Home » 1999 Cross Country Road Trip

Grand Canyon - North Rim, AZ

Monday, August 2, 1999 - 9:00am by Lolo
145 miles and 4 hours from our last stop - 2 night stay


Our next stop was the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and we were pretty excited about it. The approach to the North Rim through the Kaibab National Forest took us meandering through broad meadows and dense forests of ponderosa pines. The Kalchbrenners were following us in their RV and we were, as usual, talking back and forth on our handheld radios. Hans, or as we more affectionately call him, "The Great White Hunter" because of his incredible knack for spotting wildlife at great distances, was in heaven because of all the wildlife along the way. All we heard was, "Look, elk. Did you see that deer!" etc. I didn't see a thing.

Grand Canyon - North RimGrand Canyon - North RimWe stopped briefly along the way to shrewdly bargain with some Native Americans selling jewelry. The kids bought some necklaces with genuine stone from the Grand Canyon.

We headed directly to the North Rim Campground where we had reservations--it really is a good idea to have reservations in a park as popular as this one. We were really pleased with the campground. It was set in a ponderosa pine forest right along the edge of the canyon. Thankfully, our sites were back a bit from the rim or we wouldn't have been able to relax with the kids running around. I'm always amazed how different things are out west than in the east. In the east there would have been fences all along the rim with warning signs posted about the dangers--everything to totally screw up a good photograph. Here, you had the much-preferred opportunity (or challenge) of experiencing the untouched beauty at your own risk.

Kid's at Grand CanyonKid's at Grand CanyonThe kids needed to burn some energy, so they had a great time playing "pine cone wars." This complex game consisted of them collecting the numerous, quite sticky ponderosa pine cones lying all over the campground and then pelting them at each other, much to the younger ones' disadvantage. I find kids have the most fun with the simplest things--no complicated equipment or rules or adults to screw things up.

Once the "pine cone wars" were over, we headed over to the Grand Canyon Lodge to catch our first views of the Canyon. Although we had seen pictures and knew what to expect, it still took our breath away. It is so massive that we needed binoculars to see the buildings across the canyon on the South Rim 10 miles away.

We took the short hike from the Lodge to the 8,148-foot-high Bright Angel Point, which is one of the three major overlooks at the North Rim. The kids made us a little nervous along the narrow peninsula dividing Transept and Roaring Springs Canyons. We immediately established a "holding hands" rule for the remainder of the hike.

When we got back to the lodge, we sat in the rocking chairs on the deck for awhile taking in the incredible views. I really love National Park lodges and the way they are built so that they seem to be part of the landscape around them. The Grand Canyon Lodge is a great example of one. Its limestone walls, log beams, and green shingles blend perfectly with the rim rock and trees around it. The people that build these lodges also realize the importance of views. The huge picture windows in the Dining Room make it difficult to concentrate on what you're eating.

Herb with New Lazy DazeHerb with New Lazy DazeBack at the campground, the men decided to take some beach chairs to the rim to enjoy a cocktail. Since Michelle and I didn't think it would be very relaxing to let the kids run around near the canyon's edge, we nicely volunteered to stay behind and watch them. After about an hour, Hans and Herb came back without their beach chairs and told us that they would watch the kids while we enjoyed a cocktail on the rim. Sounded good to me.

We couldn't believe what we saw when we got there. The beach chairs were not just on the edge, rather they were perched on a rock peninsula which protruded out over the canyon. The only way to get out to them was to walk across a rock the width of a sidewalk. Michelle and I, who both have a bit of acrophobia, looked at each other in disbelief. We had two choices--get up the courage to go out there or go back to the kids. So, we looked around to see that no one was watching and then got down on all fours and crawled out to the chairs. I'm not sure why we found it so difficult--I've never thought twice about falling off a sidewalk and this was really no different.

Once we had our butts safely planted on the chairs, we tried to relax and enjoy the truly spectacular views and a glass of wine. We were amazed that during our sojourn there, several much braver souls nonchalantly strolled out onto our rock for a glance into the canyon, making us feel like even bigger weenies. We knew we had to eventually get off there, but neither one of us was too anxious to make the first move. We didn't even consider trying to carry the beach chairs--we'd leave that for the men. Not wanting to be left out there in the dark, we made our move, cheating death once again.

