Where the Beamer reaches the confluence with the L. Colorado
Out into the sun and up onto the Tonto plateau
From the NPS Backcountry office:
“It is possible to access the Beamer Trail at the north end by way of the Little Colorado River, but rim-to-river routes in this seldom visited gorge are, without exception, rough and possibly dangerous wilderness routes. The Little Colorado drains most of northeastern Arizona and has the potential to produce sediment laden floods of massive proportions.”
Consequently, the summit of Mount Everest sees more people (600-700) than the Beamer does in one-way traffic each year (0-75).
Big-time views every time the trail veers out towards the edge
I have a love/hate relationship with the Beamer Trail. Yes, the views are beautiful, and it offers access to and from the Little Colorado, one of my favorite destinations in the world. But it is a grind — a hot, tiring, dusty route along the cliffs high above the Colorado.It is only listed as 9.1 miles on the map, but so many side-canyons must be negotiated along its path that the number seems impossible to believe. I’ve only hiked it downriver, and anyone who has done it as an out-and-back has my profound respect.
Looking down toward Palisades
There is no water along the trail and it is 100% sun-drenched nearly the entire day. Carry extra water and start early to avoid the heat. There are a few shaded overhangs in some of the side canyons but they are few and far-between.
Footing is pretty good and the views are sublime. The trail is easy to follow. Some of the drainages the trail crosses can be perplexing, but you will find no challenges that require advanced route-finding skills or anything like that.
There are several ways to go when the trail is near the Little Colorado and it is a bit confusing each time. I prefer the lower route. When leaving the Little Colorado, for example, I always try to stay as low as possible (about 30 feet off the river) for as long as I can. I’ve taken the high route once and it was far less scenic and a lot tougher.
There’s a good amount of climbing to get up onto (and down from) the Tonto plateau. Once there, it’s pretty steady, with some minor climbs as the trail negotiates the various side-canyons along the route.
Finding the Trailhead
There are only two approaches that connect by with the Beamer by land. The downriver end of Beamer is found at Tanner Rapids (right where the Escalante Route ends) and the upriver terminus is at the mouth of the Little Colorado River.
Tanner Rapids is around the next bend, the first trail after leaving the L. Colorado
There is a “monument” of sorts along the trail, miles from either endpoint at one of the very prominent overlooks along the Tonto cliffs. It’s a small pile of rocks laid out in such a way that a passing hiker simply can’t miss. Most loose rock in the area tends to be chalky white or dark grey, within little variety in-between. It invites contemplation each time a hiker passes and selects a stone to add to the pile.
“Do I add to the dark pile, or do I add to the light pile?”
“Who created this monument, and why?”
“How long has it been here?”
I know the answer to the last two questions. Hint: it wasn’t me.
The first, you will have to decide for yourself.