Rock Garden - Grand Canyon Routes

Big Saddle Cowboy Trail

20-22 October, 2008


Several trails were constructed off the rim in this area and this is the least-known least-traveled of the three that remain. The earliest access was just west of Crazy Jug Point. Although there was an established early historic trail for mining and geological exploration in the period of initial discovery (see Crazy Jug Route), that access was abandoned and replaced by a constructed cattle trail from Big Saddle Camp into the head of Crazy Jug Canyon. The trail remains today as an easy access to the Esplanade east of Crazy Jug Point — numerous small camps, gear and trash piles can be found from the relatively recent cowboy era.


Locate Big Saddle Camp on the topo and leave the main road directly south to the low place along the rim at the head of Crazy Jug Canyon. Some abandoned corrals and old fencing near the rim. A loop road continues up the west slope and connects near Crazy Jug Point overlook. Crazy Jug Monocline creates a large offset in the rock layers here as it crosses the rim and forms the valley to the north. Find the trail leaving the rim along the east slope of the valley where the Kaibab Plateau rises up to the east, and the fault breaks through the layers and the trail begins to angle across the slope toward Saddle Canyon underneath the rising plateau.

The Route

The initial trail construction is very evident with the remains of a barbwire gate. Follow the trailbed which is in very good condition and continues open and relatively level along the overgrown Toroweap slope. Other signs of historic use include a cement water basin and a fence barrier to keep stock from straying out onto the point just before the descent down a steep Coconino ravine. Follow the track west under the Coconino cliff from the base of the ravine. Trail conditions gradually deteriorate, but it appears there has been some maintenance here. A significant cairn marks where the descent joins the old trail along the Esplanade, but may require some luck in routefinding to discover this location.


Immediately downslope into the bed of the drainage from the east there is an excellent water source supplied from Crazy Jug Spring marked above the Coconino. Some notable trail construction appears crossing this drainange and going up the opposing slope to get onto the Esplanade east of Crazy Jug. Another spring out on the Esplanade is associated with a nearby cowboy camp and a few scattered artifacts beneath an overhang — one of many minor camps that may be found on the Esplanade in this locale.

Continuing south on the Esplanade will lead to a descent route on the spine of the ridge dividing Crazy Jug and Parasswampitts. The route shows signs of improved access at crtical points, suggesting this was once an Anasazi trail. Make the final descent on the Crazy Jug side of the ridge to avoid a Redwall obstacle in Parasswampitts — if there is no surface water flowing then look for a pool here. Immediately opposite this junction is a camp area showing evidence of an ancient agave roasting site.

Crazy Jug Narrows

Lower Crazy Jug is a rarely visited and entirely worthwhile destination. The narrows jump from one side of the faultline to the other, alternating open slopes and high walls. Minor obstacles are typical for a place like this and generally not very difficult to get up or down or around. Eventually, there is a major pouroff that prevents reaching the main bed of Saddle Canyon downstream. Wreckage from a 1985 fatal crash is somewhere in the narrows below the pouroff.

Narrows Bypass

The west slope between two narrow sections provides an access to get above the Redwall without too much elevation — two cairns on this slope show previous travel through here. The bench above the Redwall is overgrown with numerous difficult desert plant varieties — travel is not especially easy and takes more time than may be expected from map study. At the saddle behind elevation 5163 the bypass joins the Redwall break up from lower Crazy Jug. There is some dramatic erosion and slumping here; the upper route onto the Esplanade can be located in a Supai cliff section above.

Redwall Break

Descend the east slope and seek for a crevice providing an easy break to the next level down. Follow the track south to a steep loose ravine off this narrow bench. Continue descending very difficult terrain going north to a breakdown and minor downclimb — the extreme loose conditions require careful travel and use of footing. Descend going south again as the slope begins to ease. There are two different tracks known. One goes direct to a crevice above where Crazy Jug joins Saddle Canyon (short but not recommended). The other cuts back north toward the mouth of Timp Canyon — both side-canyons on the opposite wall appear to be reliable water sources and the bed of Crazy Jug should have water flowing across the Muav slabs. A significant Muav waterfall is the final obstacle — descend creek-left and avoid the narrow severely exposed sheep track on creek-right.

Difficulty and Appeal

This works as a loop-hike from the Crazy Jug and Monument Point area, with access to Tapeats Cave, Shinumo section of Tapeats Creek, and Thunder River. Find real wilderness adventure and remote experience in a place that is very accessible from the FS road system. Water supplies are limited and serious off-trail navigation skills will be essential for a successful trip.


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