Grand Canyon, North Rim Cape Royal & Angels Window At Sunrise


The Grand Canyon’s North Rim only receives about 10% of park visitors.  It’s remote.  It’s not near any Interstate.  It’s higher in elevation, so the weather is more harsh, and it’s closed in the winter.  There are no casual visitors here–everyone had to commit to it.

While the North Rim is pretty remote, I had somehow found a way to go even further.  Cape Royal is a good half-hour’s drive (or more, depending on your curvy road skills) from the main entrance road.  The narrow, winding pavement carries you out to the end of a long peninsula, the Walhalla Plateau, that juts out into the middle of the world’s biggest hole.

If you read the previous page, you know that I had driven all night from Las Vegas, and arrived here just before daybreak.  With a soft glow appearing on the horizon, the stars above were quickly disappearing, and the great void below was beginning to appear.

Cape Royal is 20 miles from the main road to the North Rim.  It’s well marked and turns off to the left, but the road is narrower and slightly rougher than the main road.

From the parking lot at the end of Cape Royal Road, a short walk takes you out to the point.  From here, you have a great view to the east and west, making this a great place to watch the sun rise or set.  Today, however, I would be the only one to see the sunrise at Cape Royal.

Before the sun breaks over the horizon, the canyon is bathed in a soft glow.

As the sun rises, shadows begin to form, as the canyon walls burst with changing colors.

There are several different viewpoints, all within a quarter-mile (or less) walk.  You’ve driven all this way, why not check them all out?

About a half hour after sun-up, I headed back to the car, and walked past Cape Royal’s second visitor of the day–the first person to arrive after me.  For the next couple of hours, the back seat of my rented Dodge Avenger (ugh) doubled as an uncomfortable bed.  After that long-overdue nap, I awoke to find a parking lot full of a dozen or more cars.  All the tourists who had arrived seemed intent on spoiling the silence that existed just a little while ago.  I even heard one particularly noisy guy exclaim, “Listen to how quiet it is!”

“Why don’t you shut up so I can?”

 Of course I didn’t say that.

I explored a little more now that daylight had flooded the canyon.

The Grand Canyon looks similar from either rim, but there’s one feature you won’t see on the south side.  It’s Angel’s Window, a hole that allows you to peer straight through one of the rock walls.  Line it up right, and you can see the Colorado River through Angel’s Window.  And yes, if you look closely at the picture above, you can see guard rails atop the rocky protrusion.  More daring visitors can walk right over the window, out to the end.  It didn’t seem terribly death-defying to me, but I did see other visitors turning around (not that noisy guy, though).

Look closely and you’ll find great photos everywhere.

At Cape Royal, there’s a great viewpoint that almost no one visits.  As you stand in the parking lot, at the trailhead for the main path, turn right, and head to the other end of the parking area.  Watch for a small sign for the “Wedding Area”.  There’s a clearing here for ceremonies, as well as picnic tables and a few great canyon-side views.  I spent a while here, and didn’t see a single person.

As I drove out, I saw all the interesting sights that were covered in darkness on the way in.  It’s a curvy, and fun, trip back to the main road, with a couple of other overlooks along the way.

One paved road branches off from Cape Royal Road.  It leads to Point Imperial, just three miles away.  I was thinking more about lunch and less about viewing the Canyon at this point, so I drove past, headed for the main visitor’s area at Bright Angel Point.

Note: This trip was first published in 2007.

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