcountry Camping: Permits are required for backcountry camping and can be obtained at Pipe Springs National Monument (near Fredonia, AZ), the Arizona Strip Information Center in St. George, UT, or from Grand Canyon National Park's Backcountry Information Center. Online reservations are not available but you may email the Backcountry Information Center for further information or call (928) 638-7875, 1 to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday, MST. Backcountry camping is zone based in the Tuweep sub-District of Grand Canyon which stretches from Kanab Creek to the Grand Wash Cliffs.
Services: No gas, food, water, lodging, garbage collection, or other services are provided. A National Park Service ranger is stationed here year-round, but may not always be available. There is NO telephone available or reliable cell coverage at Toroweap.
Airstrip: The State of Arizona has closed the Tuweep Airstrip.
Grand Canyon National Park Regulations:
Visitors are responsible for knowing and following all park regulations. These include:
- Collection and/or Disturbance of Natural and Archeological Resources Prohibited
- Collection of any Firewood Prohibited
- Vehicles Must Stay on Open Roadways and in Parking Areas
- OHVs (ATVs, Dirtbikes, UTVs, etc.) MUST be Highway/Street Legal. (Arizona requires MC plates - RV plate not valid.)
(Utah plate required - Utah registration stickers not valid.)
- Camping Permits Required (Except at Tuweep Campground)
- Campfires Prohibited (Except at Tuweep Campground)
- Pets Must Be Restrained and are Prohibited Off-Roadway and within the Inner Canyon
- All Hunting Prohibited
- Firearms Restricted
- Please walk on durable surfaces (established trails, slickrock, and routes) as the soil is a living biological crust and is damaged for decades by a single footstep.
- Use caution near the canyon rim and do not throw anything over the rim.
The hiking routes in the Toroweap area require navigational ability as they are sparsely marked with cairns. Self-rescue is the only dependable option available in the event of an injury or illness. Shade and water are scarce; heat exhaustion is common. All trails are closed to pets, bicycles, and vehicles.
The Tuckup Trail begins on the Tuckup Road, 5.3 miles / 8.5 km south of the park boundary. Use the parking area 0.1 mile / 0.2 km after the left turn onto the Tuckup Road. The first 2 miles/3.2 km, an old jeep road, is the area's best day hike. After this section, the trail is difficult to follow, requiring route-finding skills. Hikers use this trail for either a multi-day hike (permit required) or as an out and back hike. Bring adequate water for this sun-exposed trail.
The Saddle Horse Canyon Trail is a 1.6 mile / 2.6 km, round trip hike (1 hour). The trail starts 0.3 mile / 0.5 km south of the Tuweep Campground (6.3 miles / 10.2 km south of the park boundary). This easy walk requires some route finding (follow the cairns) and brings you to the rim of Saddle Horse Canyon.
The Esplanade Loop Trail starts from Tuweep Campground Site 10. This easy walk of 2.9 miles / 4.7 km (1 - 2 hours) requires some navigational skill; watch for the cairns. Follow the two-track road to the old Tuckup Road. Upon reaching the Tuckup Road, turn left (west) and walk until you reach the Tuckup Trailhead. At the trailhead follow the main road south to the Tuweep Campground completing your loop.
Toroweap Vicinity Map
The geologic history of the Tuweep area is similar to the rest of Grand Canyon, but includes a more recent chapter of volcanism. The Toroweap Fault underlies the valley, crosses the Colorado River, and continues south up Prospect Canyon. Volcanic activity began along this fault around seven million years ago. Over time lava issued from more than 60 vents. Beginning about 1.2 million years ago some flowed into Toroweap Valley, forming the flat-bottomed valley we see today. Vulcans Throne, Mount Trumbull and the Uinkaret Mountains are other features that are the result of volcanic activity.
Download Geology of the Tuweep Area Bulletin
(2 pages 102kb PDF file)
More than a dozen times, lava spilled over the canyon rim, damming the Colorado River. Remnants of these flows and dams are easily visible just west of the overlook. Sediments clinging to the canyon walls high above the river indicate the formation of large lakes. The river eroded the lava dams and continued its downward cutting. It is now 50 feet (15 m) deeper than the base of the dams. Despite its name, Lava Falls Rapid was formed from debris washed down Prospect Canyon, not from remains of the lava flows.
It is less than one mile across the canyon to the Hualapai Indian Reservation on the South Rim, making this one of the narrowest and deepest segments of the inner canyon. The colorful redrock of the Hermit Shale and Supai sandstones to the east contrasts with the black, basaltic lava flows to the west, making Toroweap Overlook a memorable, and often-photographed, viewpoint in Grand Canyon.
Tuweep sits at an elevation of 4600 feet (1400 m) on a landform known as the Esplanade which forms a flat shelf situated about halfway between the coniferous forests of the North Rim and the hot canyon bottom. This is a high desert area with mild winters and light snows. Summers are hot with thunderstorms from July to September.
In Toroweap Valley a chaparral community exists with juniper and pinyon pines, sagebrush and saltbush, Mormon tea and other woody shrubs, and various grasses. Nearer the Esplanade succulent cacti, yucca, and agave predominate. In years of abundant winter moisture, wildflowers may proliferate. Some life forms, like the crusty black "cryptobiotic" soil, are rare and sensitive. Please avoid stepping on these fragile living organisms.
Wildlife includes coyotes, mule deer, jackrabbits, rodents, and numerous species of birds and reptiles. An often-overlooked and little-understood biotic community exists seasonally in the slickrock water pockets on the Esplanade. Fairy and horseshoe shrimp, tiny frogs, and microscopic organisms emerge from the muddy bottom when moisture fills these pools for sufficient periods of time. The desert is truly a beautiful and amazing place to those who take the time to explore and study it.
The first humans in the Tuweep region were likely ice-age hunters who lived a nomadic hunting-gathering existence in what was a milder climate. The Ancestral Puebloans farmed in this area, arriving about 2000 years ago and migrating eastward around A.D.1300. The most recent American Indian group to live here is the Paiute, who have a reservation to the north. Evidence of past human presence in this region includes dwellings, rock art, and numerous lithic/artifact sites.
John Wesley Powell visited Tuweep in 1870 while unsuccessfully searching for missing members of his 1869 river expedition. He mapped and named many of the local features. More recently, European-Americans ranched, mined, and settled in the area. While ranchers used this valley seasonally in the early 1900s, the first year-round homestead was the Lower Kent Ranch, built in 1927, located just north of the park. Other pioneers in the region included the Schmutz, Cunningham, Craig, and Bundy families. Henry Covington herded sheep and mined on the Esplanade off and on for over 20 years. There are still many sites that speak of his determination to live and prosper in this arid region.
Park Ranger John Riffey
Julie russell, NPS
In 1932 the Tuweep area was protected within Grand Canyon National Monument, despite opposition from local residents. Congress added the area to Grand Canyon National Park
in 1975. One of the best known residents of the area was Tuweep ranger John Riffey, who worked here for 38 years. His helpfulness, longevity, and airplane ("Pogo") contributed to his legendary status.
Today, the area is managed for preservation of the abundant natural and cultural resources and for the enjoyment of the few who venture to this remote corner of the Grand Canyon.
||Toroweap - Tuweep (498 kb PDF) Jan. 2011
The View from Toroweap Overlook, 3000 vertical feet / 915 m above the Colorado River, is breathtaking; the sheer drop, dramatic! Equally impressive are the volcanic features, cinder cones and lava flows, which make this viewpoint unique in Grand Canyon National Park.
A visit to this remote area can be challenging, but rewarding. Since the National Park Service manages the area for its primitive values, improvements and services are minimal.