The North Rim


Monday, August 18

I’m excited! It’s time to cross half of the last big local destination off my list: the Grand Canyon. It’s a 107 mile drive from the campground to the north rim, the south rim is even further and one has to detour far to the east to make it around, making it impractical to visit both sides in one day given I’ll have to drive all the way back to Utah.

While generally counted the less scenic, I figure the north rim will be the better side to visit today. The high in Mt. Carmel is 90, at lower elevations it’s set to get above 100. The north rim sits at 7,000 ft, the south rim at 6,000 ft, so the higher the better.

To get there, I drive down into Kanab on 89, then stay on 89A into Arizona past Fredonia. It doesn’t take long and the road starts some serious climbing up into Kaibab National Forest. The rim itself might sit at 7,000 ft, but on highway 67 getting there elevations top 8,000. The mixed Ponderosa pine and spruce forest that I’m accustomed to seeing at higher elevations makes a strong showing, although there are large areas of the Kaibab Plateau that are open. A large forest fire ripped through the area 14 years ago and the pines haven’t grown back, in some places young aspen compete for for sun, in others it’s just grass and brush.


Like other national parks in the area, the entrance fee is $25 per vehicle, but I flash my year pass and am on my way. Not far past the entrance a herd of bison lounge in a field near the road, close enough that I can get a picture from the truck without zoom. There’s no fence to keep them off the road, so I’m glad that they’re staying on their side of the tracks so to speak.

The visitor’s center is located near the rim itself near Bright Angel Point. Next to it is a large lodge with cabins, a gift shop, and two eatery options. Walking into the gift shop is sort of a surreal experience. Forever Resorts runs all the concessionaire stuff at the north rim, the same company that I worked for last summer at the Badlands, and the music and smell of the gift shop (old wood) remind me sharply of Cedar Pass Lodge. It’s like I walked through that doorway and crossed several states in a single step. The layout and size is different, but the atmosphere is very similar.

This lodge is a lot more…well, more than the Badlands one though. It clearly sees more visitors and has a larger staff. A seating area behind the sit down restaurant overlooks the canyon, which I get to see clearly for the first time.


It’s amazing to look at, it really is. But to be honest I don’t think I’d rate it among my favorites like most people. It’s a scale thing. It’s so vast, that it doesn’t seem as real somehow. It stretches so far into the distance that my brain has a hard time wrapping around it. It’s hazy enough that I can’t even see the opposite side clearly.

Maybe the Grand Canyon has just gotten so much hype that I had unrealistic expectations, like a good movie that gets ruined when critics and friends all claim it’s the best thing ever. I’m still very glad I came, and look forward to seeing the south rim at a later date to compare.

I do enjoy the cooler temperatures and fresh pine smell. It can’t be warmer than 75, and I’d love to go for a hike, but clouds are rolling in and thunder rumbles in the distance. I do take a quick walk down into the campground and peek at the sites. No hookups, but paved pull-throughs for all the RV sites, and the ones situated on the outside of the large loop offer a decent amount of privacy. It’s all full up today which isn’t surprising, we’re still in the busy season.

the-north-rim3There are several other overlooks at the north rim besides the visitor center, and with the threat of rain, driving instead of walking seems like the most prudent course. At one pull-over though a sign advertises a very short hike to an alpine lake which I just can’t resist, and I run it at a dash as the rain starts.

It’s dried up. Oh well, it’s not like I came far and the scenery is still pretty.

By the time I make it to the first overlook, Vista Encantada, lightning is flashing overhead and it’s raining hard enough to make picture-taking a challenge. But I came this far and might not get out here again anytime soon, so there I stand on the edge of a cliff in a thunderstorm with my phone, capturing the view. It’s not as dangerous as it could be, the lightning seems to be all cloud to cloud, and I avoid standing under trees or in large open areas.


There is a bench under an old ponderosa pine that just begs to have it’s picture taken in the rain. Way out across the canyon I can see that the other side is sunny, but it’s hard to capture.

