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The Grand Canyon - North Rim

Photo-Grand Canyon

mule team descending the canyon

On the North Rim of the Arizona's Grand Canyon, the world stands still as you walk along the great Transcept, a side-canyon which is every bit as impressive as any of the gorges, including the great river canyon itself. Even in the busy summer season in the North Rim park, you'll often find yourself alone with Nature, unlike the scene at the horrendously crowded South Rim - ten miles from the North Rim as the eagle flies, but 160 miles away by road, and seeming like a world distant from the bus tours, crowded viewpoints, lineups to get a lackluster meal, and mad dashes to climb aboard the park shuttle buses because the visitors are so thick you aren't allowed to drive along the scenic West Rim Road during summer at the South Rim part of the national park.

There isn't a road along the rim, except for Cape Royal Road -- a 20-mile drive from the park "village" to several high points along side canyons, from where you can gaze across a succession of gorges before your eyes hit on the great canyon of the Colorado River (looking pretty distant from here), and then farther south to the peaks of the San Francisco Range. You have to walk (actually use your legs) to get the best scenic views. They are indeed spectacular -- as fine as any at the South Rim, and in my views much finer.

Kaibab Plateau

The North Rim park sits on the Kaibab Plateau, part of the enormous Colorado Plateau. Driving to the rim, over the 50 miles of the Kaibab Parkway (Hwy. 67), changes your metabolismn and calms you down for the visit to the Grand Canyon. This is prime ponderosa pine and spruce forest, dotted with damp meadows where white-tailed deer browse. The unique Kaibab squirrel fills up (to a tubby weight of two pounds) with pine nuts, as the winter approaches. The Kaibab National Forest offers 120 miles of hiking, riding, and cross-country ski trails. Demotte Park is a small community, set in one of these meadows north of the park boundary. Here are a forest campground, country store and the venerable Kaibab Lodge, with rooms and a restaurant.

Inside the Park Gate

You show your Golden Eagle Pass. or pay your entrance fee, and you drive south toward the rim - seven miles from the gate. The road continues through pine forest until reaching its end, in the parking lot of the Grand Canyon Lodge. The semi-deluxe log suites, motel rooms, and very rustic cabins (all belonging to the Lodge) offer the only accommodations inside the park. A large park camp- ground is located just north of the Lodge complex.

Scoping the Canyons

Looking down at Nature's architecture is what you do here, and for most of the great sights, you need to do a little walking. Several short trails lead from the Lodge area to vista points. If you expend no more energy than this, you just have to walk the trail to Bright Angel Point. It is undoubtedly the finest half mile walk anywhere in the nation! For the ultimate views of the whole Grand Canyon Region, drive the 23-mile Cape Royal Road. This jaunt can easily take a full day of sightseeing, picnicking, and wildlife viewing. Point Imperial provides the highest view- point in the park, looking down on the main and side canyons, all the way to the South Rim, and beyond. At more than 8,800 feet, a boreal spruce/fir forest covers the slopes. Angel's Window is an in-credible opening in a rock formation, reached by a side-trail At the end of the drive, Cape Royal Overlook places you in a pinyon pine/juniper woodland.

The 160 miles it takes to get here is nothing. I'd drive an extra thousand miles to get to this sublime wild place, at the edge of forever.

How to Get There

First drive north (from Flagstaff) or south (from Page) on U.S. 89. Then turn west on Alternate Route 89 and drive over the Navajo Bridge at the north edge of the Grand Canyon. From the turn-off, it's 55 miles to Jacob Lake. Turn south on State Route 67 and drive 45 miles to North Rim and the fine old Grand Canyon Lodge. The Park Campground is on the entrance road, just north of the lodge.

A Few of the North Rim Trails

Bridge Angel Point
This should be your first exploration, a half mile walk starting at the Lodge, providing fine views.

Leading from the side of a gravel road, north of the mule paddock, this five-mile (one way) hike leads beside Transcept Canyon, to Widforss Point and some of the best panoramic views of the main canyon, plus buttes closer to the North Rim.

A short walk along the rim of this side-canyon provides views of the results of a gigantic rock slide (1991) and a host of rock formations.

North Kaibab
This is the trail that leads down to the Colorado River and Phantom Ranch. You can hike (hardy people only), or ride a mule. Phantom Ranch offers rooms and meals close to the river.

Where to Stay

The North Rim Campground has sites for RVs (no hookups), trailers, and tents, with a store, showers, and gas pumps.

Accomodations in various Grand Canyon Lodge rooms and suites may be reserved by calling (801) 586-7686, or write TW Services, P.O Box 400, Cedar City UT 84720. The Lodge has a dining room and a cocktail lounge -- both providing fine views from the canyon's edge.

Closed in Winter

The North Rim park and the lodge are open from mid-May, when the snow clears, to October, when the snow comes.


The photo at the top of this page was taken by Bob Ribokas, the creator and majordomo of the early "Unnofficial" Grand Canyon National Park Home Page. His long-time site "GRAND CANYON Explorer" offers a lot of information on the Grand Canyon. To reach this information—still on-line—on the ecology of the Canyon, local events and attractions, go here. His more recently developed photography site is here.


Fraser Bridges



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