By Will James, Kanab Tour Guide at Dreamland Safari Tours
Toroweap Overlook, or Tuweep as it is also known, is on the Remote western edge of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon nestled in a rim of bulbous eroded sandstone pocked with tinajas, or potholes, which after recent rains can host a whole micro-ecosystem unto themselves. Pinion and Juniper dot the landscape and Yuccas, Agaves, and wildflowers thrive. Toroweap Overlook is unique for a variety of reasons. The most tangible difference is the view. At the paved portions of both the North and the South Rim there is a very long view of the breadth of the canyon at 10-12 miles. The rock ledges that make up the walls of the canyon are heavily terraced and huge monolithic fins, buttes, temples fill the canyon carved out by the rivers shifting course over eons. The river is seldom visible. These views are spectacular in their own right and we recommend you see them all. Toroweap, however, stands out.
The walls at Toroweap are near vertical. The 3000 foot drop is similar to looking off of a skyscraper down at the Colorado River. At Toroweap the river steals the show, as you can see from the pictures below. Rafters, often seen floating or going over Lava Falls, look like ants. The Rim hike is open with few trails and no rails to get in the way of spectacular photography. Around every rock on the rim is a new frame for this breathtaking view.
Atmosphere-wise the comparison is like night and day. Whereas the paved portions of the park are very busy during the season, one might encounter 20 people on the busiest day of the year at Toroweap. Sometimes there are just a handful of people, but often a visitor will have the whole thing to themselves, especially in the slow season (Nov-Mar). There are no buses, no crowds, no exorbitant prices, nothing but the peaceful wilderness of the Grand Canyon as it has existed for millions of years. Canyon Swallows, Vultures, Ravens, and Golden Eagles are commonly seen soaring or maneuvering over the canyon. Occasionally an endangered California Condor is seen.
Downstream offers a view of Lava Falls and of the Lava Flow from Vulcan’s Throne, a massive cindercone (extinct volcano) on the very edge of the canyon. Here as recently as 73,000 years ago eruptions occurred. They spewed and draped the landscape and sent rivers of lava into the Grand Canyon Canyon, creating huge dams that blocked the Colorado River in 12 places. Eventually reservoirs filled and spilled over the edge creating waterfalls the likes of which the world has never seen since. Lava Falls is an eroded remnant of one of these dams. If your timing is perfect on the downstream view, you might see or even hear rafters going over the falls over a mile away. Bring binoculars. Read what the NPS has to say about Toroweap in general the geology of the Tuweep/Toroweap Area.
Although a day-trip is all that is feasible for many travelers, and it’s a great outing, it pains the soul to leave this place. Locals know that to get the full experience one must stay the night under the red sandstone overhangs of the campsites in the campground. They serve as an eerie projection screen for campfire stories with S’mores. Sunsets, incredible night skies, campfire camaraderie, and Sunrises are all in store for the overnight traveler. It is one of the darkest places in the US. For those urbanites among you, it will blow you away! For Photographers the skies and red-rock foregrounds are perfect for Milky Way shots or star trails photography.
Toroweap is remote. In fact, it’s one of the most remote places overland in the continental United States of America. From Toroweap it’s about 60 miles from pavement and about 75 miles from civilization (Fredonia, AZ pop 1174). It is known for its incredible night skies because it’s distance from artificial light sources. The 60 miles of washboarded, rocky, seldom maintained dirt road, and 3 miles of jeep trail at the end serve as a filter and keep visitation down. It’s not uncommon to see people with multiple flats. The NPS TOROWEAP BROCHURE says that as many as 25% of the people that come have tire problems. Tow charges are more than $500 (NPS says $1000-2000) and more than a few people have had to spend the night on the road to get word for help out. In these type of remote pitfall-prone situations it’s wise to consider a guided tour. Dreamland Safari Tours out of Kanab, UT is the only company to guide to Toroweap in Southern Utah/Northern Arizona. They can help you set up daytours for 2 to 13 people and overnighters for up to 6. They even offer what they call “Mobile Bed and Breakfast”. Their website is www.dreamlandtours.net and their phone is 435-644-5506. Reviews of their services are found on Trip Advisor here.
This place is magical. Give it a go!