I have to admit I have not taken this trail, because for some reason I did not know of its existence until after the last visit we took. It is a 4 mile round trip, mostly level walking. There is one camp spot at the end. Friends who have gone have said the views from the end are well worth the walk. Something for me to do next time.
Near the end of the Cape Royal road are the remains of a small pueblo. It was occupied by the Basketmaker people who lived in the area about 900 years ago. They stayed about 100 years on the peninsula. They built pueblos as permanent housing while they still migrated seasonally to the rim in the summer and the river in the winter. The occupants on Walhalla probably came from a group on the river living on the Unkar Delta visible from Cape Royal.
Over 100 sites have been identified on the peninsula as farming areas.
Similar in many ways to the Tusayan Ruins on the south rim, though without a kiva area, what is left here at the Glade site is a small 9 room structure with only a small foundation visible. It is hard at first glance to understand what it represents, it is only one of thousands of places where groups of ancient people lived and worked. It is in the aggregate that the evidence of their lives begins to unfold to our understanding.
Standing there contemplating life here so long ago helps me to appreciate the wonder and beauty around me even more.
Off to the west side of the Cape Royal drive, less than 1/2 a mile from the end of the road, in a hollow easily missed as you drive by, is a short hike into a different world. Cliff Springs trail, a mile rt, is not too far from the Walhalla ancient pueblo site. It is easy to assume that the inhabitants used the water from this spring and indeed there is evidence of an old storage granary very near the start. The trail drops down quickly from the plateau into a small inner peninsula canyon. As you follow it along you will find cottonwood trees, cool temps, trickling water, and unexpected birds. The trail ends at a small spring seeping from a cliff face.
This point has become my favorite. There is a short walk through the brush (less than 1/2 mile), to enjoy the wild nature and appreciate even more the joys this place can bring. This is a fairly new viewpoint, named belatedly for the man responsible for preserving and keeping this park for the entire nation. Theodore Roosevelt was known to come to the Grand Canyon on horseback, camping in the grand old style in order to explore and hunt. He was unsuccessful in making it a park but was able to use his Antiquities Act to designate the Grand Canyon a National Monument in 1908.
When Roosevelt visited in 1903 he said, "Leave this as it is... man can only mar it." The North Rim has been kept less developed in the hopes that those who come to visit can enjoy it much as the President did over 100 years ago.
At the end of the Walhalla Peninsula are vistas almost everywhere you look. Across to the South Rim you can make out the Desert Tower. Here you can see the Colorado river as it seems to lazily wander around a bend much like a stream in a cow pasture. There is the incomparable Angel's Window both to look at and to wander across. You must walk across the Kaibab limestone for the best views, but it is mostly level, 1/2 mile round trip with interesting information about the flora and fauna of the area along the way, and the views are definitely worth the effort.
The drive from the lodge to Cape Royal takes a visitor to the Walhalla Peninsula. It is so named due to the high table land being cut away on every side by the erosive effects of the river. There are several viewpoints along the way, Vista Encantada, Roosevelt Point, Cape Final, Walhalla Overlook and finally 23 miles from the Lodge is Cape Royal and the inspiring Angel's Window. There is also a small ancient dwelling site and a hike to Cliff Springs, a place as far away from the busy Cape Royal walks and desert of the Grand canyon as you can imagine just a few hundred feet away. We took the better part of a day to enjoy this section of the park.
To come to the North Rim and not take the drive over to Point Imperial and Cape Royal is to not see the North Rim. Point Imperial is the highest elevation in the park at 8803 ft above sealevel. Viewpoints look out on the eastern reaches of the Grand Canyon, Nankoweap Canyon, Mt Hayden and across the canyon to the Painted Desert. There is a 4 mile round trip hike along the rim worth a visit. Point Imperial is 11 miles from the Main Lodge along a slow and winding road.
This is the major corridor trail of the North Rim. From the rim you can hike 14 miles down to Phantom Ranch on the Colorado River. This should NOT be undertaken as a day hike. And any camping in the inner gorge requires a permit, often given out up to 4 months ahead. The two campgrounds on the North Kaibab are Cottonwood, about 7 miles down and Bright Angel, on the river.
If you are a strong hiker you could make a day trip to the beautiful Roaring Springs oasis a 10 mile round trip hike with an impressively steep 3000 ft elevation climb back up to the rim. The hike takes you through the Kaibab Limestone and Toroweap formation, to the Coconino Limestone. These have the pine and juniper forest providing shade and interest. At Coconino point, 3/4 mile down the trail, is a very nice spot to stop and enjoy the views of Roaring Springs Canyon. Further down you pass the Hermit Shale to reach the Supai formation. It is a 4 mile round trip to the Supai tunnel and turning around spot for most of us. Again the view from the far side of the tunnel is worth a million words. At this point the vegetation begins to disappear and the rock reflects the heat, the cliffs become sheer and the trail more interesting. It is not for those with a fear of heights. Passing cliffs, and dry pour offs, and the rugged Eye of the Needle you descend through the Redwall, Mauv Limestones and Bright Angel shale.
Roaring Springs is a natural springs near the mouth of the canyon where it meets up with Bright Angel Creek. Coming from a huge aquifer beneath the rocks it pours out of the cliff creating a roar you can hear long before you get there, and along its path riparian flora and fauna flourish. Too many hikers bypass this oasis on the way up or down. It made a great day trip turn around. Some of our party hiked and some took the mules. I heartily endorse hiking at least to Coconino Point for that great below the rim experience.
