Backpacking the Amazing Arizona Trail: Passage 39, Grand Canyon National Park North Rim, Part II (Day 7, Part III)

Day 14 hiking across Utah and Arizona, from Lee’s Ferry to the Mexico border. Hiking across Lindbergh Hill, the Arizona Trail rolls southward through the aspens to AZ-67, then crosses and joins a road following an old power corridor south toward the North Rim through a mix of aspens and pines to reach the Widforss Trailhead.

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Arizona Trail looking toward Lindbergh Hill, Grand Canyon National Park
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Arizona Trail on Lindbergh Hill AZT Passage 39 (Grand Canyon North Rim)
Grand Canyon National Park
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Backpacking the Arizona Trail, east side of AZ-67 crossing
AZT Passage 39 (Grand Canyon North Rim)
Grand Canyon National Park
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Hiking the Arizona Trail, east side of AZ-67 crossing
AZT Passage 39 (Grand Canyon North Rim)
Grand Canyon National Park

The Arizona Trail almost directly parallels AZ-67, rolling through the hills beside. It crosses the road and follows an old utility corridor down the west side past Thompson Canyon to the Widforss Trailhead past more magnificent aspen foliage. At Widforss, a strange situation arises.

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Backpacking the Arizona Trail, east side of AZ-67 crossing
AZT Passage 39 (Grand Canyon North Rim)
Grand Canyon National Park
Hiking the Arizona Trail, west side of AZ-67 crossing
AZT Passage 39 (Grand Canyon North Rim)
Grand Canyon National Park
Backpacking the Arizona Trail south of AZ-67 crossing
AZT Passage 39 (Grand Canyon North Rim)
Grand Canyon National Park
Hiking the Arizona Trail south of AZ-67 crossing
AZT Passage 39 (Grand Canyon North Rim)
Grand Canyon National Park
Backpacking the Arizona Trail south of AZ-67 crossing
AZT Passage 39 (Grand Canyon North Rim)
Grand Canyon National Park
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Hiking the Arizona Trail south of AZ-67 crossing
AZT Passage 39 (Grand Canyon North Rim)
Grand Canyon National Park
Backpacking the Arizona Trail south of AZ-67 crossing
AZT Passage 39 (Grand Canyon North Rim)
Grand Canyon National Park
Hiking the Arizona Trail south of AZ-67 crossing, Grand Canyon National Park
AZT Passage 39 (Grand Canyon North Rim)
Grand Canyon National Park
Hiking the Arizona Trail south of AZ-67 crossing
AZT Passage 39 (Grand Canyon North Rim)
Grand Canyon National Park
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Backpacking the Arizona Trail south of AZ-67 crossing
AZT Passage 39 (Grand Canyon North Rim)
Grand Canyon National Park
Squirrel in conifer tree, possibly a Kaibab squirrel. Hard to see from this angle whether it has tufted ears or not.
AZT Passage 39 (Grand Canyon North Rim)
Grand Canyon National Park
Hiking the Arizona Trail south of AZ-67 crossing
AZT Passage 39 (Grand Canyon North Rim)
Grand Canyon National Park
Backpacking the the Arizona Trail south of AZ-67 crossing
AZT Passage 39 (Grand Canyon North Rim)
Grand Canyon National Park
Hiking the Arizona Trail south of AZ-67 crossing
AZT Passage 39 (Grand Canyon North Rim)
Grand Canyon National Park
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Backpacking the the Arizona Trail south of AZ-67 crossing
AZT Passage 39 (Grand Canyon North Rim)
Grand Canyon National Park
Hiking the Arizona Trail south of AZ-67 crossing
AZT Passage 39 (Grand Canyon North Rim)
Grand Canyon National Park
Backpacking the the Arizona Trail south of AZ-67 crossing
AZT Passage 39 (Grand Canyon North Rim)
Grand Canyon National Park

When I reach the trailhead, I notice that the Widforss Trail is blocked off, which is strange since we had been informed that area was still open and accessible despite the Ikes Fire to the west. An LE ranger approaches me and asks if I’m a thruhiker, and I say yes, that I came from just outside the park. He asks if I saw anything unusual on the trail, and signs of a fire or anything. Apparently someone on the Widforss trail somehow managed to set their tent on fire. How that happened, I can only imagine, but apparently they managed to do it. I mention that I worked on the South Rim and we talk for a while before I press on to the campground, where I encounter Eric and the two thruhikers, Roger and his friend, who I met at the North Rim Country Store yesterday. We talk for a while and then head to the lodge to get something to eat. I’m interested in eating at the restaurant, but it’s going to be a bit of a wait, so I grab some pizza and a beer with them and sit out on the fantastic patio area the lodge has overlooking the canyon.

