The Quieter Side of the Grand Canyon

In May, when we told our friends and family about our travel plans, we knew that we would be in southern Utah in September.  Our friends, Rita and Bruce Kennedy, said, “We’re going to be in southern Utah in September, too!”  They had booked a tour to several of the national parks and already had their itinerary in hand.  The four of us got together before David and I left Virginia and they gave us a copy of their travel destinations.  David and I wanted to try to meet up with them on a day when they had some free time.  We settled on meeting at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon since they had an afternoon and evening free.  We were thrilled to see our good friends again! We had lunch together, went on a hike, photographed the Grand Canyon, and topped off the day with a lovely dinner in the Dining Room at the Grand Canyon Lodge.

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After lunch, we decided to make the 23-mile drive to Cape Royal and do some hiking along the way.  The North Rim of the Grand Canyon has fewer visitors than the South Rim (only 10% of Grand Canyon visitors come to the North Rim).  There are several reasons for this. The first reason is that the North Rim has a shorter season; it is only open from May 15th to October 15th.  Also, the North Rim is more difficult to access; it is a 205 mile or about a 4-hour drive from the South Rim.  Finally, it is at a much higher elevation (over 8,000 feet) so it snows more at the North Rim.  The good news for us was that the Lodge and the trails were not as crowded.

Our drive to Cape Royal down a winding road was beautiful. It was even more beautiful than usual because fall had arrived. The aspens’ leaves were changing.  Their yellow foliage and white bark added extra splashes of color to the landscape.

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On the way, we stopped for a short hike to Roosevelt Point where David and Rita, our photographers, captured some spectacular views of the Grand Canyon.

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When we arrived at Cape Royal, we hiked out to the point.  Cape Royal offers one of the most panoramic views of the Grand Canyon because it is located on the southern tip of the Walhalla Plateau.  From there, we could look across the Canyon at the South Rim.  Since it was a clear and very windy day, we could also see almost 100 miles beyond the South Rim.  Also, we saw the Colorado River as it meandered through the bottom of the Canyon.

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On the walk back to our truck, we stopped at Angels Window, a natural arch in the Canyon wall.

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When we returned to the Lodge, we were treated to an extraordinary sunset as we enjoyed our evening meal.

For us, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon was an unforgettable experience because we got to see our good friends and we got to explore the North Rim together.

P. S. – If you go to the North Rim, there are numerous rustic cabins where one can stay.  Built decades ago, they are small but the bathrooms have been modernized and are more than adequate.  The lodge has a fine restaurant (make reservations) and there is a small deli as well. There is also a post office and Visitor Center. If you are planning to camp there note that it books up very quickly and there are few spaces for big rigs.  We tried to make reservations months ago and were not able to secure a spot.  We ended up staying in Jacob Lake Campground about 41 miles away, which is one hour drive to the Visitor Center, but is a beautiful journey this time of year.  On the plus side this campground is close to the very quaint Jacob Lake Inn.  If nothing else, stop for the wonderful cookies they bake. They also have a large selection of Indian gifts and reasonably priced pullovers, shirts, etc. Also the service station at the Inn is the location to obtain water for your RV tank.

P.S.S. – We have been on the road for 100 days!  Check out our “travel map“.

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