After starting my day all alone at Cape Royal, and knowing that the North Rim receives one-tenth the number of visitors as the South Rim, I was positively surprised by the number of people hanging out at Bright Angel Point. It turns out, a lot of people had made that long drive.
The most popular viewpoint in this part of the park is just beyond the North Rim Lodge. The trek to Bright Angel Point requires a short walk atop a narrow rock “knife”. While the path is paved, it’s still challenging, with some steep ups and downs. Maybe I was winded because of the altitude, or my lack of sleep from the previous night’s drive.
While Bright Angel Point is a great walk out to a breathtaking, knee-weakening viewpoint, it’s not a trail to take if you’re seeking solitude. There were people everywhere–most of whom seemed oblivious to everyone else around them. I can forgive them: the canyon is a pretty big distraction.
Instead of standing by the crowded railing, take a risk and climb up on the rocks at the end of the trail, directly above the viewpoint. I smiled as kids watched below, started to follow my lead, only to receive a stern word from their mothers. “If it’s unsafe, how ‘come he’s doing it?” Hehehe.
The view is really great up there. On your right side is The Transept (above), a narrow canyon with beautifully eroded walls. To the left is Roaring Springs Canyon.
And of course, directly in front of you is the canyon. The South Rim is just about 10 miles away. With the naked eye, you can’t see any of the cars or buildings on the south side, unless the sunlight reflects off a shuttle bus at exactly the right angle.
[tmt_info =””]While the South Rim is only about 10 miles (as the crow flies) from the North Rim, it’s a 211 mile, 4-hour drive between the two points. The closest Colorado River crossing upstream is Navajo Bridge, on US 89. Downstream, the closest crossing is Hoover Dam, which would require a 541 mile drive.[/tmt_info]
Okay, enough of all this hiking. It’s time to relax for a few minutes, and there’s no better place than the lounge at the North Rim Lodge. Here, you can sink into leather seats and gaze out three huge windows.
Be sure to pay homage to Brighty, the canyon’s famous burro. Brighty isn’t just a legend–he really did live here, around the turn of the 20th century. Brighty hauled water from a spring to the North Rim, and was notoriously friendly to children. He was also the first creature to cross the suspension bridge at the bottom of the canyon, he hunted mountain lion with President Theodore Roosevelt, and apparently at some point, he solved a murder.† Such a creature is definitely worthy of a life-sized bronze statue!
[tmt_info =””]Brighty’s fame goes far beyond the North Rim. His story provided the inspiration for a book by Marguerite Henry, and in 1967, that book became a movie, “Brighty and the Grand Canyon“.[/tmt_info]
At this point, I probably should have taken a seat in the lodge’s dining room and enjoyed a proper lunch. Instead, I opted for a quick sandwich from a deli-style fast food store, in a building near the lodge. The sandwich was soggy, pre-packaged, and flavorless. There were flies everywhere. No one had taken the initiative to wipe down the tables in quite some time. The restaurant wouldn’t have been much more expensive, and immensely more pleasurable. Filled with regret, I hit the road.
The park entrance road looked completely different in daylight. Who knew I was driving through rolling, high-country meadows when I passed by here, about 8 hours earlier?
[tmt_info =””]Take the main road back out to US Alt-89. For the short route to Zion National Park, take a left, head to Fredonia, then go north to US 89, and head west. I decided to take the long way around, by making a right on Alt-89, crossing the Colorado at Navajo Bridge, then driving through Page, AZ before headed to Zion.[/tmt_info]
Note: This trip was first published in 2007.