The rim trails on the North Rim rank among the park's treasures. Start with Transept Trail or Bright Angel Point Trail, which are different sections of the same pathway. At the bottom of the stairs behind Grand Canyon Lodge, Bright Angel Point Trail goes to the left, while Transept Trail goes right. Bright Angel Point Trail is a short (.25-mile) paved path to a stunning overlook on a tiny peninsula between Transept and Bright Angel canyons. It's usually crowded, but well worth seeing. Transept Trail is longer, more thickly forested, and less crowded, but has fewer panoramic views.
Bright Angel Point Trail
Highlights: Stunning views of Transept and Bright Angel canyons. Drawbacks: Crowds at the overlook. Difficulty Level: Safe and easy, unless there's lightning.
This paved trail travels .25 mile along a narrow peninsula dividing Roaring Springs and Transept canyons. On the way, it passes a number of craggy outcroppings of the Kaibab Limestone layer, around which roots of wind-whipped juniper trees cling like arthritic hands. Though the trail stays at about the same level as the rim, junipers supplant ponderosa pines here because of the warm winds that blow out of the canyon; the lack of water in the permeable limestone is another reason. The trail ends at 8,148-foot-high Bright Angel Point. From this overlook, follow Bright Angel Canyon (with your eyes) to its intersection with the larger Colorado River gorge. On a quiet day, you can hear Roaring Springs, a tributary of Bright Angel Creek and the water source for both of the canyon's rims. You can hike this trail round-trip in a half-hour.
.25 mile each way. Access: By descending the back steps off the patios at Grand Canyon Lodge. Water source at Grand Canyon Lodge. Map: Grand Canyon Sky Terrain Trail Map.
Highlights: Ponderosa pine forest and views of Transept Canyon. Drawbacks: May be busy, especially near Grand Canyon Lodge. Not a good choice for people with a fear of heights. Difficulty Level: Generally easy, though its undulations provide interval training.
Traveling 1.5 miles northeast along Transept Canyon's rim, this trail connects Grand Canyon Lodge and North Rim Campground, where bike rentals and the general store are also located. Passing through old-growth ponderosa pine and quaking aspen, it descends into, then climbs out of, three shallow side drainages, with ascents steep enough to leave people, especially those unaccustomed to the 8,000-foot altitude, short of breath. A small Native American ruin is on the way. It takes about 1 1/2 hours round-trip to complete this hike.
1.5 miles each way. Access: Behind North Rim General Store (near the campground), or by descending the back steps off the patios at Grand Canyon Lodge. Water source at North Rim Store. Map: Grand Canyon Sky Terrain Trail Map.
Ken Patrick Trail
Highlights: A stretch skirts the rim; nice views of Nankoweap Creek drainages. Drawbacks: Mule-trampled near North Kaibab trail head parking lot, faint in other spots, and steeply rolling near Point Imperial. Difficulty Level: The longest, faintest, scratchiest -- and all-around toughest -- rim trail; no water accessibility.
This long, steeply rolling trail travels through ponderosa pine and spruce-fir forest between the head of Roaring Springs Canyon and Point Imperial. Along the way, it poses a number of challenges. Starting at the North Kaibab trail head, mules have pounded the trail's first mile into a dustlike flour (when not watered down into something resembling cake batter). Where the mules turn around after a mile, the trail becomes faint. It becomes even less distinct about 4 miles in, after passing the trail head for the old Bright Angel Trail.
After crossing Cape Royal Road (the only road that you'll encounter, about two-thirds of the way to Point Imperial), the trail descends into, then climbs out of, a very steep drainage overgrown with thorn-covered New Mexico locust. While challenging, the 3-mile stretch between the road and Point Imperial is also the trail's prettiest, following the canyon's rim above Nankoweap Creek's upper drainages. In these areas, you'll see plenty of scarlet bugler (identifiable by tubular red flowers with flared lower petals) and a number of Douglas firs interspersed with the ubiquitous ponderosa pines. Allow about 6 hours each way for this hike.
10 miles each way. Access: From the Point Imperial parking area's south side, or from the North Kaibab Trail's parking area (on the North Rim entrance road, 2 miles north of Grand Canyon Lodge). No water sources. Maps: Trails Illustrated Topo Map or Grand Canyon Sky Terrain Trail Map.
Uncle Jim Trail
Highlights: Views of Bright Angel and Roaring Springs canyons, much forest, and easy access which makes this a great option for a picnic. Drawbacks: Mule traffic. Difficulty Level: Has some hills, but is suitable for families.
