North Rim of Grand Canyon, AZ
Toroweap is truly one of the most amazing places you will ever stand!
There is an 8-mile section on the north rim of the Grand Canyon where the Colorado River cuts a fairly straight path (with no major curves or turns), allowing you to have an unobstructed view of the Colorado River and inner canyon in all its glory. The Toroweap Overlook is in the middle of this section. This provides you with a stunning bird’s-eye views (both east and west) 3,000 feet above the floor of the canyon. This extremely remote spot, which is 61 miles from nowhere, offers one (actually 2) of the most magnificent views of the Grand Canyon possible, which makes it a photographer’s dream.
Like most great things, this shot is not easy to come by. The Toroweap Overlook is one of the most remote places in the lower 48 states and the 120 mile round trip takes between 2 ½ to 3 hours each way. The first 55 miles of gravel road is filled with bumps, holes, and washboards, and is notorious for flats (I got a flat tire the first two times I went). The last 3-5 miles of the road are treacherous with boulders, deep holes, cutting rocks, and very difficult turns. I would strongly suggest a high clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle for this trip.
But if/when you finally arrive and stand on the ledge overlooking the Grand Canyon, it is simply breathtaking.
Trail Difficulty (5 out of 5)
I would rate the difficulty of this trail as a 5 on a scale of 1-5 (with 5 being most difficult). The walk from the parking area to The Toroweap Overlook is an easy 100 yds., but the 60 mile drive there is extreme and very taxing on you, your vehicle, and especially your tires.
GPS Coordinates & Elevation
Google Maps Birds-Eye-View
Click link above to view location in Google Earth
CLICK HERE to get driving directions to the Toroweap Overlook.
Keep in mind you will lose cell service as soon as you exit the highway and travel down the gravel road to Toroweep. The closest town is Kanab, UT.
From Kanab, UT: Drive south on US-89 for 7 miles to the little community of Fredonia. Turn right (west on) AZ-389 and travel 8.3 miles until you see a National Parks sign for Toroweap (60 miles). Take a left on this dirt road (Mt Trumbull Rd.) for 60 miles.
Best Time of Day to Shoot
What makes Toroweap so special is you get a great sunset shot to the west and then in the morning you walk about 50yds. and you get a stunning sunrise to the east.
Best Time of Year to Shoot
For the sunset shot, you want the sun setting either directly down the canyon or a little bit to the right (north). From the Toroweap Overlook, your shot is facing west at around @ 240°. This makes the months of September through March good months to shoot the sunset. The sun sets at @ 240° around the third week in December.
For the sunrise shot, you want the sun to rise to the right (south) of the canyon (around 70° - 85°) so the sun will reflect of the north walls to the. This happens in the months of April, May, July, and August.
Another important item to consider are clouds. Clouds will make or break this shot and are essential to a great shot. Watch the weather forecast. If it is going to be clear skies, you may want to return at another date.
What Lens(es) Do You Need
You can use lenses ranging from 16mm – 50mm. The above shot was taken with a 24mm lens.
There are no permits required.
Direction of the Shot
For the sunset shot, the direction of the shot is west @ 240°.
For the sunrise shot, the direction is east by north east @ 55°
Special Nuances of Shot
Again, there are two shots at Toroweap: sunset and sunrise.
Sunset – It is almost impossible to get a great shot without clouds! The place to get the best view of the Grand Canyon and Colorado River is on the rock ledge overlooking the canyon. The ledge you will be standing on is just a few feet from certain death, as there are no guardrails or protection of any kind. Caution is of the upmost importance. If you are afraid of heights, this is not the place for you.
Sunrise – Just 50yds. to the east of the sunset shot location is the best place for your sunrise shot. There is an outcrop of finger looking rocks that you can stand on and get a great sunrise shot. Another good location is 50-100yrds. northeast along the rim, where there is a dead tree that can be used for a foreground. Again, caution is of the upmost importance.
Special Equipment Needed
Other than a tripod, there is no special photography equipment needed unless you plan on doing a panoramic shot. A mentioned, Toroweap is extremely remote and has no water or other resources. Make sure you bring food, water, and shelter.
I would strongly suggest a high clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle for this trip.
Number of Other Photographers to Expect
Even though Toroweap provides one of the most spectacular shots of the Grand Canyon, the remote location and extremely difficult 61 mile drive limits the number of tourists and other photographers. That being said, the shooting area for both the sunset and sunrise spots is very small and will hold only a few photographers.
Toroweap is in an arid place in the Arizona desert and is 4,000 feet above sea level. Pay close attention to the forecasted temperatures and make sure you have the appropriate clothing. It doesn’t rain much in this part of the southwest, but when it does, the road can be impassable.
I use Verizon, and there is NO cell service anywhere once you leave the highwayor along the road to Toroweap. There is cell service once you get back to the main highway.
The closest town is Kanab, UT, which is 75 miles away, but takes over 3 hours to get there. If you are going to Toroweap, you most likely will need to camp there for the night. There is a small (9 sites) primitive campsite just 1 mile from the overlook. The Tuweep Campground does not allow fires or charcoal grills, but fuel stoves are allowed. The campsites have picnic tables and composting toilets provided, but no water is available. There is a park station restroom not far from the overlook.
Nearby camping and lodging
Camping - click on the campground below for directions
The Tuweep Campground - 1/2 mile from Toroweap Lookout
There are no restaurants or other resources anywhere around Toroweap.The closest town is Kanab, UT, which is 3 hours away.
There are no water resources within 75 miles of Toroweap.
Other Photography Opportunities Around
The closest major airport to Toroweap is McCarran International Airport (LAS) is in Las Vegas, NV, which is 230 miles (6 hours) north, and west.
Area Guides and Workshops
The Photographer's Ephemeris is a very valuable tool for landscape photographers to determine the direction of the sunrise/sunset & moonrise/moonset from any place on earth on any day (past and future). Click here to take you to The Photographer's Ephemeris for this location.