An eMagazine about wheelchair-accessible events, sports & locations in Arizona

Grand Canyon Lodge – North Rim


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This article covers the Grand Canyon Lodge, the nearby Bridal Trail, the Cape Royal Trail, and the Navajo Bridge Scenic Overview near Lee’s Ferry.

The Grand Canyon Lodge is located in Arizona on the north rim.  The north rim is dramatically different than the busy happenings of the south rim and  I’m told only 10% of the park’s annual visitors come here.  The north rim is not on the way to anywhere.  It is a destination and is not really a day-trip from anywhere.  From Jacob’s Lake, it’s 30 minutes drive to the park entrance.   Park admission fee is $25/car, but as a person with a disability you get in free. Free is good, but candidly I don’t agree with this policy. If the disabled community wants to be treated equal, then it’s a 2-way street.  But that’s just me.

The drive to the lodge is beautiful.  The route passes through huge meadows that are surrounded with pine and aspen trees. It’s a dramatic change for any desert dwellers.  I set the cruise control at maybe 50 and opened all the windows and the sun roof.  Good stuff.

The lodge is right on the rim, and the view is spectacular.

The lodge is right on the rim, and the view is spectacular.

The property is over 80 years old. The main building is huge and made of stone and massive timbers.  When you get here, and you imagine the construction methods and the transportation available back in the 1920’s, it’s ever more impressive.  The main lodge sits right on the canyon’s edge.  We enjoyed two great sunsets on the open patios. The mood around sunset is quite relaxing as guests mingle and a glass of wine allows you to relax and further appreciate the view.

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The cabins themselves are rustic.  We stayed in one of the larger Western cabins.  These offer a front porch, a gas fireplace at the foot of the queen size bed, a desk area and for PwDs, an excellent bathroom with roll-in shower.  The Lodge has four of the larger Western Cabins.  Two have tubs, two have showers. They also have two of the smaller Frontier Cabins with limited ADA access. All the cabins interlink with a nice concrete pathway. If you have any craving for television or Internet, forget it as the cabins have no television,  and Internet is located down the road. For us, we suffered a bit of technical withdrawals, but it got us to bed early and up early to go exploring.

The lodge has a great outdoor terrace that is accessed using a small outdoor elevator.

The lodge has a great outdoor terrace that is accessed using a small outdoor elevator.

The lodge has a very nice restaurant.  Consider making dinner reservations at the time you book, as each night they are full with a waiting list.  The dining area is down stairs and wheelers get to ride a lil elevator down.  The food is delicious, and we enjoyed the young staff which have a keen knowledge of the lodge, menu and wine selection. If you time your dining to the sunset, you’re in for something special.  Overall, the accessibility at and around the lodge is good.  It’s an old building sitting on a cliff, so the access isn’t always front and center, or in the most convenient spot, but we did nothing but enjoy ourselves, and the fine hospitality.

The Nearby Bridal Trail
From the lodge, you can pick up the Bridal Trail (also called the Greenway Trail) just east of the cabins.  It initially follows the canyon past the parking area, then crosses the road.  At the road, the path is a bit inaccessible, but once you get to the other side, it widens and becomes a very nice nature trail.  As you meander through the junipers, aspen and pine trees, you’ll notice a lot of work has gone into making the path easy to use and resilient to the weather.  The trail is well over a mile long, and at 7.900 ft elevation, you will likely be huffing and puffing.  The trail will take you to the general store which is a good place to grab a drink.  Its also the only place where there’s Internet, so bring along the iPhone or laptop.

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From the General Store, the trail goes another 1/8th mile north then crosses the road and heads towards the North Kaibab Trail.  We made it down the steep slope but opted to turn back as the pitch of the trail became quite difficult. Basically I kept sliding sideways towards a lot of pain. The first portion of the trail a is well worth trying.

The view from Angle Point along the Cape Royal Trail.

The view from Angle Point along the Cape Royal Trail.

Cape Royal
For me,  if I go somewhere touted as spectacular, and there isn’t a scenic trail around, well then the place ain’t so great,  The north rim became a great place after visiting Cape Point.  This is perhaps Arizona’s ultimate in scenic accessible trails.  For starters, the hour drive from the lodge is in and of it self, a very beautiful drive.  The last 30 minutes consists on non-stop turns, curves, chicanes, and whip-backs that are really fun.  On many of these turns, failure is not an option.  That big ol’ canyon looms below.

