Offering fantastic views with less congestion, those willing to drive five hours and 212 miles from the South Rim will be rewarded a chance to see the canyon without the crowds.
Distance from nearby park entrances and cities
207 miles from Flagstaff, Arizona
212 miles from South Rim Canyon Village
351 miles from Phoenix, Arizona
275 miles from Las Vegas, Neveda
Map of the Grand Canyon’s North Rim
Grand Canyon North Rim is an Explorer’s Paradise
At Point Imperial, the distant rising sun gradually spreads a blanket of warm red and gold light across the giant walls of rock, and the singular spire of Mount Hayden. The photographer wonders how he could possibly be here, alone, in the midst of this mind boggling landscape. Breaking his reverie, the evocative song of a Canyon Wren rises and falls in crescendo, just eight or ten clear notes. It is, perhaps, the most memorable bird song of the West.
The Quiet Side of the Grand Canyon
The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is an experience wholly separate from the South Rim. A more remote, rugged and individual opportunity to see what John Wesley Powell described as, “ledges and cliffs where the soaring eagle is lost to view before it reaches a summit.”
Of the 5 million people who arrive annually to view the 1.8 billion years of geology the Grand Canyon represents, only about 12% ever make a trip to the North Rim. From most points on the South Rim, unlike the North Rim, you can’t see all the way down the mile-long slit in the earth to where the Colorado River runs. At a 1,000 foot greater elevation, the North Rim offers what are considered the best three comprehensive views of the Canyon; Tuweep, Point Sublime, and Cape Royal.
How to Get to the North Rim
Access is via Hwy 67, a beautiful drive through rich conifer forest and past Jacob Lake. Jacob Lake is misnamed since there is no lake to be found there, but the rustic Jacob Lake Inn offers the best cookies on earth (this is the undeniable opinion of locals). The majestic Grand Canyon Lodge-North Rim, with its excellent on-site restaurant, is a good place to begin your adventure. The North Rim has the highest concentration of plateau-top trails in the Grand Canyon, so hikers new to the 8,000′ altitude (or with baby carriages), are able to enjoy a walk with a view.
Viewpoints of the North Rim
Easily reached via a quarter-mile, paved walkway, Bright Angel Point has spur trails with spectacular views of distinctive canyon buttes and rock temples. Early morning, and sunset views from Bright Angel are a rave with photographers. Vista Encontada, another stopping point, is a great place for a picnic lunch.
Other more remote, stunning overlooks include Point Imperial, Walhalla Plateau, Cape Royal, and Point Sublime. The drive to Cape Royal has great views of the canyon that can be seen along the road. Be sure to stop at Roosevelt Point, and take the short loop hike with a view of the Little Colorado River as it enters its confluence with the greater Colorado River. Access to the well-named Point Sublime is only possible with a 4WD, but is well-worth the extra effort. Information on all locations is available at the Visitors Center.
Trips From the North Rim to the Canyon Depths
To fully experience the Grand Canyon, you should get inside the canyon. Mules have carried visitors down the precipitous trails since 1920, and still provide a safe, easy and enjoyable way to explore. For the more intrepid visitors who prefer their own 2-feet, the North Kaibab trail winds its way from the Lodge all the way down to the Colorado River. It is advisable to begin early morning, while it is still cool, and be prepared. Know your own level of athleticism and remember that it is all uphill on the way back. Hiking is one of the most rewarding ways to see Grand Canyon, and can be the most challenging. Several stopping points along the North Kaibab trail provide tremendous, unforgettable views. Rangers also offer a number of Walk & Talk tours, pointing out popular wildlife and describing the geologic history surrounding you.
Phantom Ranch at the Bottom of the Canyon
At night, in the pitch-black skies above canyon walls, lucky guests staying at Phantom Ranch gaze at stars that stun. Back-packing, mule-rides, or river boat are the only way to reach the only lodging available deep down in the heart of the Canyon, next to the Colorado River and Bright Angel Creek. The rustic wood-and-boulder cabins, built in 1922 by Architect Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter, are a great place to stay and discover many more canyon secrets. And, to hear the cascading, unforgettable call of the Canyon Wren.
Reservations must be made in advance to stay at Phantom Ranch.
You say Tuweep, I say Toroweap
The official Grand Canyon National Park! North Rim, is not the only way to continue your adventure here. Tuweep (or, Toroweap) is a lonely outpost in the North Western corner of the Grand Canyon. Rising over 3,000 feet above the Colorado River, the view dropping down across sheer rock is awesome, and unique. Lava Falls, the river’s most challenging rapid, can be seen! and heard! from this precipice. This is a backcountry adventure, and requires preparation or the company of a Guide. Free camping is allowed in the Tuweep Campground.
North Kaibab Forest
Many other options exist in the North Kaibab Forest. The Kaibab Plateau-North Rim Scenic Byways winds through meadows and forests ending at Grand Canyon National Park’s North Rim. Over 300 miles of trails, some clinging to the rim of the Grand Canyon, offer a diversity of challenge and solitude – and spectacular views only shared by local wildlife. Some trails include bike routes, some go to cool streams and hidden waterfalls. Fire Point, JumpUp, Crazy Jug, Rainbow Rim Trail.
Article by Laurel Beesley courtesy of VisitSouthernUtah.com