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The North Rim of the Grand Canyon Arizona and the Grand Canyon Lodge A Less Crowded Experience

Updated on June 18, 2018
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I've lived in Arizona for 70 years (Tucson, Glendale, and Sedona). I love writing about Arizona history, antiques, books, and travel.

View from North Rim Grand Canyon

View from North Rim Grand Canyon
View from North Rim Grand Canyon | Source

Arriving at the North Rim

An estimated five million people visit the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona each year. The Grand Canyon is an awesome experience of majestic expanse. The size of the Canyon, the numerous surfaces and colors of the rocks, the historic lodges, the campgrounds and the numerous hiking trails attract people from all over the world. The sunrise and sunset are truly magical and mystic times. I've visited the South Rim over and over, but I've only been to the North Rim one time and I certainly want to visit the North Rim again. It is a very different experience than the South Rim. The South Rim, the Grand Canyon Village and Tusayan have become increasingly crowded. No doubt there is a wider range of lodging, shopping, restaurants and activities on the South Rim; however that said, for those who seek a more quiet outdoors and restful visit to Grand Canyon, a visit to the North Rim is perfect.

The North Rim Grand Canyon Lodge, a Forever Resort property, is only open from May 15 to October 15 because of the amount of snow they normally receive. While vehicles can't access the North Rim during winter, some parts of the North Rim can be accessed by skiing, hiking or snowshoeing. A back country North Rim permit must be obtained first.

The elevation at Grand Canyon Lodge is 8,200, and the elevation is 8,803 at Imperial Point which is the highest point on the North Rim which can create problems for visitors with respiratory or heart problems.. Most visitors to the North Rim drive from Phoenix, Salt Lake City or Las Vegas or purchase a tour package from private companies. Once there, an Inter-Canyon shuttle runs from the North to the South Rim which takes about 4.5 hours and covers the distance of about 205 miles. There is a per car National Park fee, or a lower fee for pedestrians and/or cyclists.

Our journey to the North Rim took us North from Flagstaff, Arizona on HWY 89, across the Navajo reservation. We stopped at the historic Cameron Trading Post, for a rest, a bite to eat and a look through the Gallery which is now housed in the former Cameron Hotel. A more modern motel, gas station and a post office is also on the property. The Gallery contains some of the finest Native American weavings, pottery, baskets and jewelry to be found. Many are very old. The main trading post offers many authentic items as well as a variety of souvenirs and snacks. The restaurant offers a wide selection of menu items including some Native American favorites.

We passed, Lee's Ferry, the Marble Canyon Lodge and the Vermilion Cliffs which were all worthy of a stop on the return trip. At last we reach historic Jacob Lake Inn (which doesn't have a lake), but is worthy of another stop. Once we turned onto Hwy 67 from Hwy 89, we travel into an area ravaged by the 2006 Kaibab Forest Fire. After a few miles of viewing a sad landscape, we passed several meadows, viewed several deer grazing and began to see many stands of tall pines and aspen trees whose leaves were beginning to show the fall colors of gold and orange. At last we entered Grand Canyon Park and was just a few miles to Grand Canyon Lodge where we checked into our cabins.

Grand Canyon Lodge Entrance

Entrance of Grand Canyon Lodge, on the North Rim
Entrance of Grand Canyon Lodge, on the North Rim | Source
Dining room Grand Canyon Lodge
Dining room Grand Canyon Lodge | Source
Cabins Grand Canyon Lodge
Cabins Grand Canyon Lodge | Source

Grand Canyon Lodge

Grand Canyon Lodge on the North Rim was originally built in 1927-28 by the Union Pacific Railroad. The architect was Gilbert Stanley Underwood, who positioned the Lodge to take advantage of spectacular views of the Canyon. The materials used were local Kaibab limestone (red and white rocks) and local timbers. Then in 1932, the main lodge and two of the deluxe cabins burned. Reconstructing the Grand Canyon Lodge and adding new cabins began in 1936 and 1937 when the worst of the Great Depression years were past. Since the rock structures had not burned, the original walls could be used. Today the Lodge has tried to retain the flavor of the 1930s. The giant glass windows allow wonderful views of the Canyon from the dining room, lobby and east and west terraces. Giant Navajo rugs are hung on the walls, and the furniture is comfortable overstuffed leather. The best feature of the main Lodge is the giant wrought iron chandeliers with their Native American designs. Antique radios and other "bits" of antique furniture do retain the original 1930s flavor although the overall appearance is rustic stone and wood. I have to confess that I still like the El Tovar Hotel on the South Rim the best for it's superb attention to original historical details, but the Grand Canyon Lodge has a great casual appeal.

The Grand Canyon Lodge offers Frontier Cabins, Western Cabins, Pioneer Cabins and motel rooms. The Pioneer Cabin we chose, had a rustic log interior and exterior. With our advance reservations, we had a rim view cabin and it was heavenly to be able to have coffee in bed while watching the sunrise spread over the Canyon. The daytime temperature was warm and sunny in September with a light jacket needed in early mornings and after nine in the evenings. Reservations for the Grand Canyon Lodge need to be made well in advance. Reservations for he dining room (which offers fine dining and cocktails) also need to be made in advance. The dining room will pack picnic lunches on request. Other dining choices are the Deli and the Saloon. There's a gift shop and visitor center by the Lodge entrance. The visitor center has displays, regional information, maps and a bookstore.

Activities include interpretive programs on the history, geology and wildlife in the Canyon. We attended the lecture on the reintroduction of the California Condor and the presentation was excellent. Mule rides down the Kaibab Trail are half day and full day. Cycling is popular, the campgrounds have excellent facilities and there is a junior ranger program for children. Of course hiking remains the most popular activity, along with hunting for perfect photo opportunities. During the months of July and August star gazers come to the North Rim for an excellent view of meteor showers because of the dark skies. Reading a book, playing cards or other games, watching for the Kaibab Squirrels which can only be found on the Kaibab Plateau, chipmunks and deer, or sitting or napping are perfect activities too.

The morning we departed, we drove the Cape Royal Point loop road and were delighted by the views of the Colorado River from Angel's Point. This loop offers very different views than those on the South Rim and those from the Grand Canyon Lodge. For those wanting more information on the Grand Canyon National Park and the lodging and activities, I suggest visiting the website.


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