Just as the South Rim extends far downstream from the park's developed areas, the North Rim stretches many miles with superb viewpoints and precipitous canyons. This lonely country has no services, no tour buses, and no pavement. It's the place for adventurous travelers who enjoy wilderness and solitude. High-clearance 4WD vehicles do best here, though cars can make it to Toroweap Overlook in dry weather. You'll need to bring all water, food, camping gear, and emergency supplies.
At over one million acres, the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument covers most of the Grand Canyon's rim west of Toroweap. It includes parts of Grand Canyon National Park, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, and BLM lands. Four wilderness areas lie within the monument—Mt. Trumbull, Mt. Logan, Grand Wash Cliffs, and the south half of Paiute. On a journey across this region, you'll experience everything from cool ponderosa pine forests in the uplands to extremely arid low-lying Mohave Desert. The National Park Service and BLM manage the monument jointly; contact the Interagency Visitor Center in St. George (see below) for travel information. The monument website is www.nps.gov/para.
Archaeologists have found evidence of hunter-gatherers dating back more than 11,000 years. Ancestral Puebloans followed much later and may be ancestors of the Southern Paiute who live in the region today. The prairie here showed little promise at first—the ground proved nearly impossible to plow and lacked water for irrigation. Determined Mormons began ranching in the 1860s despite the constant isolation and occasional Navajo raids. They built Winsor Castle, a fortified ranch, in 1870 as a base for a large church-owned cattle herd. Mormons also founded the towns of Fredonia, Short Creek (now Colorado City), and Littlefield.
Some of these settlers had fled Utah to escape federal laws prohibiting polygamy. About 3,000 members of a polygamous excommunicated Mormon sect still live in Colorado City and neighboring Hildale, Utah. (Note the huge size of "family" houses here!) Federal and state officials raided Colorado City several times, most recently in 1953, when 27 arrests were made—those charged received one year of probation. Since then government policy has been mostly "live and let live," but state officials continue to worry about how to deal with accusations of teenage girls being forced to marry older men in the close-knit community.
Exploring the Western Arizona Strip
High-clearance 4WD vehicles are recommended in this remote and rugged land. Cautiously driven 2WD vehicles can negotiate roads to the Trumbull and Toroweap areas in dry weather from St. George, Colorado City, and Fredonia. Parts of these roads are so smooth that one can drive at high speeds, often too fast to spot that washout or rough cattle guard! Drivers of 2WD vehicles need to take extra care not to become stuck on steep, sandy, or washed-out roads.
All visitors must respect the remote location, lack of water, and absence of facilities. Note that cell phones usually don't work here. Be sure to carry camping gear, extra food and water, tools, two spare tires, and a first-aid kit. Distances can be great—you may wish to carry extra gas. Some roads shown on maps may be very difficult, hazardous, or completely closed. Major junctions have signs and most roads also have a number, which helps with navigation. Some critical intersections lack signs, however, so it's highly recommended to have the BLM's Arizona Strip Visitor Map and to make frequent reference to it. Leave an itinerary with a reliable person in case you don't emerge on time. Some people live seasonally on the Arizona Strip, but you cannot count on being able to find anyone in case of trouble. Ranchers run cattle on the strip, so gates should be left as you found them. Drivers need to keep an eye out for endangered desert tortoises that might wander across the road in the Mohave Desert, west of the Grand Wash Cliffs and the Virgin Mountains.
Riders can do exciting trips in the mountains and out to Grand Canyon viewpoints. Marked trails for cyclists include the Dutchman Trail, an "easy" nine-mile loop near Little Black Mountain south of St. George and the "more difficult" 8.5-mile Sunshine Loop southeast of St. George.
For travel information on the western Arizona Strip, contact the Interagency Visitor Center (345 E. Riverside Dr., St. George, UT 84790, 435/688-3246, www.az.blm.gov). It's open 7:45 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Fri., the best times for reaching someone with first-hand travel experience, and 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Saturdays and holidays. Take I-15 Bluff Street Exit 6 and turn southeast one-third mile on Riverside Drive; the office is on your left. This is also the home of the Arizona Strip Interpretive Association (ASIA), which has a good bookshop here.
The BLM's Arizona Strip Visitor Map shows topography, roads with numbers, and land ownership at a 1:168,960 scale. The more detailed USGS 1:100,000- and 1:24,000-scale topo maps will be handy for hikers.
