Our Vantage Points
Grand Canyon North Rim
Part One

The Grand Canyon, a canyon of canyons.
This view is looking southwest from the east rim of The Transept, a deep canyon arm reaching
down to the Bright Angel Canyon, that deeper chasm in the center of this picture.

About noon on May 10, 2004, we rolled up to the window at the North Rim Entry Station of the Grand Canyon. It was opening day of the visitor season. The ranger greeted us with a hearty, "Good Morning!   Welcome to the most beautiful place on earth!" I returned her greeting and replied: "I've got to agree. This is our third visit to the North Rim." The North Rim of the Grand Canyon indeed has a very special position among our favorite places.

After setting up our campsite and having lunch, I walked to the nearby rim of The Transept, a side canyon, then positioned myself to capture the above photo.
(See map)

The Grand Canyon, a canyon of canyons, is wide!   It's about 10 air miles between the North Rim and South Rim visitor centers; it's 18 air miles between Point Imperial on the north and Desert View on the south and it's 26 air miles between Point Sublime on the Northwest and Desert View on the Southeast.   These points pretty much define the portion of the canyon that most visitors can see when they step out of their car at various overlooks.   We've driven to all five places, even Point Sublime which is no longer accessible by auto.

It's difficult to define the ends of this canyon.   The Grand Canyon is much larger than what I've described. If you were to ride the Colorado River from Marble Canyon on the northeast to the Lake Mead Recreation Area you would cover 275 miles and still not be in Lake Mead.

We've visited the South Rim several times and thought it was awesome!   Indeed it is!   But having seen the canyon from both sides now, we need a new superlative, a level above "awesome," perhaps "more awesome!"

Several factors make the North Rim "more" awesome.
  1. The north rim is roughly 1000 feet higher.   Measured from the North Rim, the canyon is a mile deep.   Bright Angel Point, near the North Rim Visitor Center is at 8,255 feet.   The Colorado River, at the confluence of Bright Angel Creek and the Colorado River is at 2,500 feet.

  2. The north rim is more remote, making it less crowded compared to the south rim.   It's a 200 mile drive between the North Rim and South Rim visitor centers.

  3. The natural environment on the North Rim is much more pleasant.   It's in the very lush Kaibab National Forest with tall timber and a large variety of flora and fauna.   This environment provides cool, inviting foregrounds for views into the canyon.

  4. And finally, the views into the canyon from the North Rim, I believe, are more impressive and the available overlooks provide more variation of what can be seen.   Some of the overlooks offer much more than 180-degree panoramas.   Cape Royal, at the virtual center of the canyon, provides a 270 degree panorama.   The view of the Colorado River from Angels Window is clear and unobstructed.
From the Transept Trail, a little closer to the campground
Note the range of flora, from yucca to fir.  
These weathered slopes provide a veritable botanical garden.

The Transept Trail runs from north of the campground, beside The Transept, southward to the North Rim Lodge.  It's a beautiful, mostly level walk sprinkled with fabulous canyon views along the way.   Not only that, but in addition to an occasional hiker, various other denizens of the Kaibab much more at home in this lovely habitat, are encountered.  The most readily observed wildlife are the Kaibab squirrels with their trailing bushy plume and the mule deer with their pointy ears trying to pose as those famous Grand Canyon pack animals.  They didn't fool me. The ones I saw were resting in the shade.  My advice: Don't ask a mule deer for directions to the Phantom Ranch, that outpost in the bottom of the canyon.

The North Rim Lodge
From the Bright Angel Trail

The south end of The Transept Trail connects with the Bright Angel Trail directly in front of this rustic stone lodge.

The lodge provides a large viewing room from which to enjoy the canyon well out of the cold wind or whatever weather might detract from the scene.   Just below the lodge is a narrow rock promontory from which to enjoy the canyon with the wind blasting in your face and pulling at your coat while you gasp for breath.   I viewed it both ways.

If you are half-way inclined to forego a delicious campground meal, you might want to consider dinnah at the lahdge.   We did.   It's a nice place to dine.   Be sure to make reservations for the evening meal.   Wear your shoes.

Everyone must walk the short trail to Bright Angel Point.   It's gentle slope is negotiable with a wheel chair, but an able bodied pusher in good physical condition is highly recommended on the up-hill return trip.

I can reasonably suggest that the Bright Angel Point Trail is the most popular trail and overlook on the north rim of the Grand Canyon.   It's a good orientation point from which to begin your exploration of north rim viewpoints.   While Mary and I were there, we mingled with two or three large tour groups on the trail.   This was only the second day of the season.

Bright Angel Point
Facing South

We stayed at the North Rim Campground three nights: May 10, 11 and 12.   We were prevented from visiting Cape Royal until the third day because the off-season debris had not been cleared from the roadway.   From previous visits we knew that this would be the highlight of our trip.
Point Imperial
Facing east

Point imperial is a short 11-mile drive from the North Rim Lodge.   We arrived there at about noon on Wednesday, May 12, 2004.

One of the first things we noticed was charred wood.   We learned that about four years earlier a forest fire had swept this corner of the park.   Some charring was noticed at the rim next to the parking lot and back into the forest away from the rim, but otherwise it did not affect much of the canyon viewing areas at Point Imperial.

Point Imperial is the most north-easterly overlook of Grand Canyon National Park that is easily accessible to the public.

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