North Rim of Grand Canyon
One of the USA’s top tourism attractions, found in Arizona is the Grand Canyon. The National Park is a UNESCO world heritage site that can get a little too overcrowded in the summer months unless you head deep into the park. It’s all about the great outdoors and amazing mountainous canyon scenery – a visit to the Grand Canyon really is a must if possible – try to check out the skywalk.
The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is significantly different than the South Rim mainly due to the elevation difference of 1,500 ft (450 m) As compared to the South Rim, the north rim is wetter, colder, and has a shorter park season every year. Moreover, the North Rim is twice as far back from the Colorado River as the South Rim.
Major recreational activities at the North Rim include backcountry hiking, camping, scenic drives, horseback riding, biking, cross-country skiing, and the famous mule rides. The major tourist attractions along the North Rim are North Rim Visitor Center, Grand Canyon Lodge, Bright Angel Point, and the Kaibab Visitor Center. The Visitor Center offers only limited facilities that include an 83 site campground and a few log huts in the nearby forest for accommodation. Nearest hotels are located about 82 miles (132 km) away in Kaibab.
North Rim has 2 main viewpoints towards the east. One is Point Imperial and the other is the spectacular Cape Royal. These viewpoints offer breathtaking views of the Canyon and its surrounding picturesque landscape. The various scenic driving tours that can be enjoyed here are the Cape Royal Scenic Drive, North Rim Trails, Transept Trail, Cape Final Trail, Cliff Springs Trail, Ken Patrick Trail, Uncle Jim Trail, Widforss Trail, North Kaibab Trail, Walhalla Ruins, Western and Eastern Kaibab Plateau Trails, and the Toroweap.
The 5 hours journey along the scenic, 215 miles (346 km) route from the South Rim to the north rim is very exciting. This road drops down from the pine-covered plateau located near the canyon into the flat, empty, but colorful Painted Desert in the Navajo Indian Reservation. On its way, it crosses the flourishing Alpine meadows and forests of fir and pine. It shows only sporadic signs of habitation. Summer temperature at the north rim is generally 5-10 degrees lower than that at the South Rim. Moreover, night frosts can occur anytime during the year in the north rim.
Cape Royal Drive
Cape Royal Drive, also known as the North Rim Drive is named after Cape Royal, the southernmost viewpoint along the North Rim of the magnificent Grand Canyon. This scenic drive follows some of the North Rim’s most panoramic vistas. It uses the paved Cape Royal Road and is at an elevation of 7,865 ft (2397.5 m).
The Cape Royal Drive extends to a distance of 23 miles (37 km) from the Grand Canyon Lodge. The various viewpoints located along the road include Vista Encantada, Point Imperial, Roosevelt Point, Angel’s Window, Walhalla Overlook, and Cape Royal. Besides the viewpoints, the paved drive leads to several short hiking trails, a huge natural arch, and a prehistoric Glades Pueblo. A 0.6-mile (0.9 km) round-trip trail, descending into the canyon at the end of the road, runs past Angels Window to an incredible panorama at Cape Royal just above a grand curve of the Colorado River.
There are no supplies made available on the drive. Therefore, it is advisable to bring food and water along with you for a picnic. The Cape Royal Road abides east off of highway 67 and cuts through the forest to the east for 6 miles (9.6 km) to another intersection. At this intersection, it turns right toward the Walhalla Plateau and the spectacular Greenland Lake, Vista Encantada, Cape Final, and Cape Royal. The major tourist attraction at this turn is the Green land Lake and the Salt Cabin on the southeast side of this lake. From here, a 17 mile (27.3 km) drive southwards, along the paved road, will lead you to several other viewpoints, a convenient picnic area, Cape Royal Parking Lot. Another tourist attraction near the parking lot is the well-preserved Anasazi Dwelling.
The paved road passes through thick forests of locust, spruce, and ponderosa pine mixed with stands of quaking aspen. Besides, there are lovely meadows of scarlet burgle and blue lupine along the Cape Royal Road. You can also spot long-eared mule deer and the reclusive white-tailed Kaibab squirrel in this region. Cape Royal Drive is a trip in itself as there is enough to see and do here for an entire day.
Grand Canyon Lodge
The Grand Canyon Lodge is located in the Grand Canyon National Park and is maintained by National Park Service Western Regional Office. It was designed by Gilbert Stanley and was built by the Utah Parks Company in 1927-28.
