Arizona: The Grand Canyon's Backdoor
Thank God that every year 4 million tourists crowd the McDonald's-and-IMAX strip at the Grand Canyon National Park's South Rim gateway. It leaves fewer people to crowd Tuweep (occasionally called Toroweap), the little-known access point to the park's quiet North Rim, where the canyon is narrow, deep, and silent, but for the Colorado River's rumbling whitewater. You can drive right to the edge, camp for free next to a 3,000-foot drop, and hike the park's shortest (and likely steepest) trail to the bottom. But you have to make it there first: Tuweep is at the end of 62.5 miles on unimproved dirt roads. Bring plenty of food and water, check the spare, top off your tank, and let the air down in your tires – tows start in the thousands. Hike the 1.5-mile Lava Falls Trail – a steep, sweltering scramble down loose red basalt spotted with the occasional rattlesnake. Cool off in the river, and then trek downstream to watch rafters tackle Lava Falls, the gnarliest rapids in the entire canyon.
Getting there: The road to Tuweep from Fredonia is a 60-mile drive on BLM road #109, but the last three miles are mostly slickrock, requiring a high clearance vehicle. The official Grand Canyon site has up-to-date info about road conditions, as they change rapidly.