Grand Canyon North Rim
By Radu Timis
“The earth suddenly sinks at our feet to illimitable depths. In an instant, in the twinkling of an eye, the awful scene is before us.” Fragment from “A tertiary History of the Grand Canyon District” by Clarence E. Dutton, geologist. 1880.
The North Rim is only ten miles, in bird’s flight, across the canyon. Hiking it is a harrowing 21 miles in a two, three day trip. Driving from South to North Rim is more than 200 miles. Exit the South Rim through East entrance and drive on Hwy. 64 to Cameron. Here, take north (left) on Hwy.89, then ALT.89 west (left) to Jacob Lake and from here Rte. 67 south (left) to North Rim. OR, fly in Phoenix, AZ, rent a car and drive N on Hwy. 17 to Flagstaff, take Hwy. 89 N, then ALT. 89 west to Jacob Lake and Rte. 67 S to North Rim. OR, fly in Las Vegas and drive I-15 N, exit and go east on Hwy.389 to Fredonia, then Hwy. ALT. 89 east to Jacob Lake, then south to North Rim on Rte. 67, for a total of 263 miles one way. The AZ Hwy 67 from Jacob Lake to The North Rim of the canyon has been proclaimed as “the most pleasant 44 miles in America”, going through alpine scenery, large spruce, pine, fir and aspen forests dotted with beautiful meadows.
No public transportation to North Rim, other than Trans Canyon Shuttle from South Rim. The company has daily one way and round trip schedules. The price is around $65 one way and $110 round- trip. Departure from North Rim at 7:00 a.m.; arrival at South Rim at 12:00 a.m. Leaves South Rim at 1:30 p.m. and arrives at North Rim at 6:30 p.m.
The Grand Canyon is located in the middle of Kaibab Plateau, a high elevation flat area, surrounded by lower altitude zones. At North Rim the plateau is covered in dense forests of pine, fir, spruce, and aspen that resemble the northern Canadian boreal forests, alternating with lush, green, and flowery meadows. The flora and fauna is very diverse here and somehow isolated by the canyon. Deer, coyotes, mountain lions, turkeys, and an innumerable number of species of birds inhabit the forests and the meadows, deluged with wildflowers in every summer season. The North Rim has an elevation between 8,000 – 9,100 ft (2,440 – 2,770 m), and the temperatures are generally 10-20 F lower than on South Rim. Only one out of ten visitors of The Grand Canyon National Park will make it to the North Rim. Here the life’s pace seems slower and more silent; the forest greener; the air and breeze cooler, crisper.
A trip to North Rim, as you approach the target, should include a stop at North Kaibab Plateau Visitor Center in Jacob Lake, AZ. You can collect info here; check and understand the Kaibab Plateau uniqueness showed on diverse displays. Open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., from mid-May to mid-October.
Hwy. 67 ends into a large parking area close to North Rim Visitor Center, near Grand Canyon Lodge. You’ll find here park and regional info, fliers, brochures, maps, books, exhibits, music on CDs, and souvenirs. It is open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., from mid-May to mid-October.
Before seeing the canyon, The Grand Canyon Lodge is the most prominent feature viewed here, and, in fact, the highway ends at the lodge. It was built for Union Pacific Railroad in 1928, by architect Gilbert Underwood, at the wish of then director of National Park Service, Steven Mather. The lodge burned down in 1932, and re-built on Underwood’s blueprints on 1937. Today, the 8,000 ft. setting has a sloped roof to shed more effectively the accumulated heavy snows, large ponderosa logs and huge limestone façade. And… surprise! Where is the canyon? Underwood was astute enough to design the lodge in a unique way: the visitor has to go through the lobby, descend a flight of stairs into the “Sun Room”, and from here, through a window wall, the majesty of the chasm is revealed for the first time.
The only “in the park” lodging is at The Grand Canyon Lodge, in motel-like rooms ( on the right side of the Grand Canyon Lodge) and in cabins (on the left side of the Grand Canyon Lodge). Reservations should be made well in advance, as far ahead as possible, through Xanterra Parks and Resorts at tel. 1-888-29PARKS (888-297-2757), or online at email@example.com, or www.reservations.nps.gov .
The only “in park” campground is operated by National Park Service from mid May to mid-October, has no hook-ups. Stays are limited at 7 days/season. A campsite cost $ 20/ night, and reservation can be made through Spherix at tel.800-365-2267, or online at www.reservations.nps.gov .