This tributary of Kanab Canyon northeast of Toroweap offers both great scenery—you'll feel like you're in the Grand Canyon—and access to the Kanab Creek Wilderness. The road was very rough at last report; check for current conditions. The turnoff from County 109 is 30 miles southwest of Fredonia and 38 miles north of Toroweap. Head east on BLM Road 1123 and you'll see the headwall of Hack Canyon on the left after 1.1 miles. The road drops in and follows the normally dry canyon bottom with ever higher and grander walls on each side. You'll reach the wilderness boundary and road's end at 9.7 miles from County 109. A trail continues into the wilderness toward Kanab Canyon, five miles one way, where you could turn downstream another 10.5 miles to the mouth of Jumpup Canyon or 16 miles to the Colorado River; a backcountry permit is needed to camp below Jumpup Canyon. Black Willow Spring, a short distance down the trail on your right in Hack Canyon, is a rare source of water here.
A great expanse of canyon falls away below your feet from this perch overlooking the confluence of the Kanab and Grand Canyons. Few people know about this lonely spot, yet it's one of the best Grand Canyon viewpoints. The drive out takes some care with navigation, as not all the junctions may be signed. You'll need the BLM's Arizona Strip Visitor Map, a high-clearance vehicle, and dry weather. The turnoff on County 109 is 4.7 miles south of the Hack Canyon junction, 34 miles southwest of Fredonia, and 34 miles north of Toroweap. Head east on BLM Road 1058, keep right at a fork 7.5 miles in, turn right at a fork 10.1 miles in (the wider left fork goes to an uranium mine), turn left at a T-junction 16.4 miles in and continue 0.8 mile to the national park boundary; you'll reach Kanab Point in another 4.0 miles, for a total of 21.2 miles one way from County 109. At the rim, the best panoramas of the Grand Canyon are 0.2 mile to the right and the best ones of Kanab Canyon lie 0.3 mile to the left. To camp at the Point, you'll need a backcountry camping permit.
Nampaweap Rock Art Site
Archaic, ancestral Puebloan, and Paiute tribes have pecked thousands of glyphs into boulders near Mt. Trumbull, northwest of Toroweap. Nampaweap means "foot canyon" in Paiute, perhaps referring to its being on a travel corridor dating back to prehistoric times. Head west 3.7 miles on County Road 5 from the junction with Toroweap Road (or go east 3.5 miles from the Mt. Trumbull Trailhead), turn south 1.1 miles on BLM Road 1028 toward the private Arkansas Ranch, turn east into the parking area, and then walk three-quarters of a mile to the head of a small canyon. The rock art is on the canyon's north side.
Mount Trumbull Wilderness
Forests cover the basalt-rock slopes of Mt. Trumbull (8,028 feet), the centerpiece of this 7,900-acre wilderness located northwest of Toroweap. Oak, pinyon pine, and juniper woodlands grow on the lower slopes; ponderosa pine, Gambel oak, and some aspen cover the higher and more protected areas. Kaibab squirrels, introduced in the early 1970s, flourish in the forests. You might see or hear a turkey, too. The 5.4-mile roundtrip climb to the summit makes an enjoyable forest ramble with some views through the trees. From the marked trailhead at an elevation of 6,500 feet on the southwest side of Mt. Trumbull, the wide path climbs around to the south side, with some good views across Toroweap Valley, the Grand Canyon, and the San Francisco Peaks. The trail then turns north and becomes faint, but cairns show the way to the summit, marked by a survey tower and some viewpoints. You can reach the trailhead by County Road 5 from Toroweap, Fredonia, Colorado City, or St. George; you'll know that you're close when ponderosa pines appear. The buildings and trailers across the field belong to a BLM site; if staff are in, they may be able to help with local information.
John Wesley Powell named Mt. Trumbull and nearby Mt. Logan after U.S. senators. Mormon pioneers built a steam-powered sawmill just west of the trailhead in 1870 to supply timbers for the St. George Temple. A historic marker describes the sawmill operation, and you can explore the site for the scant remnants. Water from Nixon Spring, higher on the slopes, once supplied the sawmill. A faucet near the road between the historic site and trailhead usually has water from the spring—a welcome sight for travelers in this arid land. Be sure to treat the water, as it doesn't meet drinking standards.
Mount Logan Wilderness
Scenic features of this 14,600-acre volcanic region include Mt. Logan (7,866 feet), other parts of the Uinkaret Mountains, and a large natural amphitheater known as Hell's Hole. Geology, forests, and wildlife resemble those of Mt. Trumbull, a short distance to the northeast. A road climbs the east side of Mt. Logan to within a half mile of the summit; the rest of the way is an easy walk—just continue north along the side of the ridge. On top you can peer into the vast depths of Hell's Hole, a steep canyon of red and white rock. The sweeping panorama takes in much of the Arizona Strip and beyond to mountains in Nevada and Utah. Trees block views to the south.