Grand Canyon Lodge is a complex that consists of the main lodge building, 91 standard cabins on the Bright Angel point, and 23 deluxe cabins. These deluxe cabins are grouped together to the northeast of the main lodge building and are made on a slight rise. On the other hand, the standard cabins are located to the southwest and are placed on a moderate slope descending into the Transept Canyon. The main lodge is the central feature and is banked into the side of the rim.
Initially, the main lodge was a rustic building with Californian overtones and Spanish revival styles. However, after it was rebuilt in 1938, it became less stylized and more strictly rustic. At present, it is U-shaped and has a wood frame construction made of Kaibab Limestone, log-slab, and ponderosa logs. Its multiple roofs are finished with roof shingles. The main lodge building houses the dining room, registration lobby, recreation room, sunroom, a western saloon, “buffeteria,” utility rooms, kitchens, and various offices. Besides, there are a variety of porticos in the lodge building.
The deluxe cabins are made of half-log siding on wood frames with stone foundations and stone corner piers. There are a total of 18 deluxe duplexes and 5 quadruplexes. The former has a rectangular plan while the latter is square in plan. The standard cabins are much smaller than the deluxe cabins and are placed very close to each other. These cabins are rectangular in the plan.
Grand Canyon Lodge has a well-built pioneer flavor that persists even today despite the vehicles and the crowds that arrive here. The topographic setting of the complex, comfortable cabins, log and stone building materials, the beautiful main lodge building, and the grand vistas in the area, make this lodge a pastoral visitor experience.
Point Imperial is one of the two main viewpoints of the north rim and is the highest vantage point that can be reached by road. It is situated at the North Terminus of the Point Imperial Road. It is the highest in the Park and is located eastwards at an elevation of 8,803 ft (2683 m) above the sea level. It is about 6,600 ft (2011.6 m) above the Colorado River. This viewpoint overlooks the Canyon that appears shallow and less branched from here.
Point Imperial offers breathtaking views of vast areas of the Painted Desert in the Navajo Reservation. The flat, empty, but colorful Painted Desert is located at the east end of the Grand Canyon. It also provides excellent views of the panoramic Mt. Hayden. One can also view the Marble Canyon and the Saddle Mountain from this viewpoint.
Besides, Point Imperial offers spectacular views of the Vermilion Cliffs on the north perspective, Nankoweap Creek below, smoothed Navajo Mountain on the horizon in Utah to the northeast, and the Little Colorado River Canyon to the southeast. To reach this point, you need to follow the Cape Royal Road for 5.3 miles (8.5 km), and then turn left and drive further for 2.7 miles (4.3 km). Picnic tables under the trees and public restrooms are also provided here.
Point Imperial lies to the north of the Walhalla Plateau and is the nearest point to the Grand Canyon Lodge on that eastern edge. It is an awesome place to view the sunrise and is a must-see when you visit the Grand Canyon. The moments just before sunrise provide the most remarkable lighting of the sky. The early sun on the sandstone offers marvelous spectacle and vivid colors.
Vista Encantada is situated along the North Rim’s Cape Royal Road. Its name has been derived from the Spanish word meaning “enchanting view“. This viewpoint is appropriately named so as it offers breathtaking views of the magnificent Brady Peak, the upper drainage of Nankoweap Creek, and the flat, empty, but colorful Painted Desert to the east. Vista Encantada viewpoint is oriented mainly northeast and oversees the Walhalla Plateau. It is located near Roosevelt Point.
This viewpoint is, in fact, the best place for a picnic. When driving along the Cape Royal Road, you can opt to stop here at lunchtime. There are several picnic tables provided in shade. These tables have fabulous off-side canyon views. Unlike the South Rim, where there are only a limited number of tables, north rim’s Vista Encantada provides several tables with other picnic facilities to its visitors, thus proving to be the most convenient stopping place on the north rim. The favorite official lunch served here comprises of the very tasty salami sandwiches.
Several short trails runoff along the rim at this viewpoint. You can reach Vista Encantada by driving along the scenic Cape Royal Road past a trailhead for the Ken Patrick Trail and the spectacular Greenland Lake onto the Walhalla Plateau. This Viewpoint is not only the best lunch spot but is also the best place to view the magnificent North Rim of the Grand Canyon.