When I was in Third or Fourth Grade our teacher read us the story of "Brighty of Grand Canyon" by Marguerite Henry. It is the story of a burro who lived among the people on the North Rim, half wild, half tame. It was a favorite of ours and fully enjoyed. What a pleasure to find a statue to the feisty burro right in the honored spot in the North Rim Lodge Lobby. It is tradition to rub his nose. It will give you the luck to return to visit again.
I hardly even call this a trail. It is just a short walk down from the lodge to the point looking out to Bright Angel Canyon. But there are some spectacular views and has some great places from which to watch the sunrise. It is only about 1/2 mile round trip from the lodge and though it is downhill on the way out, if you have a hard time just go slow on the way back. It is paved though can be bumpy. The rock here is Kaibab Limestone, the topmost layer of rock at the Grand Canyon, and the youngest geologically speaking. Formed during the late Paleozoic era from the silt at the bottom of a shallow sea. It is whitish and has marine fossils which are visible on the Bright Angel Point trail.
This is one of the more easily enjoyed trails. It follows the rim from the Lodge to the Campground. It is about 3 miles round trip along mostly level ground. It will take you to places with views of the canyon. It will lead you to hidden springs and ancient dwelling sites. Several spots had a bench, not necessarily in order to rest, but rather to sit and ponder the view, the meaning of life, listen to the birds, watch for a squirrel.
The area by the Lodge is the main place to come. It is not large. The Lodge is here with its gorgeous lobby and view and all the little cabins that are a part of it. The patio off the back is usually full of viewers. There is the main Restaurant with views to die for. There is also a bookstore, ranger station and cafe. That is about it for the services. The gas station is back at the campground. From the Lodge there are several paths to follow. You can take the short Bright Angel Point trail with several places to stop and look. There is also the old Bridle Path along Roaring Springs Canyon to the North Kaibab trailhead. You can take your pet on this trail. Going the other direction you can take the Transept Canyon Trail to the campground.
The elevation is higher here, and it is a longer
drive to get around here.
View is more limited in scope from the road.
Not as crowded as the south rim.
Elevation is so high that one
can notice the thinner air.
Prior to arriving at the North Rim's Lodge/Visitor area there is a turnoff heading to Cape Royal and Imperial Point. Be advised (as the signs said) the road may be closed if there are high winds, snow or rock slides.
I enjoyed my 6 or 7 mile one way trip through the Kaibab Forest to get to Imperial Point. I liked it that there were only a handful of other people there too. It was a bit overcast, with showers in the area. Imperial Point provided a slightly different view of the Nort Rim. The elevation is 8,803 feet.
The Southeast view provides a chance to see The Marble Platform, mouth of the Little Colorado River, Painted Desert, Mt. Hayden, Coconino Rim, Cedar Mountain, O'Leary Peak, Humpherys Peak (67 miles away) and Kendrick Peak.
I was told by a Ranger that a road about 5 miles North of this turnoff leads to an area that you can see Marble Canyon.
Your other choice is Cape Royal. The road going there is a bit rougher and at least twice as long as Imperial Point.
The other option is Point Sublime. A Ranger said you can get there by going North from the Lodge/Visitor's area until you see a blacktop road heading west. I went down the road about 4 miles until the road became too rough. I was told you need a high clearance vehicle (I had a Jeep Liberty and the Ranger wasn't sure it had enough clearance). The next day I found out the road to Poing Sublime was washed out from heavy rains. I am glad I listened to the Ranger.
Cruising on Highway 67, leaving the Grand Canyon's North Rim, I noticed a sign along the road, Jacob Lake Lookout Tower. I had just read an article in Arizona Highways about a writer paying a visit to the individual who had the solitary job of sitting in the top of a lookout tower watching for forest fires. After seeing the sign I thought it might be a cool experience to check in with the person who was on duty.
I saw a figure looking at me just below the top of the steel cab. I moved closer to the tower and observed the sign. It said "caution enter at your own risk - U S Forest Service." I proceeded up the 80 foot tower.
A bit stunned, I started to check out the view, not trying to ignore Mark. To the north I could see the red Vermilion Cliffs. Right behind those cliffs were the white cliffs and finally pink cliffs representing Bryce National Park. It was a bit hazy but Mark thought we could see about 80 miles on this day.
The wind speed indicator said the wind was only blowing 10 miles per hour but I could feel the tower swaying! Mark said the tower was built to withstand 130 mph winds. I wouldn't want to be there to test that out!
This lookout tower was built in 1934 by the Civillian Conservation Corps. This site is listed on The National Historic Lookout Register. www.firelookout.net was the web address I saw on the sign.
While sometimes reading a book was his only compaion during the day, Mark mentioned he averaged about one or two visitors per day.
I asked him what the eagle feather was hanging down from the ceiling. A Native American had been on the job for about a week when he was jolted by lightning and wanted the seven foot by seven foot area blessed to get rid of the bad spirits. Soon I noticed his wooden stool had an insulator on each of its four legs. When lightning strikes around the tower, Mark sits on the insulated chair with his arms placed on the inside of his body for protection.