Hiking past aspens in Harvey Meadow
AZT Passage 39 (Grand Canyon North Rim)
Grand Canyon National Park
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Backpacking the Arizona Trail north of the North Kaibab Trailhead
AZT Passage 39 (Grand Canyon North Rim)
Grand Canyon National Park
Grand Canyon at sunset, south view from Transept Trail toward San Francisco Peaks from Grand Canyon Lodge
Grand Canyon National Park
Moon over Grand Canyon at sunset, south view toward San Francisco Peaks from Grand Canyon Lodge
Grand Canyon National Park
Grand Canyon at sunset, south view toward San Francisco Peaks from Grand Canyon Lodge
Grand Canyon National Park

I should say, the North Rim Lodge (or Grand Canyon Lodge, as it is officially known), is my favorite lodge so far in the park system. It blends seamlessly with the natural beauty around it, having been constructed of native stone. It has some of the best food I’ve had at any lodge – superior to that on the South Rim for sure. And it is perched directly on the rim of the canyon, so you can just sit on the patio, grab a drink and soak in the view – which stretches farther than the South Rim vista due to the higher elevation of the Kaibab and the North Rim.

And sitting out there with a couple other thruhikers, talking about our plans for the next day, how we are going to get across the canyon, permits and logistics, and plans for the days beyond, as the sun set over the canyon, is just incredible.

Ultimately, I do get a spot at the restaurant as well. The hostess recognizes my name. Apparently she has been told about me through a mutual friend on the South Rim. She’s also a seasonal ranger; her season just ended at Glen Canyon. She gives me her boyfriend as my waiter, and we talk about hiking, the Arizona Trail, and other long distance trails (I’m already considering the Long Trail) throughout dinner. Shortly thereafter, I experience my second bit of “trail magic” – he shows up at the end of the meal and tells me not to worry about the bill, “I took care of it.” Guess he appreciated me and the conversation I provided. Back to sleep before trying to get a permit for Bright Angel tomorrow to cross the canyon.

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To Thruhike or Section Hike, That is the Question

When many individuals are first looking at getting into thruhiking, they face one crucial decision after trail selection – to section hike, or thruhike. Each has different advantages and challenges, and may be better suited for one trail than another. Today, we’re going to discuss these. First, we need to define each. For our purposes, … Continue reading To Thruhike or Section Hike, That is the Question

Backpacking the Amazing Arizona Trail – Inspiration Point to Roosevelt Cemetery (Passages 20 & 19, Four Peaks to Superstition Mountains)

Backpacking the Arizona Trail’s Saddle Mountain Passage from near Saddle Mountain to Sycamore Creek at the start of the Pine Mountain passage. More magnificent Arizona mountain views of the central Mazatzal peaks and ridgelines, and a gorgeous Arizona sunset.

Logistics, trail journal, and magnificent mountain scenery.

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Arizona Trail Backpacking Logistics – AZT Gateway Communities: Tonto Basin

Backpacking the Arizona Trail’s Saddle Mountain Passage from near Saddle Mountain to Sycamore Creek at the start of the Pine Mountain passage. More magnificent Arizona mountain views of the central Mazatzal peaks and ridgelines, and a gorgeous Arizona sunset.

Logistics, trail journal, and magnificent mountain scenery.

Backpacking the Amazing Arizona Trail – Four Peaks South (Passage 20)

Backpacking the Arizona Trail’s Saddle Mountain Passage from near Saddle Mountain to Sycamore Creek at the start of the Pine Mountain passage. More magnificent Arizona mountain views of the central Mazatzal peaks and ridgelines, and a gorgeous Arizona sunset.

Logistics, trail journal, and magnificent mountain scenery.

