On Day 10 of your Southwest roadtrip, head out early to enjoy a day of hiking at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Which entrance should you choose?
The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is often overlooked for the more popular South Rim viewpoints; in fact, one website states that it receives 1/10th of the visitors that the South Rim boasts each year. I visited the South Rim about 20 (yikes!) years ago on a high school trip, and I don’t remember too much about it, but from what I read, it is bustling with activities. The South Rim hosts around 5 million visitors per year, and has a plethora of hotels, ranger presentations, restaurants, and cultural presentations.
The main reason we chose the North Rim was because it was closer to the rest of our destinations. Here is a great guide if you can’t decide which rim is best for your trip. We completely loved the more laid-back vibe of the North Rim; no competing with tour bus after tour bus, long lines, or hordes of tourists. It was just us, the majestic view of the canyon and sub-alpine forests, and the few other guests at the Grand Canyon Lodge and North Rim campground.
“Hiking” in the Grand Canyon
Upon arriving after our scenic drive, we intended to do some hiking from the North Kaibab Trailhead. However, this ended up being a short-lived dream because hiking down into the canyon and then back up at 8,000 ft of elevation suddenly wasn’t very fun for us. We made it about a half mile down the Supai Tunnel trail before we decided, no thank you, and turned around. Even though some parts of the trail were shaded by towering pines, it was still too hot for us. Also we enjoy breathing.
Bright Angel Point
Instead, we realized we could just as easily take in the view hiking along the rim instead of down and back into the canyon, so we hopped back into the car and parked closer to the lodge. First up was the paved .5 mile trail to the Bright Angel Point lookout, which was easy to walk and showcased jaw-dropping views.
Standing and looking out from the viewpoint, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed; The Grand Canyon is just.so.big. You lose the scale of it all when all you can see for miles is this huge hole with layer upon layer of ancient rocks telling the story of time.
After drinking in the view at Bright Angel, we stopped at the Visitor Center and the North Rim Grand Canyon Lodge. The Lodge has an amazing deck with rustic rocking chairs available to the public. I don’t know why I didn’t take any pictures of this, but it felt very picturesque to be looking at the Grand Canyon from the deck of this beautiful lodge. Next time, I would love to enjoy the Lodge amenities a little bit longer.
After our brief rest, we followed the Transept Trail about 1.5 miles, which hugged the rim and offered more opportunities to take in the stunning scenery. (You can see the hiking trails from this map.) This led us right through the North Rim Campground, which they recommend reserving A YEAR in advance if you want to stay there (Same with the Lodge).
The Transept trail connected to the Bridal Trail, which hugged the road and took us back through shaded forests. Two miles later, we had made it back to the car and were looking forward to resting our feet on the drive back.
Sooner than we expected, we were “home” making dinner at our campsite. It felt wonderful to take advantage of the hot water, covered patio, and common kitchen area. After a beautiful sunset, we drifted off to sleep, ready for the next day’s adventures.
Where to Stay
We stayed at the Kaibab Paiute Campground and could not believe this place. It was easily the cheapest place we camped (I think we paid $12 a night three years ago!!), and had the nicest facilities. The hosts were very welcoming, the showers and bathroom were clean, and we took advantage of the laundry facilities. If we had been planning to be at the campsite more during the day, the lack of shade might have been uncomfortable, but this was the only issue. The sites were level and they have a lovely covered common area complete with fire pits. I HIGHLY recommend staying here.
It is about an hour and a half from the Grand Canyon, and an hour from St. George (near the Red Cliffs hike ), so it is not the most convenient location, but it worked great for us and our purpose. (We stayed there almost three years ago, and I am happy to see that recent reviews have held up!) If you need a spot to hold you over between the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, and Bryce Canyon, this is a fantastically affordable place to stay.
Make sure to rest up! More excitement ahead on this roadtrip as we head to Bryce Canyon tomorrow for Day 11!