One of the most iconic views of the Grand Canyon is that of Toroweap. But it's remoteness makes it one of the least visited areas of the Grand Canyon National Park.
Toroweap is located in an isolated section of the Grand Canyon National Park on the western section of the north rim. It is a 3000 foot sheer drop down to the Colorado River from the edge of a shelf that is part of the inner canyon.
Across from Toroweap is the Havasupai Reservation.
A view of the Colorado River 3000 feet below at Toroweap Overlook.
As stated above, it is isolated. It is approximately 50-90 miles (depending on where you leave the paved road) from any kind of a paved road, and is about a three hour drive once you have left the paved route (Arizona Route 389). It is in a section of Arizona known as the Arizona Strip.
How to get there
There are three roads/trails to get there from AZ 389:
- The Main Street Route: This is the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) road 1069 and County Road 5. Leaves from St George area across the state border in Utah and is longest of the routes at 90 miles. It is a scenic route, but becomes impassable with snow and mud during the winter months and mud during the monsoon season.
- The Clayhole Route: Take County Road 5 due south from AZ 389 at Colorado City, Arizona. This route is the shortest at only 56 miles. About 35 miles of this route is maintained dirt road used by the local ranchers. It becomes impassable when it is wet as patches of deep mud form along the road bed when it rains. This is the road I took when I went to Toroweap.
County Road 5 on the way to Toroweap. [Photo taken with Samsung Galaxy Note 2]
- The Sunshine Route: This route leaves Az 389 about 8 miles due west of Fredonia. This road is 61 miles long, and is famous for creating flat tires as it has a lot of sharp rocks that will puncture tires if the driver is not careful. This road passes through areas of tribal lands.
All the roads lead to County Road 5 which enters the Grand Canyon National Park, Tuweap Unit about 20 miles from Toroweap.
Entering the Grand Canyon National Park, Tuweep Area. [Photo taken with Samsung Galaxy Note 2]
Once you get within the 5 mile mark of the campsite, you will find the ranger station. This station has a ranger who will come out and check your vehicle and determine if you can proceed on to the campsite.
When I was there, there was no requirement of having to register for a campsite other than informing the ranger that you intended to stay the evening.
Ranger's Station at Toroweap. [Photo taken with Samsung Galaxy Note 2]
However, since 2015, there is a requirement to obtain a backcountry permit before you arrive. They do not issue permits at the ranger station. The cost is $10 dollars for the backcountry permit to enter Toroweap and $8 dollars per night you intend to camp. The permit can be applied for up to four months before your arrival. See link below for more information about the backcountry permit.
The rest of the way to Toroweap was the roughest section of the road, with sharp rocks, large washboarding sections complete with deep dust pits that love to catch tires and get you stuck! I know, I got stuck in one and it took me 15 minutes to get out. You just have to be patent and go slow.
More of the road leading to Toroweap. Vulcan's Throne can be seen in the distance to the right behind the trees. [Photo taken with Samsung Galaxy Note 2]
But if you are careful and take your time, you will soon be rewarded with signs for the campground. The campground has two pit toilets, and there are nine small campsites and one large group campsite (for up to 11 people). The evening my daughter and I visited there were only two other people present, and they were at a campsite that was on the other side of the campgrounds so we never crossed paths.
Campsite at the Toroweap Campground. Very primitive, no water, no fires, but there is a pit toilet! [Photo taken with Samsung Galaxy Note 2]
You are not allowed to have campfires at the campsite, although camp stoves are permitted. You must bring out your own trash as there are not trash barrels and there is no trash pickup. There is a seven night limit on your stay at the campsite.
The actual overlook is another 0.9 miles down the road where there are picnic tables and another pit toilet.
The overlook is just breath taking, and you will see videos of fools sitting on the edge swinging their legs like it is just another park bench. But it is a 3000 foot drop down to the Colorado River which is very visible from the overlook. There are no railings, no rangers, and usually no one else. You will not have any cellphone reception, and the closest phone is at the ranger station 6 miles up the road.
Sunrise at Toroweap Overlook along the north rim of the Grand Canyon in the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona.
You can also see and hike over to Vulcan's Throne, which is a dormant cone volcano that is about 900 feet taller than the surrounding area and is the cause of an ancient lava dam that at one time blocked the Colorado River. The views from the top are beautiful.
This is also the location of a very dangerous trail that descends down to the river. In the latest bulletin from the National Park Service (NPS), there is no mention of this trail. Instead they suggest using the Whitmore Trail which is located at Whitmore Overlook, a 3 hour drive west of Toroweap on the Main Street Route.
There are two main trails at Toroweap, the first is the Saddle Horse Loop Trail which follows the rim from the Campground to the Overlook and offers some wonderful views of the canyon below. You can pick it up at the trail head just before the Overlook or at campsite #5.
The other trail is the Tuckup Trail, a 6 mile roundtrip trail that goes around the Toroweap area. It can be accessed at campsite #10 or on the road just before the campground.
You can obtain more information in a link for the National Park Service website for Toroweap below.
What you need to get there
- A high clearance four wheel drive. Although the majority of the way there was on maintained dirt road, once you reach the sign indicating that you are entering the Grand Canyon National Park, the road literally goes to pot. It is not maintained. And in some cases you think you are on a cow path! I guess the National Park Service figures that it will keep the number of visitors down if the road is not well maintained!
Some of the washboarding and deep dust and sand pockets on the road to the overlook after leaving the Ranger's Station. [Photo taken with Samsung Galaxy Note 2]
- You will need water - there isn't any at the campsite or anywhere once you leave AZ 389. Bring lots of water, especially in the summer months as it is very hot and dry.
- You will need a full size spare tire and a tire patch kit. People often rip their tires on these roads, and the cost to have your vehicle towed will be north of $1000 - if you have cellphone reception to call someone. The donut tires that come with cars will be shredded by these roads. Don't use them, you will regret it! Also make sure you have a compressor to fill a flat tire once you have patched a hole if you hit a particularly sharp rock and it punctures your tire.
- You will want to carry extra gas as fuel mileage on rough roads drops significantly. A spare 5 gallon gas can may become your best friend!
- Camping gear if you are planning to spend the night. And have plenty of warm clothing! We didn't bring that much warm clothing and once the sun set, it got cold pretty quickly. Have warm clothing - even in summer, the desert cools off quickly once the sun sets!
Toroweap Overlook at Grand Canyon National Park (north rim in the Arizona strip) at dusk.
For other Grand Canyon North Rim locations to visit, click here