Utah Travel Headlines Blog

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Toroweap In Winter

Toroweap in Grand CanyonI like winter - I like snow and snow sports. But this winter has been exceptionally cold. In northern Utah the skies have long been grey from storm and smog.

I've been itching to get away, to take a timeout from winter. So we loaded the Jeep and headed south, to a remote area called Toroweap, in the backcountry in Grand Canyon National Park. We drove backroads, hiked, enjoyed amazing views and soaked up the sunshine. It was a great trip over the long holiday weekend.

Toroweap is one of Grand Canyon's most dramatic viewpoints because the cliffs are sheer, almost completely vertical, falling some 3,000 feet to the Colorado River. In most other areas the canyon is wide and it stairsteps to the bottom. For example, at the famous South Rim, the canyon is about 10 miles wide and it falls off a series of terraces before reaching the river.

At Toroweap the canyon is only 1 mile wide and there are no stairsteps. It's pretty much straight down. There are no guardrails and standing on the edge is a dizzying experience. People who are afraid of heights stand way back.

At an elevation of about 4,540 feet, Toroweap is one of the lowest viewpoints at Grand Canyon. The North Rim visitor area elevation is 8,220 feet and it is closed during winter because of heavy snow. The popular South Rim has an elevation of about 7,040 feet. It gets considerable snow but is open year-round.

Toroweap in Grand CanyonToroweap seldom gets snow. Roads and trails are open year-round, except possibly during and immediately after severe storms. It is a great destination for winter hikes. We were there during the middle of January and daytime temperatures were very pleasant. We quickly shed our sweatshirts as the temperature climbed into the mid-50s.

Some winter days there are colder - you've got to watch the weather and hike during mild periods. But the area is often dry and mild when northern Utah is frigid or stormy.

Summers get very hot. Spring and fall are ideal times to hike.

We chose to stay in Kanab and make a day trip to Toroweap. We also made day trips to explore other areas. Kanab makes a great base camp to explore area national parks, monuments and recreation areas.

There is a nice primitive campground at Toroweap. Nicer that I expected. It offers camp sites, picnic tables and pit toilets, but no water or other facilities. There is a group site that can be reserved; other sites are available on a first-come basis, with no fee charged.

We hiked the Tuckup Trail, searching for a unique panel of ancient rock art. Called the Sharman Panel, the rock art is difficult to find. We tried and failed, running out of daylight before we had a chance to do an extensive search. With these short days, we just didn't have time.

So now I want to go back. On my next trip I'll camp at Toroweap so I have plenty of time to explore. I'll find the rock art and also make the steep hike down the rim to Lava Falls on the mighty Colorado River.

We never saw another person during our trip. Not another vehicle. As we hiked away from the overlook, all footprints faded. We hiked miles of trail where there were deer tracks but no human footprints.

It's a great area - I can't wait to get back down there.

- Dave Webb

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