Lava Falls Route
Distance: 3 miles round-trip
Duration: 8 hours
Elevation change: 2,500 feet
Effort: Very strenuous
Trailhead: 3.5 miles south of the Tuweep Ranger Station, a 4WD road leads another 2.5 miles to the trailhead. During or after wet weather, the road may be impassable.
Although this route is the shortest rim-to-river trail in the park, it is extremely difficult, passing down a steep slope of loose basalt cobbles and boulders to Lava Falls.
This Class 10 rapids, formed by debris from Prospect Canyon, drops 13 feet, making it one of the most challenging for river runners. In 1869, John Wesley Powell’s expedition chose to portage the rapids, an arduous three-hour effort.
Temperatures along the Lava Falls route can reach dangerous highs, and there’s no shade or water along the way. The route, indiscernible in loose scree, is marked by cairns. Even the most experienced hikers should not attempt to hike this trail during summer months.
© Kathleen Bryant from Moon Grand Canyon, 5th Edition