Planning Your Time
Once you’ve found your way to the North Rim—the more remote, less visited side of Grand Canyon—you’ll want to spend at least three days exploring its trails, forests, and overlooks. Highway 67 is the only road to Bright Angel Point, the heart of the North Rim, and it is open to travelers from after the snow melts in spring until the first major winter snowfall, which can occur anytime from October through December.
Officially, the North Rim section of Grand Canyon National Park is open May 15–October 15 but it’s Mother Nature, not the Park Service, who really calls the shots. Although the Park Service closes the lodge and other facilities at the North Rim on October 15, you can visit or camp until the first snowfall closes Highway 67.
In fall, aspens and maples put on a colorful show, with bursts of gold and red among the North Rim’s mixed boreal forests. In late spring and summer, carpets of blue lupine and other wildflowers scent the forest with heady perfume. Even in midsummer, nights can be cool, so bring some warmer clothes, as well as a jacket for afternoon showers. The Arizona monsoon rolls north in early July and lingers until mid-September, bringing brief, localized thunderstorms with possible lightning and heavy rain.
Summer is the busiest season in Grand Canyon, and lodging on the North Rim is limited, but this side of the canyon is never as crowded (or hot) as the South Rim. Plan early and make reservations for Grand Canyon Lodge or the North Rim Campground several months in advance.
Plan on a day at Bright Angel Point for touring the historic lodge, hiking nearby rim trails, shopping, and taking in a ranger program. Drink plenty of water and get used to the high elevation and low humidity. Set aside at least half a day for Cape Royal, with a side excursion to Point Imperial, the highest point on both rims. Along this paved, winding road, several signs direct hikers to trails, from the short, easy Roosevelt Point Trail to the more ambitious Ken Patrick Trail.
Descending even a short way into the canyon will reward you with a more intimate perspective on the North Rim’s geological layers and life zones. You can travel the North Kaibab Trail, the only maintained North Rim trail that leads into the canyon, either on foot or by mule. Shadier rim hikes like the Transept Trail are better options for afternoons.
Alternatively, you might want to spend a day exploring beyond Bright Angel Point, traveling to Toroweap or Point Sublime, or into neighboring Kaibab National Forest. Many dirt forest roads are suitable for passenger cars, while some are best explored in a high-clearance, 4WD vehicle. Stop at the park’s visitors center at the rim or at the national forest visitors center in Jacob Lake for maps and information about road conditions before venturing off the highway.
© Kathleen Bryant from Moon Grand Canyon, 5th Edition