Mount Trumbull • Range Highpoint: Uinkaret Mountains
• Highpoint: Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument
• Mount Trumbull Wilderness, Northern Mohave County

Date Climbed
May 22, 2005

Elevation
8,029 feet

Distance
5 miles

Time
4 hours

Gain
1,529 feet

Conditions
Beautiful, clear and warm

Prominence
2,969 feet

Click on the thumbnail to see a full-size version


Long-distance view of Mount Trumbull from somewhere south of Fredonia
 

A little closer in, from the north still
 

Beth at the top
 

And me, too
 

From the west
 

The new old Mt Trumbull Schoolhouse
 

The Hurricane Cliffs

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Located on the remote Arizona Strip, Mount Trumbull is a broad mountain formed by ancient volcanism into a shield shape, reminscent of the peaks in Hawaii. It is visible from the nearest paved road, state route AZ-289, which is about 50 miles to the north. From the highway, the peak has a low, broad profile, barely discernible way off on the southern horizon.

Getting to Mount Trumbull is half the fun, and a journey unto itself. Beth and I were exploring places along the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, mainly up on the higher Kaibab Plateau. Later, we would descend elevation toward Fredonia, then begin our second segment of the trip, the long drive south toward Mount Trumbull and the famous Toroweap Overlook. Part of the fun, of course, would be driving the long dirt roads needed to get there.

The Arizona Strip is the name given to all lands north of the Grand Canyon and south of the Utah state line. Little development has taken place in this big stretch of land. In the 19th Century, as Utah was lurching toward its own statehood, the Strip was used as a source of lumber for the growing city of St. George, plus a place to raise stock. Today, just two towns in Arizona are found up here: Fredonia and Colorado City, both abutting the Utah border. The ghost town of Mt. Trumbull was the only real town to develop farther south on the Strip, reaching a population of about 300 in its heyday, around 1920.

Most of the Arizona Strip is public land: either National Park, National Forest, National Monument (Grand Canyon-Parashant and Pipe Springs), or BLM. A couple of uranium mines are found up here, but large-scale development will likely never take place, given the remoteness of this land. It's hot in the summer and snowed in during winter. It is still much as it was in 1900, 1800, 1700, and so on.

For this trip, we overnighted at a hotel in Page, entertained by the proprieter's two big cats who entered our room at will. Then we stayed a couple nights at Jacob Lake on the North Rim, making day trips to the Grand Canyon. Much of the highest elevations were still under snow, so the side roads were shut to visitors. One guy with a heavy, annoying New York accent was pestering a Ranger to be allowed to drive one of the closed roads, being that he is a "famous photographer and has a 4-wheel drive vehicle". She held her ground and said no. Earlier, I had tried my luck with one such road, using my 4-wheel drive, but the snow was too thick and heavy, and I got about 30 feet before giving up, but I decided not to tell this guy that, for fear he'd want to talk with me.

Early yesterday, we descended into Fredonia for gas and food, then drove to Colorado City. The visit was two-fold: there's an integer latitude-longitude confluence (37 N, 113 W) located in town. But being curious, we also wanted to drive around and check out the big "compounds" where all the polygamist families live. This was when Warren Jeffs was still there. Of course, we looked like outsiders, and frankly, I didn't like the vibe here one bit. The townspeople here view anyone from the outside as either a troublemaker or a gawking tourist, and neither are welcome. Colorado City may be the least-friendliest, most intimidating town in the country.

From there, we drove back east a little bit along AZ-289, then drove south on the Antelope Valley Road, a dirt road that leads to the Toroweap/Trumbull points of attraction. The road is generally a good road, but we kept the speeds about 35 m.p.h., as we'd encounter rough sections suddenly, and going any faster would result in a popped tire. The scenery is lovely: high-elevation desert, grass and sage rangeland, hills and canyons and mountains, and sections of ponderosa pine forest. It took us about two hours to get to the Tuweep Ranger Station, which is the Grand Canyon National Park's main "presence" for this part of the park. But it's not designed for tourists. It's just where the rangers live. A perk: admission here is free.

