If you go to the North Rim or South Rim of the Grand Canyon, you'll get some incredible views and a sense of how expansive the Grand Canyon really is - however, you won't be able to see the Colorado River that carved the Grand Canyon over millions of years. There are few places where you can see the Colorado River from the Rim of the Grand Canyon, but Toroweap is one of them, and perhaps the best of them. Even though it is quite remote and takes some planning and preparation to get here, it is definitely worth the effort.
I've back-packed, rafted, run from rim to rim and even mountain biked the rainbow trail on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, but seeing the canyon and river below from the Toroweap overlook was a unique and awe inspiring experience. It gave me a greater sense of the sheer beauty and depth of the canyon that I hadn't experienced on my previous trips.
Getting to Toroweap is a bit of a trek on remote dirt roads that are impassable in winter and bad weather. You can actually reach the Toroweap Overlook and the Tuweep campground from St. George Utah, Colorado City, or Fredonia Arizona. While the recommended route is from Fredonia, I made the trek from Colorado City on a warm and sunny spring day. I used a side by side to navigate the 56 mile dirt road, but the road is in good enough shape that most any two wheel drive car can make it within 2.7 miles of the overlook.
At 2.7 miles from the overlook, its recommended that if you are not in a high clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle that you park in the parking lot and hike the rest of the way. It isn't too technical, but you definitely want something with clearance like a truck or SUV as there are some rocky spots. There is a National Park Service outpost about 3 miles before the low-clearance lot and 6 miles from the rim, typically staffed by volunteers who can answer questions and provide general information. For more information on the different routes, general conditions and items to make sure you have in the car, check out this additional information from the National Park Service.
The overlook is simply stunning! Three thousand vertical feet below the rim the Colorado River winds its way through the sandstone of the Grand Canyon. Take some time to explore along the rim of the Canyon and take in the different views looking both East and West.
Looking West down river you can see the largest and most treacherous rapid in the Grand Canyon. Known as Lava Falls, because it is technically a waterfall, it is the only class 10 rapid on the river (using the Grand Canyon rating scale). From the overlook, it doesn't look much more than a riffle, but having experienced the rapid first hand, I can attest it is substantial. Take care as you explore the overlook and rim, as it is the definition of a sheer drop off.
There is one picnic table at the overlook with a great view for a picnic. There is also a compost restroom facility with perhaps the best view of any outhouse in the national park system. For those that want to stretch their legs, there are two hiking trails at the overlook. The Saddle Horse Loop Trail is just under a mile, and the Tuckup Trail is a 6 mile round trip hike to Cove Canyon. Both provide spectacular views along the rim of the canyon and are well worth the effort.
The drive from Colorado City to Toroweap is through dry desert and sparse grassland used to graze cattle. One would hardly guess that at the end of a rather mundane looking desert landscape would be a unique viewpoint of one of the natural wonders of the world. Plan on at least 2 hours to get to the overlook from Colorado city and at least a couple of hours to spend at the overlook. Keep in mind that the road, especially around Clayhole wash becomes impassable in wet conditions.
The Saturday morning we visited Toroweap, there were quite a few visitors and the parking lot at the rim was nearly full with about 20 cars. I have been told that was a bit of an anomaly and usually there are few visitors at this remote outpost, but like most outdoor destinations it seems to be growing in popularity.
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