Once you arrive, there’s a sizable parking lot.  Unfortunately there’s only one access parking spot.  We grabbed it, but as there’s no stripes for a loading zone, we sure enough had to ask someone to move their car on return from the hike. But that’s nit-picking compared to the big picture.

From the trail head, the first quarter mile of the trail is asphalt.  It leads you down the center of the narrow finger of the plateau.  On one side is the canyon and the sheer drop offs will definitely get your attention.  Not too far up the trail, you come to the turn for Angel Point. This path continues to be paved and it’s Angel Point, with the huge hole underneath the lookout that you will see as your drive up.  It is an amazing site.

So Angel Point offers a view that really defies words, but unfortunately the point itself isn’t accessible.  It could, and it should be, but we apparently haven’t pestered the park service enough to do so.  None the less, its a superb view and in numerous spots, you can roll right out to the very edge.  It’s definitely a hair raising, brake testing view when you get close to the edge.  If I ever meet President Obama, I plan to tell him Angel Point needs to be accessible.

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The trail to Cape Royal. Wheelchair users can get as close as they dare to the edge. Angel Point with its hole in the sandstone is in the distance.

But Point Royal is still to come, so head back to the trail intersection, and then take the now gravel path further out.  The path would be annoying in a chair with small casters, but anything else would travel it easily. Once you arrive, you are looking at the most panoramic view of the Grand Canyon available (270 degrees).  Pack a lunch because this is a surreal place.  Just watching the birds catching the drafts and soaring effortlessly is worth the effort to get out here.  This is one of the few places on the north rim where you can see the Colorado River snaking through the canyon nearly a mile below.    We also found ourselves watching all the people as they arrived. Their expressions told it all.

Getting There
Getting to the north rim is a 6-7 hour drive from Phoenix.  From Flagstaff, the drive up highway 89 towards Page takes you through some very desolate yet spectacular barren deserts.  As you break off at 89A, you’ll cross the Colorado River at Marble Canyon and the Navajo Bridge.  This is an excellent place to stop as the old bridge is now for pedestrians. Its a great place to stretch and see the Colorado River before it enters the Grand Canyon.  I’d suggest parking on the far side as it’s better access parking.

Navajo Bridge at Marble Canyon near Lee's Ferry. This is an excellent opportunity to 'roll' across the Colorado River.

Navajo Bridge at Marble Canyon near Lee's Ferry. This is an excellent opportunity to 'roll' across the Colorado River.

The Grand Canyon Lodge is managed by Forever Resorts.  Their web site is: www.grandcanyonforever.com

Finally let me add that while I make every effort to take Annie, our dog just about everywhere, we didn’t bring her on this trip and I’m glad.  She’d loves the hikes, but once you’ve experienced the lodge, you’ll understand why it’s really not a doggy hangout. But that’s just me.

Below are a few more random photos;

The entrance to the Grand Canyon Lodge

The entrance to the Grand Canyon Lodge

The Western Cabins are more spacious and include a porch with rocking chairs.

The Western Cabins are more spacious and include a porch with rocking chairs.

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The Western Cabins typically include two queen beds. ADA rooms have just one bed to increase access.

The lodge has an enormous viewing area.

The lodge has an enormous viewing area.

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Highway 89 travels between Flagstaff and Page. The route takes you through some rather baron desertscapes that are surrounded by limestone cliffs.

And for anyone interested in the bathroom’s wheelchair access, here’s the cabin’s bathroom featuring a nice roll-in shower. The cabin comes with rather small portable stool. so plan accordingly.

Roll-in Shower at the Grand Canon Lodge.

Roll-in Shower at the Grand Canon Lodge.

Other side of bathroom.

Other side of bathroom.

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3 Responses »

  1. Loren,

    This is such a timely photographic tour. Until only a few weeks ago we had our hearts set on making it to the North Rim this season. Your article will be priceless in planning one for next season.

  2. what time of year do you recommend going?

  3. Good question. For me, and my thin Phoenix blood, early September was a dream. It was 70’s during the day and 40’s at night. But I know the canyon looks very spectacular with some snow as well, so you might get lucky in the spring when the lodge opens each year.

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