The decision was made while we were still in Salt Lake City. We’ve come this far, we reasoned, what’s another 600 or 700 km? We visited the South Rim of the Grand Canyon three years ago, now we’ll visit the north side.
The North Rim closes down on October 15 due to the onset of cold temperatures and snow. We just have time to go before it closes. I was able to get a three-day reservation at the National Park campground on very short notice, an achievement that surprised even the park rangers. To put it in perspective, many campers reserve six months in advance.
We arrived at sunset and delighted in what we saw. The views from the North Rim are spectacular and the setting sun enhances the tones and hues of the multicoloured layers in the rocky cliffs.
What’s a visit to the Grand Canyon without some hiking? We did one relatively flat hike to an overlook called Cape Final – the end of the trail would certainly be terminal if you took one step too many. It had wonderful views of the surrounding cliffs and canyons.
The next day, our second hike took us 675 meters down the North Kaibab Trail, only about half way to the Colorado River. Hiking into the canyon has to be done carefully for several reasons. First you go down before going up, doing the “easy” part first; secondly, it gets hotter the lower you go even in October; thirdly, the dry air and heat can quickly bring on dehydration; and finally, you have to deal with the altitude when climbing back up. At 2,500 metres, it can trigger altitude sickness. It’s recommended that you allow for twice as much time going up as it takes you to go down. That’s roughly what it took us.
If you go in well prepared, it’s a thrilling experience. What I like most is being in the middle of the fabulous views, like a 360o experience. Standing in one place, you can look at the beauty all around you including up at the towering canyon walls and down into seemingly bottomless depths.