Continue on or turn around? The next overlook is Roosevelt Point and it isn’t as far as the two that come after it. It’s still raining as I get there and it’s more open than the last overlook. I dash under a tiny little roof that once held a sign visitors could read and snap a couple pictures before ducking under cover of the truck again. The rain shows no signs of stopping and it’s dropped into the 50’s. Fine monsoon weather, you win this round, but I’ll be back!


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At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and travel full-time before retirement, and share stories of my adventures (and misadventures) to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.


  1. Kit on August 25, 2014 at 10:31 am

    Hi Becky, i love the north rim better than the south. I live in Durango and the south is closer but year round the crowds are thicker. I agree that a hike into the canyon, no matter how far you go is a great way to experience such a big scene. Ive hiked the rim trail, the south kaibab and the bright angel on foot and mule. I spent a few nights in the North rim cabins and enjoyed the Arizona Astronomy club member sharing the night sky from the lodge deck. But the best visit and ine that brings you closer to the river is Toroweap Point, and yes, I got a flat. Worth the hassle. Did you bring your rig down to the canyon, and since the campgrounds were full, where did you camp. I wouldnt bring my travel trailer to Toroweap, as tent or car camping works just fine (first come, first served)

    • Becky on August 26, 2014 at 12:47 pm

      Nope this was just a day trip for me, I just go into the campgrounds to report on them for the benefit of other RVers who follow me in case they want to stay. I do know that if the north rim campground is full, Dixie National Forest just outside has two campgrounds in it, and neither of those were full.

      Next time I’ll take a trip into the canyon. 🙂

  2. Dawn on August 22, 2014 at 10:49 am

    Have never been to the north rim, would like to see it. That wasn’t snow in the photo was it? I also really want to walk to the bottom, stay overnight and walk back out. It’s the walking out that worries me.

    • Becky on August 22, 2014 at 7:48 pm

      No, thankfully not snow Dawn. Yikes that’s a scary thought. 😉

      To anyone contemplating an extended hike in the Grand Canyon, Zion, or really anywhere in the southwest… just don’t go in August. If the heat doesn’t get you, the surprise storms will. 😉

  3. Bob Wells on August 21, 2014 at 1:15 pm

    From where you are I think Toroweep is the best viewpoint. It is almost directly south of you. I think it is my single favorite viewpoint.

    Be warned though it is a long, lonely drive to it. All the guide books say to watch out for flat tires and I thought, “Come on, today’s tires are so good I won’t get a flat.” Of course, I got a flat!

    It’s worth it! I’m planning on going back this fall. I’m tentatively planning a trip to Zion for November, the best time to visit, 1) Crowds are gone, 2) Cottonwoods along the river turn a beautiful yellow, 3) you can drive your car right into the valley, no problem with traffic 4) The water in the Virgin is low and walking Wall street is easy. 5) Temperatures are perfect.

    • Becky on August 22, 2014 at 7:44 pm

      Thanks for the tips Bob! One of my coworkers has done a lot of the dirt back roads around there, but he has all wheel drive and higher clearance than my truck does.

      My boss Jill says March/April and October/November are the best months to see Zion, fall has the color and spring has new growth, whichever you prefer. Seems to be that way for most national parks huh, to avoid the heat and crowds.

  4. JimS on August 21, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    A similar experience here on the south rim. It’s so vast it’s hard to take in visually, let alone capture it in a photo. Glad I went, all the same. There are a couple good hikes, though, that take you to a lookout point. Just not for the out-of-shape.

    Isn’t there a glass overlook that extends into the canyon on the north rim? I’ve never been to that side.

    • Becky on August 22, 2014 at 7:40 pm

      Hmm, I didn’t hear of such a thing Jim, but the storms kept me from doing much exploring out of my truck.

      I would have loved to do some of those lookout hikes.

    • JimS on August 23, 2014 at 12:28 pm

      Finally found it. It’s called the Skywalk, but at a place called Grand Cyn West. Here’s the Wiki article on it:

      • Becky on August 24, 2014 at 10:16 am

        Interesting Jim, thanks!

