Expedition Planner: Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, AZ
The best places to hike are in the wilderness areas, where motorized travel is prohibited:
Grand Wash Cliffs Wilderness
This jagged, multicolored escarpment in the western portion of the monument has long fascinated geologists. The cliffs mark a unique geologic crossroad where the Basin and Range region of the western United States intersects with the Colorado Plateau. The formation is broken into two sets of sheer cliffs within the 36,300-acre Grand Wash Wilderness that are connected by a plateaulike bench.
The way: The wilderness is located in the western part of the monument, near the Arizona/Nevada border. The north and south trailheads of the Bench Trail can be reached via Grand Wash Road.
Trails: The 12-mile (one way) Grand Gulch Bench Trail traverses the length of the wilderness over its namesake terrain. With the upper cliffs as a dramatic backdrop, you can take it easy and stick to the gentle bench, or you can make a challenging detour and cut down to some of the canyons slicing through the lower cliffs.
Season: Spring and fall are best for hiking; summer highs can reach the triple digits, and access roads are often snow-covered in winter.
Guides: USGS 7.5-minute quads St. George Canyon, Cane Springs SE, Last Chance Canyon, Olaf Knolls, Mustang Point, and Grand Gulch Bench (888-ASK-USGS; http://
ask.usgs.gov; $4 each).
With elevations ranging from 2,000 to 8,000 feet, the Paiute houses diverse vegetation ranging from desert Joshua trees to alpine Douglas firs. The most scenic section of the Virgin Mountains is protected within this 88,000-acre wilderness area.
The way: The wilderness is located in the far northwestern corner of the monument. The north Sullivan Canyon trailhead is in the Virgin River Gorge Recreation Area campground, 16 miles southwest of St. George, Utah, via I-15.
Trails: The 15-mile (one way) Sullivan Canyon Trail, which heads north from the Virgin River Gorge and traverses the length of the wilderness to reach the 8,000-foot summit of Mt. Bangs, is a challenging hike that showcases the area’s varied terrain and vegetation. You can detour onto the Atkin Springs or Virgin Ridge Trails. The only catch with this trek is that you’ll have to ford the Virgin River, which may be impossible during spring or periods of heavy run-off.
Season: Fall is most pleasant, but its varied elevation means this wilderness can be enjoyed during any season.
Guides: USGS 7.5-minute quads Littlefield Mountain, Sheep Spring, Elbow Canyon, Mount Bangs, Jacobs Well, Cane Springs, Purgatory Canyon, Wolf Hole Mountain, and Mustang Knoll (888-ASK-USGS; http://ask.usgs.gov; $4 each).
Mt. Trumbull and Mt. Logan Wilderness Areas
Located in the southeastern part of the monument near the national park boundary, these two wilderness areas offer spectacular views of the Shivwits Plateau and Grand Canyon. As both are cool, forested environs above 5,000 feet in elevation, they’re also the most pleasant places in the monument to hike during summer.
The way: Both Mt. Trumbull and
Mt. Logan can be reached via the long and bumpy Mt. Trumbull/ Toroweap Road, 8 miles west of Fredonia, Arizona, off AZ 389.
Trails: Neither the Mt. Trumbull (7,800 acres) nor the Mt. Logan (14,600 acres) areas have backpacking trails, but cross-country hiking through the areas’ ponderosa pine forests is relatively easy. If your goal is a campsite with a Grand Canyon view, head to the top of either of these volcanic mountains, or stick to the southwest ridge of Mt. Logan. If you’re more interested in adventure than a vista, hike through the southern portion of the Mt. Logan Wilderness, around the black cinder cones and into Hells Hollow canyon.
Season: Visit in summer and early fall; roads are usually inaccessible in winter and spring.
Guides: USGS 7.5-minute quads Mt. Trumbull NW, Mt. Trumbull NE, Mt. Trumbull SE, Mt. Logan, and Cold Spring (888-ASK-USGS; http://ask.usgs.gov; $4 each).
Permits: Not required.
Cautions: Although there are a few springs along the hiking routes described, they are unreliable and nonexistent during droughts. Carry all your drinking water. Before heading out, check with the BLM Information Center in St. George (see Contact) for road conditions and water availability. If you’re driving very far into the monument, carry two spare tires and extra food and water. There is no cell phone service in the region.
Guides: The BLM’s Arizona Strip map ($6) offers an overview of the region and is essential for navigating the monument’s backcountry roads. The map and other regional guidebooks can be purchased online at the Web site below.
Contact: Arizona Strip Field Office and Information Center, (435) 688-3200; http://azstrip.az.blm.gov.