Spencer Trail Lookout near Lees Ferry Arizona

Spencer Trail


Mileage: 3.8
Elevation gain: 1695 feet
Time to complete: 3-4 hours
Stars: ★★★★½
Difficulty: 3/5 (Ratings explained)
Steep, well-groomed trail with some drop-offs

Horseshoe Bend without the crowds? Well, maybe not exactly, but Spencer Trail Lookout is pretty close! This steep hike near Lees Ferry takes you up to a high bluff where you’ll have unbelievable views up and down the Colorado River. The trail is well-defined and easy to follow, but those with fear of heights might have second thoughts.

Trail Description

Lees Ferry Fort

To get to the trailhead, follow the Lees Ferry Road as far as you can to the parking lot near the Lees Ferry Fort. An interpretive trail gives interesting historical information about the buildings and mining equipment that remains.

Lees Ferry Fort
Lees Ferry Fort

Both the River Trail, which is an easy 2-mile trail that follows the edge of the river, and the Spencer Trail, which travels to the top of the bluff, share this first part of the trail. Follow it until the well-signed fork for Spencer Trail.

Spencer Trail

Standing at the bottom of this trail, you’ll be looking up and wondering how the heck anyone got the idea to climb up there. According to the signage, Charles H. Spencer had this trail built in 1910 so that his mules could bring fuel from a coal mine at Warm Creek Canyon to run his machinery at Lees Ferry.

It also warns you that the trail climbs 1500 feet in one mile, so if the view of the cliff above you doesn’t scare you off, this might. I think that’s an exaggeration, honestly, but it is a difficult hike, so be prepared.

The trail is well groomed with nicely cut stairs just where you need them most. As you head up the first set of switchbacks, already you’ll be treated to magnificent views of the river.

Spencer Trail to Spencer Trail Lookout

After the first set of switchbacks, there’s a long, relatively flat section that heads back toward the next set of switchbacks. This provides a nice reprieve from the climb.

Those with fear of heights might hesitate here because you do have a cliff to the side, but the trail is very good, and I never felt unsafe. Use your best judgement.

Next you’ll encounter another set of switchbacks, followed by another relatively flat section that leads back toward the river, and probably some other hikers reassuring you that the hike is worth the struggle. They’re not wrong.

By the time you reach the third set of switchbacks, you might be thinking, “That wall doesn’t seem to be getting any smaller. Does this hike ever end?” But as you start up that last set of switchbacks, you start to see hope. Get excited, people, because that magnificent view is within your grasp!

Spencer Trail Lookout

Once you top out on the bluff, you might find a useless piece of wood sticking out of a huge pile of rocks with no explanation. Annnnnd the trail kind of peters out. The couple in front of us disappeared there, and we never saw them again. So mysterious.

Luckily, I had my GPS unit, which marked the lookout to my right. You might find a faint use trail leading up there, but basically the idea is to follow it out to the edge.


Spencer Trail Lookout

Wanna go to Horseshoe Bend now? Didn’t think so.

Map & Directions

Location Lees Ferry, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Page, Arizona

From Highway 89, take Highway 89A toward the north rim of the Grand Canyon. At Marble Canyon, turn right onto Lees Ferry Road and follow it to the very end.

Fees/Passes You can pay a fee at the fee station on the way in or use your America the Beautiful Pass

Trailhead Facilities Restrooms available, potable water available

Download KML or GPX

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Disclaimer Outdoor activities have inherent risk, and we will not be able to tell you all the risks you may face. You are responsible for your own safety, so prepare as well as you can and know your limits. Follow this guide at your own risk. And have fun!

2 responses to “Spencer Trail”

  1. Andy Glaser Avatar
    Andy Glaser

    Hi! If you had to choose between Cathedral Wash and Spencer Trail, which would you pick? Thanks! -Andy

    1. Stacey Johnston Avatar

      Hi Andy! Both of those hikes are very excellent, but they are also very different, so it really depends on what’s more appealing to you. If you want a butt kicking hike up to a really amazing viewpoint with great views along the way, Spencer Trail is for you. Cathedral Wash is less strenuous and has more shade since it’s in a canyon. The appeal here is the really cool canyon walls, so it’s less about the destination with this one, although the spot along the Colorado River at the end is really nice. However, some people struggle with it because you have to use your arms to climb up/down some spots, and there are sketchy places that some will find unnerving. We saw some people on this hike that didn’t make it to the end. Small kids should not be brought along, in my opinion. I probably didn’t help at all, but I can honestly say you will love either one!

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