The following is a transcript of the narration for this panorama location. To watch and listen to the narrated panorama, enter the project here at this location and then press the play button.
The Tipoff sits at the intersection of the South Kaibab and Tonto trails. If you hiked down here on the South Kaibab Trail, you are ready to peek over the rim of the inner canyon for your first full view of the Colorado River, and then “tip off” the edge of the Tonto Platform and begin your final descent to the river and Phantom Ranch. If you have come here on the Tonto Trail, you’ve been hiking along and peeking over the rim of the inner canyon for hours, if not days.
Whenever I shoot a panorama along the rim of the inner canyon I face a dilemma – do I stay right up at the rim, keeping as many of the nearby points, buttes and temples of the upper canyon in view as possible, but have little or no view of the Colorado River, or do I pick my way down a little bit from the rim to include some of the river, but lose some of the surrounding features? Well sometimes I do both, as I have done here. First we have this afternoon view, shot right on the rim, with views of the expansive scene across the river towards the North Rim, and all the way back to the South Rim as well. And there is a second morning view, shot about a hundred yards away, down by where you see these hikers, and we’ll switch over to that morning view now. We see our view of the river has opened up just a bit more, but notice that the river is brown and muddy instead of clear and green like is was in the afternoon view, which was shot several months earlier. When there is runoff from a big rain or snowstorm flowing into the Colorado, usually mostly from the Little Colorado River about twenty miles upstream, the river runs brown. Without the runoff nearly all the water in the river flows out from the bottom of the Glen Canyon Dam, about a hundred miles upstream, and the river runs clear and cold, looking green from above, as it does here in our afternoon view.
But we have plenty of other bright colors to see. Look at the path the South Kaibab Trail gouges through the lurid reddish orange zone below us as it begins its plunge into the inner canyon. The reddish-orange rock is Hakatai Shale, a trail builder’s dream. It is soft, cumbly, and easy to carve into. The South Kaibab Trail follows a meandering sliver of Hakatai for half of its descent from here down to the river, some 1500 feet below us. It curves around the Train Wreck, which is a bunch of huge blocks of Tapeats Sandstone that looks, when you get down closer to it, like a jumble of boxcars tossed about by a derailment. The derailment, though, is simply erosion. The soft Hakatai has eroded and undercut the hard Tapeats Sandstone, and huge Tapeats blocks have calved away one by one over a long period of time, giving us the ‘train wreck’ scene we see today.
To the left of the Hakatai, we see the green oasis of the Bright Angel Campground, the beginning of the Phantom Ranch area just across the river. A bit higher up across the river, and about level with us here, we can see the route of the Clear Creek Trail, where it makes a dramatic half-mile traverse right at the base of the Tapeats Sandstone cliffs. There are a series of panorama points along that traverse, and you can click on over to any of them for dramatic views back in this direction, of the river and the South Kaibab Trail plunging down to it.
Sumner Butte rises behind and above the Tapeats Cliffs, and further behind and higher soars Zoroaster Temple, with Brahma Temple peeking out behind it. To the left of Sumner our view extends all the way to Bright Angel Point and the panorama point on top of it, 15 miles from here but just a quarter-mile stroll from the historic North Rim lodge. Further left rises Buddha Temple, flanked below by Johnson and Sturdevant Points, and with the Collonade behind it.
Further left we see the twin peaks of the Temple of Isis, with Cheops Pyramid in front of it, and Shiva Temple mostly hiding behind it. The most distant features we see from here that are north of the river are Osiris Temple and the Tower of Set.
The most distant portion of the South Rim we can see, from here, hazy in the distance, is Diana Temple, with Mescalero Point just to its left. Still hazy but not quite as distant is Cocopa Point, just peeking up above the much closer, brown mass of Dana Butte. We also see a whole series of panorama points along the West Rim Drive, including Mohave Point, Hopi Point, Powell Point, Maricopa Point, and Trailview Overlook. The closest panorama point on the South Rim we can see from here is Yavapai Point. Yaqui Point and a whole series of panorama points further up on the South Kaibab Trail are closer, by they are blocked out by Skeleton Point, but one last South Rim point, Shoshone Point, peeks out from behind and to the left of Skeleton Point.
Heading east on the Tonto Trail from here, we begin a long trek across the Tonto Platform towards Cottonwood Creek, where we finally can begin a climb back up and reach the South Rim at Grandview Point, which will take most hikers 3 or 4 days to accomplish. Our first stop will be on top of a small ridge, where we can can look down on the first of several climbs down and back up though the Cremation Creek area.
Heading west on the Tonto Trail, we start a hike of just a few hours that takes over to Indian Garden and the Bright Angel Trail. We stop first on top a small rise we can see from here, for an expansive view of the Tonto Platform both east and west of the Tipoff.
Heading up the South Kaibab Trail from here, we cross the Tonto Platform, and then start a curving ascent around Skeleton Point, pausing near the top of the Bright Angel Shale to look back across to here and the North Rim, and up to a small natural arch.
Heading down the South Kaibab Trail, we follow the long, sweeping curve of the trail through the Hakatai over to Panorama Point, just past the Train Wreck, where we will indeed see an expansive, panoramic view of the Colorado River, including both the Black Bridge and the Silver Bridge.