The next day we decided to take the 23-mile Cape Royal scenic drive to see the other two overlooks at the North Rim. At Cape Royal we took an easy .3 mile trail out to the tip of Cape Royal where there were great views of the central and eastern canyons. The kids had fun spotting lizards along the way, their favorite being one that was missing its tail. On the drive back, we took the 3-mile spur road to Point Imperial, the highest point on the North Rim. Each view was more spectacular than the next.

That evening we were all looking forward to having dinner at the Grand Canyon Lodge. As usual, I had everything planned out--we would walk the 1.5 miles to the Lodge on the Transept Trail (along the rim's edge) and then spend some time on the rocking chairs on the deck before dinner. To my dismay we were thwarted by a thunderstorm. However, after driving to the Lodge, the sun did come out, allowing us to spend our last evening there watching the sun set over the canyon. Dinner at the Lodge was wonderful as well.

Sometimes I get a little obsessive about having to do everything on the itinerary, so the next morning we hiked the Transept Trail along the rim from the campground to the Lodge. Some parts of the trail did come pretty close to the edge, so we had to implement the "holding hands" rule again (for me and Michelle that is).

After some Grand Canyon hat pin and t-shirt purchases at the Lodge, we set off for our next stop, Bryce Canyon.


Grand Canyon National Park, which is located in northern Arizona, is the nation's most popular national park, with over 5 million visitors a year. Everything about it is massive—it is 277 miles long, 1 mile deep, and an average of 10 miles across. The views from the rim are unparalleled and extend for as much as 200 miles on a clear day.

The Grand Canyon is one of the most spectacular examples of erosion anywhere in the world, displaying 2 billion years of geological history on its canyon walls. For millions of years the waters of the Colorado River have carved this canyon, while runoff from the rim has cut hundreds of side canyons separated by buttes and mesas rising a thousand feet from the canyon floor. Its beauty defies description and a visit to the canyon is a humbling experience.

There are two ways to visit the park—the South and the North Rim. Although they are only 10 air miles apart from each other, it is a 215-mile drive between them. The South Rim, which is open all year, is by far the more popular section with more than 10 times the number of visitors than the North Rim, which is only open from May to late October. Advanced reservations are definitely recommended.

There are some wonderful day and overnight hikes in the park. However, because of the high demand for overnight permits, applications should be sent in as early as 4 months in advance. Also, summertime temperatures on the canyon floor often exceed 100 degrees, so hiking should be done in the early part of the day and lots of water should be brought along.

North Rim – Elevation 8000 feet

Since the North Rim is much less accessible than the South Rim, it is far less crowded and much more peaceful. The approach to the North Rim is through the Kaibab National Forest where you’re sure to see wildlife such as deer and elk along the way. The road travels through dense forests of ponderosa pines, Douglas firs, and aspens, as well as across broad meadows.

There are 3 major overlooks in the North Rim: Bright Angel Point, Point Imperial, and Cape Royal. While Point Imperial and Cape Royal are overlooks along scenic drives, Bright Angel Point can be reached on a ¼ trail right from the back steps of the Grand Canyon Lodge. This paved trail takes you along a narrow peninsula dividing Transept and Roaring Springs Canyons to the 8,148-foot-high Bright Angel Point.

A wonderful place to dine is the historic Grand Canyon Lodge, which stands perched along the edge of the North Rim, offering spectacular views of Bright Angel Canyon. Lodging is also available in the stone cabins scattered among the ponderosa pines along the canyon’s rim.

The North Rim Campground is the only campground in the North Rim. It has 83 sites and is located in a ponderosa forest, just a few feet away from the canyon’s rim. Be cautioned that there are no fences along the canyon’s edge, so watch your kids. Reservations for this campground should be made well in advance.

Another nice way to see the canyon is to hike the 1.5 mile long Transept Trail which goes along the rim’s edge connecting the North Rim Campground and the Grand Canyon Lodge.

TREKVA on June 27, 2009

I stumbled into your site a few weeks ago as I began to plan our summer trip. Rarely do I find fellow travelers who match me in my love of planning and passion for driving hard to get somewhere and then pacing out the rest of the trip.

