I just received a permit for a 6 day 5 night backpack in one of the more remote and beautiful areas of the Grand Canyon. The trip is rated difficult as the hike in and out will be about 11 miles each way. We will access the Nankoweep Trail from the Lower Saddle Mountain Trailhead, since the North Rim is closed till May. This means there will be some uphill hiking (about 1,000 feet) on the first day with a full pack. I did the Nankoweep Trail about 8 years ago, around the same time of the year, and there was still snow from the Lower Trailhead to the junction where the Lower and Upper Saddle Mountain Trails meet, marking the beginning of the Nankoweep Trail. When I went the first time I researched the trail and read many testimonials where people turned around as the exposure along several spots where the trail is narrow and slippery frightened people. When I did it, the exposure did not bother me at all. However, if the fear of heights bothers you, this may not be a backpack that you would enjoy. Here’s the itinerary:
Saturday, March 18: Drive to the Saddle Mountain Trail along the Marble Platform and camp.
Sunday, March 19: A difficult 11 mile hike to Nankoweep Creek. Some exposure and scrambling along the way. Not a good hike for anyone who is afraid of heights or exposure.
Monday, March 20: Off-trail route up to the saddle between Nankoweep Butte and Mesa before heading down into Kwagunt Creek Canyon. We’ll look for a good spot to make camp once in the drainage.
Tuesday, March 21: Off-trail down Kwagunt Creek to Colorado River where we will set up camp and relax.
Wednesday, March 22: Off-trail route up and along the Colorado River to Nankoweep Creek.
Thursday, March 23: Explore the area around the mouth of Nankoweep Creek (ruins in photo and short non-technical section of the Little Nankoweep slot canyon) before packing up and spending the night along Nankoweep Creek near where the trail goes back up Tilted Mesa.
Friday, March 24: Hike out (5,000 feet of gain in 11 miles)
Saturday, March 25: Head home or join me for some outstanding off-trail hiking along the rim of Marble Canyon. The last time I did this I was treated to amazing views and even discovered a few ruins along the way. If we are feeling strong, we could also do a day hike to the river via South Canyon and visit Vasey’s Paradise.
Sunday, March 26: Back to Albuquerque
FYI: Although I disagree, most guide books say the Nankoweep Trail is the most difficult trail in the National Park.
Special Gear: Ratsack, wire mesh, or bear container to store food so critters can’t steal it. We can share a group water-filter and take turns carrying it. Bring a piece of 30-50 foot cord to hang things from. Water is non-existent at the trail head. Make sure to bring enough water for car camping and day hiking after the backpack. It may be very cold at the car camp site. We can make a fire if you bring wood.
Permit Fees: The Grand Canyon charges $8.00 per night for each person that is added to my permit. There was also a $10 permit fee. Plan on paying me $42 if you wish to join. The permit fee is non-refundable. I’d like to receive payment before I apply to add people to my permit. You will need to commit to the trip and pay me, by March 10. If something happens, and I cannot make it due to an injury or illness, I will refund your money.
Trailhead access: Forest Road 8910, along House Rock Valley, can be difficult if wet or snow covered. 4WD and/or high clearance is recommended under these conditions.
National Park Nankoweep Trail Description (does not include Kwagunt Creek route info): https://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/upload/Nankoweap_Trail.pdf
Dangers: Slips or falls that could result in injuries or death, hypothermia, and poor weather.
Disclaimer: Hiking and scrambling has inherent dangers that could result in serious injuries or death. Hike leader is not a guide or a professional, just a hiker like you who would like to share the experience with others. If you join me, you agree to do so at your own risk.
How to join: I will only consider adding people I have hiked with. If you have never hiked with me, join a hike I lead before March 10. If you want to join me put yourself on the wait-list. I can add 5 people to my permit.