The North Rim of the Grand Canyon


A day spent visiting the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is a day very well invested.

The drive to the North Rim itself is a wondrous experience. You leave Highway 89A at Jacob’s Lake (make sure to stop for one of their world famous cookies!) and drive 53 miles through a variety of vistas. Sometimes you will be in old burns that are rejuvenating beautifully, sometimes you’ll be going through fairly new burns that are only just beginning to regrow. You’ll see aspen groves in a variety of colors, depending on the season, Ponderosa Pine forests, pristine mountain meadow complexes of widely mixed species of trees complemented by raptors, songbirds, coyotes, deer, buffalo and elk.

After crossing the Kaibab Plateau you’ll enter the park and begin to descend on the long approach to the Lodge. The forest gets thicker, the road begins to snake through canyons, with a few opportunities to branch off and climb out to more far-flung vista points.

For this description, we’ll stay the course and head out to the Lodge, and Bright Angel Point. The lodge is situated across the Canyon from the Park facilities on the South Rim. They are far enough away that you won’t really see them except at night, when you can see the lights. 

It is a long way across. 

That’s the overriding sense of the Grand Canyon. 

It’s deep, it’s wide and it offers an experience that is so much bigger than anything I have ever felt. And for some reason, for me, here at the North Rim there is an intimacy that makes the deep time that is on offer easier to take in and savor. I really love this place.

The trail out to Bright Angel point can be scary, and wonderful. It is a wonderful chance to give yourself the excitement of trepidation, in a good way. You may be perfectly fine and wonder what I’m even talking about…or, it may scare you a little. Or a lot. Just remember, you’ll be fine. Millions of people have walked this small trail and been fine. And the view at the end, the triumphant view from the point of the world! Definitely go for it if you possibly can. There’s no rush, and it is worth what it takes.

After taking in Bright Angel point, definitely visit the Lodge on the way back. 

Take a little time to place yourself in history. Wander the beautiful historic building, take in the old photos, sit in the same adirondack chairs with your feet on the same stone wall, taking in the view that has been enjoyed by so many for nearly 100 years. Look out over the layers and layers and layers. 

Consider the fact that each of these layers, when it was the exposed, active world, was a different world. Some were oceans. Some were jungles, some sand dunes, some lakes and streams. Think of that. And here we are, a part of it all.

When you’ve let the canyon take you in, you can choose what else you want to experience. There are overlooks to drive to and wander – Point Imperial is a shorter drive with less walking at the end, Cape Royal, after a longer drive, offers a mile long stroll with breathtaking overlooks, about a mile out to the point.

For me, a reasonable day trip to the North Rim from Zion involves walking the Bright Angel trail, exploring the Lodge, and taking in one of the other overlooks (Point Imperial or Cape Royal). I choose Cape Royal for people who want to do more walking, and Point Imperial for those who are ready for a bit of quieter sightseeing.

If you want to do more walking along the rim closer to the Lodge, there are two good options – the Transept Trail leaves right from the Lodge and traverses along the rim to the Campground and Store. The Widforss Trail is a bigger hike, with more climbing and descending. It’s an in and out hike, so you can go as far as you like, ending up at a point across a side canyon from the lodge.

The North Rim offers an exceptional day.