The North Rim of the Grand Canyon
The North Rim of the Grand Canyon offers a quieter, more relaxed way to appreciate this natural treasure than the more often visited South Rim. This side of the Grand Canyon is higher (1,000 feet) and receives more rain and snow than the South Rim. Meadows, pine trees, and aspen dot the rocky terrain, softening the perspective, and the experience. The North Rim is located over 8,000 feet above sea level, on the Kaibab Plateau. It also contains the park's highest elevation, Point Imperial, at 8,803 feet.
It's not as crowded either - ninety percent of travelers tend to go to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, many staying only to take a photo or two, then driving off to their next photo opportunity. The North Rim can only be accessed via Highway 67, which is closed in the winter, usually starting in mid-November, depending on seasonal storms. The North Rim's lodges by that time have already closed, and won't reopen till mid-May.
The two edges of the Grand Canyon are not far apart geographically, "10 miles as the raven flies" say the park's brochures. The distance a hiker must traverse to reach the other side is another matter however; 21 miles with a vertical mile down, and then back up at the end. The park advises hikers to consider this an overnight hike, even for the very fit.
Down in the depths of the canyon there are miles and miles of trails, all without the benefit of cell phone coverage, wifi or electricity. If you need to fill up your bottles with water from the Colorado River it must be treated before you drink it. Many prefer to just stay up at the rim level.
The North Rim Lodge was first built in 1928 for the Union Pacific Railroad; it was destroyed by fire in 1932. The current rustic stone lodge was built in the same location, right on the canyon rim, and was completed in 1937. You can expect good food, a bar and snack bar and lots of views, but remember this was all built back in 1937 and it will just meet your basic needs. You will need reservations. The lodge has a good online reservation system and a calendar showing open dates.
Your room will be a western log cabin or a timbered guest room. You won't find a flat screen TV in your room or a telephone. There won't be an air conditioner, and your cell phone may not work. There is a good breeze at night, and at almost 9,000 feet it's not that warm. If you venture down one of the many trails it will get hotter as you go down into the canyon. There are several places to get good drinking water and ice for your hikes and cooler, fill up before you start down. The park states purified drinking water is usually available year-round at Bright Angel and Indian Garden Campgrounds and at Bright Angel and South Kaibab trailheads.
View Drives and Hikes
There are four main overlooks along Cape Royal Road, a 20 mile long paved route along the North Rim. The view points are Point Imperial, Cape Royal, Bright Angel Point and Point Sublime. For a real driving adventure, you can travel by dirt road to Tuweep Wilderness at the park's far western end. There are only camping spots at the end of this road.
Weather at North Rim
July thunderstorms annouce the beginning of monsoon season at the Grand Canyon. Rain and clouds highlight the beauty of the canyon's sheer angles, colored stone and massive walls, and refresh the trees and the visitors. The monsoon in the Southwest begins in July and can continue into the first couple of weeks in September.
Storms don't usually last long here. Enjoy them, but if there is lightning, remember to find shelter in a car or a building.
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