Of the reasons I had for visiting the North Rim one was simple curiosity. I wanted to get a glimpse of the North Kaibab Trail. Was it as formidable as the trails from the South Rim? It starts out at a higher elevation – the North Rim is 1,000 feet higher than the South Rim and the elevation drawing for the North Kaibab Trail is certainly intimidating. It is also a longer trail, 14.2 miles from the trailhead to the Colorado River. By comparison, the South Kaibab Trail is 6.3 miles to the river, while the Bright Angel Trail is 7.8 miles. I had no intention of hiking the trail on this visit. Why not? Well, the temperature at the river was over 100 degrees and I am not yet prepared to undertake an overnight backpacking trip, especially on my own! Will I ever do it? I really don't know. But for now, I am satisfied with just looking at the trail.
To get a good view of the North Kaibab Trail I took the Uncle Jim Trail which branches off of the Ken Patrick Trail. The former is a five mile loop trail that “winds through the forest to a point overlooking the canyon and the North Kaibab switchbacks.” There were some up and down stretches over somewhat rocky, steep terrain but for the most part the trail was in good condition and fairly easy walking.
The North Rim has experienced several fires in the past few years and evidence of those fires is everywhere. The Park Service is taking a mostly hands-off approach to the burned out trees and letting nature take her course in rejuvenating the area.
One of the big differences between the North and South Rim are the forests of pine trees in the north. Though only a few miles separate the two rims the climate is completely different.
Looking south from the overlook on the Uncle Jim Trail. The North Kaibab Trail is barely visible on the lower portions of the canyon walls.
The upper portion of the North Kaibab Trail, the beginning of which is in the upper right corner. Appearances are deceiving; it is much steeper than it looks.
The trail disappears from view in the middle portion of the canyon then appears again on the sides of the canyon walls.
I spent several hours at the Uncle Jim Overlook. I ate my lunch, soaked up some sunshine, marveled at the birds soaring on the wind, and watched the clouds float by. And I had it all to myself until the last 15 minutes when a mother-daughter hiking combo showed up. We chatted for a while then we each set off back down the trail.
It was late afternoon when I reached the trailhead. I wasn't planning on spending another day on the North Rim so I drove the forty miles north to Jacob Lake where I knew there was a large campground run by the Forest Service and where I had no problems finding a site for the night.