During our second week of training, our supervisor sent us to Tuweep / Toroweap Overlook of the Grand Canyon. Tuweep has a campground that requires a camping permit and Pipe Spring is one of the places that issues the permit. Because we are the closest physical site to the campground, we get the most requests. So it is important that we know what we are talking about when we issue the permits.
On the designated day, we showed up at headquarters ready to roll. We know that Tuweep is very remote, so we packed lunches and plenty of water. The NPS website for Tuweep says “Services are non-existent: there is no water, gas, food, lodging, or phone service.” They aren’t kidding, which is something we need to impress on people who want to go there.
We expected to take a jeep to Tuweep but the park jeep was out of commission from its last visit to Tuweep. We ended up taking a park service truck, a Ram 3500 dually. Although this is a four wheel drive, high clearance vehicle, the truck has a much stiffer suspension than a jeep. Consequently the ride to Tuweep / Toroweap Overlook was very bumpy.
The road into Tuweep / Toroweap Overlook is at the end of a 60 mile dirt road. The road starts out as “improved.” This means that once a year, usually in the fall after monsoon season, the road gets graded. Before monsoon season, the road is extremely washboardy but it was wide enough for two lanes – one each direction. After about 40 miles, the road is marked “unimproved.” This means it is not graded. The road narrows and becomes much rougher. I sat in the back of the truck and bounced around so much my neck hurt the next day.
After two plus hours, we finally reached the last five miles of road, marked “rough.” There is a small parking lot for vehicles that are not high clearance, just to show you they are serious. This rough road was more rock than road, with no effort to even out the rock surfaces. Rock walls lined the one lane road on either side, with occasional gulches and canyons. Sometimes we couldn’t see where the road went over the hood of the truck. The five miles of rough road took us almost 45 minutes to negotiate.
Finally we reached the Tuweep / Toroweap Overlook of the Grand Canyon. The South Rim of the Grand Canyon got 6.25 million visitors in 2017. The North Rim of the Grand Canyon got 625,000 visitors during the five months it is open. Tuweep / Toroweap Overlook gets fewer than 30,000 visitors per year. The views from Tuweep are as spectacular as any place around the Grand Canyon, but you are likely to have the place all to yourself. On the day we visited, no one was in the campground, and we only saw four other people climbing on the rocks and enjoying the views.
From the overlook you can stand on a cliff that descends 3,000 feet straight down into the Grand Canyon. Although I stayed well away from edge, I had wonderful views of the Colorado River and the rafters braving the rapids below. The canyon is dramatic and austere at this point. Lava Falls highlights the volcanic activity in the area.
The solitude makes the drive worth it, but you shouldn’t go unless you have the proper kind of vehicle. The campground is rustic and quiet. We talked to park guests who stayed there overnight and they said the night sky and the solitude are the best they have ever experienced.
We enjoyed our visit to Tuweep / Toroweap Overlook. Being in Grand Canyon National Park and not surrounded by hoards of people was wonderful. The solitude makes the difficulty getting there worthwhile.