By Elaine Kish
While brainstorming about a new adventure to embark on, some Compass followers decided on a rim-to-rim hike across the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. While I was not part of the hiking team, my role in the adventure was to travel with two other non-hikers in two vehicles from the South Rim to meet the team of six explorers on their arrival at the North Rim.
Although the hikers left Grand Canyon Village before sunrise to board the shuttle to the start of the trail, we were allotted the pleasure of sleeping late and enjoying a leisurely breakfast before starting on our journey. While the actual distance across the canyon is only 10 miles and the hiking route is 21 miles, it is a 5-hour drive of 220 miles between the South Rim Village and the North Rim Village. Since we estimated the hikers would need at least 12 hours to complete their journey, that afforded us time for lots of stops to embrace the views, stop for souvenirs and take lots of photos.
Starting out on Route 64 we went east, following the rim of the canyon. There are numerous overlooks every few miles, each one more beautiful than the last and revealing a different view of the canyon below. We stopped at many of the overlooks before we eventually realized stopping for the new view at each one would take us a long time. Eventually, at Navajo Point, our route took us away from the rim, but still in the Grand Canyon National Park.
In Cameron, we turned north onto Route 89 passing into Navajo Nation, which extends into the states of Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, covering 27,000 square miles. The Cameron Trading Post provides a hotel lodge with beautiful flower gardens, an RV park, and a large dining room featuring authentic Indian cuisine. There are rows and rows of Indian arts and crafts, including silver jewelry, beadwork, baskets, pottery, carvings and sand paintings. A world of beautiful remembrances of your visit.
After more miles of driving and stopping repeatedly for new views of the Canyon, we arrived at the Navajo Bridge in Fredonia. Crossing over the Colorado River, the original steel span was completed in 1929 and called The Grand Canyon Bridge before it was renamed the Navajo Bridge in 1934. A new bridge was constructed in 1995 to accommodate increased vehicle traffic, while the original bridge was relegated to foot traffic. These bridges are tied for ninth place of the highest bridges in the United States.
We decided to walk across the pedestrian bridge, an area well known for spotting California Condors which frequent the area. After a bit of time searching the area, we spotted a Condor perched on one of the girders below the bridge. There were several members of the Navajo tribe selling handmade jewelry and Indian artifacts at the end of the bridge.
Back in our vehicles, we continued our journey going west on Route 89Alt. Again, we stopped periodically to enjoy the view but at this point we were looking up at the colorful layers of cliffs beside us. Next to the road there were numerous boulders of all sizes which had broken off the rock face above and rolled down. Arriving at Jacob Lake, we checked into our accommodations for the night and had dinner. While Jacob Lake is the nearest town to the North Rim, it is still about 43 miles to the trail’s end in the park where we needed to meet our hikers.
Going south on Highway 67, it is a dark and winding road with hundreds of deer of all sizes, grazing near the road. Accustomed to traffic, they are close to the road, even crossing in front of you at times, making it impossible to drive very fast.
On the North Rim we had time to see the Grand Canyon Lodge. It has a sunroom and a veranda that offer beautiful views of the area. The Lodge is open from May 15 to October 15. Lodge rooms and area cabins are very popular and usually book out a year in advance. We also visited the Lodge Gift Shop and the Grand Canyon Conservancy Park Store where you can purchase North Rim souvenirs. The Deli in the Pines has numerous grab and go foods and the Roughrider Saloon is available for food and adult beverages.
Learning that the hikers were approaching the trail’s end, we parked in that area and waited for their return. After hugs and photos to memorialize the event, we piled into warm vehicles for the ride back to our accommodations at Jacob Lake. Again, we saw numerous deer on and near the road making for a slow trip. Back at the cabins, the hikers had a quick bite to eat before falling into bed, exhausted.
A drive around the Grand Canyon from rim to rim is a beautiful and exciting way to see this wonder up close and personal. It will certainly give you a new appreciation of nature.
To hear more about this epic adventure from one of the hikers read their first hand experience: The Grand Canyon Rim to Rim.