|Rock Garden - Grand Canyon Routes|
Apache Point Trail
16 April, 2008
The trail location is perfectly correctly marked on the 7.5min survey but the trail has become disused and eroded and effectively is not a real trail anymore.
Access is controlled by the Havasupai Tribe even though Apache Point is within Park Service lands. Tribal policy is generally understood to allow access to the backcountry use areas below the rim with payment of the standard fee for crossing tribal lands in this area. Continue west from the Pasture Wash turn and find a suitable access road north to reduce foot travel distance. There is a cemetery located in the area west of Pasture Wash do not use this road and keep away from the cemetery grounds if you are traveling along the rim. Navigation through the forest and scrub over gradually sloping terrain is problematic and GPS is suggested, although map navigation is entirely workable with some care.
Map study is useful in locating the break off the rim as there is almost no hint when you are there. Descend an easy downclimb and continue to the saddle separating Apache Point from the rim. Looking over the east side provides a direct view down onto the descent ravine through the Coconino. This is a good time to assess the situation and decide if you really want to do this because it is not going to get any easier than it looks if there was not any trail at all down this ravine because effectively there is not!! Notes from GCT-1 indicate that there is also a way through the cliff below to the west onto the Esplanade there.
Around the Point
From the saddle, the track immediately becomes very ambiguous. Most sign of recent activity appears to be elk coming down to browse the Toroweap slopes. Descend a short way almost straight down just beyond the saddle. Look for elk droppings or other sign of travel more-or-less level going to the next visible ridge. Cross the apex of the ridge and lose some elevation to the flat above the next point. The track becomes more evident as a path through cryptobiotic soils along the edge of the Coconino cliff. Continue level on this track to the center of the descent ravine.
Cross through the crumbly center of the ravine and up onto the next slope. This is a place to look around and consider how this access came to be. A spectacular view of the descent ravine and Royal Arch amphitheater is offered from the end point of the cliff on the southeast. It appears that the wall of the ridgeline of Apache Point at the head of the bay was the result of a major landslide or slump over the cliff and filling in this small bay. The remains of the slide make a continuous rocky slope in the middle of the bay with minor drainages forming on either side. Descend from the top of this slope which soon becomes alarmingly steep. Follow a faint line toward the opposing cliff and the parallel ravine. Look for a switchback pattern although there is not really much trailbed. Go left onto the middle of the slope between the two ravines and continue working any viable switchback pattern. Some remains of trailbed can be found on either side of the slope. Eventually all trail sign disappears above a severely eroded area with some reasonable access to the rocky bed of the southern drainage near the cliiff. Descend to meet the cliff where the debris that fills the ravine becomes more stable.
Slope to Esplanade
The mapped trail continues to follow the debris slope between the two ravines. Attempts by some in the group to locate and follow any trail signs were not very succesful. The southern ravine bed can be descended all the way, but there are numerous minor climbs or bypasses to make this work and any large boulders could be unstable and unsafe. Previous experience with difficult off-trail conditions would be very helpful and hikers in a group perhaps should divide into smaller groups and avoid travel when anyone is in the ravine below there would be no escape from any rockfall from above for anyone in the ravine.
From the base of the descent the trail goes in either direction and is somewhat evident going west, crossing an eroded area in the largest of the drainages here, continuing to the far tip of the Apache Point ridgeline to the west. A good track on the Esplanade east leads to the head of Royal Arch drainage and on to connect with South Bass; this section was also on the map as a trail, but rarely traveled in recent times and not evident on hard surfaces.
Definitely a problem. Both visits here including an advance hike just to place a water supply.
Difficulty and Appeal
This place presents challenges of difficult navigation, difficult terrain, and essentially no water sources most seasons. The route provides access to the Esplanade west to Fossil Bay, and for anyone wishing to attempt a repeat of The Man Who Walked Through Time this will be a critical essential access.