Nankoweap Trail

 
This long, rough trail is a challenge to most hikers, but it leads into the beautiful Nankoweap Creek area with its permanent stream and easy access to the river. There are two trailheads for the Nankoweap Trail; most hikers use the Saddle Mountain Trailhead. To reach this trailhead, turn south on Buffalo Ranch Road about a mile east of the point where US 89A climbs onto the Kaibab Plateau. This graded road is passable to most vehicles, except after a major storm. It's 27.4 miles south to the signed trailhead for the Saddle Mountain and Nankoweap trails.
 
Follow the Saddle Mountain Trail down into Saddle Canyon, where you'll come to a junction and stay right on the Nankoweap Trail. This trail continues up Saddle Canyon and eventually climbs up a ridge through ponderosa pine forest to reach a large saddle just west of Saddle Mountain. (The original, seldom-used upper Nankoweap Trail descends from the North Rim north of Point Imperial, and comes in from the right just above this saddle). The Nankoweap Trail descends into the Grand Canyon via a series of short switchbacks but soon levels out and follows a terrace at the base of the Esplanade Sandstone (the uppermost cliff in the Supai Group.) It stays at this level, descending slowly with the tilt in the rock strata, all the way to Tilted Mesa. There is one tricky place where the original trail construction has fallen away and the hiker-maintained trail crosses a short but steep slope above a cliff. This spot is usually no trouble when the trail is dry, but can be a problem when the trail is muddy.
 
Just above Tilted Mesa, the Nankoweap Trail descends a ridge through the remainder of the Supai Group, then turns right and switchbacks down a broad slope through the Redwall Limestone. The trail then heads generally southeast and comes out on the Tonto slope south of Tilted Mesa. It makes the final descent to Nankoweap Creek at the 3400-foot elevation contour. There are several spacious campsites here that you can use as a base for exploring Nankoweap Creek as well as south along the Horsethief Route. You can also follow Nankoweap Creek downstream to the Colorado River.