We hadn’t included the Grand Canyon in our initial itinerary. But when I read that the North Rim was only a couple of hours away from where we would be, we just had to make the trek there. We decided it would fit best after our visit to Zion National Park. (And, yes, I know that the Grand Canyon is in Arizona, not Utah, but purists will need to look past the title as this is our Utah loop road trip.)
It was an easy three-hour drive almost entirely through rolling plains and forests. It struck me as odd that the landscape was so green, though we had crossed over to Arizona (isn’t all of Arizona hot and dry?) and were on our way to the Grand Canyon (which is all hot, dry red rock, right?).
We passed through the park gate (closed up booth, pay when you get to your campsite or at the visitor center) and drove another 20 miles through forests before glimpsing canyon through trees. In fact, we weren’t even looking at the Grand Canyon yet, but at its neighbour, Roaring Springs Canyon.
We parked Artie and walked to the visitor center where there was an outside, unsupervised self-pay machine. I wonder how many people who don’t have annual passes (as we do now) actually pay the $35 to enter and use the park?
We walked the Bright Angel Point trail, up and down a narrow path to a tiny point jutting into the canyons. Though a bit hazy due to summer smog coming from the coast and points south (as the sign said), or possibly wildfires, the views were still spectacular.
Returning to the trailhead, we wandered along a gravel path to a couple more viewing platforms before climbing up the steps to the Grand Canyon Lodge.
The lodge and all the surrounding cabins are well-maintained log buildings. There are outdoor patios to sit on and gaze at the view and an inside lounge area with huge picture windows that I could imagine offer superb storm watching opportunities.
After ogling the canyon views, we drove back out of the park and into the Kaibab National Forest. We had asked the ranger at the visitor center about dispersed camping in the area and she provided us with a map of the area with what must include 100 free campsites. She marked an area of her favourite spots and she did not steer us wrong. We were to drive exactly five miles from the gate to our turn, and then slowly drive about another 5 miles up a gravel road to these sites. We asked if they were busy sites and we were told no, but by the time we arrived, we found all but one of the several she had pointed us to were occupied. (This means that you might have a neighbour half a mile away.)
We grabbed the first open site we saw (the second to last site she had marked), backed Artie in, levelled the van, and then stopped to stare at the view we had been gifted. We keep shaking our heads that these incredible forest sites are available free of charge.
Our evening and morning views were marred only by the smoke from a nearby lightning fire. Thankfully it was cool enough at night to keep our windows closed because opening them was not pleasant at all.
- Entry fee to Grand Canyon National Park: $35 per car or free with an Interagency Pass.
- Dispersed campsite location: 36°26’37.9″N 112°04’21.9″W