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Toroweap

A part of Grand Canyon National Park, Toroweap, also known as Tuweep, is unlike anything tourists get to experience on the North or South Rims further upstream. The canyon in Toroweap is almost as deep as it is wide, and nearly vertical dropoffs are sure to keep vertigo challenged people away from the edge. It is almost 3,000 feet from the rim down to the Colorado River whose rapids can be heard all the way to the rim. Protected from hordes of tourists by its remote location, Toroweap ranks high on my list of must-see places.

My last visit came a long time ago, back in 2001 to be exact. Given that my wish of a snow-covered Zion National Park was not going to be realized, I looked for another attractive destination for my four day trip, and thought of Toroweap, looking for some solitude away from the crowds. Solitude is hard to find these days. The internet has motivated a lot more people to go and see places. At the same time, technology has made their travel a lot less challenging. As a result, many places suffer from a Facebook/Instagram effect by being overrun by crowds of me-too visitors out to brag how far they made it. This has afflicted even spots famous for photography as a line of tripods is now the norm at many of the notorious sites.

There is hope that Toroweap will be spared this fate. The dirt road that leads to it is almost 60 miles long. Its last section calls for a 4WD, and there is nothing but nature at the end of it. Nevertheless, my initial research revealed that times are a changin' even at Toroweap - camping there now requires a backcountry permit.

It turned out I was the only camper there for the two nights I stayed. As a ranger told me on the way out, of the 7 billion people on the planet, I was the only one with the idea. Now, that is solitude.


Gallery of my favorite photos


Trip

The beginning of my trip was not quite unlike my last visit. I flew into Las Vegas, rented a car and drove from there. After grabbing a sandwich in Colorado City, I applied for a backcountry permit in Pipe Spring National Monument. They faxed my application over to the South Rim office, but the timing was such that I had to wait for rangers there to come back from lunch. I used the time to explore the small monument, established around a spring that created an oasis important to both native tribes and early settlers. Finally, my newly issued permit was faxed back, and I was good to go.

It is almost 54 miles on dirt roads to the Toroweap Ranger Station. A volunteer ranger checked my permit. Beyond the station, the road narrows and in the last three miles starts crossing rock slabs. Unlike the the last time, I was driving a new generation Jeep Cherokee whose off-pavement capabilites I had doubts of. No one really drives their SUVs off road. They never did ever since the SUVs became family cars, or rather glorified minivans, and the car manufacturers have gradually replaced them with cross-overs that perform better on asphalt. So I negotiated the road with a lot of care, and finally reached the campground.

As I walked the remaining mile to the overlook, I reminisced about the last time when I camped in one of the two sites right at the overlook. The sites are no more, but other than that, not much has changed. The canyon is still there and it is awe-inspiring!

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Las Vegas airport train I-15 in Virgin River Gorge Longhorn bull Horse Pipe Spring NM Stagecoach
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Mt Trumbull Road Pickup Park sign


Sunset

When I arrived at the overlook, I found three off-road vehicles parked there. Loud music was blasting from one of them into the emptiness. Luckily, the obnoxious tour left shortly, and I was left alone to explore the rim. The sun was hiding behind a thin layer of clouds until finally, shortly before sunset, the sun rays illuminated the landscape.

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Tour vehicle Abyss Colorado River View west Rapids Reflection
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Rim Dead tree Sunset above the Grand Canyon GC sunset in BW


Dusk

After the sun dipped below the horizon, it illuminated the clouds in an amazing display of pink. As much as the diffused light does not really make for great landscape shots, it was great to experience the magical atmosphere.

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Yucca on the edge Dusk
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Toroweap in pink Fish-eye view Warning tree


Dark sky

The nights are dark and quiet at Toroweap. There is no town of any size within 70 miles. Before the moonrise, seemingly an infinity of stars dotted the sky. It was not even very cold with temperatures just above freezing. Even at these latitudes, the nights in the beginning of January are long and I had plenty of time to ponder the emptiness around me.

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Jeep under the stars Jeep under the Milky Way Tent and the stars Fisheye Milky Way


Sunrise

I got up for the sunrise. Some more clouds streamed in overnight, but the sun did break through the gaps at times to illuminate the landscape.

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Dawn at Toroweap Sunrise Dead tree
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Pine tree Side canyon
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Yours truly Tripod at Toroweap Gash Rocks on the edge Yucca Moon above Vulcan's Throne
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Yucca and stratus clouds


Midday wandering

As the middle of the day approached, the sun would enter deeper into the abyss of the canyon. However, the low January sun never rises that high up in the horizon, and the river flowing at the bottom remained shaded. One lone explorer arrived at the overlook. I felt crowded out and retired to my campsite for a lunch.

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Thorny cacti Yucca
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Juniper BW tree Midday sun N8ture Benz
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Balanced Labia of the rock


Afternoon

I followed the Saddle Horse Trail back to the overlook and did more rock hopping along the edges of the canyon until the sun started going down.

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Campsite Vulcan's Throne My shadows Prickly pear Curvy yucca Sunny yuccas
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Colorado River from Toroweap Toroweap overlook Colorado River Lone tree Colors of the reflections Colors of the reflections


Sunset

It was a calm clear sunset without the pink color drama of the previous day, and an opportunity to enjoy the magnificinet views.

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Toroweap a tree skeleton Canyon edges Across the canyon Light on the rocks
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Juniper on the edge Dusk on the edge


Departure

The sun rose behind a thick layer of clouds as if the canyon was telling me to go. I obliged, packed up and drove back to the ranger station where I chatted a bit with the staff. Next up was another canyon - in Zion National Park.

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Lone tree Lone tree Meek sunrise Last look
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Road out Jeep on the rocks Go Jeep! Last 4WD section to Toroweap Desert Jeep on the Toroweap road


Next part: Zion
Last updated: October 20, 2018
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