I have so thoroughly enjoyed reading about your travels and your boys growing up as they experience the world through travel. Our son was also born in 1991 - and we returned to our traveling ways when he was just a few weeks old. He heads off to college this year - and to our delight - he wants one more big WESTERN VACATION. We live on the east coast.

So off we go - to Yellowstone and the Tetons and places unknown....

After reading of Herb's dad's death and now reading of this trip to the North Rim - I feel such a kinship with you. My father's favorite spot on earth was the north rim - and I was lucky enough to share a visit with him there many years ago.

His passing is what catapulted me into purchasing the Trek of my dreams - and driving it 14,000 miles in the first 14 months that I owned it! My travels have slowed down since then - life gets in the way at times - but now - as we prepare to launch our son - I am so looking forward to an epic journey as a family.

You and your family inspire me!!!!!!!

Wild Blessings to you and yours.
1993 Isuzu Safari Trek 2400

Herb on June 28, 2009


Thanks for the kind words! Lorry and I are glad that by documenting our travels, we are not only preserving our family memories, but also inspiring others to create some memories of their own.

It's great that your graduate still wants to travel with you! We hope to do the same maybe this August. In the meantime, Tommy just graduated High School and will be taking off on an adventure of his own next week. He has planned 3 weeks of cross-country travel out West with 4 of his buddies. (Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Bryce, Grand Canyon, etc.) Hopefully I'll get him to document his travels as well.

Good luck on your trip! Please comment on our trip stops if you visit any of them on your adventure!

Ski on July 19, 2010

Hi Lolo,I just wanted to say that this Sunday 7- 25-2010 my family and i are setting off on our first cross country adventure.We got our rv last July hoping to spend some quality time with our kids before its too late (16 yr old girl and 20 yr old son).I really dont think i could have planned it without your site.I have used some of Herbs modifications and your planning tips to put together a 30 day 7000 mile round trip journey.I just wanted to say thank you for your excellent site and many tips on planning this.If things go half as good as your trips did we will have memories to last a lifetime. (Ski)
Akron Ny
1994 27ft Rockwood Frontier

Herb on July 26, 2010

Hi Ski,
I'm glad that this site is helping others create some great cross country trips of their own! Thanks for letting us know that we have helped, and have a great time on your trip! If visit any of the same places we have, please leave a comment with updated travel information.
Safe Travels,

Hawkes on March 4, 2012

Hi Did the North Rim this past summer. Its as great as you say. We also took a float raft trip 3-4
hours from Page,Az. Nice quite ride from Glen canyon dam to where the long trips thru the grand canyon
rafting trips lanch. This trip was just right for my wife and I (both in 70s)
Happy RVing to all. Hawkes

Herb on March 4, 2012

Thanks for your comment Hawkes,
Glad you got to take a raft float trip too. Especially good to hear that it's still a viable option for those in their 70's.
Enjoy many more travels and please keep us updated if you visit more of the same places we did.
Safe travels, Herb

Hawkes on March 4, 2012

HI Herb suprised to hear from you so soon. I am amazed at the quality of the photos you have posted. What type of equipment are you using like wise the boys trip west. thanks Hawkes

Herb on March 4, 2012

Hi Hawkes,

I'll repost my response to your previous comment re photography below:

Thanks for the compliments on our photos. We happen to use Canon equipment, but these days most any digital SLR is capable of taking great pictures. That said, it does become a lot easier to get high quality shots with pro-quality lenses.
I've been interested in photography since High School, when I had to photograph high school sports for the yearbook with a 4x5 Speed Graflex. That was in the early 70's so even then I think the camera was a bit dated, but it did take a great B&W negative.
Fortunately my boys have also developed an appreciation of photography and probably have a better eye for photography than I do. I hope we all continue to produce some inspirational photos of our travels in the future.

To be more specific... I think most of the photos were shot with a Canon Rebel, or 20D. Currently I think Tommy has the Canon 7D and I've got a Canon 5D Mark II. The lenses I used for the eagles and grizzly bear was the 70-200 f4 L lens. Some of the equipment links can also be found at http://www.cross-country-trips.com/top-rated-cross-country-travel-books

Grand Canyon - North Rim location map in "high definition"

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