Grand Canyon North Rim

The North Rim only gets 10% of the visitors that the South Rim enjoys. Yet, in many ways it is a more pleasant place -- its higher elevation means that it is greener, shadier and cooler than the south side.
It's the North Rim that has all the nooks and crannies in its wall, while the south side is relatively straight and monolithic -- so when observed from the other side it doesn't look quite so magnificently complex.

"It is a hard job to sketch it even in the scrawniest outline; and try as I may, not in the least sparing myself, I cannot tell the hundredth part of the wonders of its features..."

John Muir, on the Grand Canyon.

The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is rugged and relatively inaccessible country usually frequented by avid hikers and campers looking for a completely isolated but amazingly beautiful ‘outback’ kind of area. There is not an airstrip on the North Rim and the only access is by road. The North Rim is accessible from Southern Utah (and Las Vegas as well), or in Arizona by driving all the way around the Canyon from the south. It is also possble to do a strenuous hike from one rim down, across the bottom of the canyon and back up the other side. (Not for the inexperience or unprepared)

There are three developed viewpoints on the North rim of the Grand Canyon. You are looking across the expanse of the canyon rather than looking into the depths. You will only slivers of the Colorado River as it's too far distant.

  • Point Imperial

    Point Imperial is the highest in the park at an elevation of 8.803 feet. It overlooks large areas of the Painted Desert and the Navajo Reservation. Here you are seeing the northern most view of the Grand Canyon. The Colorado River spills from the walls of the marble Canyon which looks like a winding gash with layers of red and black Precambrian rocks. There are also views of Mt Hayden and Saddle Mountain from Point Imperial.

    To get there take the Cape Royal scenic drive. From the Grand Canyon Lodge go north 3 miles to AZ 67 to the paved park road that juts off to the right. Drive 5 miles to the 3 way intersection and turn left at the sign for Point Imperial. Continue 3 miles to the lookout point.

  • Point Sublime

    Interesting historical fact

    "The view from Point Sublime, 16.5 M (7464 Alt.), includes, from east to west, more than 150 miles, and was described in 1881 by Captain Clarence E. Dutton, noted geologist, as, "by far the most sublime of all earthly spectacles."
    - Quoted from Arizona A State Guide in the 1949 edition on page 489

    Point Sublime is breathtaking in its beauty. With a 4 wheel drive you can literally drive right onto the point and enjoy the beauty. This is the western-most of the North Rim viewpoints.

    Be sure to check on road conditions and possible closures before heading out.

    The drive is 18 miles on a maintained road however there are parts of the road that are fairly rugged. The drive is through a forest of Aspen and Ponderosa Pines so there aren't any vistas or lookout points. However, it is a beautiful drive. The road eventually ends up in a clearing.

    From the Widforss Point Trailhead parking lot, travel west on the dirt road for .3 miles to a "Y" intersection and turn left to the Point Sublime primitive road. At the clearing mentioned above, there is a road that branches to the left or right. Take the right. Continue through the long clearing which ends and the remainder of the trip will be in the forest.

    At 10.7 miles there is a pullout on the right which affords a nice viewpoint into Crystal Canyon. Far below notice the many "temples" rising from the canyon floor. To the south offers a chance to walk out on a limestone table perched far above the canyon below.

    At 11.3 miles another intersection is encountered; a right at this junction goes to Firepit Swamp Point and a left turn continues to Point Sublime.

    Just .5 miles after the junction another pull-out, on the left, offers some more picture-taking opportunities.

    The next 6 miles of travel is done on a better surface and becomes part of the peninsula that Point Sublime is connected to.Soon the pines and firs give way to pinons, juniper and desert cactus as the road leads to what now becomes the obvious Point Sublime table top plateau. The road will continue for nearly .5 mile and end at the southern-most tip of Point Sublime. There are picnic tables near the end. However the immediate 270 degree view will mesmerize; eating and resting will become secondary. There is even a small slice of the Colorado River visible to the south. This tabletop point is ideal for picnicking and even camping with the proper permit.

  • Cape Royal

    This point gives a panoramic view of the Unkar Delta from the rim. This is the section of the park where the Colorado River turns, called Unkar Canyon.

    Don't miss Angels Window which is a treat along this short walk. Continue on the paved trail out to the Cape Royal view point for the most spectacular view of the North Rim. The Desert View Watchtower on the South Rim can be seen from this point.

    Location: Walhalla Plateau. 23 miles from the North Rim Visitors Center

Other interesting sites on the North Rim

  • Walhalla Overlook

    This is one of the lowest elevations at the North Rim. The Unkar Delta of the Colorado River can be seen from the rim at this view point. There is an archeology ranger talk held at the Walhalla Overlook and the ancient ancestral Pueblo Kiva remains are located there. Nearby is the short hike to an ancient granary.
    Location: Walhalla Plateau near the Cape Royal parking lot.

  • Vista Encantada

    Vista Encantada - This view point offers a nice view of the Painted Desert to the east, Brady Peak and the upper drainage of Nankoweap Creek.
    Location: Walhalla Plateau. Near Roosevelt Point

  • Roosevelt Point

    This point has a great view of the confluence of the Little Colorado River and the Grand Canyon. The point was named after Teddy Roosevelt. President Roosevelt, who in 1919, declared the land a national park. Location: Walhalla Plateau. 4.9 miles from Cape Royal.

Things to Remember

Bring an extra set of car keys; it could be a long wait for a locksmith.
Film is available at the North Rim, but the closest camera repair is in Flagstaff.
There is no automobile mechanic on the North Rim.Distances are deceiving in this part of the country. It may look like you can visit three parks in one day, but reality is often different.
Keep your gas tank full. The next gas station may be quite a distance down the road.
Carry water in your car, particularly during summer months.

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