From County 5, just southeast of the Mt. Trumbull trailhead, turn southwest 4.2 miles on BLM Road 1044, then right 2.2 miles on BLM Road 1064 until it becomes rough and steep at its end. Many fine spots suitable for camping lie along the roads in ponderosa pines.
A rough 4WD road follows a corridor through the wilderness, from which hikers can turn south onto the old Slide Mountain Road (closed to vehicles) or enter Hell's Hole from below. You'll need to follow a map closely, as none of these destinations will be signed; roads also branch off to other unsigned areas, adding to the navigational challenge. Loose rock and erosion of the corridor road require a high-clearance 4WD; it's slow going, but the road continues all the way down to the Whitmore Wash Road 1045, one mile north of the Bar 10 Ranch.
Mt. Trumbull School
Homesteaders arrived in this remote valley about 1917 to farm and raise livestock. Population peaked at 200–250 in the 1930s, when a drier climate forced residents to switch their livelihood from crops to cattle and sheep. People gradually drifted away until the last full-time resident departed in 1984. Abandoned houses stand empty, along with some houses that are inhabited seasonally. No trespassing is allowed on private lands, but you can get some good photos from the main roads. Dedicated teachers taught at the remote one-room schoolhouse from 1922 until the bell rang for its last class in 1968. Photo and document exhibits inside show what life was like here. Donations are appreciated.
Whitmore Wash Road
Lava flows from Mt. Emma in the Uinkaret Mountains form a ramp on which you can drive a high-clearance, 4WD vehicle deep into the Grand Canyon, though the last part of the drive is very rough. A short trail at road's end leads down to the Colorado River. See Whitmore Wash Trail of "Inner Canyon Hiking" for directions and trail information.
Bar 10 Ranch (P.O. Box 910088, St. George, UT 84791-0088, 435/628-4010 or 800/582-4139, www.bar10.com) lies along this road 80 miles from St. George and about nine miles before the rim. It offers miles of open country and cowboy-style meals along with informal Western hospitality. Activities include horseback riding, pack trips, hiking, scenic flights, river trips, ATV tours, and entertainment. Many visitors spend a day here when shuttling in or out from a river trip by helicopter and flying by small plane to Las Vegas or other destinations. You can also drive (high-clearance vehicles recommended) or fly in. Reservations are required for the Bar 10, which stays open all year.
Spectacular views of the Grand Canyon, Parashant Canyon, Mt. Logan, and the Uinkaret Mountains greet those who head out to this 5,500-foot-high perch. Volcanoes and massive lava flows between here and the Toroweap area to the east can be seen clearly. There are plenty of good places to camp, with no permit needed.
From Mt. Trumbull Schoolhouse, head west then south 22.2 miles on BLM Road 1063. Some junctions feature signs, but you'll need to refer frequently to a map. At 9.9 miles in, a jeep road to the right heads down Trail Canyon to Parashant Canyon, a good area for adventurous hikers. Continue straight (south) for Whitmore Point. As with most roads on the Arizona Strip, conditions get rougher as you come closer to the Grand Canyon, and a high-clearance vehicle is necessary.
Grand Wash Cliffs Wilderness
Grand Wash Cliffs mark the west edge of the Colorado Plateau and the end of the Grand Canyon. The wilderness encloses 36,300 acres along a 12-mile section of the cliffs in an extremely remote portion of Arizona. Desert bighorn sheep and raptors live in the high country; desert tortoises forage lower down. Grand Wash Bench Trail, a 10-mile gated road, follows a bench between the upper (1,800 feet high) and lower (1,600 feet high) cliffs; trailheads are on the north and south wilderness boundaries. Hikers can also wander cross-country to the cliffs from BLM Road 1061 along the west boundary of the wilderness.
An exceptionally scenic 4WD road through Hidden Canyon crosses the Grand Wash Cliffs north of the wilderness. From the eastern turnoff on County 5, 11.5 miles north of Mt. Trumbull Schoolhouse and 46 miles south of St. George, follow County Road 103 southwest 16.6 miles, then turn right on BLM Road 1003 at the sign for Hidden Canyon. Small canyon cliffs appear four miles in, then become higher and higher as the road winds downstream along the canyon floor, repeatedly crisscrossing the normally dry streambed. Juniper and pinyon pine on the Shivwits Plateau in the upper canyon give way to Joshua trees in the desert country below. After about 20 miles, you leave the canyons. BLM Road 1061 turns south for the west face of the Grand Wash Cliffs Wilderness. Numerous sandy washes require a high-clearance 4WD vehicle for Hidden Canyon and for most roads in the Grand Wash Cliffs area.
