Exploration of Nankoweap Canyon
19-25 Oct 1992 -- Trip Leader: Doug Nering
Doug Nering and Danny Weimer (and Evar Nering 22 May 93).
Every aspect of the route was as advertised in the description provided by the NPS Backcountry Office. The approach trail from the rim to the saddle into Nankoweap is easy enough and quite pretty except for the thornbushes. The alternate approach through House Rock Valley and Saddle Creek requires more effort (distance and elevation).
The initial descent through the Supai is in relatively good shape and the trail then follows an easy slope toward Marion Point along the 7200 foot level. The trail is not easily mapped because many parts are actually overhung. Just below Saddle Mountain is the first bad spot as the trail is pinched out on a ledge for about 15 feet. The footing is firm enough and level so that if you have no concern for the dropoff it is quite safe, but the narrow tread and drop were too much for me. Here we managed to descend 50 feet, work along another ledge, and come back up around the point. This was our choice, but the bypass was not really any safer. In all, we expended 2 hours in indecision, exploration, and passage.
The trail stays high, just below the cliff around Marion Point, which has a good view and campsite. The track continues up and down, over and around boulders, and hanging on bushes around the corners, so close attention is required as to footing, balance, and staying to the track, especially after a rain has washed away sign of travel. There are another half-dozen or so narrow and exposed spots, but none more than 2 or 3 steps.
As the trail comes out onto the point above the neck to Tilted Mesa there is a view down into upper Little Nankoweap. The trail immediately goes to the right and descends a small cliff, and then another. At the lowest point of the neck is the tipoff to the Redwall.
The upper part of the Redwall is in very good condition. At a saddle above a small limestone tower the trail begins a lengthy traverse down the slope, still with good footing. Somewhere around the 5200 foot level the trail goes directly down a ridge with a few trees. Below, the trail continues to get steeper and the footing worse. Where the trail cuts to the right down the side of a small ravine another "trail-of-error" continues left. After a short traverse to the right above a cliff, the route descends another ridge and cuts back to the left along the shale under the Muav cliff and passes out onto easier slopes.
The merely steep lower section of the trail is a relief after the Redwall and Muav. Some of this looks like part of the original trail construction, but most is just a route of convenience; at one point a piece of the old trail crosses at right angles. There is a surprise when a row of ducks leads to the right across a fine gray shale slope to a saddle (the only campsite between Tilted Mesa and the creekbed). Beyond the saddle the route descends a steep slope to the point of a long ridge. Though there is little sign of travel here, the route follows the peak of this ridge down to the flats and to the creekbed.
There are good campsites here with springs above and below where the trail joins the creek. The beach area is an easy hour walk down the creek.