The deep incisions and multihued colors of northern Arizona’s Grand Canyon have captivated visitors for thousands of years, inviting spectators to reflect on their smallness in the midst of such massive grandeur. Today Grand Canyon National Park receives more than 5 to 6 million visitors each year, but the vast majority flock to the canyon’s more popular South Rim. Those looking for a little more solitude and a different take on the canyon can head to the North Rim, a 4.5-hour drive from the south side but considerably more accessible from southern Utah and even Las Vegas.
Driving on Route 67 across the highly-forested Kaibab Plateau, it’s hard to believe that a massive canyon, more than 10 miles wide and 5,000 feet deep, lies ahead. But as visitors pass the meadows south of Jacob Lake and traverse woody Thompson Canyon, they are finally tantalizingly close to the rim. Staying right at the first major junction past the entrance station, visitors can head to the Visitor Center, Bright Angel Lodge, and rim views from Bright Angel Point, a popular look into the canyon at 8,161 feet. Some short hikes, such as the Transept Trail and Bridle Path, explore the pine-studded plateau around here, while more ambitious hikers can venture down into Bright Angel Canyon via the North Kaibab Trail.
Better than the area around the Lodge and Visitor Center, however, is the 20-mile Cape Royal Road, which courses across the Walhalla Plateau to some of the park’s finest viewpoints, including Roosevelt Point, Walhalla Overlook, and the namesake Cape Royal. Eastward views from Roosevelt Point and Cape Royal extend across Grand Canyon to the vast Navajo Nation lands beyond, while southerly vistas from Cape Royal extend to the South Rim, with the San Francisco Peaks of the Flagstaff area on the horizon. Amidst the canyon are a series of craggy features that make the gorge special: massive Wotans Throne (7,721’), majestic Vishnu Temple (7,529’), and blocky Tritle Peak (8,388’)—among many other buttes and juts—tower above multi-hued canyons-within-canyons below. One particularly spectacular viewpoint is Point Imperial, at the end of a 2.6-mile spur road from the Cape Royal drive: from here, hikers can see east toward the Colorado River but are also spoiled with rocky pinnacles in the foreground, such as Mount Hayden (8,372’) (see photo above).
Although the North Rim is no secret, all this has a more low-key flavor than the bustling South Rim, making for an excellent day trip from Kanab, Utah or Page, Arizona or perhaps a multi-day adventure. See below for a photo collection from various viewpoints along the North Rim.
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