The Quest For Dutton Point

Backpacking on the Powell Plateau, Grand Canyon North Rim - August 2004

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Bright Angel Canyon from North Rim Lodge
Formed along a major geologic fault, Bright Angel Canyon cuts across the main gorge from north to south and serves as the main rim-to-rim transportation corridor in the central canyon. The North Kiabab trail runs 14 miles down the Bright Angel Canyon to reach Phantom Ranch at the Colorado River. El Tovar and the other South Rim lodges are on the far distant rim to the extreme right of the picture.

North Rim Lodge
The original North Rim Lodge was designed by Gilbert Underwood and constructed in 1928. Destroyed by fire in 1932, the present smaller lodge was rebuilt on the stone foundations in 1936. Smaller, quieter, and more intimate than the crowded South Rim lodges, this is the perfect place to enjoy a quiet glass of beer or wine and watch the sun setting over the canyon.

Moonrise over Bright Angel Point
A full moon rising over Bright Angel point provides more than enough light for late evening strollers.

Powell Plateau as seen from Swamp Point
Swamp Point lies at the end of 20 miles of often-rough dirt roads to the west of the North Rim Lodge. It is here that the North Bass Trail winds down to Muav Saddle where another nameless trail takes you up to the pine-covered mesa of the Powell Plateau. Dutton Point is on the extreme southeastern corner (visible to the far left). About three miles before I got to the trailhead, a large mountain lion crossed the road in front of my truck (I don't know if he had a permit to be hiking there or not).

Teddy's Cabin at Muav Saddle
Teddy's Cabin was built in 1925 on the site of a camp once used by Teddy Roosevelt while hunting mountain lions on Powell Plateau. Today the cabin contains some tools left by the National Park Service, a map and log book, and a few jaw bones from hikers killed by mountain lions (well, maybe they were just deer bones... but I could have sworn one of them had a filling :) ).

Virgin Pine Forest and Fields of Wildflowers
Because of its isolated location, the Powell Plateau was never logged or grazed, making it one of the largest patches of untouched ponderosa pine forest in the southwest. There are also many small parks filled with wildflowers. A faint trail, occasionally marked by tin scrap nailed to trees, finally gave out entirely about two miles from Dutton Point and I had to bushwhack the rest of the way.

Relics of the First Backpackers
The mesa was briefly populated by the Anasazi culture from around 1050 to 1150 AD and numerous small pueblo and pit house ruins dot the area. Most are now reduced to cluttered outlines in stone (easy to miss if you aren't looking for them and hard to photograph in the tree-dappled light).

Behold... Dutton Point
The final couple of miles to Dutton Point involved some unexpectedly nasty ravine crossings that were filled with an impressive array of locust bushes, scrub oak, and thorn-covered mountain rose that served as a natural barbed-wire. However, when I finally broke free of the last ring of heavy vegetation and stepped out onto the rocky slope of Dutton Point it was all worth it. There is 240-degree view looking right down the main gorge of the canyon with the San Francisco Peaks in the distance. Incredible.

And Now... More Dutton Point pictures than you can shake a Trekking Pole At

Sunset at Dutton Point
Unfortunately, smoke from controlled burns on the North Rim made the view somewhat hazy during the day, but increased the sense of shadow and contrast as the light began to fade.

Moonrise over the North Rim
Full moon rising over the North Rim. Smoke created a layer of fog hovering over the rim.

Panorama: Dutton Point in Daylight

Panorama: Dutton Point at Dusk

Panorama: Dutton Point at Break of Day

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