Toroweap Overlook has one of the best views in the solar system. This is an area that I had longed to visit—it’s unlike your usual experience at Grand Canyon. On the more familiar south side of the park, you generally see a vast expanse of canyon terrace landscape, and usually you can’t see the river at all. Toroweap is on the north side of the canyon, where it narrows enough to corral the Colorado River beneath 3,000-foot cliffs and where the larger of the canyon rapids, Lava Falls, lays below.
Toroweap is more difficult to get to than the south side of Grand Canyon. Dropping down out of the southern edge of Utah heading into Arizona, you must take a 61-mile dirt road and arrive at a destination that’s beautifully noncommercial. Be prepared for no water, gas or any comforts. Campsites are low in number and must be reserved. Bring spare tires—yes, more than one recommended. I rescued two ladies who had flats—then I got one myself!
Weather At Toroweap Overlook
The weather on the Colorado Plateau is mostly dry and lacks mountainous terrain to influence local weather patterns. However, this can promote fast-changing weather events—dry and sunny to fast-moving thunderstorms in one short hike. This is especially true during the monsoon season of the late spring and summer months. But, as outdoor photographers are keenly aware, weather can make for the best photo opportunities right alongside the worst photo experiences. Otherwise, hot and dry days are normal. Winter can be particularly brutal with snow, ice and freezing wind.
I wanted a little different shot of this overlook. What did that mean? I scaled down part of the cliffs where some other photographers refused to try to go. That just made me think that there was a good photograph hiding. It was getting dark, but sunset was the time of day that I needed for this shot. I just hoped that the darkening climb back up wouldn’t make me regret the “portents of doom” from other onlookers. Yeah, it scared the hell out of me, even with great caution.
“Canyon Dreams” is one of the last images of Toroweap looking west that I took that day. I love how the depth of the canyon is showcased as the last rays of the setting sun warm the cliffs to the left. This image shows this grand vista from a little below the cliffs instead of the usual top-of-the-rim shots where most photographs are made. I especially like the looming cliffs on the right side of the image and then the blazing sunlit cliffs on the other. This photo poetically captures and conveys the enormous feel of the entire experience. OP
I’d pick spring and summer as the best times for camping, photography and exploring. Be prepared for hot weather but beautiful, cool nights. (It’s also a fantastic place for astrophotography due to exquisite darkness.) I choose this time due to the dynamic weather for photography, but if it’s more hiking and comfort you’re looking for, spring and fall might be the best seasons. Also, the weather difference between the South Rim of Grand Canyon and the North where Toroweap is located can be striking, so watch the weather forecasts and plan ahead to suit your planned activities.
Contact: National Park Service, nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/tuweep.htm.
See more of Craig Bill’s work at craigbill.com.