Updated: Dec 13, 2020
Far away from the tourists overcrowding the South Rim, the "other side" as the North Rim is commonly called, is a place filled with evergreen forests, aspen groves, lush meadows filled with grazing elk and bison, and a backcountry that is truly wild. If you're looking for a multi-week adventure filled with some of the most picturesque geological scenery in the North America, then maybe it's time to add the North Rim to your bucket list.
Adventure Rating: Baja
Trip Length: 547 miles, 7-14 days
Season: March - November. Fall or Spring is recommended, which helps to avoid the summer's scorching desert heat. While the route may be driven any time of year, snowfall at higher elevations may prevent through passage. The road to Kelly Point undergoes a seasonal winter vehicle closure to protect the trail (call Parashant NM for status).
Technical Rating: Mostly green with some blue sections (roads BLM1012 and NPS1203).
Typical Terrain: Most of the route consists of well maintained dirt and gravel fire roads/ service roads with some slow going jeep trails. If you explore the surrounding trails, be prepared for more technical terrain. The following trails are better suited for high clearance 4x4s: Road 1012 near Grand Gulch Mine and Road NPS1203 on the way to Kelly Point.
Recommended Vehicle: Stock truck or SUV with 4x4 and all terrain tires. Subarus with all terrain tires should be able to navigate most trails/roads along the route.
Recommended Gear: A full sized spare tire and plenty of extra fuel. It's 400+ miles between fuel sources once you depart Fredonia. A winch and chainsaw are also recommended for potential deadfall that can be prevalent at higher elevations.
Adventure Vans: 4x4 Sprinters should be able to manage most roads and trails along the route. Avoid BLM Road 1012 that runs from the Twin Point Overlook area and up to Grand Gulch mine. Road NPS1203 may not be suitable for all Sprinters. There are numerous forest service and BLM roads should you require a detour.
Alternative Routes: Yes! See the bottom of the route guide for more info.
Permits: You must obtain a permit for backcountry camping in Grand Canyon National Park. More info here.
Important note about trailers
Vehicles and/or vehicle combinations (vehicle + trailer) that exceed 22 feet are not permitted in portions (Toroweap/Tuweep area) of the National Park.
Need a Rig?
We partner with respected rental outfitters throughout the continent. If you or someone in your party needs a fully equipped adventure vehicle, please consider one of our partners, and be sure to tell them that Overland Trail Guides sent you.
Topo Terra (San Diego)
Pine forests, aspen groves, and lush meadows filled with grazing elk and bison are probably not among the scenes that come to mind when thinking of Arizona or the Grand Canyon. But if you're lucky enough to make it to the North Rim, these are a few of the things you can expect along with an expansive backcountry wilderness with some of the most scenic, yet least visited viewpoints along the Grand Canyon. Often referred to as the "other side", the North Rim is far away from the Disneyland-like atmosphere and turmoil that presides over the South Rim. Crowds tend to be light in the North Rim, and even the North Rim visitor center has a less commercialized feel to it. Before you head out on your trip, be sure to acquaint yourself with with the required permits and recommended gear for this extended backcountry adventure. We also recommend that you look at this route as a rough itinerary. With hundreds of miles of dirt backroads and literally dozens of potential viewpoints that can be visited along the route, if you're dealing with time or fuel constraints, you may want to create a short-list of locations and viewpoints to visit before heading out. The route begins just north of the North Rim Visitor Center at Highway 67. Highway 67 is typically closed December through mid-May. If you plan on visiting in early spring, considering checking with the National Park Service if the road is closed (it is possible to begin the route from Fredonia, but you'll need to drive out and back on the dirt roads). Your first destination along the North Rim is Sublime Point, perhaps the most visited viewpoint in the North Rim backcountry (likely due to its proximity to the highway). The road to Sublime Point can be a bit bumpy and rutted at times, but nothing that a stock 4x4 with all terrain tires can't handle. From Sublime Point you'll head up and through the pine forests. Kanabownits lookout is a great place for a rest stop as you make your way towards the small town of Fredonia (your first fuel stop). The route passes through a number of aspen groves and high alpine meadows, if you're