Backpacking the Amazing Arizona Trail – Four Peaks North (Passage 20)

Backpacking the Arizona Trail’s Four Peaks Passage to just south of Pigeon Spring. The terrain is incredibly precipitous – in places the trail seems to occupy the only level ground around. Fire impacts are present throughout as well, a legacy of the 1996 Lone Fire. Magnificent views of Roosevelt Lake, the southern Mazatzal foothills, and the Sierra Ancha across Tonto Basin.

Logistics, trail journal, and magnificent mountain scenery.

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Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 51: Mazatzal Divide (Passage 23), Part II

Disruptive event today, an F-16 that flew over while I was packing. It flew extremely low and around a mountain – possibly North Peak – and made me think very seriously about why that would be allowed over a designated wilderness area. Still, I manage to knock out a few miles to Chilson Spring before dark, with spectacular views of Deadman’s Canyon, the Verde Valley, and the western Mazatzal foothills along the way. The mountains are jagged and rugged and the trail traces steep slopes nearly the whole way across precipitous terrain.

Passage 39 (Grand Canyon North Rim)
Trail SurfaceDirt trail
Length (Mi)24.3
SeasonSpring-fall. No vehicular access to this section December through mid-May. Feet of snow in winter.
Potential Water SourcesCrane Lake (mi 46.5 SOBO, 742.2 NOBO)
Little Pleasant Valley Tank (mi 48.8 SOBO, 739.9 NOBO)
Wildlife Drinker (mi 56.5 SOBO, 732.2 NOBO)
Dog Lake (mi 56.6 SOBO, 732.1 NOBO)
North Canyon Spring (mi 58.9 SOBO, 729.8 NOBO)
Crystal Spring (mi 59.5 SOBO, 729.2 NOBO)
Sourdough Well (mi 62.1 SOBO, 726.6 NOBO)
Upper North Canyon Creek (mi 63.9 SOBO, 724.9 NOBO)
TrailheadsNorth: Grand Canyon National Park boundary
South: Grand Canyon North Rim
Trailhead AccessNorth: Foot access only
South: Vehicular access May 15-November 30 (services close October 15)
WildernessNo
Possible resupply pointsNorth Rim village, including Grand Canyon Lodge and General Store
ATA-Rated DifficultyEasy
Potential campsites (mileages S to N)Campsites within Grand Canyon National Park require permits. Dispersed backcountry camping is allowed November 1-May 14 and requires a permit & Leave No Trace principles. Camping is otherwise restricted to the North Rim Campground and designated backcountry sites (there are no such sites directly on the trail). When the Campground is open, first come first serve hiker/biker sites are available for $15.

Note: As of August 2020 the North Rim Campground is closed and no new backpacking permits are being issued at this time. This includes backcountry sites on both the rim and Inner Canyon sites.
Ecosystems TraversedGreat Basin Subalpine Conifer Forest
Logistics for AZT Passage 39. Sources: Personal experience, Guthook Guides, AZT Guide to the trail
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Great Basin Subalpine Conifer Forest
Common Trees/Shrubs* Corkbark fir
* Gambel oak
* Quaking aspen
* White fir
* Blue spruce
* Engelmann spruce
* Buckwheats
* Currants
* Dwarf juniper
* Elderberry
* Fendler’s ceanothus
* Greenleaf Manzanita
* New Mexican locust
* Perry’s rabbitbrush
* Raspberry
* smooth sumac
* Snowberry
Common herbaceous plants* Bracken Fern
* Buckwheats
* Cinquefoils
* Columbines
* Fleabane daisies
* Geraniums
* goldeneye
* Goldenrods
* Groundsels
* Hairy golden aster
* Indian paintbrush
* Lotus
* Lupines
* Meadow-rue
* Parry’s bellflower
* Peavine
* Penstemons
* Puccoon
* Pussytoes
* Thistles
* Western & white prairie asters
* Wild strawberry
* Wormwood
* Yarrow
* Yellow hawkweed
Common succulentsPrickly pear, occasionally
Aquatic* Bulrush
* Buttercups
* Rushes
* Sedges
* Water plantains
Passage 39 Ecology (source: Arizona Trail Association AZT Guide). Only California and Texas are more diverse ecologically than Arizona.
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