This small volcano atop the Shivwits Plateau offers a great panorama of the Arizona Strip. Vast forests of juniper and pinyon and ponderosa pine spread across the plateau. A long line of cliffs marks the Grand Canyon to the south. Beyond rise the Hualapai Mountains near Kingman. You can see other mountain ranges in Arizona, Nevada, and Utah as well. Frederick Dellenbaugh served as artist and assistant topographer on Major John Wesley Powell's second river expedition through the Grand Canyon in 1871–72.
From Mt. Trumbull Schoolhouse, go north 11.5 miles on County 5, then turn southwest 42 miles on County 103, following signs. From St. George, Utah, it's 46 miles to the junction, then 42 miles to Mt. Dellenbaugh. The last five miles can be negotiated only when dry; high-clearance vehicles are recommended. The trailhead lies just past the NPS's Shivwits Ranger Station; follow an old jeep road, now closed to motor vehicles. The trail is an easy four miles roundtrip, climbing 900 feet to the 7,072-foot summit.
Beautiful views from this overlook take in the lower Grand Canyon, Surprise Canyon, Burnt Canyon, and Sanup Plateau. Follow County 103 south 37 miles from County 5, keep straight where the road to Mt. Dellenbaugh turns left, and continue south. At a fork five miles farther, you can detour right one mile to an overlook of upper Burnt Canyon, perhaps named for the colorful yellow and red rock layers. The main road continues south 2.7 miles, then skirts the west rim of Burnt Canyon, offering many fine views. Just before the road ends, 14 miles from the Mt. Dellenbaugh junction, it forks left for Twin Point and right for a trailhead to Sanup Plateau. Ranchers run cattle down this trail for winter grazing. Twin Point offers plenty of places to camp, and no permit is needed.
Located east of Twin Point, this point extends much farther south than any other on the North Rim. Road conditions have so deteriorated that the route is now extremely rough, rocky, and slow—figure 5 M.P.H. on the last 20 miles. Getting here can be more like an expedition than a casual sightseeing jaunt—Twin Point has similar views without the hardships for you and your vehicle. If you're determined and well prepared, follow County Road 103 past Mt. Dellenbaugh and continue south to road's end.
This 84,700-acre wilderness lies south of I-15 and the Virgin River in the northwest corner of Arizona. The jagged Virgin Mountains harbor a wide variety of plant and animal life between desert country at 2,400 feet and conifer forests surrounding 8,012-foot Mt. Bangs.
Several hiking trails wind through the rugged terrain. Cougar Spring Trailhead at the wilderness boundary provides the easiest route to the summit. Follow an old road up one mile through the wilderness to a saddle, then turn left one more mile up another old road toward the top. When the road ends, you'll need to bushwhack through some chaparral (look for cairns and wear long pants) and rock scramble the last quarter mile to the top; the climb takes about four and a half hours roundtrip. Despite the high elevations, only a few pines grow on the upper slopes; you'll see mostly manzanita, Gambel oak, and some hedgehog and prickly pear cactus. Surrounding ridges do have forests.
Other hiking options from Cougar Spring Trailhead area include the ridge north of Mt. Bangs and the 15-mile one-way Sullivan Trail. The Sullivan crosses the wilderness from Cougar Spring Trailhead or Black Rock Road to the Virgin River via Atkin Spring and Sullivan Canyon; expect some rough and poorly defined sections. The lower trailhead lies 1.5 miles downstream and across the Virgin River from Virgin River Canyon Recreation Area, near I-15, 20 miles southwest of St. George; check the depth of the Virgin River carefully and turn back if it's too high to cross safely.
Hikers have a choice of approaching Cougar Spring Trailhead from the east via Black Rock Road (#1004), a pretty route through ponderosa pines on Black Mountain (good camping and a few picnic tables); from the south via Lime Kiln Canyon (#242) and other roads; or from the west on the very steep Elbow Canyon Road (#299; best driven downhill).
From St. George, take the I-15 Bloomington Exit 4, head east 1.8 miles (becomes Brigham Road), turn south 3.8 miles on River Road to the Arizona border and continue south another 20 miles on Quail Hill Road (#1069), turn right 25 miles on Black Rock Road (#1004), then right 0.5 mile to the trailhead.