lucky, you might even spot a herd of elk or bison grazing. The next viewpoint on the itinerary is Jumpup Point, which tends to see a lot less traffic given the remoteness of its location. Part of the Grand Canyon extends northward up the Kanab Creek drainage, preventing passage to the west. Instead, travelers must drive northward towards Fredonia before heading back south, and onto the lands managed by the Parashant National Monument. Once you reach Fredonia, be sure to top off on fuel. You'll need it, as the next leg (if you follow the the exact route) of the journey is 400+ miles before the next gas station! From Fredonia follow Highway 389 until you reach Mt Trumbull Road (county road 109, the beginning may be referred to as Antelope Valley Road); a well groomed dirt road. Follow Road 109 until you reach BLM road 1057. The road to SB Point is not nearly as manicured and well kept as road 109, so expect to dial down your rate of travel. Now that you're within the boundaries of Parashant National Monument, backcountry camping opportunities are near infinite. If you want to set up camp at SB Point or some other spot along the rim, go for it (unless signage indicates otherwise). SB Point is another location where it's darn near impossible to take a bad picture! Next on the agenda is Toroweap Point. One of the most well-known viewpoints within the National Monument. Dangling one's feet over the canyon's edge is a favorite activity of those who make it to Toroweap. If you're feeling adventurous, consider throwing on your hiking boots and explore the Tuckup trail as it skirts the canyon's walls above the mighty Colorado River. Making your way back towards Mt Trumbull, be sure to check out the Nampaweap petroglyphs site. Miles into the backcountry, there are still living remnants of civilization, like the (locally) famous Bar 10 Ranch, and the Whitmore International Airport (a dirt landing strip owned by the ranch). Just beyond Bar 10 Ranch a large lava flow envelops the side of the mountain, which also happens to be the location of lava-formed Paws Pocket. If one of your goals is to deep your toes into the Colorado, consider driving to the end of Whitmore Canyon Road, and then taking the trail down to the river. A large mesa looms over Bar 10 Ranch to the west. Whitmore point is another exellent location for viewing the canyon and lower elevation mesas below. Heading north once again, you'll soon pass Mt Trumbull Historic School House. It's hard to believe this school was once filled with the children of pioneers and homesteaders in this rugged country! From the school house, the route explores some of the most remote and less visited locations along the North Rim. Kelly Point is worth the drive (rough and slow going), but be sure to check on the status of the road as the gate tends to be closed during the winter months. Twin Point overlook is the last designated viewpoint along the official route, so take in the views while you can! BLM Road 1012 passes a number of historic mines, and with many remaining buildings and mining equipment, Grand Gulch Mine is certainly worth a visit. Road 1012 is a rough and tight jeep road that may not be well suited to long wheelbase vehicles, vans, and/or vehicles pulling trailers. Upon departing the mining district, it's mostly smooth sailing back to the interstate and St George on well groomed dirt and gravel roads. St George is booming and one of the fastest growing small cities in Utah If you need an amenity or service, they should have it! Alternative Routes If you're seeking a multi-week off road adventure, consider linking the Gold Butte Adventure Route with the North Rim Traverse, as both routes terminate in St George.
Camping Recommendations Backcountry camping in Grand Canyon National park requirement a backcountry permit (more info here). Dispersed camping is permitted through most of Parashant National Monument, Kaibab National Forest, and BLM managed lands. There is a nearly endless supply of places to setup camp outside of Grand Canyon NP, including dozens of sites along or near the canyon rim.
Point Sublime (Grand Canyon NP)
Fire Point (Grand Canyon NP)
Indian Hollow Camp (Grand Canyon NP)
Fire Restrictions Fire restrictions are common throughout the North Rim. Please check with local land managers to see if any fire restrictions are in affect.
Recommended Points of Interest
Bar 10 Ranch
Twin Point Overlook
Grand Gulch Mine
Maps + Navigation
>> Always check with local land managers for road closures and conditions.
Gaia GPS (Neotreks Land Use layer, Gaia base layer)
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TIP: To expose alternative routes and points of interest in Google Maps, open the sidebar and select the desired layer.