All in all, this hike went pretty well.  We had several downed trees to get past on the drive out to Swamp Point.  Bob had some hydration and heat related issues on Day 3, but recovered nicely.  Tom's boot repairs held up well and I'd say he got his money's worth out of those boots.  Due to those last two issues, none of us got to do as much exploring as we wanted, but everyone seemed pleased with the hike overall.

     Be sure you have directions for getting to the trailhead before starting out.  Depending on the weather and how recently the Park Service has worked on the Swamp Ridge road, you may need a high clearance vehicle and/or four-wheel drive.  Never discount the possibility that there can be downed trees across the road.

     Most people consider Nankoweap and North Bass to be the two toughest named trails in the Canyon.  Having now done both of them, my thoughts on which of these two trails is the toughest are:

Exposure.  The exposure on these two trails is at opposite ends of the spectrum.

  • Nankoweap has lots of mild exposure, a few places with medium exposure, and a mile or so of high exposure just below Tilted Mesa.

  • North Bass has almost no exposure.  The Redwall is steep and loose and care should be taken going down this.  The descent from the point with the Geological Survey marker down to the Cottonwood trees by Shinumo Creek is also steep, but has very little exposure.

Water Availability.  Water availability is also vastly different on the two trails.

  • Nankoweap has no water from either the high or low access points until you reach Nankoweap Creek, a distance of about ten miles.

  • North Bass has lots of water as White Creek and Shinumo Creek are considered perennial.  A Ranger at the North Rim told me he has always found water in White Creek a little ways downstream from the base of the Redwall, even in summer.  Our hike was done just a few days after four days of heavy rain and thunderstorms at the North Rim, so I am guessing that the large amount of flowing water we encountered almost everywhere is probably not typical.

Trailhead Access.  Trailhead access can be tough for both these trails.

  • Nankoweap can be accessed via the low route (House Rock Valley) or the high route.  For a detailed discussion of both routes, visit my Postscript section to my Nankoweap trip report.

  • There is more than one way to get part way to the North Bass trailhead, but the last 9.3 miles can only be done by the Swamp Ridge Road.  This is rough, frequently has downed trees across the road, and appears to have less frequent maintenance than Forest Service roads.

Overall Toughness.   Trying to judge which of these two trails is tougher overall is a very subjective thing, but my vote goes to North Bass.

  • Almost all of Nankoweap is on a very smooth trail with few obstacles.  Only the approximate three mile section from where the trail meets Nankoweap Creek until the Colorado River requires a little boulder hopping.

  • Many sections of North Bass require bush whacking, boulder hopping, creek crossing, and some very minor route finding.

     Numerous critters such as mice, ravens, squirrels, and ringtails are a threat to attack your food in the inner Canyon.  For many years, there were two widely used defenses against critter attack: the Ratsack Cache bag, a mesh, stainless steel bag, which came in three sizes, and the Ursack, a bag made with a Spectra material.  I bought both, but preferred the Ratsack because it was larger, cheaper, and had a superior Velcro closure system.  Even though the Ratsack company website is still active and will accept your money, most people now indicate they never received their order, their money was never returned, and they could not get the company to return a phone call.  Due to the widely reported difficulties and lack of response from the Ratsack company, that product is no longer carried by the General Store in Grand Canyon Village.  Two new products have recently come forward to fill the void:  the Outsak and the Foodsack.  Both are similar in design to the Ratsack and utilize a mesh stainless steel bag with a Velcro closure system.  The Outsak is a lighter duty version and some people report that animals were able to penetrate it.  The Foodsack is the heavy duty version and appears to be bullet-proof, so it is the product that I recommend.  I have and use the Foodsack.


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