If coming from Toroweap, take County 5 to Mt. Trumbull Schoolhouse, turn north 40 miles on County 5, then left 25 miles on Black Rock Road (#1004) and right 0.5 mile to the trailhead. If you're feeling adventurous and have a high-clearance 4WD vehicle, Elbow Canyon Road (#299) is an option—head west from the trailhead, climb a bit to a pass, then plummet down the rough road to the desert plains below. Loose rock makes this drive much easier going downhill. Mesquite is about 18 miles from the trailhead. Lots of other very scenic roads head toward the Virgin Mountains too; see the Arizona Strip Visitor Map.
From Mesquite, Nevada, turn south 0.9 mile on Riverside Road, (just east of Oasis Casino), then turn left onto Lime Kiln Canyon Road 242 (just after crossing the Virgin River bridge). After 0.9 mile you'll see the road to Elbow Canyon on the left, but keep straight 16 miles for Lime Kiln Canyon, cross over a pass and descend past some pretty red sandstone outcrops, then turn left 22 miles on BLM Road 1041 to Cougar Spring Trailhead.
Littlefield and Beaver Dam
These two farming communities lie near the Virgin River on opposite sides of I-15 in Arizona's extreme northwest corner. Mesquite, Nevada, offers motels, restaurants, supermarkets, and glitter just eight miles west on I-15.
Beaver Dam Mountains Wilderness
This 19,600-acre wilderness includes alluvial plains and the rugged mountains north of I-15 in extreme northwestern Arizona and part of adjacent Utah. Desert bighorn sheep, desert tortoises, raptors, the endangered woundfin minnow, Joshua trees, and several rare plant species live here. There are no trails, but you can hike cross-country through the beautiful Joshua tree forest and explore canyons. Unpaved BLM Road 1005, 10 miles long, follows a corridor through the wilderness, providing easy access. The east end begins at I-15 Cedar Pocket Exit 18, opposite the Virgin River Recreation Area, 20 miles southwest of St. George. The west end (unsigned) turns off between Mileposts 14 and 15 of Hwy. 91, 5.5 miles north of I-15 Beaver Dam Exit 8.
Virgin River Canyon Recreation Area
Picnic areas and campsites overlook the Virgin River at this scenic spot just south of I-15 Cedar Pocket Exit 18. It's open year-round with water, grills, flush toilets, and some shade ramadas, but no showers or hookups; the gate closes at 9 p.m. Expect hot weather in summer at this 2,260-foot elevation. Campsites cost $8, picnic areas $2; groups can reserve day-use and camping areas with the BLM's Arizona Strip office in St. George (435/688-3200). A 0.2-mile nature trail leads to hilltop views, where interpretive signs explain the unusual geology of the canyon at this transition between the Colorado Plateau and the Basin and Range Province; trailhead parking is on the left where the picnic and campground roads divide. Other trails drop from the picnic and camping areas to the river.
River Running on the Virgin
Experienced whitewater boaters prepared for changing conditions can tackle the Virgin River. A minimum of about 1,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) is needed, which doesn't occur every year; spring, and especially May, offers the best chance of sufficient flow. No permits are needed. The Interagency Visitor Center in St. George can advise on river travel and possibly on local boat rentals and shuttle services. River runners can put in at the Man of War Road bridge in Bloomington, just south of St. George. Take-out can be at the last I-15 bridge or farther down on slow water near the Arizona town of Beaver Dam.
Little Black Mountain Petroglyph Site
Impressive groups of rock art, some believed to have calendar functions, cover boulders at the base of this mesa just south into Arizona from St. George. Archaeologists have discovered more than 500 individual designs. A short trail winds past the petroglyphs, where signs describe some of their features. From St. George, take the I-15 Bloomington Exit 4, head east 1.8 miles (becomes Brigham Road), turn south 3.8 miles on River Road to the Arizona border and continue south 0.4 mile on unpaved Quail Hill Road (#1069), turn east 4.5 miles to a T-junction (there's a gate on the way), then left into the parking area, which has a picnic table and outhouse.
Cottonwood Point Wilderness
The 6,860-acre wilderness contains part of the multicolored 1,000-foot-high Vermilion Cliffs, jagged pinnacles, and wooded canyons. Springs and seeps in the main canyon east of Cottonwood Point support a world of greenery surrounded by desert. The wilderness lies on the Utah border near Colorado City, west of Fredonia. Dirt roads from AZ 389 and Colorado City provide access; check with the BLM for trailhead directions.
THE DESERT TORTOISE
On to Pipe Spring National Monument