The Post Office is in the Great Canyon Complex, with window service Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Saturday 8:00 – 1:00 p.m.
Laundry and showers are located on the access road to North Rim Campground, and is open daily from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Outside the Park lodging is available at Kaibab Lodge (mid-May to mid-October) 18 mi/30 km north of The North Rim. The Lodge has restaurant, store, and a gas station. Call for info at 1-800-525-0924 (outside Arizona).
Jacob Lake Inn (ph. #: 928-643-7232) is 45 mi/75 km north of The North Rim and has restaurant, store, gas pumps and propane.
Outside the park campgrounds are available at:
- 1. De Motte Campground operated by the U.S. Forest Service at 16 mi/28 km north of The North Rim, from June 1st to mid-October. No reservations required. First-come, first-served. $ 15/vehicle/night.
- 2. Jacob Lake Campground is operated by U.S.Forest Service only during the summer, at 45 mi/75 km north of The North Rim. First-come, first-served. $ 15/ vehicle/night. No hook-ups.
- 3. Kaibab Camper Village is a commercial campground at ¼ mi/ 0.5 km south of Jacob Lake on AZ Hwy 67. Open from mid-May to mid-October. Full hook-ups. Ph. #: 928-643-7804. Outside Arizona calls: 800-525-0924.
Camping in national forest land outside the park is permitted. In undeveloped campgrounds there is no garbage service, potable water, the human waste must be buried (4-6” deep, and at least 100 ft. from water sources), and the tent site should be at least ¼ mi from a water source.
Trails guide of The North Rim
No permits or fees are required for day hikes.
The Bright Angel Point is 0.5 mi/0.8 km back and forth, paved and easy trail, heading to a point from which the view of the canyon is, simply, terrific.
The Transept Trail is 3 mi/4.8 km round trip and takes around 1.5h. The trail leads from the west side of the Grand Canyon Lodge, along the rim, to North Rim Campground.
The Uncle Jim Trail takes 3 hours for a round trip of 5 mi/8 km. The trail begins at the North Kaibab Trail parking lot, winding along the Bright Angel Canyon’s rim, through forest, to a point close to Uncle Jim Point, with a nice view over the upper part of the North Kaibab’s switchbacks.
The North Kaibab Trail between the trailhead and Colorado River is 14.2 mi/22.9 km long. The upper elevation of the trailhead is 8,250 ft/2515 m, and the Colorado River, at the end of the trail, is at 2,400 ft/732 m. Water sources are available at Roaring Springs (at 4.7 mi/7.6 km below the North Rim), Cottonwood Campground (at 6.8 mi/11 km below the North Rim), Bright Angel Creek, Bright Angel Campground, and Colorado River. It is part of the “corridor” trail system and is the only one maintained regularly on the North Rim. From the trailhead the route steeply descends for 4.7 mi to the point where Roaring Springs Canyon meets Bright Angel Creek. After Cottonwood Campground (open in summer months only) the track gradient lessens and goes through The Box, a 1200 ft/ 360 m inner gorge down in Bright Angel Canyon. The trail reaches The Phantom Ranch, then beyond it, The Bright Angel Campground, close to Colorado River. Day hikes that do not need permits are from North Rim’s trailhead to: Coconino Overlook (1.5 mi round trip), Supai Tunnel (4 mi round trip) and Roaring Springs (9.4 mi/15 km round trip). The later one is extremely strenuous, and could take, depending upon physical conditioning, between 7-10 hours of hiking.
The Widforss Trail is about 10 mi/16 km round trip going through forest and along the canyon rim, The Transept, on the west side of the Grand Canyon Lodge, a huge tributary of the Bright Angel Canyon. The trail ends at Widforss Point with a belvedere over the Haunted Canyon.
The Ken Patrick Trail is 10mi/16 km one way and meanders through forest and along the rim from Point Imperial to North Kaibab Trail parking area.
The Cape Royal Trail is a short, 0.6 mi/1.0 km round trip, easy walk on flat and paved terrain. The views from this point of the canyon, Angel Window and the Colorado River are impressive.
The Point Imperial Trail: 2 hours are needed for this 4.0 mi/ 6.4 km round trip time hike. It is an easy track through forest ending at the north side of the park border.
Almost all access roads to trailheads are paved and accessible by vehicles, and most of the trailheads have parking areas.
Grand Canyon National Park