This was my first real visit to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We did a Rim to Rim hike in October 2010, but we weren’t able to get reservations at the lodge on the North Rim, so we ended up staying about an hour north of the park the night before the hike. The next morning we drove in to the park, parked at the North Kaibab trail head and started hiking. When I started planning this trip, spending some time at the North Rim was a “must have” part of the plan. The other problem with not staying at the North Rim lodge is that you have to drive to the North Rim. When you drive to the North Rim and then hike across you have to go back to get your car! This time we were able to take the shuttle from the South Rim to the North Rim. It’s not free like the park run shuttles on the South Rim, but it is well worth the money to save another 4.5 hour drive back up to get your car.
There is not a lot to see on this trip until you turn south on Highway 67 at Jacobs Lake Inn (where we stayed in 2010). The Kaibab Forest is a beautiful area except the miles of damaged forest caused by the 2006 Warm Fire.
As you get closer to the park there are a series of meadows surrounded by a combination of Ponderosa Pine and Aspen. The contrasting greens are really eye catching.
But the best part of the drive was arriving at the Grand Canyon Lodge at the North Rim and checking in to our cabin. The Pioneer cabins look very rustic on the outside…
But on the inside it was comfortable and spacious. There are two rooms separated by a bathroom area. In one room there is a queen bed…
plus a bench and a refrigerator.
In the other room there are bunk beds…
and a day bed.
We got settled into our little cabin fairly quickly, but our dinner reservations in the lodge were for much later because the original plan was for two of us to hike from south to north. We used the extra time to explore the lodge. We grabbed spots in some empty chairs on the west balcony with a front row seat for the sunset.
The lodge was very busy so it took some persistence to get some refreshments, but the views from here as the sun set were awesome. This picture shows the lodge’s sunroom and part of the view of the canyon.
I also got a nice picture of a hawk circling over the canyon.
To the west below the balcony there is a path to a pretty spectacular lookout.
Although I had sandals on and had already finished a beer, I decided to walk down to have a closer look. If you read stories about deaths at the Grand Canyon you know the combination of beer and sandals is just asking for trouble, so I was careful and walked back up to the balcony after taking a few photos.
This is as close as I got to the lookout until the next day, but what a view!
And the view back up toward the lodge was pretty cool too!
On the way in to dinner we passed a bronze statue of Brighty the burro in the sunroom of the lodge. Although I didn’t take the time to read the story at the time I was able to read it by zooming in to the full size picture. The story can also be found on Wikipedia.
If I had read the story at the time I might have rubbed his nose. This supposedly brings luck, although I’m not very superstitious and have had plenty of good fortune already!
Dinner was very late, so we hit the sack afterward. We had a full day left to explore the North Rim. There are limited hikes available on the North Rim if you don’t have a vehicle. Unlike the South Rim, there are no shuttles to take you to more distant trailheads. But since we planned to start the rim to rim hike the following day, we were not looking for a lot of hikes to do. If you plan to spend more than a day or two at the North Rim I recommend you drive there so you can get out to the other trailheads. If you are not doing the rim to rim hike, maybe walking to the other trailheads is an option.
In the morning after breakfast we went for a 5-6 mile hike. We started by going out on to Bright Angel Point. This is a popular and short trail. For some reason it reminds me of walking out on to Moro Rock in Sequoia. Probably the huge vistas and big dropoff! Bright Angel point is the furthest point out on the finger into the canyon that the Grand Canyon Lodge is on. As you approach it you have to cross a narrow ridge to get out the the rest of the point.
You can see into the canyon fairly well from this point on the trail. Quite a drop-off.
The vistas from the end of the point are amazing. Here’s a picture of the group at the “pointy end” of Bright Angel Point.
There’s a pretty nice view of the lodge on the way back too!
After Bright Angel Point we headed over to the western lookout point. I love the mixture of red soil and green you find just below the rim at the Grand Canyon North Rim. There is a good example of it just west of this lookout.
From here we took the Transept Trail toward the campgrounds and the General Store. It is not a long walk. Since the Lodge is at the end of a finger into the canyon, the views of the canyon narrow as you head north along the Transept Trail.
But it is still a beautiful trail. We stopped for a short break on a bench along the trail. A very wind place! The wind was howling past us as I took this picture.
There were opportunities to go off trail, but we wanted to get lunch at the General Store and visit the North Kaibab Trail trailhead so we stayed on the trail. This outcropping looked interesting though. (If you click the picture you’ll see the full size photo. You can see a few people out on this outcropping.)
I loved the mixture of ponderosa pines and aspen along the trail.
We cut through the Camp Grounds to the General Store for lunch, then intercepted the Bridle Trail to head over to the trailhead of the North Kaibab Trail. At the trailhead we talked to a couple of guys who had started on the South Rim at 3 AM and were getting ready to head back. This was the third year in a row that they had done the rim to rim to rim. Their goal was to complete it in 24 hours, by 3 AM the next day. We wished them a safe crossing and then headed back to the lodge to try to catch a ranger talk before getting ready for dinner.
The talk on the geology of the Grand Canyon was fascinating. It’s amazing to realize that the entire area had been under an ocean at one point before it was pushed upward. Every so often the Ranger would ask a question about a type of rock or another question on geology. There was a fifth grader in the audience who answered every question the Ranger asked. Future ranger?
We had reservations for the Grand Canyon Cookout experience for the second night. Not sure if this is for everyone, but I enjoyed the food and the show. The performers had good voices. They put their own spin on some old songs, unfortunately they all started to sound alike after a bit. I still enjoyed the show though. Its always a good day when I can learned a couple of new cheesy jokes. My son laughed his rear off. I’ll also warn that the “train” that they take you to the show on gets going at a pretty good clip. I heard a couple of comments around me like “Is this safe?”. It goes even faster on the way back because your going downhill. At least it is on the side of the road away from the canyon rim at that point.
After the show we spent a little more time at the lodge before hitting the sack. We started on the east patio of the Grand Canyon Lodge. There were a lot of people taking pictures as the sun set.
There were also a few people who wanted to be dare devils off the trail along the Bright Angel Point trail! I don’t know if they had been drinking, but dancing in sandals on the edge of a cliff is risky behavior regardless of your mental state.
I’m not sure what they were trying to prove… that they have no fear, that they are indestructible, or that they don’t value their own life.
We headed back to our favorite spot on the west patio for one more look and I got my favorite picture of our stay at the North Rim.
Then it was time to settle in for the night. We stopped by the deli on our way to the room to get sandwiches to eat at lunch during our hike into the canyon the next day. Then we headed back to the room, organized our stuff for the morning, and got a good night’s sleep.
Whether you plan to do a hike across the Grand Canyon, or just want to stay above the rim, I would absolutely recommend staying at the Grand Canyon Lodge at the North Rim. It exceeded all our expectations.
Some more pictures from our stay at the North Rim…
Took this on the west deck of the Grand Canyon Lodge. It shows the canyon, the South Rim, and the San Francisco Peaks in the distance.
The view from the Grand Canyon Lodge sunroom. Pretty nice place to hangout!
Me and my wife sitting on the balcony of the Grand Canyon Lodge – our favorite hangout.
Me and my youngest son sitting on the balcony of the Grand Canyon Lodge checking out the sunset.
One more view of the Grand Canyon Lodge from the Bright Angel Point trail.
Check out the next post for this trip: Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Hike (Day 4 – Part 1: North Rim to Roaring Springs)
List of all my posts for the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim: Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Hike Posts (Oct 2010 and June 2014)