You won't find the Colorado River, the force of nature that eons ago carved the Grand Wash Cliffs of Arizona, anywhere near the cliffs themselves. Today the Colorado flows about 20 miles to the south, sculpting the Grand Canyon. However this wilderness, in Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, marking the transition zone between the Colorado Plateau and Basin and Range Provinces, preserves the river's intricate handiwork--rugged canyons, scenic escarpments, and colorful sandstone buttes. Most remarkable are the 12 miles of towering cliffs themselves, which are cut into two giant steps, the first about 2,000 feet high, and the second a 1,000-foot leap to the Shivwits Plateau. Between the two steps lies a shelf that stretches one to three miles wide. Several canyons cut deeply into the sculpted cliffs and provide opportunities for tough scrambling to the top where a piñon-juniper woodland overlooks a plain of Mojave desert shrubs below. Elevations in this Wilderness range from approximately 2,650 to nearly 6,700 feet.
Climate in the Arizona mountains varies greatly with elevation. The higher elevations generally receive much more precipitation and much cooler temperatures than the lower elevations. Summers at the high elevations bring warm daytime temperatures with cool nights. Low elevations often experience very hot summer temperatures. Afternoon thunderstorms are common in the summer. The winter and early spring months bring snow and sometimes cold temperatures to the highest elevations but frequent clear, sunny days. Winter brings moderate temperatures to the low elevations - a great time to recreate in these snow free areas - allowing both winter and summer type activities within very short distances.
One 11-mile maintained trail traverses the length of this Wilderness above the Grand Wash Cliffs in pinyon-juniper country. You will find extraordinary opportunities for solitude and primitive recreation as well as rugged canyon hiking, if you don't mind the effort. Gila monsters, desert tortoises, and desert bighorn sheep live here in solitude. Access is difficult, but seekers of solitude will find it well worth the effort.
Leave No Trace
How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Grand Wash Cliffs Wilderness.
Grand Wash Cliffs Wilderness is located in extreme northwestern Arizona approximately 30 miles, as the crow flies, south of Beaver Dam, Arizona. Access can be made via Bunkerville, Nevada by driving south on the Gold Butte Road which skirts west of the Virgin Mountains. Alternate access in higher terrain (may be impassable in winter and in wet weather) can be attained by driving south from St. George, Utah onto the Arizona Strip. The Arizona Strip Visitor Map provides regional information on routes, land status, and recreation opportunities. It can be purchased at the St. George Interagency Office at 345 East Riverside Drive, St. George, Utah, telephone (435) 688-3200.
Access to the trailheads through the Grand Wash Cliffs Wilderness can be made on the northeast or southern sides of the wilderness.
All visitor services and facilities are located in nearby communities (St. George, Utah and Mesquite, Nevada) No accommodations are made for disabled visitors in the wilderness and the hiking trail is not hardened.
Digital and paper maps are critical tools for wilderness visitors. Online maps can help you plan and prepare for your visit ahead of time. You can also carry digital maps with you on your GPS unit or other handheld GPS device. Having a paper map with you in the backcountry, as well as solid orienteering skills, however, ensures that you can still route-find in the event that your electronic device fails.
Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is generally prohibited in all wilderness areas.
This includes the use of motor vehicles, motorboats, motorized equipment, bicycles, hang gliders, wagons, carts, portage wheels, and the landing of aircraft including helicopters.
Access roads to this remote wilderness may be impassable at times during the winter or summer monsoon season. Maps and information are available at the Interagency Offices at 345 East Riverside Drive, St. George, Utah (435 688-3200).
This remote wilderness provides excellent opportunities for solitude and primitive recreation. Appropriate recreation includes hiking, backpacking, horseback riding, photography, wildlife viewing, and primitive camping.
Climate and Special Equipment Needs
Temperatures can be extreme (below freezing in the winter to above 110 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer), especially in the lower Mojave Desert portions of the wilderness. Snow and muddy conditions may occur during the winter in the upper elevations of the wilderness. Four wheel drive vehicles are recommended, high clearance vehicles a necessity.
Safety and Current Conditions
The area is remote and far from any services. Cell phones will likely not be usable. Visitors will not likely encounter any other humans during their visit. Before your trip, inform someone where you will be going, in case you encounter problems. Two spare tires and a minimum of five gallons of water are advisable. GPS devices may not provide accurate directions in this remote area and should be used with local maps of the area.
Want to Volunteer for Wilderness?
Citizens who volunteer their time to steward our wilderness areas are an essential part of wilderness management. Contact the following groups to inquire about volunteer opportunities.