Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge

Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim
Until James told me about the Lodge at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon several years ago, I had never heard of it. Apparently that's not that uncommon. A lot of people visit the South Rim of the Canyon, but not very many make the drive all the way around through Utah and Northern Arizona to the North Rim. No doubt, that's in part because the 1937 lodge, cabins and campgrounds are only open seasonally - from May 15 to October 15. The altitude of the North Rim is quite a bit higher than the South Rim, (8200 ft.) so it's snowed in the rest of the year.
View from the North RIm
We took our seven and ten year old nieces with us and spent three nights at the lodge, stopping for the night in Vegas on the way out and back. It was the longest they'd ever been away from their parents and they had to miss three days of school, but I figured it was worth it to see one of the natural wonders of the world.
Grand Canyon Lodge - North Rim
The lodge is sort of sneaky, in that when you arrive, park and walk in - you still haven't seen the canyon yet. Then you go through the lobby and walk out back and find this waiting for you...
The Grand Canyon North Rim
The first thing the girls was run down to this viewpoint just behind the lodge - that's them waving. They absolutely loved it - the older one kept exclaiming, "It's so beautiful here!"One of the many view points at the Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge
The interior of the lodge is pretty swell too. It features the world's largest Navajo Rug - complete with documentation...
The worlds largest Navajo Rug - hanging in the lobby at the Lodge
Some fantastic light fixtures hanging from the beamed ceilings...
Lobby at the Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge
and a classic National Park Lodge dining room with huge windows looking directly into the Canyon. This was a very popular destination in the evenings.
The dining room at the Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge
The main event at the North Rim is the sunset, and the place to be is the sundeck. On either side of the small indoor lobby are large stone patios with low walls and lots of  bentwood chairs and tables.  The jockeying for the best seats can get pretty intense, but the view is almost as good from a few feet back, and if you are willing to get there early or wait it out, you can almost always find a spot.
Sunset from the view deck - Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim
They have cocktail service on the deck, and you can also bring your own drinks or food over from the deli in front of the lodge - we ordered a pizza and ate it out there on our last night. One thing I really liked about this place was the laissez faire attitude. You could walk around with a drink in your hand, move the furniture around on the deck, climb on the rocks, go for a night hike to stargaze, pretty much whatever you wanted - and nobody was going to say boo. We even turned the girls loose for a couple of hours at a time (with a walkie talkie they could use to call us if need be) to do their "Junior Ranger" activities. They were sworn in on the last day...
Junior Rangers

