At 3,000 vertical feet (880 m) above the Colorado River, the sheer drop from Toroweap Overlook offers a dramatic view. The volcanic cinder cones and lava flows in this ancestral home of the Southern Paiute people make this area unique.
Need to Know
Preparedness and Directions
Access the three main routes to Tuweep from AZ 389 between Fredonia, Arizona, and St.George, Utah. Allow two to three hours driving time. Bring the BLM Arizona Strip Visitor Map, and do not rely solely on your GPS unit. Muddy conditions exist during summer monsoons and from winter precipitation.
Sunshine Route: County Road #109, the most reliable route, leaves AZ 389 eight miles (13 km) west of Fredonia or six miles (10 km) east of Pipe Spring National Monument. This 61-mile (98 km) road features sharp rocks, washboarding, and dust. Please do not stop on tribal land when traveling this route.
Clayhole Route: County Road #5 leaves AZ 389 at Colorado City, Arizona. It is 56 miles (90 km) long and impassable when wet.
Main Street Route: BLM Road #1069 and County Road #5 from St. George is 90 miles (145 km) long. This scenic route is impassable in winter due to snow and mud.
Tuweep Airstrip: Closed.
Camping and Overnight Use
Staying at the campground offers the perfect opportunity to experience sunsets, sunrises, and the amazing stars in-between. You will feel the special silence offered and be free from day-use traffic. Advance permits are required for camping and overnight use at Tuweep Campground and in all backcountry use areas. Obtain a permit at https://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/backcountry-permit.htm. Permits cannot be issued at Tuweep. Camping is prohibited on the land adjacent to the park and at the airstrip.
There are nine small campsites for one to six people with a maximum of two vehicles, including motorcycles, and one large group campsite for seven to eleven people with a maximum of four vehicles, including motorcycles.
What to Experience
Watch Your Step! For your safety, as well as the protection of a delicate ecosystem, be careful where you step and drive. A 3000-foot (915 m) drop is one concern. The less obvious micro-biotic crusts are another; they hold soil and plant nutrients in place and can be easily damaged. When exploring on foot, please stay on trails, roads, washes, or rock surfaces to protect the crusts and avoid damaging native plants. When driving, passing another vehicle, or parking, stay on the road or in delineated parking areas.
Toroweap Overlook: Dramatically different than other Grand Canyon viewpoints, Toroweap Overlook peers out over an abrupt gorge set in a broad corridor 3,000 feet (915 m) below the rim. Eight, million-year-old lava flows and conical black cinder cones stud the landscape. Walk to the edge for a breath-taking experience. To the west, view the largest rapid on nearly 300 miles (485 km) of the park’s Colorado River. Listen carefully for the roar of the river or the faint sounds from boaters below. To the east, enjoy dramatic views.
Tuweep Hiking Trails: Two established hiking trails can be accessed from Tuweep. Their trailheads are signed and cairns (piles of rock) mark their path. Plan ahead for your hike and remember that shade is scarce and water non-existent. All trails are closed to pets, bicycles, and vehicles.
Tuckup Trail: The Tuckup Trail gives hikers a spectacular taste of Esplanade slick-rock on a former prospector’s path. Follow the trail 3 miles (5 km) to Cove Canyon and experience an inner-canyon day hike rewarded with endless views. Access the Tuckup Trailhead north of Tuweep Campground or, if camping, from site 10.
Saddle Horse Loop Trail:
This 45-minute loop offers spectacular views of the Colorado River, as well as a colorful walk through the native plant gardens protected and nourished by beautiful displays of micro-biotic crusted soils. Every inch of crusted toppings signifies 10-years of growth and erosion. Imagine what the landscape would look like without these living organisms doing their job. Access the trail along the road between Toroweap Overlook and Tuweep Campground or from a trailhead near campsite 5.
Adams Leaning Wheel Grader:
Down the road from Tuweep you will see evidence of the area’s history—an antique pull grader. This 1921 relic from the Toroweap Valley takes us back to the resourceful nature of those who made a living here.
GeologyThe 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, lava flowed into Toroweap Valley, forming the flat-bottomed valley we see today. Vulcan’s Throne, Mount Trumbull and the Uinkaret Mountains are all the result of volcanic activity.
More than a dozen times, lava spilled over the canyon rim, damming the Colorado River. Remnants of these flows and dams are 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 50ft/15m 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 red-rock of the Hermit Shale and Supai sandstones to the east contrasts with the black, basaltic lava flows to the west.
EcologyTuweep sits at an elevation of 4500ft /1400m 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. Near the Esplanade, succulent cacti, yucca, and agave predominate. In years of abundant winter moisture, wildflowers proliferate. Some life forms, like the crusty black biological soil crust, 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 slick-rock potholes on the Esplanade. Fairy and horseshoe shrimp, tiny frogs, and microscopic organisms emerge from the muddy bottom when moisture fills these pools.
Human HistoryToroweap, a Paiute term meaning "dry or barren valley," refers to local features, including the valley and the overlook. Tuweep came into use to describe the local white settlement and later the park area. Tuweep in Paiute (pronounced Tu-VEEP) refers to "the earth”.
The first humans in the Tuweep region were ice-age hunters who lived a nomadic hunting-gathering existence in what was a milder climate. The Ancestral Puebloans, arriving about 2000 years ago, farmed in this area. They migrated eastward around A.D.1300. The most recent native Americans living here were the Paiute. They now live to the north.
John Wesley Powell, led by a Paiute guide, visited Tuweep in 1870. 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 for over 20 years. There are still many sites that speak of his determination to live and prosper in this arid region.
Last updated: February 20, 2018