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Grand Canyon’s North Rim, Escape the Crowds

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Photo by NPS

Closer than you think

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Grand Canyon‘s North Rim, the less-visited side of the canyon, offers adventure without the crowds. More than 4-million people a year visit the Grand Canyon. But only 10 percent make the 215-mile, 4.5-hour drive from the South Rim. This makes the North Rim one of the least-visited national parks in the scenic West. With one lodge, one campground, and dozens of improved and backcountry trails, the North Rim offers a less frenetic and more natural experience. At 8,255-feet elevation, 1,000-feet higher than the South Rim, the North Rim is cooler and can have frosty nights throughout the summer. You’ll discover a different forest ecosystem and a whole new set of astounding views. It’s closed (and usually snowed in) from October 15–May 15.

Stop at the Visitor Center for an orientation and update on trail conditions. The elegant stone and exposed beam Grand Canyon Lodge, build in 1937, sits on the North Rim with spectacular views of the canyon from the broad windows of the Sun Room and restaurant. Located at Bright Angel Point, the lodge offers motel rooms and three styles of cabins, some with rim views.

The paved Transept Trail follows the rim from the lodge to the North Rim Campground and Bright Angel Point. Standing on the point, you can see hundreds of multi-hued peaks, ridges, and spires across the gorge and hear Roaring Springs far below. The 15-mile North Rim Drive turns off the entrance road, Hwy 67 near the Visitor Center, and leads to four more spectacular viewpoints.

Be there at dawn First stop is a spur to Point Imperial. Get there early and catch the first rays of dawn striking Bourke Point deep in the canyon—magic. At Roosevelt Point, pull up a bench and soak up the glorious views with the Vermillion Cliffs gleaming in the distance. Stop at Walhalla Overlook, near the end of the Cape Royal “sky island” peninsula for an expansive view of the Colorado River to the southeast. Archeologists unearthed a 6-room pueblo near the overlook occupied by Pubeloan farmers in 1050 AD. The road ends at Cape Royal, the tip of the peninsula surrounded by a 270-degree panorama of the majestic canyon.

A paved, .3-mi. path leads to the view of the river a mile below and six miles away. A short side trail drops below the viewpoint to Angels Window, a natural arch in the limestone caprock. The nearby Cliff Springs Trail, 1-mi. round-trip, leads through a forested ravine to a flowing spring.


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One short hike in Grand Canyon’s North Rim

The Cape Final Trail on the North Rim Road also offers a 270-degree view of the canyon. If you only do one short cross-country hike, try this easy 4-mile round-trip. The 10-mi., one-way Ken Patrick Trail leaves the North Kaibab trailhead, winds along the rim through towering ponderosa pines, crosses the Cape Royal Road, and continues 3 mi. along the rim to Point Imperial. The Uncle Jim loop trail connects near the North Kaibab Trail end. The strenuous 14.2-mile North Kaibab Trail leads from the rim to the river with stops at the Supai Tunnel (1.7 mi. one-way), Roaring Springs (4.7 mi. one-way), and Cottonwood Campground (7 mi. one-way), and Bright Angel Campground (14 mi.) at the river.

For more extensive day hikes and backcountry experiences, the mostly flat 10-mile round-trip Widforss Trail leads through forests to a viewpoint. With towering, 3,000-foot cliffs, Toroweap is one of the most remote and spectacular viewpoints in the park. Access to the Tuweep/Toroweap Overlook, six hiking trails, and campground (no water or facilities) requires high clearance.

For activities and accommodations outside the park, check with the Kaibab National Forest Visitor Center at Jacob Lake for campground info and maps to the 18-mile Rainbow Bike Trail that connects 5 spectacular viewpoints on the North Rim. The historic Jacob Lake Inn and nearby Kaibab Camper Village, located 45 miles from the North Rim entrance at the junction
Hwy. 67 & 89A, also offer tourist facilities.


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