Beyond Tuweep, we continued south along slightly-rougher road toward Toroweap Campground. The last couple miles were rough, and I used 4-wheel drive for better handling. We scored a camp spot in this spectacular campground. Large rock outcrops are everywhere. It was quite warm, too, about 95 degrees, a stark contrast to the snow up on the Kaibab. However, we were about 3,500 feet lower in elevation here. We drove out to the Toroweap Overlook in the late afternoon, and sure enough, there was that New York guy, and sure enough, he had had a flat on his drive out. It figured, I thought to myself.

It's hard to describe the views from Toroweap Overlook. One can walk to the edge of the cliffs, and then it's 3,000 vertical feet to the Colorado River below. There are no guardrails! We inched to the edge, often on our bellies, for views, which are astounding. The roar of the rapids from below could be heard this high up. The views are phenomenal, and we were the only ones there for the time being. We returned to camp, then came back again early the next morning for some sunrise images. Just an amazing place.

Today was our hike day up Mount Trumbull. We drove back to Tuweep then to a junction, where we followed another road up into the hills toward Mount Trumbull and the Nixon (BLM) Ranger Station. We arrived at the trailhead around 9 a.m. in warm, clear weather. Our elevation here was 6,500 feet.

The trail makes a few switchbacks and some long traverses as it gains up the rubbly slopes and occasional cliffs that line Mount Trumbull's south face. Quickly, the lower pinon and juniper woodlands give way to grander ponderosa pines, and the ground becomes covered in a mat of pine needles. About two miles in, the trail flattens and starts to lose distinction, essentially "ending" for all intents and purposes, about a half-mile short of the top. Here, an older German fellow named Fritz came walking down, mildly frustrated in not finding the summit. He said he'd wandered over an hour up there with no luck. After he left, we resumed our hike and did our best to maintain a constant bearing in the trees once the trail ended. Beth was able to spot a cairn and we were able to stay the course.

The last half-mile went like this. We would find a kicked-over cairn or some tree limbs that had seemingly been arranged to line the trail, but usually laid askew. We theorized that this being a wilderness, that these unofficial trail-navigation items are not welcome as they "detract" from the wilderness experience. So someone, possibly a BLM Ranger or an intern, is sent up to be the official cairn-kicker-over and tree-limb-mover-asider. Your average hiker probably wouldn't bother with all the effort. It was baffling. If the trail is so solid for the first 80% of the hike, why not just extend it to the top? Why is it all of a sudden not cool to have a trail up here?

Beth and I were able to make our way successfully to the summit, which, not surprisingly, is flat, broad and mostly covered in light forest. Views north and south were lovely, with Humphreys Peak visible way off south, the Uinkaret Range closer south, and the infinity of cliffs farther north into Utah. We spent some time up here relaxing, eating a lunch, and swatting the insects. The day was getting warm fast, so we decided to start hiking down after about a half-hour. The egress took just an hour and we were back to the truck a little after noon, by which time the temperatures were nearing 100 degrees.

We spent the rest of the day making the slow drive out toward St. George, Utah, via the Hurricane Cliffs, including one very interesting section where the road descends steeply down the cliff-face itself. We toured the ghost town of Mount Trumbull, marveled at the remoteness of this country, and took the roads slowly as we descended down the plateaus, eventually coming to paved River Road at the Utah state line. We cleaned up and stayed a night in St. George. The dust had covered everything, including us, about an inch thick.

Our Arizona Strip journey had gone well, with no flats. We had a great time at Toroweap and Mount Trumbull. Subsequent reports indicate the trail to the top may be more distinct these days as more people come this way. I would love to revisit Toroweap some day.

(c) 2005, 2012 Scott Surgent. For entertainment purposes only. This report is not meant to replace maps, compass, gps and other common sense hiking/navigation items. Neither I nor the webhost can be held responsible for unfortunate situations that may arise based on these trip reports. Conditions (physical and legal) change over time! Some of these hikes are major mountaineering or backpacking endeavors that require skill, proper gear, proper fitness and general experience.