Grand Canyon East Rim Defined
The Grand Canyon is essentially a huge rift in the earth extending about 277 miles (446 kilometers) from east to west. Grand Canyon East is NOT a definition used by the National Park Service. It is a definition used by local people to mark the area where a number of popular sites can be visited. The Little Colorado River Gorge, the historic Cameron Trading Post, Marble Canyon, Navajo Bridge, Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, Rainbow Bridge, Tower Butte, part of Lake Powell and the Colorado River from Glen Canyon Dam to Lee’s Ferry are all located within the “East Rim”. Much of this area is also known as the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and the remainder is Navajo Land. Grand Canyon East is located in an area that is along the Colorado River to the north and the east of the South Rim.
The Little Colorado River Gorge is Nik Wallenda’s “Grand Canyon” where he walked across the Canyon on a cable. It is located on Navajo Indian Tribal Lands. It is the controversial area where a proposed resort may be built beginning in 2018. Currently the Navajo Tribe is split on the decision to build on “sacred” land and the Hopi Tribe, who expects respect for their sacred sites, is totally against the proposal. You can drive along the gorge as you drive on State Route 64 between the east entrance to the South Rim and the town of Cameron, Arizona. There are two view areas; one with rails. The one with rails is a fee area and the other one is not. The fee is minimal and well worth the price to get the view.
Cameron Trading Post is located in Cameron near the junction of State Route 64 and US 89. It offers lodging as well as dining and simply a place to stop and rest from your travels for a few minutes. The Native American Arts and Crafts are displayed throughout the store. Most of the items are for sale. You might also see a Navajo woman demonstrating how to weave a rug.
Navajo Bridge and its twin offer a way to cross the Colorado River at Marble Canyon. If you plan to visit Lee’s Ferry and do some world class trout fishing you will use the updated twin bridge for driving and the original Navajo Bridge to walk across. Be sure to visit the Navajo Interpretive Center at Navajo Bridge and learn about the Navajos. Walk around and read the plaques that tell some of the area history.
Horseshoe Bend is now known as a Grand Canyon “icon”. Articles about the National Park often prominently display a picture of this view of a horseshoe shaped meander on the Colorado River. A short hike will get you to the rim where you can see spectacular views without rails to get in the way. There is also a downside to this – there are no rails. Don’t go too close to the edge if you have vertigo! Keep young children close to you – perhaps in a harness.
Antelope Canyon has long been a destinations for locals. Now it is also a destination for travelers across the globe. The beauty of this slot canyon is indescribable. You have to see it to understand its beauty. Antelope Canyon has two sections: Upper Antelope Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon. Each has its own beauty but the upper section is generally more crowded.
Rainbow Bridge National Monument, a landform made of sandstone, is viewable by tours from Lake Powell or by air tours from the Page Municipal Airport. You won’t want to miss the opportunity to see this amazing formation – one of the largest natural bridges in the world!
Don’t miss the opportunity to take a helicopter flight and land on Tower Butte! The views from the top are absolutely breath-taking! This tour departs from the Page Municipal Airport and takes you to a place that few others have had the opportunity to visit. Don’t forget your camera or your friends won’t believe you when you tell them about this place!
Lake Powell offers several options in the East Rim area. You can take a boat tour to Lower Antelope Canyon or Rainbow Bridge. You can rent a power boat or personal water craft for a day of fun on the lake. You can rent a houseboat and travel on the lake for a few days or a week. You can spend the night on wide beaches or in tiny coves. You can eat at one of two floating marinas on the lake or you can take a dinner cruise. You can explore the back canyons and do a little hiking. There are too many options to mention them all!
Last, but not least, you can spend time on the Colorado River by taking a tour from Glen Canyon Dam to Lee’s Ferry – a smooth water float trip that is guaranteed to relax you and keep you busy looking for crazy “pictures” on the canyon walls. You will float around Horseshoe Bend and perhaps see people at the rim enjoying the view. At about a thousand feet above you they will look very tiny. You will be able to spend about 3 hours on the river enjoying the scenery before you arrive at Lee’s Ferry where a bus will pick you up to return you to Page, Arizona.
You can also take your own boat (or rent a boat) to go fishing on the Colorado River. This is a famous trout fishing area. You will drive to Lee’s Ferry and launch your boat from there. Pay attention to where you are going because the Grand Canyon White Water rapids begin not far downstream from Lee’s Ferry. You can motor almost to Glen Canyon Dam and fish along the way. You can also camp at specified campgrounds along the river if you choose.
Why Should I Visit the East Rim?
There are a lot of reasons to visit the East Rim. I have listed some of them above. Additionally, the East Rim isn’t quite as crowded as the South Rim and there is plenty to see and do while you are there. Other points of interest include Hanging Garden Trail, Stud Horse Point, Skylight Arch, Alstrom Point on Romana Mesa, Birthday Arch, Toadstools Trail, etc. During the summer and early fall months lodging sells out several months in advance so be sure to plan ahead of time and enjoy your visit.