Nankoweap Ruins, Colorado River, Grand Canyon, Arizona

The beginning of the Nankoweap Trail is found in the cool confines of Aspen groves high on the Colorado Plateau within the Kaibab National Forest. The trailhead is relatively well marked as Forest Service Trail 57 (Saddle Mountain Trail). After dropping for less than half a mile, you begin the ascent to the Peak of Saddle Mountain, where you are greeted with expansive views of all areas east and south of Saddle Mountain (not including the canyon). After descending the Mountain on a series of switchbacks (which will cause much consternation on your return hike!), you will reach a flat area. Remain on Trail 57 until you come to an intersection where the National Park Service Nankoweap Trail begins.

The Trail begins with a series of vague switchbacks through heavily wooded south facing slopes. After reaching the red Supai slopes with a sandstone cliff rising on your left, you will begin a long traverse along the Supai. The trail is easy to follow, with Cairns in difficult spots. When in doubt, stay on the Supai formation. There is a 100-foot drop on your right and a 100-foot cliff on your left! After about two miles you will reach a point (Marion Point) with some campsites down a well-worn path straight ahead. The trail here continues along the Supai, and you will turn north, beat down some shrubbery and find the trail continuing. There is a small water seep near here, but not enough to count on. The trail will now continue through another two-mile stretch of Supai traverse, crossing a drainage and continuing on the north side of the side canyon. Just when you think that you were cheated and the trail does not ever go any further down, it will begin to slope downward and soon you will reach the Tilted Mesa ridge. Here you will have a broad panoramic view of the Canyon, with Nankoweap Creek visible on the right, Tilted Mesa in front of you (tilted upward, of course) and more scenery on the left. Now is when the descent begins.

Keep on the right past a campsite and soon you will begin the descent by a couple of 8-10 foot ledges that may require you to lower your pack, but there are some strategically placed trees which can be used as handholds. Following is a series of brutal switchbacks, incredibly steep at times but in good condition. You will probably drop 2500 feet in elevation within the next 3 miles, so pop the ibuprofens and bust out the hiking poles. After these switchbacks a steep traverse will down a slope will lead you closer and closer to Nankoweap Creek, easily identifiable by the verdant greenery found there. After a short walk along flat desert land, you will find the creek. We camped right under a cottonwood visible by the trail once you see the creek. There is lots of shade, the water is cool, and there was a large lizard on the tree which seemed to scare any mice away.

Nankoweap Ruins, Colorado River, Grand Canyon, Arizona

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