How to See the North Rim
Three of the developed viewpoints on the North Rim offer a sense of looking across the expanse of the canyon, rather than into its depths. Views of the Colorado River are rare and distant. These descriptions may help you to plan your visit.
Point Imperial and Cape Royal are reached via a winding scenic drive. The trip to both points, with short walks at each and several stops at pullouts along the way, can easily take half a day.
Point Imperial, the highest point on the North Rim at 8,803 feet, overlooks the Painted Desert and the eastern end of Grand Canyon Park. Here the canyon transforms as the narrow walls of Marble Canyon, visible only as a winding gash, open dramatically to become “grand.” Layers of red and black Precambrian rocks, not visible at Bright Angel Point, add contrast and color. Looking North at this viewpoint, you will notice the Vermillion Cliffs as well.
Cape Royal provides a panorama up, down, and across the canyon. With seemingly unlimited vistas to the east and west, it is popular for both sunrise and sunset. The sweeping turn of the Colorado River at Unkar Delta is framed through the natural arch of Angels Window. Look for the Desert View Watchtower across the canyon on the South Rim. This popular viewpoint is accessible via a paved, level trail.
It takes a bit of effort, and four-wheel drive, to reach Point Sublime, the western-most of the North Rim viewpoints. The rough, two-hour (one-way) trip to this remote point is rewarded by a view that lives up to its name. Inquire about road conditions and possible closures before heading out.
Most visitors make a stop at Bright Angel Point, at the southern end of the entrance road. From the parking area it is a short, easy walk to Grand Canyon Lodge and a classic view of the canyon. This facility is wheelchair accessible. A paved, half-mile (round-trip) trail leads from the lodge, out the spine of the ridge, to the point. This trail is steep in places, with drop-offs and stairs, but provides dramatic views into Roaring Springs and Bright Angel Canyons.