North Rim of the Grand Canyon – I was driving south across the Kaibab Plateau along Route 67 as I watched the rain slowly turn to sleet and the sleet quickly turn to snow. Visibility was minimal and even at 25 mph, the brakes on my jeep were nearly useless. I felt like an idiot getting out of the car at the country store in a t-shirt, board shorts, and flip flops – some redneck RVers staring me down as they’re in full-blow onesy snowsuits. But I’m not an idiot. It had been 75° in Zion only a few hours before and when I had checked the weather before heading south it was going to be “partly cloudy” with a “high of 68°.” Maybe not board shorts weather, but definitely not ski-gear weather either.
North Rim of the Grand Canyon forms the edge of the Kaibab Plateau, with elevation ranging from 8,000-8,800 feet above sea level. Although only 10 miles separate the north and south rims, it takes about five hours to drive the 213 miles of pavement, allowing for a much more remote atmosphere that only 10% of all Grand Canyon visitors experience. And due to typically heavy snows, the North Rim is only open from mid-May through mid-October.
The Grand Canyon has been carved by the Colorado River over a period of six million years and is one of the finest examples of arid-land erosion in the world, averaging 4,000 feet deep for its entire 277 miles. It is also one of the most biologically diverse with several major ecosystems that range from coyote willows at the river’s edge to hanging gardens along the canyon walls to ponderosa pines along the canyon rims.
Even being my sixth time visiting, the Grand Canyon still blows my mind and to this day, hiking to the river and back in a day is still one of my favorite accomplishments. But because of the weather discrepancy between predictions and reality, this turned out to be a fairly lazy and quiet trip. I was severely unprepared with warm clothes only consisting of one pair of (thin) pants, a hoodie, and a puffy. With the 50° storms constantly rolling through, I simply didn’t want to risk getting what little clothing I had wet and then have to suffer through a 34° night. So, hiking really fell to the wayside and we mainly spent our time driving between viewpoints, dodging monsoonal thunder storms, and drinking some beers on Bright Angel Point.