The North Bass Trail is one that encompasses the phenomenal essence of Grand Canyon diversity as no one trail can; the varying geology and ecosystem c oupled with the challenging terrain every hiker craves can be found along this trail.
Considered William W. Bass’s masterpiece, the trail was designed by a rugged hiker for the rugged hiker. Built to highlight the diversity that only the Grand Canyon can provide, the trail is a complex display of geological art.
Located at Swamp Point, the trailhead and first few miles are alluring, guiding the hiker further down the trail with views of flowered woodland and waterfalls. While the beginning of the trail starts out enclosed by shrubs, further down, it opens up to reveal the canyon floor and the shifting terrain. Transitioning from forrest to dessert in the span of a few miles, the trail heads toward the Colorado River, crossing Shinumo Creek at different points before reaching Bass Camp, Bill Bass’s historical camp site.
The camp abounds in historic curiosities and artifacts, including a now-barren orchard once filled with fig, apricot and peach trees as well as a watermelon patch. The site is also overwhelmed with old mining tools and kitchen utensils- all speaking to a past of thriving camp life and content hikers enjoying fresh fruit at the bottom of the canyon.
Much of the North Bass has been reconstructed due to the park’s ever-eroding nature, but it still remains one of the most challenging hikes on the Grand Canyon, yet at 14 miles (23 km), the trail is an average length for the North Rim. While it offers beautiful views, the sharp descent makes gazing at them risky. Descending in a delirious fashion, glancing at the panorama from time to time is almost thrilling. Only an experienced hiker can maneuver between the glance and the step- the trick is to keep your eyes on your feet as much as (if not more so) than on the view.
Evidence of prehistoric life is abundant in this region, however the lack of a reliable water source still puzzles archeologists studying Native American life. Following the Redwall Formation, there are a number of mescal pits, a staple carbohydrate among the Havasupai and Apache. Further along, pueblo and granary ruins continue to prove a prehistoric presence.
Beautifully designed and rich with history, the North Bass Trail is definitely a trail worth hiking. Keep in mind however, that the difficulty and physical challenge posed by this route benefits experienced hikers only.