The photographic opportunities were endless - everywhere you turned, everyone was taking pictures, all the time.
Early morning at the Grand Canyon Lodge - North Rim
The lodge sits literally perched on the edge of the canyon and all of the accommodations are in cabins spread out on either side along the rim. There are about 30 Western Cabins - the nicer ones with front porches, and about four times as many Pioneer and Frontier cabins across the road. Those are a little more basic, but some offer two bedrooms, and since there are more of them they're easier to come by. There are also a few "motel" rooms in a building that used to be employee housing. The lodge takes reservations thirteen months in advance, and it's a good idea to plan ahead. The Western Cabins are in high demand.  The "rim view" cabins with porches directly overlooking the canyon are generally booked the day they become available.
Early morning at the Grand Canyon Lodge - North Rim
The Western Cabins each have two double beds, a little push button fireplace, a desk and small table with two chairs. There's a little closet/vanity room with a mirror and mini-bar sized refrigerator, and a small bathroom with pedestal sink and shower/tub. The best feature is the porch with rocking chairs - we spent lots of time on ours. The lodge was also just steps away, and we spent quite a bit of time on the sundeck - especially before and after dinner.
Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge
The evenings are lovely - on our first night they had a fire in the enormous outdoor fireplace. On the second, they turned out all of the lights for stargazing and we whiled away the evening spotting satellites and shooting stars.
Caelan and Emma setting out on our first hike
We took the girls out on a little hike along the Transept Trail - which runs around by the Frontier and Pioneer cabins and over to the camp ground, where we caught the Bridle Trail back to the lodge.
On the Transept Trail - Grand Canyon North Rim
They were good sports and had a ball taking pictures with the Polaroid instant camera - though I'm pretty sure their favorite part was the ice cream stop at the campground General Store. (Which is quite nice and has free Wi Fi.)
Roosevelt Point - Grand Canyon North Rim
On the second day, we drove around to Cape Royal - on the opposite side of Roaring Springs Canyon - to check out a different view. We stopped at Roosevelt Point on the way, and hiked out to the beautiful spot above - literally clambering through the bushes and over rocks in some places. (I still have the scratches on my legs to prove it!)
Angel's Window - Grand Canyon
At Cape Royal we walked out to the viewpoints to see the Colorado River, Angel's Window, Vishnu Temple, Freya Castle, and even the watchtower on the opposite side of the canyon. It was well worth the 45 minute drive.
View from Cape Royal - Grand Canyon North Rim
After that, we backtracked and did a four mile round trip hike to Cape Final - a rock outcropping that hangs out over the canyon at one of its highest points. It was an amazingly beautiful spot if you have time for a two hour hike.
Sunrise at the Grand Canyon
On our last morning, we got the girls up to watch the sunrise from Bright Angel Point and hit the road early so we could spend the afternoon at the pool back in Vegas. We never did get around to a mule ride - it was too expensive and the girls weren't that interested. You might have also noticed I haven't had much to say about the food...
Caelan and Emma at Cape Royal - Grand Canyon North Rim
They had good strong cocktails, a nice beer selection (Lagunitas IPA and decent beers from the Grand Canyon Brewing Company) and good, strong, organic coffee in the mornings.  The soft serve machine in the deli was fun.   Dinner in the lodge is ok if you stick with the basics - I think they grill their steaks on a real wood-fired grill. The pastries and pizza are all made with the same frozen bread dough - which is efficient if not all that tasty. Skip the Grand Canyon Cookout Experience. It does not live up to it's grandiose name.
View deck - Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim
Overall, the food reminded me of what you might get at a college dorm cafeteria. Not something you'd cross the street for if there were a lot of other options, but of course here there are no other options. You don't go to eat anyway though - you go for the view, to spend time with friends and family, to relax and enjoy. If it's really important to you, all of the rooms have a fridge - just pack a cooler with some fruit, charcuterie and wine, and have lots of picnics! 

Last year we vacationed over Labor Day weekend in another beautiful remote location in a National Park - read all about it here!


  1. So beautiful! We're headed that way in a few weeks. Hopefully we can stop here.

  2. Wow, Alice! That all looks and sounds so magnificent. The GC was already on my list, but it just moved much closer to the top. Your nieces are so lucky.

  3. hi alice - wow, every photo was postcard worthy! gorgeous views. thanks for sharing. it's good to know about the north rim as another option. one of these days, my husband, daughther and i will have to go here!

  4. phenomenal! i've never been to the north rim. its now on my list!

  5. It's so beautiful!! I have to go now. My son lives in Phoenix...we pass the turn on the way, but we've never "turned".

  6. Thank you for this post, we were just at the North Rim on our honeymoon in June, (on the way to Zion) so it brought back a wonderful memory. It was worth the long drive, so incredible, thanks for sharing!

  7. The view in the sundeck is amazing! It is really nice to watch the sunset in that place.

  8. We were just there arrived on the 4th of July. I am glad we were at the North rim

  9. Thanks for the pictures and comments, trying to plan a trip, this really does help!

  10. This is one of the best write ups I've seen. We were considering the Cookout, but the reviews, although few, weren't good and this one nailed it.
    Thanks for this wonderful blog.

  11. Amazing! This blog looks exactly like my old one! It's on a totally different subject but it has pretty much the same page layout and design. Wonderful choice of colors!
    My page > sex et gratuit