A lasso-shaped loop accessible via the Ken Patrick Trail, the Uncle Jim Trail circles Uncle Jim Point, which divides Roaring Springs and Bright Angel canyons. This spot is named for a former game warden, Jim Owens, who slaughtered hundreds of mountain lions on the North Rim in the early 1900s. (His handiwork, part of a misguided predator-control program, likely contributed to an explosion in the deer population and an ensuing famine.) By taking the lasso's right branch, you'll soon reach an overlook near the tip of Uncle Jim Point. From here, you'll have views across Roaring Springs Canyon to Bright Angel Point. This overlook is a scenic, easily accessible spot for a picnic lunch. After passing it, the trail skirts the edge of Bright Angel Canyon before looping back. It takes about 3 hours round-trip to complete this hike.
5 miles round-trip (including Ken Patrick Trail). Access: 1 mile down Ken Patrick Trail from North Kaibab trail head parking area. No water sources. Maps: Trails Illustrated Topo Map or Grand Canyon Sky Terrain Trail Map.
Cape Final Trail
Highlights: An uncrowded, flat, boulder-free walk to a canyon overlook. Drawbacks: Parking area is easy to miss. Difficulty Level: Nice and easy.
Because this trail is relatively flat and boulder-free, it's a good choice for a first hike in the backcountry. It meanders through ponderosa pine forest on an old jeep trail, ending at Cape Final, where you'll have views of the northern canyon and Juno Temple. Budget roughly 2 hours round-trip for this hike.
2 miles each way. Access: An unmarked dirt parking area off the Cape Royal Rd., about 5 miles south of Roosevelt Point. No water sources. Maps: Trails Illustrated Topo Map or Grand Canyon Sky Terrain Trail Map.
Cliff Springs Trail
Highlights: Passes springs and an Ancestral Puebloan granary. Drawbacks: A few rocky stretches. Difficulty Level: Craggy spots can pose challenges.
Scenic and fairly short, this is a nice hike for families. Although the dirt trail seems at first to head into forest away from the canyon, it quickly descends into a narrow, rocky canyon that drains into the larger one -- a reminder that the Walhalla Plateau is a peninsula in the Grand Canyon. Spruce and fir trees dominate the northern exposures in this side canyon, while ponderosa pines and piñon and juniper trees grow in the sunnier spots. Roughly a quarter-mile from the trail head, the trail passes a small Ancestral Puebloan granary. Then, after crossing a small drainage, the trail hugs the side canyon's north wall and passes under limestone overhangs and light green canopies of box elder trees (identifiable by their leaves in groups of three and their double-winged fruit). The springs drip from one of these limestone overhangs, where mosses carpet fissures in the rock. Don't drink the water, which may be contaminated. A waist-high boulder marks the end of the trail, which takes about 1 hour round-trip.
.5 mile each way. Access: A small pullout 1/3 mile north of Cape Royal on Cape Royal Rd. Water sources at Cliff Springs (purify before drinking). Maps: Trails Illustrated Topo Map or Grand Canyon Sky Terrain Trail Map.
Highlights: A nice escape into ponderosa pine forest culminating with canyon views from Widforss Point. Drawbacks: Much of the trail is away from the rim, with the canyon out of sight. Frequented by mules. Difficulty Level: Distance and rolling terrain combine to make this a challenge.
This undeveloped, underused trail with expansive views is one of my favorite rim hikes in the park. It curves around the head of Transept Canyon before venturing south to Widforss Point. A brochure, sometimes available at the trail head, explains points of interest in the first 2 miles, during which the trail undulates through ponderosa pine and spruce-fir forest.
At the head of Transept Canyon, about halfway to Widforss Point, you'll pass several overlooks that make for good resting spots. You'll also see a balancing rock, formed when water seeping across planes eroded Kaibab Limestone beds from underneath.
Past the head of Transept Canyon, the trail heads south through old-growth ponderosa pine, and the canyon passes out of view. Under the red-orange-trunked trees, lupine blankets the forest floor with blue flowers. You'll also note a number of badly singed pines. The National Park Service allows prescribed burns in this and other areas, eliminating excess deadfall and undergrowth from the forest floor. Controlled fires like these are designed to bring the forest closer to its natural state. Before humans began suppressing blazes, natural fires swept through the ponderosa pine forest every 7 to 10 years.
The trail, remaining hilly most of the way, reaches the rim again at Widforss Point. There, you'll have a nice view of five temples. The three to the southeast are Zoroaster (farthest south), Brahma (north of Zoroaster), and Deva (farthest north); to the southwest, Buddha sits like a sphinx with two long legs. Out of one of those legs rises Manu. A picnic table and several good campsites lie near the rim. Among the wildlife you may see on this hike are deer, bobcats, mountain lions, squirrels, coyotes, porcupines, snakes (gopher and king), and lizards. Allow about 5 hours round-trip.
5 miles each way. Access: A dirt road 1/3 mile south of Cape Royal Rd. Follow this road 3/4 mile to the parking area, which is well-marked. No water sources. Maps: Trails Illustrated Topo Map, Grand Canyon Sky Terrain Trail Map, or free self-guiding trail map available at trail head.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.