For a refreshing break from the Southern Nevada heat and an opportunity to see one of the world’s most stunning views, without the crowds, a summer visit to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon will satisfy just about anyone. At more than 7,500 feet in elevation, you will find average summer daily temperatures in the 70s with lows in the 40s. At these temperatures the spring wildflower display continues well into summer. And you’ll find other lush vegetation, including grassy meadows, aspen groves and evergreens such as white fir, Englemann spruce and ponderosa pines.
It’s less crowded than the canyon’s South Rim, because it’s off the most-beaten tracks, lying south of Utah on the Arizona Strip. The North Rim is also friendly to those with limited mobility. But the opportunity to visit in any comfort is not year-round; due to heavy snow, this portion of Grand Canyon National Park offers services only from about mid-May through mid-October.
A good place to begin any visit is at the Grand Canyon Lodge area, which serves as the hub of the park. An excellent visitor center will provide all the information you need to plan your day, such as maps, recommendations for the most popular viewpoints and the schedule of daily ranger programs.
One of the most popular ranger programs is the California condor talk on the observation deck behind the Grand Canyon Lodge at 4:30 p.m. daily. The deck is accessible via a lift. Here you will find some of the finest panoramic views into the canyon from the North Rim, and you might even catch a glimpse of one of the majestic and endangered condors. This bird is one of the rarest birds in the world and has a wingspan of more than 9 feet, making it the largest land bird in North America.
For those seeking to see more of this park, there are a couple of great drives that take you to paved accessible trails. From the main lodge it is about 11 miles to Point Imperial. Here you will find a 200-foot paved trail with expansive viewpoints to the southeastern area of the canyon and accessible parking and bathrooms, as well as resting benches.
If you are up to driving a bit farther, another good place to go is Cape Royal, about 23 miles from the lodge. Here you find a few different viewpoints, all of them spectacular and all along a paved trail, six-tenths of a mile round trip. This trail has many resting benches and interpretive signs that identify the flora and fauna of this area. Accessible parking and accessible bathrooms are at the trailhead.
Wildflowers abound along the park’s main roads, so keep an eye out for lupine, cinquefoil, asters and yarrow. You might even see some of the resident wildlife, which include deer, wild turkeys, coyotes, bobcats and Kaibab squirrels. This squirrel is found only in this area, north of the Colorado River. You might be surprised to also see the healthy herd of non-native, bison-cattle hybrids introduced in the early 1900s to this area. Called cattalo, they are usually seen soon after you enter the park’s main entrance and pass the fee booth.
Although the North Rim is remote, there are many services available for visitors. In the general area of the lodge you will find a gas station, gift shop and market and accessible lodging and restaurants. The Grand Canyon Lodge offers six ADA-accessible cabins. The park’s website is www.nps.gov/grca/. Accessible camping is also available at the North Rim with laundry and roll-in showers nearby. Call 877-444-6777 or visit www.recreation.gov. Be sure to make reservations well in advance if you are planning to stay in the park.
Deborah Wall is the author of Base Camp Las Vegas: Hiking the Southwestern States” and “Great Hikes, A Cerca Country Guide,” published by Stephens Press. Dennis Boulton is a retired Nevada schoolteacher and geologist. They can be reached at email@example.com.Directions
From Las Vegas, take Interstate 15 north for about 125 miles to Utah Route 9, the Hurricane/Zion National Park exit. Drive about 12 miles, then turn right onto Utah Route 59 east. This turns into Arizona Route 389 at the Utah-Arizona border. Drive about 53 miles to Fredonia. Turn right onto U.S. 89 ALT for about 30 miles. Turn right at Jacob Lake onto Arizona Route 67, the Grand Canyon Highway. Continue about 45 miles to the parking area for the Grand Canyon, North Rim Visitor Center and Lodge.