We recently spent 10 days adventuring on a houseboat on Lake Powell and road tripping through Southern Utah/Northern Arizona – two of my favorite places in the world. The goal of this trip was to experience something new on a daily basis. One such experience was hiking the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. I have been intending to backpack this area for years – just haven’t gotten to it yet.
It was STUNNING. Lots of red rock walls, colorful trees, switchbacks, cliffs, etc.
Instead of getting fancy and 4-wheeling to a remote trail, we kept things simple and hiked about 3.5 miles on the North Kaibab trail to the first bridge over Roaring Springs Canyon (minus the roaring springs).
It’s roughly 14 miles to the bottom if that gives perspective on the depth from the North Rim. The topography is completely different then the South Rim as well. In fact, here are some of the key differences between the North and South Rim:
- Fewer crowds at the North Rim (NR) – it’s a little harder to get to, but not by much. You can fly into Vegas or Salt Lake City and explore all kinds of cool stuff in between.
- Higher elevation by about 1,000 feet at the NR, so it’s about 10 degrees cooler – this also means the season to visit is shorter – It’s only open from mid-May through mid-October due to heavy snowfall during the winter months.
- Because temperatures are cooler, there are leafy trees like aspen, birch, maple and oak – this means the fall colors are spectacular – the second or third weeks of September are supposedly prime for leaf peeping.
- Views of the river from the NR are scarce. Apparently you can sneak a peek through Angel’s Window – though I am not exactly sure of the location of said window.
- There are fewer viewpoints at the NR – 3 instead of 24. The views on the NR are more about the width of the canyon rather than the depth.
- Lodging is not as plentiful at the NR, however, this was not an issue for us as we stayed in Kanab which is about 1.5 hours away.
#2 above was not obvious – though I am sure it was the time of day we were descending into the canyon. It was not before dawn or after 3:00, like the park service recommends.
It was HOT, dusty and HARD. Not to mention we got to experience periodic whiffs of donkey poo. (Side note: I don’t think I have the balls to ride a donkey down that canyon.)
We would have loved to have gone further down, but from previous experience, the hikes back up can be brutal for reasons mentioned above.
“Getting to the bottom – Optional; Getting to the top – Mandatory” – Grand Canyon warning signs
As we were turning around at the bridge, we met 2, 20-somethings who had hiked an additional 1.5 miles further than us. They were super cool – decked out with dreadlocks and pierced noses. We played leap frog with them all the way up – every time sharing an expletive of sorts. At one point, one of them said, “Last one out is a rotten egg!” Challenge accepted – no way in hell was I going to be the rotten egg….
All I can say is, my competitive spirit kicked in and at the very end of the hike, I slow jogged up to the top. Sean thought I lost my mind – I thought I was going to cough up a lung and was grateful my heart didn’t stop beating along the way.
The ‘kids’ arrived about 3 minutes later – needless to say, we all got a good laugh out of it!
One day, I will go back and hike Rim to Rim (North to South) – 21 miles – this seems doable. Not sure I could do the Rim to Rim to Rim to Rim tour of 42 miles in a day. This just seems like pure torture, though there were plenty of folks tackling that challenge!
“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” – Winston Churchill
Enough chatter, here are some of the highlights of the hike and one of the most beautiful places on earth!
…i choose this…