Camping at the Grand Canyon

Our ViewOur initial goal on this trip was the Grand Canyon. Neither of us had ever been there before and it has a somewhat legendary status as far as things to see in your lifetime. We planned the trip so as to arrive on the North Rim after a fairly hard drive from Wolf Creek Pass in Colorado. The drive across Northern Arizona was long and quite desolate although I was surprised at the amount of traffic on the two-lane highway. It seems that no matter where you go these days there are a lot of people. We arrived in Page, AZ around 4 pm or so and drove down into Marble Canyon to cross over the Colorado River at the Glen Canyon Dam. Our goal was to get to the Kaibab Forest visitor’s center before it closed at 5 pm.

Driving along the Vermillion Cliffs just below the Paria Plateau we started gaining elevation and suddenly left behind the barren desert landscape and entered the Kaibab Forest. Arriving at the visitors center with time to spare we secured a map of the forest and inquired about good places to disperse camp along the rim of the Grand Canyon. Dispersed camping, in case you are not familiar with the term, means finding your own campsite somewhere in the forest. It has the advantage of guaranteeing solitude as long as you don’t mind dispensing with modern conveniences like water, showers and toilets. But then again … that’s what camping is all about. Right? 😉

Having received a couple of pointers from the Rangers we headed down the forest roads towards the canyon. Now the scale of things is a little hard to grasp here so a small map may help. In order to get to the National Park you have to drive through the Kaibab Forest. It’s 40 miles down a two-lane blacktop to the North Rim. The National Forest has it’s own network of roads that run basically parallel to that road. Our destination was approximately 45 miles down some of the best-maintained forest roads I have seen. We made really good time and reached our first prospective site, Crazy Jug Point, only to find an RV already parked there. Parking next to an RV in a remote forest was not our idea of dispersed camping.

We searched the immediate area for other prospective sites but quickly rejected them. Consulting the map, I selected another area that looked promising on the map but was in fact around twenty miles away. We backtracked a bit and then off we went down a little more rugged road. After about 9 miles or so the forest suddenly thinned out and became… well … ugly as it had been completely burned out in recent years. Several miles later we abandoned this track as the forest showed no signs of becoming an actual forest again. Returning the way we came, we set off on our third sojourn through the Kaibab Forest.

Timp Point was our destination, and it was back closer to the National Park entrance. We went through 20 miles of forest roads, up, down, and through several canyons to get there and as they say… third time’s a charm. Timp Point was perfect! We found a nice spot off the road and set up camp right on the rim of the canyon. Our tent was under a couple of large pine trees about ten feet or so from the edge of the canyon. We were both exhausted and the sunlight was waning. After a few moments catching our breath and absorbing the awesomeness and the immensity of God’s creation, Ronda quickly made supper while I set up camp. We had no trouble falling asleep as we ‘hit the mat’ and our sleeping bags. It had been a very long day with a fabulous ending!

The morning dawned bright, clear, and calm. We decided to take a short pre-breakfast hike out to the actual point itself and watch the landscape change as the sun rose. The shadows cast by the morning and evening sun make the landscape much more intriguing. Along the way I found several other photo opportunities with the local plant life but the only one that really came out was a cactus that was just blooming. The views were amazing! Directly across from our campsite the canyons were very green but further to the east they were classic Grand Canyon with the multiple layered colorful rock. The depth and massive aspect of the canyons is hard to describe as it somewhat boggles the mind. It just keeps going down.

I went for a walk mid-morning and found a better (more level) campsite not far from the first and with a different view of the canyon. Rather than break camp per se we simply hoisted the tent up on top of the Jeep and carefully drove it to the new site. We wished later that we had just packed up and left the site all together as the late afternoon and evening brought a very serious change in weather! We were getting a bit low on water and I remembered seeing a spring identified on the map. We drove three or four miles back down into an adjoining canyon, found the spring, and filled up our jug. Overall, we had a very relaxing day just sitting around reading, soaking up the sunshine, and looking out over the Grand Canyon.

The wind started picking up towards evening spoiling our hopes for a campfire and by the time we went to bed it was howling pretty good. It would wake us from time to time during the night. Each time we would wake or faces would feel dirty and our sleeping bags would be covered with a layer of dirt. The wind was so ferocious that it was blowing fine particles of dirt under our rain fly and through the screen mesh! It was not a fun night! The morning brought a cold, windy day that threatened rain. Our bright sunny days of 70-degree weather were gone. We broke camp as quickly as we possibly could – it was a bit of a chore, as everything had to be shaken out and wiped off.

In spite of the weather we decided to visit the official North Rim at the National Park before leaving the area. I also had hopes of utilizing the showers at the campground. We found the showers right away and were pleased to find no particular restrictions on their use. Just $1.50 in quarters and we had a heavenly, hot shower. Feeling and smelling much fresher we went on down to the Visitors Center and hiked out to Bright Angel Point. The view was somewhat better but it was a nasty day for trying to take pictures. I gave it a try but the results were as disappointing as I expected. Thinking ahead, we bought some postcards and those are what ended up in the photo album! When we left the Rim about noon, the temperature was 37 degrees and the rain, mixed with sleet, was falling. We decided to head north and find a hotel with a hot tub.

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Campsite