Vermilion Cliffs on the Marble Canyon Loop Trail

Although I still have seven stops on the Marble Canyon Loop Trail, I will cover all of them today.  We drove by most of them and I have written about one of them before.  So they won’t get the detail that I gave some of the previous stops.  The area of the Marble Canyon Loop Trail that runs through the Arizona Strip is dominated by the Vermilion Cliffs and the cliffs will be my focus here.

Vermilion Cliffs behind Pipe Spring National Monument – my view every day!

Stop #7 on the Marble Canyon Loop Trail is (finally) Marble Canyon.  Marble Canyon is the beginning of the Grand Canyon but is a beautiful place in and of itself.  Most people who see the canyon do so from the river.  The trails to the canyon are strenuous and there is only one very rough dirt road that takes you to the canyon rim.  The cool, green waters of the Colorado contrast with the vivid blue sky and the colorful walls of the canyon.  You can stay overnight in the rustic Marble Canyon Lodge which includes a restaurant and bar.

Stop #6 is the Cliff Dwellers Lodge.  Originally a 1920’s trading post, the lodge is stone and timber with a restaurant.  Behind the lodge are ruins of homes built by the Ancient Ones in the overhangs of fallen rocks.

Stop #5 is the Condor Viewing Site.  A number of condors roost on top of the Vermilion Cliffs and you can sometimes see them flying overhead.  The viewing site has some information about the condors and their reintroduction to the area.  We did not see any condors despite driving along this road several times a month.

Stop #4 is the Vermilion Cliffs Overlook.  Because Vermilion Cliffs is designated a National Monument, operated by the Bureau of Land Management, people often ask us where the Visitors Center is.  There isn’t a Visitors Center for Vermilion Cliffs.  The entire Arizona Strip is bounded to the north by the Vermilion Cliffs, although only a small portion of it is part of the monument.  So we have lived at the base of the Vermilion Cliffs all summer even though we are not in the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument.  The Vermilion Cliffs is the second step of the five geologic steps in the Grand Staircase of the Colorado Plateau.

Lefevre Overlook

Stop #3 is one of my favorites and I wrote about it a while ago:  Jacob Lake Inn.  Of course we had to stop and get some of their world famous cookies.  We had worked hard following the Marble Canyon Trail all day.  The cookies were just as delicious as ever!

Stop #2 is Lefevre Overlook where you can see all five steps of the Grand Staircase at once.  Because the Grand Staircase is so vast, it is difficult to see all five steps at one time.  The Grand Staircase is the edge of the Colorado Plateau and extends from Bryce to the Grand Canyon.  From Lefevre Overlook you can see, in order, Chocolate Cliffs, Vermilion Cliffs, White Cliffs, Grey Cliffs, and Pink Cliffs.  This is our favorite diagram of the Grand Staircase and the one Tom uses in his geology talks.

The Wave

The final stop on the Marble Canyon Loop Tour (Stop #1) is the Grand Staircase Escalante Visitors Center in Kanab.  This is an excellent little Visitors Center with lots of good, up-to-date information.  We stopped in there whenever we were planning an adventure in the area to make sure roads and trails were open.  If you want to hike The Wave, you have to participate in a lottery the day before.  Permits are hard to get and the hike itself is difficult, especially in summer.  Tourists die every year doing this hike.

And, finally, we are at the end of the Marble Canyon Loop Trail.  Following the trail is a great way to see the Arizona Strip and the interesting sites around it.  You can do it in a day, but you might want to plan for a week.  It is beautiful, remote, and interesting.