Visit The North Rim
Summer Is The Perfect Time
August 1, 2018
Summer is the perfect time to visit the North Rim of the Grand Canyon because the higher elevation of the North Rim means forest and cool summer days. The North Rim is usually a lot less crowded than the South Rim as well, mostly because it takes a lot longer to get there.
We took a five-day trip in June that included Page, Marble Canyon, Lee's Ferry, and the North Rim, and it was awesome. Granted, the weather was a bit hot in Page and Marble Canyon, but not quite as hot as in the Valley, so we had a great time.
Here are some things to do if you decide to head up there as well. Be aware that although Page and Marble Canyon will be cooler in the winter, the North Rim has seasonal closings.
The North Rim Season
Here's what the National Park Service has to say about winter at the North Rim: The full season is May 15 – October 15 and the last day for lodging, restaurants, and ranger programs is October 15. The "shoulder" season starts October 16, meaning that the Visitor Center, bookstore, and backcountry permit office are open through October 31.
During November, the North Rim is open dawn to dusk only – no overnight parking, unless snow closes highway 67 before the end of the November. Gas and diesel are available, pay at the pump, during November. Once the AZDOT closes highway 67 south of Jacob Lake (usually by December 1), the North Rim also closes to vehicle traffic. There will be a locked gate at Jacob Lake and the gate at the North Rim entrance as well and they won't open until mid-May.
If you plan to visit later in the year, check the Arizona Department of Transportation website for road closure info.
First Stop: Page
Our first stop was Page, about a 6-1/2 hour drive from Phoenix with a breakfast stop in Flagstaff. In Page, we took a tour of the Glen Canyon Dam, which was a lot of fun, then we drove over the border into Utah and went to Lone Rock, a great beach on Lake Powell that is named after the enormous, almost-vertical, block of stone that emerges from the middle of the lake.
The water is a gorgeous pale turquoise here that is impossible to capture with a camera, and the swimming is great. You can drive very close to the beach and there is plenty of sand and sun. After we left this beach, we drove back to Arizona to visit Wahweap for a little more swimming. There is a $30 entry fee to Lake Powell/Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, but our senior pass got us in free.
When we bought ours it was $10, and it's now $90, but it is good for your lifetime. If you are 62 or older, go to https://store.usgs.gov/senior-pass for information on how to get one. It will also save you the $25 entry fee to the Grand Canyon.
At Wahweap, we parked in the picnic area and had a hike to the beach, where there is no shade. It was quite a walk, and by the time we got back to the car, we were all hot and sweaty again. TIP: bring water shoes! Don't attempt to do the walks in flip flops or sandals, and don't go in the lake without shoes. The hot sand goes right over sandals, and you never know if there is something sharp in the water. Better safe than sorry.
On To Marble Canyon
On the drive to Marble Canyon, we took the hike out to Horseshoe Bend, which is just south of Page on Highway 89. You can't miss the big parking lot on the west side of the highway. The hike is longer than you might think: about ¾ of a mile, and you definitely need to bring water. It was really hot already, and we got out there by 8 a.m.
The hike is so worth it, though – it's a gorgeous spot. There are no guard rails at all, so keep a sharp eye on kids and keep a leash on any pet. This is a free site.
Our next stay was at Marble Canyon Lodge for a couple of nights. This is a great place, especially because you can get a nice cabin with two bedrooms and a full kitchen. However, the cooling is only a swamp cooler, which would be unbearable during Monsoon Season. Also, there is a restaurant there and a gas station, but if you plan to cook your own meals, get groceries in Page because there is nothing at Marble Canyon but a small convenience store at the gas station.
Lee's Ferry And Beyond
We hiked down the Paria River Canyon the first evening, and it's gorgeous – there's a big orchard there and old buildings from the original Lee's Ferry operators. The girls (our granddaughters) hiked in the Paria River and loved every minute. We went quite a way up the river, but you can actually get a permit and hike all the way through the canyon from Utah – takes three or four days.
The next evening we hiked a short trail past Lee's Ferry around sunset and saw a bighorn ewe and her baby. Marble Canyon is gorgeous – it's situated right in the middle of the Vermillion Cliffs, with Echo cliffs across the way, and the Grand Canyon (Lee's Ferry) just up the road.
We explored quite a bit of the Kaibab National Forest one day, and I'll tell you about that next time. Once we were inside the Grand Canyon National Park, we went first to the East Rim where there was almost nobody else. The road in is gravel, but it's a good road and no problem for a car. The trail goes out to a gorgeous view of Saddle Mountain Wilderness and the forest there is beautiful.
Cape Royal Road
Next up was the Cape Royal Road, which has several gorgeous canyon viewpoints; we stopped at all of them. This road is a bit lower than the road to the lodge, so it was a little warmer. At times we were in junipers rather than pines. About a third of a mile before Cape Royal itself, watch for a small pull-out on the left.
Across from it is a small sign that says Cliff Springs. This is a short hike down to some gorgeous cliffs with a spring coming right out of the wall. We shared the trail with a mule deer doe. You'll pass an old Indian granary on the way, and it's a gorgeous hike. It's uphill coming back, but it isn't bad, and it's totally worth it.
On the way to the lodge, where we had reservations for dinner as well as two cabins, we took a side trip up a dirt road that said Widforss Trail. On the right as you pass a meadow, keep an eye out for a small pullout on the left, and a little trail through the meadow on the right. The trail leads to a small cave that has walls built of stone. It was a fun little walk.
Grand Canyon Lodge
The Grand Canyon Lodge is great – they have water-bottle filling stations, tons of rooms and cabins, a deli, gift shop, coffee shop (coffee and pastries), saloon, and a fantastic restaurant. You need reservations for the restaurant.
Bright Angel Point Trail
After a delicious meal, we walked out the Bright Angel Point Trail to some absolutely gorgeous views of the Grand Canyon at sunset. This trail is paved, but there are areas with steep drop-offs and no hand rails. We passed several people who were a bit panicked by this. If you have kids along, make sure you keep hold of them at all times on this trail. But the views, especially at sunset, are glorious and totally worth the short walk.
You Won't Regret This Trip
We covered 1068 miles on this trip and had a blast. All of the trails we went on were short but pretty, so we had time to see every viewpoint in the area in one day. Let me add that the internet in Page is a bit slow, and in Marble Canyon and the North Rim it is non-existent. Cell service is also very spotty. So, be prepared to be out of touch, and just enjoy some of the most beautiful country in Arizona. You won't regret this trip.