Accessible from the Grand Canyon’s North Rim, and located in the Toroweap Valley, near Tuweep, Lava Falls Trail is named for its proximity to Vulcan’s Throne. Although extinct, volcanic characteristics still dominate the trail, making it one of the most dangerous and dynamic in the park.
Edgy lava blocks and loose gravel cover the sharply descending path along a route lacking in water or shade, dotted with desert-dwelling amphibians. The risk however, is well worth it. At 2 miles in length (3 km), it is the shortest rim-to-river trail in the park and offers access to the best of the Grand Canyon Rapids.
Branching off of Toroweap Point Road, the Lava Falls trailhead is almost a destination in itself, as reaching it requires crossing Toroweap Lake, lava hills, and a narrow gorge along a rough, unmaintained road.
Beware that this is a primitive trail, and even for one of its nature, extremely risky- some would argue that it’s not even a trail, but more of a make-your-way-through-the-cairn type of route. Only weathered hikers who are adequately prepared for the heat and terrain should attempt it. Adding to the lack of water and shade, the terrain is merciless; the jagged, uneven ground is only for the sure-footed.
Lava Falls is a trail you can easily underestimate because it of its distance, but don’t forget that in those meager 2 miles, the elevation drops 2,500 ft (762 m). The volcanic tolus slopes are loose and the terrain is extremely challenging- especially in summer months; both the descent and ascent can be dangerous. Both John W. Powell and Robert B. Stanton, who were avid explorers of the park, never attempted the trail for safety reasons.
When a couple of Spaniards (Ramon Montez and Jorge Flavell) finally conquered the Lava Falls route in the late 1800s, Flavell jokingly wrote in his journal the importance of avoiding only one stone- their tomb stone.
You might be wondering about the scenic aspect of Lava Falls route and what exactly it is that draws hikers here… well, the hiking mostly. Although visitors are rewarded with front-row access to the most famous rapids in the park (and may even catch a rafting-party, if the timing is right), the route is appealing because of its challenge. More physical than visual, it is a route for the adventurous, a hiking trail to be felt- a lot of scrambling and climbing is involved. That being said, don’t let the glory of “conquering the trail” haze your rationality. This is an extremely dangerous trail and for all its 2 miles, has claimed the lives of various hikers.