The Toroweap area is located in a very remote region in the western section of Grand Canyon on the North Rim. It has one of the classic views of the inner canyon with a 3000 foot sheer vertical drop to the Colorado River and one of its most notorious rapids, Lava Falls. Spectacularly dramatic! Toroweap is a Paiute word meaning “dry or barren valley”, and they aren’t joking! Far away from any visitor services barring nine primitive campsites and one primitive group site (information below), no water, no firewood, and at least 60 miles /100 km to the nearest small town on a bumpy washboard dirt road.
Tuweep is accessible year-round, however, accessible DOES NOT mean easy! The park states that 25% of visitors get one or more flat tires on the road to or from Tuweep. So good tires and at least one GOOD spare tire is essential. Also having extra water, food, and fuel as well as tools and a working knowledge on using them are VERY WISE when visiting. Cell phone service is spotty or non-existent, so you cannot count on calling your way out of a predicament either. There is NO telephone or cell coverage at Tuweep/Toroweap.
And last, but not least, a tow costs $1,000 to $2,000!
- Sunshine Route – (County road #109), the primary access route, leaves Highway 389 8mi/13km west of Fredonia (6mi/10km east of Pipe Spring National Monument). The road is 61mi/98km long and is the most reliable route; however, it is subject to sharp rocks (flat tires), wash-boarding, and dust.
- Clayhole Route – (County Road #5) leaves Highway 389 at Colorado City. It is 56mi/90km long and is impassable when moist.
- Main Street Route – (BLM Roads #1069 and County Road #5) from St. George is 90mi/145km long. It is the most scenic route; but is impassable in winter due to snow and mud.
Tuweep is the area which includes the ranger station and campground. The campsites are free and are first-come, first-served. Be aware that the sites can fill during the spring months and during holidays and weekends. Picnic tables, fire grates, and composting toilets are provided. Again, there is no water, and you must also provide your own firewood since collecting firewood or kindling within the park is strictly prohibited.
- There are nine primitive campsites for up to six people and up to two vehicles. These are first-come, first-served; no reservations available.
- There is one group site available for 7 – 11 people and up to four vehicles which 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. You can request your reservation via email by visiting Grand Canyon’s Toroweap/Tuweep Area page under the Campground section.
- Backcountry camping (outside of the Tuweep area) requires a permit. These 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.
Here are the four hiking routes described on the park’s site for the Toroweap area plus the last one which isn’t on their site, Lava Falls. As they state, since this area is very remote and are sparsely marked with cairns, it takes skill and wise preparation to hike out here. It is tough out here! Don’t take it lightly. You are a long way from help; self-rescue is the only option you can count on.
- 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.
- 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.
- Vulcans Throne Route provides a challenging 1,000 foot / 300 m ascent up the cinder-covered slopes of a volcanic cone, rewarding hikers with a dramatic view of the expansive esplanade and distant Shivwits Plateau. Park at the south end of the Vulcans Throne spur road and look to the east for the faint trail. This short hike, less than a mile, gains significant elevation. A register marks the top (go past the first “false” summit).
- 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.
- Lava Falls Trail starts just west of Vulcans Throne (described above) and is the shortest rim to river route in the Grand Canyon with a drop of over 2,500 feet / 774 m in less than 2 miles / 3.2 km. But before you start seeing this as your easiest way to the river, know that this is one of the most difficult hikes you can possibly do in the Grand Canyon. Yes, you can see the notorious Lava Falls Rapids and perhaps watch boats and their passengers as they scream their way through, but many people have been injured and gotten heat illness on this trail. It is no picnic! And it really is no trail; it is a route on sharp, black lava rocks marked by cairns. The route is steep, strenuous and provides no shade, and the going is plenty tough–definitely best done during spring and fall. Be aware that rain and snow makes the access roads impassable to even 4WD vehicles. You’ll find an excellent description and directions to the trail on the American Southwest site.