Rock Garden - Grand Canyon Routes

Exploration of Tabernacle Route, ?? May 1997


Tabernacle Route is one of so many accesses credited to the early explorations of Harvey Butchart. He found several ways off the Tonto here and this is the easiest of those and now a common day-hike from the river. This is an important connection from the east end of the northside Tonto Platform to the broad river basin in the Unkar area.

The Route

Rattlesnake Camp

"Rattlesnake" is the rafter name for this place; I suppose we can guess why. To locate the route from the bottom, go upriver from the beach at Mile 74 toward the mouth of Birdfoot Canyon. The route goes up over rock ledges onto the downriver slope of the canyon opening and seeks the apex of the ridgeline leading northwest. This ridgeline is broken in places by harder rock layers making small climbs or a bypass along the slope. Once through these obstacles in the lower layers, the route ascends the top of the ridgeline relentlessly toward the Tapeats breakdown at the point. South-facing Dox slopes are blazing hot in summer and this one catches early sun.

Tapeats Breakdown

There is no cliff here. The Tapeats rim is broken up and the route passes through an area of many large sandstone boulders. It is indistinct, but trends generally toward the north side of the point and reaches a large flat area on top of the Tapeats. From here, the route goes northwest across the northeast slope of The Tabernacle to a broad saddle. There may be more than one faint trail.

If contouring the Tonto toward Asbestos Canyon is the objective rather than the top, the south slope of Tabernacle is more direct but there is no trail use along here.

To the Top

The route to the top may be indistinct depending on recent rainfall or use. The route goes around the western side of the slope, requires a small climb up at a low cliff, and soon reaches the summit. This is one of those very rare accessible summits in Grand Canyon with a 360 degree view, augmented by a spectacular panorama upriver.


The river.


The principle characteristic is the rate of elevation gain, which is not overly steep, but there is a lot of it (1600 feet). No more nor less than is needed to get to the top. This goes well as a day-hike, but requires more cautious maneuvering with a pack.


Useful access connecting Unkar to Asbestos. Great view from the top of The Tabernacle.


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