At the eastern border of Grand Canyon National Park stand the titanic, limestone-laden ramparts of Marble Canyon.
Length: About 250 miles.
When to go: March to November.
Lodging: Make reservations in advance
for overnight stays at Grand Canyon Village.
Nearby attractions: Meteor Crater,
east of Flagstaff. Museum of Northern Arizona,
Visitor centers: Grand Canyon Village.
Sunset Crater, Walnut Canyon, and Wupatki
Further information: Arizona Office of Tourism, 1100 West Washington, Phoenix,
AZ 85007; tel. 866-298-3312, www. azot.com
North Rim Parkway
Just 1 out of 10 Grand Canyon
visitors makes it to the North Rim
(10 miles from the South Rim as
the crow flies but 215 miles by car),
and the lack of crowds is part of
its appeal. From Jacob Lake, Rte.
67 (open May to October) travels
south across the Kaibab Plateau
through pine forests and grassy
meadows. After it enters the park,
the road winds through rockier
terrain, culminating at historic
G rand Canyon Lodge, where a
short trail leads to the dazzling
views at Bright Angel Point.
From trappers and explorers, the
stories drifted east — stories of a
canyon so huge, so awesome, that it
seemed the stuff of tall tales. In the
era before landscape photography,
eyewitness accounts were, quite
simply, beyond belief. In time, though,
as more travelers saw the canyon for
themselves, the legendary rift became
undeniably real: this “canyon of canyons” —
one of the certifiable wonders
of the world — leaves visitors
to ponder its haunting depths.
1. San Francisco Peaks
The drive begins in Flagstaff. A
cultural oasis complete with museums
and a university, Flagstaff
also manages to retain a turn-of-the-
century frontier flavor in its
well-preserved downtown district.
Heading northwest on Rte. 180,
the drive winds by the San Francisco
Peaks, which are really several mountains in one. The mountain,
an inactive volcano, is part of the
San Francisco Volcanic Field. It
erupted repeatedly for more than
a million years and now embraces
a number of peaks with such names
as Agassiz, Doyle, and Humphreys.
The mountains have inspired
admiration and awe since ancient
For a view from on high, take
Snow Bowl Road off Rte. 180 to a
ski resort chairlift that whisks visitors
to an elevation of 11,500 feet
on Agassiz Peak. Those so inclined
can hike the nine-mile round-trip
trail through twisted bristlecone
pines to the alpine tundra atop
12,633-foot Humphreys Peak, the
loftiest point in Arizona.
2. Kaibab National Forest
Traveling northwest, Rte. 180 descends
to a drier landscape; piñon
pine and juniper give way to the
sagebrush flats around Valle. Due
north, near Red Butte, a prominent
mountain just east of the
highway, the route enters Kaibab
National Forest and rises again. For
a closer look at the forest habitat,
take a few minutes to walk the
graveled half-mile nature trail at
Ten-X Campground, south of
Tusayan, where you may spot a
mule deer, Abert squirrel, mountain
chickadee, or white-breasted
nuthatch. For detailed information
on the forest flora and fauna
found in the area, visit the district
ranger’s office in Tusayan. And be
aware that Kaibab National Forest
is much larger than it may seem
at first: another giant section lies
north of the Grand Canyon, and
still another part of the national
forest occupies a huge tract of land
west of Flagstaff.