On the road for Lonely Planet: Grand Canyon National Park
Exploring the North Rim, northern Arizona & southern Utah May / June 2015
- The vast majority of visitors to the national park peer down at the Grand Canyon from the busy South Rim. But my assignment for Lonely Planet’s Grand Canyon National Park 4 sends me to the far side of the canyon. The remote, high-elevation North Rim is blanketed with heavy snow for most of the year: apart from a few backcountry services, this quiet section of the park is only open from mid-May to mid-October. I timed my trip accordingly, flying into Phoenix and picking up my rental car on May 17th.
- As usual, I made a map of my road trip strategy before leaving home. The travel watercolor set is a must.
- After a quick peek at the touristy South Rim (people will really do anything for a photo, won’t they?) I started the drive around the canyon. The distance from the South Rim to the North Rim is only ten miles across — ten miles “as the condor flies,” the park rangers say — but it takes the better part of a day to drive around it.
- That’s partly, of course, because I kept stopping to take photographs and browse the turquoise jewelry at roadside stands (the road from South to North takes you past several Native American reservations) and indulge in locally famous treats, like the extra-thick chocolate milkshakes and peanut butter cookies at Jacob Lake Inn. You heard it here: this place is not to be missed.
- Arriving at Grand Canyon Lodge, also known as my favorite hotel in the world. Built in the 1930s, it’s the only hotel on the north side of the national park, and it’s perched dramatically right on the edge of the canyon. Elegant but casual — timeless, I’d say — it’s the perfect base for exploring this part of the park.
- There’s a catch. It’s hard to get a room (or rather, a cabin) here — it’s recommended to book a year in advance. A year ago, however, I didn’t know I’d be doing this assignment. So for the past few months, ever since I accepted the job, I’ve been hanging around the lodge’s website every day, waiting for other people to cancel. And when they did, I was ready with my credit card information. So I’ve been able to string together a few nights here and a few nights there, but they’re not all consecutive, so I’ll have to drive in and out of the park a couple of times in the coming two weeks.
- Not that the Grand Canyon Lodge is the only memorable hotel on my itinerary. In Kanab, known in these parts as “Utah’s Little Hollywood,” I’m checking in to Parry Lodge, where Frank Sinatra, Gregory Peck, Lana Turner, John Wayne, and Clint Eastwood all stayed while filming in the surrounding landscape.
- A couple of hours down the highway to Page, Arizona — a place I admit I'd never heard before this trip — a good base for exploring Lake Powell, Antelope Canyon, Glen Canyon Dam. On the drive into town, I stopped at Lone Rock and took this photo of the dramatic sky.
- That's me, on a morning hike in the breathtaking Lower Antelope Canyon.
- Circling back to the national park. This is the highest point on either side of the Grand Canyon, and the cloud shadows were spectacular on this particular afternoon.
- Back to Grand Canyon Lodge in time for a post-hike happy hour. House specials: the prickly pear margarita and the "straight shooter Manhattan."