Over the years somehow we seem to have missed the Parashant National Monument, so I was stoked to be asked to join a recent Four Wheel Campers Owners Tour through this area. The tour was lead by our good friend Bob Wohlers, owner of Off-Road Safety Academy, who has years of experience in this region. We were in good hands. The plan was to head south and camp at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and then east to visit Nampaweap up in the Mount Trumbull Wilderness area.
DAY 1: Ride To The Rim
The day started at 7.30 am in the Denny’s parking lot in St George with a safety briefing, general instruction and introductions. The tour group included returning participants alongside adventurers new to the scene. Bob has about a 60% participant return rate, which is obviously pretty high and this speaks volumes about his excellent guiding.
After an hour or so, the wagons rolled and our convoy snaked it’s way out of St George and off the pavement onto BLM land that borders the Parashant National Monument. Fairly quickly we all come to a stop to air down ready for the 3 day adventure ahead. The style and temperament of any group is the purview of the Trail Leader and it soon becomes apparent that this was going to be relaxed with an emphasis on enjoying the scenery and the journey. Quite frankly, if you’re the type of overlander that wishes to put the pedal down, this type of tour isn’t for you.
Although the terrain was a mild dirt road, unfortunately the level of dust kicked up by our multiple vehicles was “impressive”. As the Tail Gunner, I was glad my Jeep had an AEV snorkel with pre-filter to keep the engine breathing healthily.
Time passed quietly as we made our way along Mainstreet Valley and 49 miles later we reached our lunch time destination, The Mount Trumbull School house.
The school house was originally multi-functional and was built as a school, church, dance hall, and a town meeting place. People came from miles around to attend dances and listen to music played by local musicians. Looking around this iconic piece of American West history, I couldn’t help but think of the early overlanders and the tough lives they led. These settlers built the American West and it’s an impressive feat. Their lives were simple and hard. Ours are complicated and easy in comparison!
To this point, we’d been driving on BLM land and as we proceeded on from the school house, we finally crossed into the Grand Canyon Parashant National Monument. We had lost cell service many miles ago and as we gained elevation, a sense of remoteness prevailed. When traveling into these type of regions, it’s of course essential to be prepared. In simple terms this means, don’t travel alone, tell someone you trust, your itinerary before leaving, carry a satellite communication device and finally, enough water and food for many days.
After another 10 miles, we passed by the famous Bar 10 Ranch. This is not only a working cattle ranch, but also a resort for the discerning adventurer. They have a full service bar and restaurant, coupled with chuck wagon style accommodations. Most impressive is that they offer rafting tours along the Colorado River, where they’ll pick you up off the river via helicopter and return you to the ranch for your final night. The next day they’ll also fly you back to Vegas! I can see this in my future.
Our ultimate destination for the day and the trip, was Whitmore Canyon Overlook where we planned to camp for two nights. The trail down to the canyon rim and camp area is reasonably steep (use 4 low to save your brakes) and the views of the Colorado River 1000 feet below are impressive.
After a fairly long day in the saddle, setting up camp was fast and most people (myself included) hit the hay early. I had, however, done my research and the moon was setting at 1:30 a.m with the Galactic Core beautifully positioned above the canyon. My alarm rang out at 2:00 a.m and the astro photography games commenced.
DAY 2: Hanging around camp
Day two consisted of hanging out at camp, catching some zz’s and for many of my fellow adventurers, a fairly moderate hike down to soak in the refreshingly cold river. I personally caught up on sleep, watched the Bar Ten helicopters and the rafts drifting along far below.
The weather had changed and the day time temps had risen into the late 90’s and the winds were blowing fairly significantly. This continued for the rest of the trip. To be honest, this is very typical for this desert region and time of year. The second night, it became so windy that astro photography was impossible. I was pleased that I had taken the opportunity to shoot the first night.
That evening we gathered as a group to listen to a talk from Bob on all the various communication device options and their use in the backcountry. Good stuff!
Day 3: Up Into Elevation
Our third and final day of the tour, the plan was to leave the North Rim and head east to Nampaweap. The desert winds were still blowing as we retraced our path to the school house before turning east and heading up the Mount Trumbull Trail. It was good to get some relief from the heat as we climbed to our destination at 6200 feet.
Again, the trail was dry, dusty and easy going. However Bob let’s us know, these trails can become treacherous in wet conditions. Once wet, the trail can quickly turn to vehicle sucking mud, so watch the forecast and plan your trip accordingly.
It’s not a real adventure until something goes wrong! Unfortunately, as we wound our way up the trail, we encounter a couple of problems. Over comms I heard our Tacoma friends in the convoy telling Bob that their check engine light has just come on. The group pulled over and we tested out the code. It appeared to be nothing too drastic, but out of a sense of safety, the owners decided to head back to St George to get their vehicle checked. Bob monitored their progress through his communication system and I volunteer to head back to them if it proved necessary. Thankfully it didn’t.
Back on the trail, next up was the very narrow uphill section of Hurricane Cliffs. It was not a section of the trail you’d want to encounter a vehicle coming in the opposite direction, as the drop-off will ruin your day! You guessed it. Although technically the full size Ram descending had right of way, it was simply not possible for our convoy to back up. Forty minutes later, we cleared the situation and continued on our way.
The terrain has changed with Ponderosa Pines in abundance and eventually we reached our destination, Nampaweap. The area is known for a large collection of Petroglyths etched into the black basalt rock. The trailhead is easy to find and the trail itself is a mild 1.5 mile round trip with only a 200 foot elevation change.
After the hike and lunch, it was finally time for me to leave the group and make my way back to Southern California. It had been a fun, rewarding and relaxing trip and the enthusiastic company was great. If you’re a Four Wheel Camper owner, I highly recommend this adventure and Bob Wohlers leads a stellar tour. The rigs on the trip were capable and quite honestly I was envious of the comfort and convenience they provided their owners.
With regard to the Parashant National Monument, it’s a beautiful and remote wilderness region with a dark sky status, that’s perfect for dispersed camping and astro photography. I’ll be back for sure in 2022.
Check out Off Road Safety Academy for future tours and Four Wheel Campers for their extensive range of campers.