We took a trip to the most northern part of Arizona at the end of May 2011. The area – called the Arizona Strip – encompasses the Vermilion Cliffs and is near to the north rim part of the Grand Canyon. We hiked two days in two very beautiful, although different canyons.
Soap Creek trail which is just off of 89A about 10 miles southwest of Marble Canyon. The hike is about 5 miles from the trailhead to the Colorado river but with all the scrambling it feels like a lot longer. It can be very hot down in the canyon so make sure to bring plenty of water. We didn’t, so we had to turn back before we reached the river. The other better-prepared, better-conditioned hikers made it with no problem and actually hiked out to bring water back for us.
- two desert bighorn sheep seen walking daintily along the canyon walls
- nesting owl teaching her fledglings how to fly
Our next hike was into some beautiful slot canyons just on the other side of the Utah-AZ border. You can reach the Wire Pass trailhead by driving north on House Rock road which begins along 89A approximately 27 miles west of Marble Canyon and about 14 miles east of Jacob’s Lake. Head north on the dirt road (BLM 1056) about 20 miles and you will come to the trailhead. The fee for use is $5 per person/dog. It may seem like a lot but it’s well worth it once you get inside the slots. Here is a link to the BLM map of the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument.
- California Condor: about 3 miles north of the 89A turn-off onto House Rock Road is a viewing area for the endangered California Condor. One of the more successful conservation stories, they were once down to 22 birds left in the world in 1989 but their numbers now total 360 with 74 of those in Arizona. The best time to see them in this area is in the winter, with summer months spent down on the south rim of the Grand Canyon.