  5. Maura on August 21, 2014 at 6:56 am

    Agree with others, The Grand Canyon is a nice one time look down on, but better to do a rafting trip.

    Maura recently posted..Squirrels, Rats and RainMy Profile

    • Becky on August 22, 2014 at 7:38 pm

      Duly noted.

  6. Rob on August 21, 2014 at 6:48 am

    I’ve been to the Grand Canyon several times and stared at it from both rims but have not gone down into it yet.
    I it is so much more than my mind can grasp, it’s magnificent!

    A raft trip through it is going to have to be something in my future.
    Rob recently posted..Keeping track of timeMy Profile

    • Becky on August 22, 2014 at 7:38 pm

      And which side did you prefer more Rob? I’m thinking of starting a poll now. 😉

      Wish I could have seen it on a clearer day. Next time!

  7. Dennis smith on August 21, 2014 at 6:43 am

    After rafting it twice,10 years apart, and hiking down into the canyon at Havasu falls twice, the best way is to raft or hike it. Take the 12 day float trip and forget about life for a while. It’s not cheap but the trip of a lifetime. I hope to do it again one day. I just looked, it’s over $3500 a person now. A ton of money, but for sure we will do it again one day.

    • Becky on August 22, 2014 at 7:36 pm

      Yikes, at that price point it’s not for me Dennis, but I’m glad you had a good time! Hiking though, yes I will certainly do that some day.

  8. Terri on August 21, 2014 at 6:40 am

    I just saw a video of you the other day on Youtube when you were interviewed by the folks from Technomadia. I was so glad to see it – there are more and more of us single women going out there and doing this!

    I have been to both rims of the Grand Canyon, and I know what you mean – at first, you don’t feel like you are really there. It’s like you are looking at a painting, not something real. The north rim is definitely different and not as crowded as the south rim, and I kind of liked that. I remember that big room at the lodge too – all the chairs that you could sit in and just look outside and reflect. And I remember the deer would walk up very closely to you, even in the parking lot area.

    I saw you are writing an ebook, and I am very much going to buy it! I am in that planning stage right now, saving up as much as I can, so I can buy a motorhome (I have pets, so doing the travel trailer thing would be rough for them), and a scooter to go on the back. Can I ask – when you started – did you have any debt at all? My only debt is student loans, but still it’s debt.

    • Becky on August 21, 2014 at 12:24 pm

      Heya Terri, welcome to IO! Glad to have you here. 🙂

      A painting, what a good analogy. I didn’t see any deer while I was out there, but your description reminds me of the bighorn sheep here at Zion, they know humans aren’t going to bother them and so they’ll loiter in the roads and get close to people.

      I had no debt at all when I started Terri, but don’t let that deter you. I had another girl friend who went full-timing and had student loans and she made it work. Where there’s a will, there’s a way! If you have more specific questions, feel free to send me an e-mail, I may not respond immediately but I get to them all eventually.

  9. Jodee Gravel on August 21, 2014 at 6:31 am

    I’d love to see it from the top and bottom – if only I could avoid the climb in between :-). So sad the little lake is completely dry. Glad to see some rain in the area, even though it dampened your day trip a bit.
    Jodee Gravel recently posted..A Motorhome Is Like a Wedding DressMy Profile

    • Becky on August 21, 2014 at 12:20 pm

      Haha! Yeah that’s the challenge isn’t it Jodee. I wonder if I went back to that lake today if it’d have water. Locals say it’s been dryer than usual in general.

  10. Pleinguy on August 20, 2014 at 9:37 pm

    Some prefer the north rim, and others the south rim. I was on the north side this spring, but the park wasn’t open yet due to snow. So, I boondocks in the Kaibab when passing through. Hope to make it back there sometime soon.
    Pleinguy recently posted..GlacierMy Profile

    • Becky on August 21, 2014 at 12:19 pm

      Yeah, looked like a lot of boondocking opportunities in Kaibab, and I thought to myself it would be very pleasant in the summer with it’s higher elevation and cooler temps. Hopefully next time you go it’ll all be open.

