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Grand Canyon National Park - North Rim

Located on the northern edge of Arizona, as the eagle flies, the South and North Rims are only 12 miles apart. By car, it's a drive of 210 miles -- leaving the park by driving beside the south rim to Desert View and taking Arizona Route 64, then turning onto U.S. Highway 89 at Cameron. You drive north for 59 miles and turn west onto Alternate Route 89 at Bitter Springs (a few miles south of the town of Page).

The final leg of the journey is via Arizona Route 67, the North Rim Parkway that runs south from Jacob Lake and continues through the park, ending near the North Rim at the courtyard of the Grand Canyon Lodge.

Along the Way

Lee's Ferry Landing

The drive between Bitter Springs and Jacob Lake is a fascinating one, as the road passes through the Cornfield Valley and then climbs up to the Kaibab Plateau -- past the Vermilion Cliffs and through House Rock Valley. Eighteen miles beyond Bitter Springs, Alt. Route 89 crosses the Colorado River over the Navajo Bridge, at Marble Canyon. It is here that a short side trip of about 30 minutes will provide a whole new dimension to your enjoyment of the Grand Canyon.

Lee's Ferry was the only crossing of the Colorado River in this entire region between 1871 and the early 1900s. The ferry boat was operated first by John Doyle Lee, a Mormon settler who moved here with his wife and family, operating a farm that was irrigated by water from the Paria River. Lee was put on trial and executed in 1877 for his part in the Mountain Meadows Massacre, when 140 California-bound pioneers were killed by Mormon settlers who resented the presence of U.S. troops in the region.

Emma Lee continued to operate the ferry until she sold it to the Mormon Church in 1879. The ferry sank and was replaced by the Navajo Bridge in 1928. There is a campground at the recreation site that provides picnic tables overlooking the river.

The historical background of Lee's Ferry is fascinating, but there is another important reason to visit here; Lee's Ferry Landing marks the beginning of the Grand Canyon and is the only spot along the canyon where one can drive to the beach at the water's edge and see the Colorado River racing its way into nature's most impressive gorge. The Navajo sandstone, seen on the opposite side of the river, is what forms the South and North Rims.

The Landing is a favorite spot for anglers, who put their boats into the water here, and this is the location for the start of the 1- and 2-week rafting trips through the canyon.

The road to the historic site takes you through a scenic part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. The "balanced rocks" to the west of the road are the result of boulders tumbling from the rim of the cliffs and coming to rest on softer rock, leaving the boulders resting on protected pillars. There's a campground near the old Lee homestead, and a trail leads across the Paria River to the original ferry crossing.

To think that about 280 miles downstream, the river ends its journey through the Grand Canyon by flowing quietly into Lake Mead, brings a sense of awe and wonder. When I left Lee's Ferry, I hoped that the next time I visited this place, I could start a 2-week expedition on the full 280-mile canyon journey However, the North Rim beckons and we're on our way -- back to Marble Canyon and the red cliffs.

The Kaibab Plateau

For 30 miles beyond Marble Canyon, Alternate Route 89 leads along the base of the Vermilion Cliffs. Along the way are several small communities that have been here since pioneer days. Cliff Dwellers Lodge has two unique stone structures that housed the original trading post. Above House Rock Valley, the summit offers a wonderful view over the river to the Echo Cliffs. To the south is the dark mesa called Shinumo Altar. The Colorado River is more than 1,500 feet below the summit.

If time permits, drive from the highway to visit House Rock Buffalo Ranch. The animals' range covers some 60,000 acres of national forest land. The first buffalo were brought here in the early 1900s by Buffalo Jones, a former buffalo hunter who drove his herd across the plains to the Kaibab Plateau. The herd is now owned by the state, which allows the buffalo to roam free, with the deer and other animals.

The route to the rim turns south at the small community of Jacob Lake and then crosses the plateau. This is a pristine area of aspens and pines, filled with more wildlife including deer, bears, mountain lions, and coyotes. The plateau was called Buckskin Mountain by white settlers. Long before, the Indians named it kaiuw a-vwi "mountain lying down". The route passes Crane Lake before reaching Demotte Park, a community with visitor services including Kaibab Lodge and the North Rim Country Store -- just outside the national park gate.

At the North Rim

A 7-mile drive leads from the north entrance station to the end of the road beside the Grand Canyon Lodge. The North Rim Parkway travels beside Little Park Lake, passes a picnic area near Lindberg Hill and meets Cape Royal Road. Beyond the junction is the trailhead to the Widforss Trail and the mule paddock. There's another picnic area closer to the North Rim Village.

As you proceed down the Parkway toward Grand Canyon Village, you'll see a series of open meadows -- grassland parks in the midst of the Kaibab forest. One of the wild creatures inhabiting the forest is the Kaibab squirrel, with white tail and ear tips, living in the large ponderosa pine trees.

When you reach the end of the road, it's only a short stroll to see the canyon -- either from Bright Angel Point or through the hotel to the stone terraces. On a good day, when not too much smog is drifting over the canyon from the Navajo Generating Station, you can see all the way to the San Francisco Peaks far to the south, near the city of Flagstaff.

Ten miles distant, you can see the Bright Angel Trail dropping down from the South Rim to the Indian Gardens on the Tonto Platform. You can also see (maybe with some difficulty) the South Kaibab Trail.

North Rim Park Services

Grand Canyon Lodge, which overlooks the canyon, provides the only lodging in the North Rim section of the national park. There are modern motel rooms in the pine forest in addition to cabins and fairly new cottage accommodations. There is a dining room, gift shop, and lounge inside the lodge, and other services may be arranged here, including horseback riding and mule trips into the canyon (if they're not fully booked). The lodge is open from early May to late October, when snow shuts down the park road. For information and reservations, write TW Services, Box 400, Cedar City, UT 84720, or call (801) 586-7686.

The North Rim Campground is located north of the village, with showers, a campers' store, and nearby gas pumps.There are no hookups in this campground. Other campsites are located outside the park gate, in Demotte village and in the Kaibab National Forest.

For many years,. visitors have been able to join a mule trip down to the river level, and Phantom Ranch. The Park Service has been considering stopping the mule rides for environmental reasons. You should check with the park office as to whether you can reserve a mule tripintothe canyon. Otherwise, hiking is the only way to venture from the rim to Phantom Ranch. 

Overnight accommodation is available at Phantom Ranch, in a dormitory or in cabins. Although there is no road to this rustic overnight stopping place -- only a hiking path -- it's usually booked months in advance. For reservations, call (602) 638-2401or 638-2631 or check at the lodge in case there have been cancellations. Mule trips should also be booked well in advance of your visit to the North Rim.

The park staff have an ongoing summer interpretation program that includes guided walks and lectures. For the daily schedule, see the park newspaper or inquire at the Parks Service information desk in the Grand Canyon Lodge.

The park medical clinic, staffed by a nurse practitioner. Check the park newspaper for the clinic's open hours, or call 638-2611.

Where to Stay -- Hotel Guide

Reserve a hotel in Arizona

To search hotels, cruises,
and vacation packages around the world,

go to the Hotel Guide

Benson Arizona

For information on the South Rim
portion of Grand Canyon National Park,

Go to the South Rim Page

 

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