The trip from Kanab, Utah to the campground on the Grand Canyon’s North Rim was easy and uneventful although we were in 2nd and 3rd gear much of the time. After looking at the map and realizing that gas may be a little hard to come by between Kanab and whatever city is south of the canyon’s south rim, I decided to put another 9 gallons in the auxiliary tank, bringing it up to 15 gallons or a theoretical cruising range of 225 miles. That, coupled with the 200 miles or so we can get out of the main tank should get us to the next gas station even if it doesn’t show up until Williams, AZ. Could have filled the auxiliary tank all the way (30 gallons) but I figured Flipper would appreciate not hauling an extra 90+ pounds of fuel up to the North Rim’s 8800 foot altitude.
After seeing so many photos of the Grand Canyon all these years, both of us had a warped idea of what the country around it would be like. We both pictured miles and miles of flat desert and, to some extent, that turned out to be true for the south rim. But not the north. After turning off the highway at Jacob’s Lake, we passed through miles of huge meadows surrounded by Ponderosa Pine forests. It was really pretty but not at all what we expected. The road from Jacob’s Lake to the National Park campground is around 40 miles. One way, not a loop. Maybe this helps account for the light use the north rim sees compared to the south. I read later that the north rim only gets around 10% of the visitors that the south rim sees each year. The north side is just a little bit less convenient to get to.
We lucked out with our timing. The campground was scheduled to close on November 1 and the road would close on November 15. While we were still in Kanab, with a good internet connection, I made reservations at both the north and south rim campgrounds. Turns out it wouldn’t have been necessary for the north rim as the campgrounds were far from full. However, after our experience at Zion, we figured it was better to be safe than sorry.
We arrived at the entry station at about noon or just a little later. The ranger on duty seemed very pleased that we’d made a reservation (for some reason – maybe she was just being friendly) and said they’d been waiting for us. Really? We pulled into the site I’d selected on-line, right across the road from the bathrooms. The loop we were on was completely deserted except for us but, unfortunately, the bathroom was closed down for winter. That meant a short walk to the next one that was open. No biggie during the day but, if we had to use it at night it’d seem a lot further away. I rode my bike back up to the ranger station and asked to switch to another site. No problem at all. With the dearth of campers right now, we managed to get another site right across the road from an open bathroom, and still didn’t have any close neighbors.
All set up and leveled, we saddled up our bikes and rode the only bike-friendly trail to the canyon’s rim. We were pretty amazed. It looked just like the pictures, only bigger.
The lodge was closed for winter and all boarded up, but you can see a little of it in the next photo:
We took a hike around some of the view points and lookouts accessible by foot from the campground.
The next day we did the driving tour of the south rim. This took us first to Cape Royal, another spectacular lookout on the eastern end of the canyon. We stopped at several lookouts and viewpoints along the way as well. After Cape Royal we went to Imperial Point, the highest point on the rim of the canyon at 8843′ (if I remember right).
You cans see the Colorado River through the arch in the next shot:
The north rim is the place to go if you don’t want crowds mixed in with your tour of the Grand Canyon. Other than the Lodge, there are no vendors to speak of. You can even rent a little log cabin if you want. From what I’ve read, heard, and experienced, it’s just a quieter, more mellow side of the canyon to visit. And the scenery is spectacular, as expected. Just remember that they shut down for winter. It’s not unheard of to get 22′ of snow on the north rim while the south rim is enjoying 3-4′. If I were 25-30 again, I’d definitely make hiking down the north side, crossing the Colorado River, and hiking back up the south side a “must-do”. It’s recommended as a 3-day trip.
The north rim has as many hiking trails as you’d want, one biking trail, driving tours, and plenty of photo-ops. However, after 2 days we felt like we’d pretty much done it justice other than a hike below the rim. We were ready to move on.
Kanab, Utah to Grand Canyon NP North Rim campground: 85 miles
Total to-date: 4,206 miles