Day 35 – A Very Grand Canyon

Sunday, September 26, 2010
Miles To Date: 
5 419

The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is about 120 miles south of Hatch, Utah where we woke up this morning. The first part of the drive had us backtracking to Kanab, which we passed through yesterday. This wasn’t a problem since it was only a short stretch, and we were soon on the main new route of the day: Arizona route 67. Route 67 is the only road too and from the rather secluded North Rim. It is roughly 40 miles long and first goes up to about 8000ft, then across a wilderness/forest area called the Kaibab plateau, and then finally reaches Grand Canyon national park. Wild turkeys live in the forests and we even caught a glimpse of one which was a strange site!

Due to the North Rim being so secluded, it only receives about 1/10th as many visitors as the South Rim. As well as the route to it being so isolated, there is no airport at the North Rim and it is further from Vegas, which is the main place tourists come from. It is also on much higher ground, so is closed from November to April due to snow blocking the roads (South Rim is open year-round). Views from both rims are comparable, but since the North Rim is higher up it is generally considered to be slightly better.

Once we got through the forest we were able to see the Grand Canyon in all its glory. As expected, it was noticeably larger than any of the other canyons we have seen, and it is so deep we couldn’t even see the Colorado river at the bottom. Before heading to the main viewpoint at the visitor centre, we drove east across an area known as the Walhalla plateau. This was a roughly 15 mile stretch on an extremely bendy (and therefore great fun to drive) mountain road. We came out at a viewpoint almost 9000ft up, which provided some great panoramas of the Grand Canyon and some neighbouring smaller canyons.

After heading back to the visitor centre, we had a look around the exhibit about how the canyon was formed, and then walked to the viewpoint near the centre for sunset. The area wasn’t busy at all, and we managed to find a great place to set up the tripod on a large rocky area. Pictures could hardly do the views justice, and we couldn’t have asked for a better clear sky. We stayed out for a while after the sun went over the horizon, just to watch the colours changing in the sky.

Our accommodation tonight is at the only lodging in the area, called the North Rim Lodge. The lodgings are traditional wood cabins, which were built in the 1930s. Very basic but nice for a night. The only problem is a lack of wifi so we have to drive a mile down the road to post this! We had dinner at the lodge’s fine-dining restaurant which was very tasty. Our reservation was for 8.30 and we almost made the mistake of turning up at 7.30. Apparently Arizona doesn’t obey daylight saving time so we had our clocks wrong until mid afternoon, and for over 24 hours in Monument Valley/Tuba City the other day!

Photo of the day: panorama at sunset from the North Rim.