  11. Ron on August 20, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    Really like the photo with the bench, thanks again for sharing.

    • Becky on August 21, 2014 at 12:18 pm

      You’re welcome Ron, glad you enjoyed it. That bench would not have been a good bench for sitting on, it’s leaning forward pretty precariously….

  12. edward on August 20, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    I’m not sure if you get the T-shirt by looking at the Grand Canyon from either rim — you’ve seen it but the real experience didn’t happen for me ’till I got down into the canyon. It’s just really different to be immersed in the canyon, even if you don’t have time to make it all the way to the bottom. I did the burro ride & that has the benefit that you can watch more than just where you put your feet 🙂

    • Becky on August 21, 2014 at 12:17 pm

      No T-shirt? Darn. 😉

      I saw donkey ride advertisements posted at the north rim, I bet that would be pretty neat. I have a hard time staying a straight line on trails though, I always want to wander off and see what’s over that rock which would make a trip on an animal not as fun for me. 😉

  13. mike german on August 20, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    Becky loved you pics as usual and you are right about the Canyon….I think the canyon is more impressive from the bottom on the Colorado river…. they use to let us take the skis 40 miles into the canyon entering from Lake Mead and what a awesome trip. They don’t let you take skis up there anymore but you can still take a boat. The water though at Lake Mead is too low to let anything get back up into the canyon that way now. Getting ready to take off tomorrow and take the Casita up to Wyoming for a week vacation and then down back to Reno for the Rib Cook Off. labor day. Hey I did try my hand at a web page just for the fun of it and have posted the address above

    • Becky on August 21, 2014 at 12:15 pm

      I’d love to take a trip down the Colorado river someday.

      Enjoy your trip to Wyoming! Sounds like a nice week you have planned. And I took a peek at your website, looks like a good start.

  14. Troy on August 20, 2014 at 2:12 pm

    Thank you for the pics Becky and details of your North Rim experience. Maybe you can fully explore the GC at the end of your current gig?

    I may have mentioned this before, but when my brother and I were in Utah, heading back to Houston, we had the opportunity to “see” the GC. We were cruising south down 89 and saw a sign for the GC heading West on 64. It took some convincing, but my brother finally agreed to go check it out. Then he saw the $25 per car price and turned around. 🙁

    I have plans to see it/explore it one day soon, but the Bro can stay at home.
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    • Becky on August 21, 2014 at 12:12 pm

      It’s $25 for all of the national parks around here, that $80 year pass is a great deal if you do as much traveling as I do.

      Bah, silly brother. I hope you get the chance to see it soon Troy. When you do, enjoy!

  15. Old Fat Man on August 20, 2014 at 12:00 pm

    I very much preferred the north rim over the south rim. I had the same impressions you did on my three trips to Grand Canyon. It is great that I went to experience it. Three times is enough. Be safe in those higher altitudes with the lightning.

    • Becky on August 20, 2014 at 12:12 pm

      I’m curious to see the south rim now. People say the colors are better but there are no trees. If I’d had the chance to do more hiking i think I would have enjoyed my experience more. Hopefully it won’t be storming next visit. 😉

  16. Jerry Minchey on August 20, 2014 at 11:57 am

    Beautiful pictures as always Becky.

    You said that you used the camera in your phone. What type of phone do you have? Whatever it is, you sure make some magnificent pictures with it.

    Thanks for posting them.

    Jerry Minchey

    P.S. I agree with you. The Grand Canyon is amazing, but it’s too big to fully comprehend. I think everyone should make an effort to see it, but I think it’s hard to call the Grand Canyon an “IT.” My son spent two weeks floating down the Grand Canyon (and still only got to see half of it). He said that if you just stand at the top and look off, you haven’t really seen the Grand Canyon.

    • Becky on August 20, 2014 at 12:10 pm

      An iPhone 4S Jerry, I don’t own any other camera.

      Taking a trip down the Colorado River would be pretty amazing. Maybe I should put that on my to-do list for the future.

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