Situated at the far southern fringe of the Walhalla Plateau along the North Rim, Cape Royal is one of Grand Canyon National Park’s finest viewpoints. From here the epic canyon unfolds to the south and east, revealing stunning colors, deep gorges, and towering buttes. An added bonus is the nearby Angel’s Window, a picturesque arch high on the limestone wall that beautifully frames the Colorado River—the canyon’s main sculptor—in the distance. Both Cape Royal and Angel’s Window can be seen on an easy, mile-long walk that covers several viewpoints, offering different vantage points of the grandest of all the world’s canyons.
The Cape Royal Trail begins from the parking area situated at the end of Cape Royal Road, 23 miles from the North Rim Visitor Center in Grand Canyon National Park. Though well away from the crowded area around the Visitor Center, Grand Canyon Lodge, and Bright Angel Point, Cape Royal is a popular spot as well – with good reason, perhaps, as this is one of the finest viewpoints in the park.
The paved trail begins by crossing a level stretch of land dotted with the area’s ubiquitous pinyon pines and junipers, as well as sagebrush, cliffrose, and currant. Interpretive signs offer detail on the local flora, while the views begin to open up at around 1/10 mile. Here, off to the left, is a terrific initial overlook, where hikers can get an excellent view of Angel’s Window, the triangle-shaped natural arch which captures the blue-green Colorado River in its frame. This wonder is the product of freezing and thawing, which accelerated erosion of the Kaibab limestone along the North Rim.
From this vista, hikers can continue on for another 1/10 mile, arriving at a junction with a spur leading left to another viewpoint, this one out across Angel’s Window. After reaching an initial viewing area, the trail drops down a series of rocky steps and ends at a windy outcrop high above the canyon. Railings shield hikers from a fall of more than 1,000 feet into the Unkar Creek drainage area.
Visitors get great views of several prominent features, including Freya Castle (7,299’), Vishnu Temple (7,529’), and Krishna Shrine (6,115’), as well as one of the best views from the rim of the Colorado River, visible (and sometimes audible) in the distance. Beyond the reddish-grey basin of the Colorado, the walls rise some 3,000 feet to the East Rim, with Cedar Mountain (7,053’) beyond. To the north, one can also see Cape Final (7,916’), Jupiter Temple (7,081’), and the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers beyond.
Returning to the main trail, bear left and continue south for 2/10 mile to Cape Royal, stopping at an unofficial (and unfenced!) viewpoint on the left, which sports great views of Vishnu Temple. The paved trail ends by curling around to a railed-in viewpoint and a smattering of interpretive signs. Dominating the landscape to the southwest is massive Wotans Throne, an iconic fixture of the northern half of the Grand Canyon. Beyond, one can spot Horseshoe Mesa and the Grandview area of the South Rim in the distance. Off to the southeast is Vishnu Temple again.
Cape Royal is truly one of the most exceptional viewpoints at the Grand Canyon and well worth the lengthy drive and short walk. After walking to both the Cape Royal and Angel’s Window vistas, return to the trailhead, capping off a one-mile jaunt.