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Tanner Wash - Marble Canyon

Summary: A long slog down a side canyon of the Colorado on the Navajo Nation side of Marble Canyon. To hike on Navajo land you'll need to pick up a permit from the Ranger's station located in Cameron at the junction of Highways 89 & 64.
Directions: From Flagstaff drive north on Highway 89. The wash is just south of the small Navajo Village of Bitter Springs. A sign marks the wash where a small bridge crosses the drainage. Park at a pull off on the south east side of the bridge (or if the weather is dry, maybe park under the bridge). With a high clearance vehicle (and dry weather, once again) it would be possible to drive quite a ways down the wash and save some of the slogging involved in the hike, but I do not know if this is legal or not.
Road Conditions: Passenger Car
Navigation: Easy, except for one spot described below
Length: A hike all the way to the river and back would be close to 18 miles, or just hike in as far as you want and return
Date Hiked: October, 2004
Weather Conditions: Sunny and warm
Required Skills:
Hike Description: From the Highway 89 bridge, begin slogging your way down the wide sandy wash. The wash bends right and heads past a water tank and a few houses before entering a somewhat deeper canyon. The hiking is flat and easy at first, though the scenery isn't terribly interesting and there is quite a bit of trash including several junked cars, many plastic containers and, for some reason, a bunch of toy balls. As the drainage deepens, the boulders that litter the canyon floor become larger, though none pose any difficulty. There are a few pools and small drop offs, but these can be bypassed on the left. In the Coconino Sandstone the drainage narrows and begins dropping steeply to a sheer dry fall. When you reach this point, back up and retrace your steps for 0.2 miles or so (10 minutes) and look for a route that leads around this section on top of the Coconino layer on canyon left (the left side of the canyon when facing down stream). There are a few occasional cairns along the route which reaches a large scree slope after about 0.5 miles. From where the trail ends you'll want to climb up the slope (to get around a steep section), then straight down where the crumbly breakdown has formed a fin that touches the top of the Coconino layer. I was able to get down this slope all the way to the final cliff band above the floor of the canyon (watch your footing, the rocks are loose). I spent about an hour searching for a route down these two cliffs, but was not able to find a way down the second one and with the heat of the day decided to retreat. Because I saw a few cairns on the slope and the two sources below both indicate it's possible, I am fairly certain that you can get all the way back down into the stream bed; however, I suggest allowing extra time in this section to scout a route.
Rating (1-5 stars):
The author and his wife completed this hike to the scree slope and back in 7 hours.
Maps: None
Books:  Canyon Hiking Guide to the Colorado Plateau - Michael Kelsey
Canyoneering Arizona - Tyler Williams
Photos: Click picture for larger view, click your browser's 'Back' button to return to this page.
Typical view in
Tanner Wash.
The drop off. Another view in the canyon.