The Grand Canyon’s North Rim has a number of advantages over the South Rim. Some 1,000 feet higher in altitude, it’s about 10 degees cooler, supports more diverse flora and fauna, and receives about 60% more precipitation annually.
Over the millenia, the increased run-off has carved spectacular side canyons and eroded the North Rim further away from the Colorado, making for dramatic and distant vistas. Maybe best of all, only 10% of the park’s visitors make it to the North Rim.
We approach the North Rim from Kanab, jogging west on Route 22 to hike the Rainbow Rim Trail. About a mile before the trailhead, a coyote crosses the dirt road ahead of us with fresh kill — a squirrel, we think — in its mouth. Then, five minutes into our hike, we emerge onto the Timp Point overlook stunned to see an endangered California Condor ride the thermals directly over us, about 30 feet above our heads.
Along our way to North Timp Point, we have views of Powell’s Point, Steamboat Mountain and Tapeats Amphitheater. We only see a few other hikers and think it’s pretty cool to have such fabulous views while alone on the Rim, just the two of us.
After checking in to our cabin, we head to the Grand Canyon Lodge dining room for dinner.
We awake to a storm but decide to head out to Cape Royal any way. Heavy rains and clouds mean we only stop at Vista Encantada and Roosevelt Point before turning back to the lodge and a rain-gear hike along Transcept Canyon.
The day clears, so we head back toward Cape Royal. Our walk along the Ken Patrick Trail is cut short by more fog and a thunderstorm. But this is serendipitous. As sunset approaches, the skies clear as we arrive for breathtaking views at the Walhalla (Angels Window) and Cape Royal Point overlooks.
We awake to another rainy and foggy morning, a perfect day for a hike on the Widforss Trail along the other side of the Transcept. As we pass through beautiful ponderosa pine forests highlighted by blazing yellow quaking aspens and the occasional blue spruce and Douglas fir, we agree that the Widforss has earned its rightful place in our pantheon of great hikes.
At Widforss Point, we get partial clearing. Sitting down on a bolder for lunch, we discover 250 million year old seashell fossils right next to us. On our return, the fog lifts and we have beautiful views of Trancept Canyon. A gorgeous 10 miler.
We end the day at the North Rim Lodge bar, where the bar tender recommends that as we head out of the park, we divert into the Saddle Mountain Wilderness for her favorite view of the Grand Canyon.
After checking out of the Grand Canyon Lodge, we hike the Cape Final Trail to Cape Final Point with views of the muddy Colorado River and then to Cape Imperial where we see the Little Colorado Canyon where it meets Marble Canyon.
We then four wheel it through the Saddle Mountain Wilderness. At Marble View, we get expansive views of Marble Canyon, the Navajo Tribal Lands and — continuing northward — of the Vermillion Cliffs and the Echo Cliffs all the way to Lees Ferry.
We finish the day with a dramatic ride along 89a by the Vermillion Cliffs to Lee’s Ferry Lodge where a tarantula meets us at our door and we enjoy Sam the waitress, craft beers, Andy’s pork ribs and — before retiring for the night — brilliant views of the Milky Way.