A pretty plateau trail on Grand Canyon's wilder North Rim
The Grand Canyon's North Rim is covered with pine forests. The two canyon rims are 10 miles apart by air but 215 miles and five hours apart by road. (Bob Downing, Akron Beacon Journal, MCT / October 17, 2005)
But the Widforss Trail on the North Rim is different: It's a plateau trail that stays above the rim. In fact, the trail is generally considered the best plateau trail in the oversized park in northern Arizona.
The trail's elevation changes only 600 feet over the 4.8-mile one-way length of the trail.
It is a half-day hike on a well-marked trail. The National Park Service even provides a 14-stop trail guide for the Widforss Trail.
Its big attraction is solitude, even in a park like Grand Canyon National Park. You won't see many people along the route.
It offers rim views and a Ponderosa pine forest that is mixed with aspens that turn golden in the fall. That's when the trail is at its colorful best. The forest offers a bit of shade to hikers, and the plateau temperatures are cooler than the oven-like conditions in the canyon.
The trail provides glimpses of Bright Angel Point, the biggest tourist spot on the North Rim. The rocky point sits at 8,148 feet between two side canyons and close to the Grand Canyon Lodge on the North Rim.
The first 2 1 / 2miles of the Widforrs Trail skirt the canyon rim and Harvey Meadow. The meadow was once used as a tourist camp and a staging ground for cross-canyon mule trips. It is now grassy.
Nearby is a cave once used by U.S. Forest Service game warden "Uncle Jim" Owens, who killed 500 mountain lions in the area in the early 1900s.
The first 2 1 / 2miles are the most picturesque section of the trail. It offers views of the San Francisco Peaks that are 70 miles away to the south across the canyon.
A pair of rocky switchbacks lead to the edge of the Transept, a 4,000-foot-deep gorge. The trail takes you two miles along the head of the Transept, a tributary of Bright Angel Creek. It is a deep and sheer-walled ravine. It provides vistas to the south and east as the canyon deepens below.
Topographer Francois Matthes in the early 1900s declared that the Transept was grander than California's Yosemite Valley.
The trail bends in and out of seven draws.
It winds into forests of old-growth Ponderosa pines with its thick bark that protects trees from forest fires.
The trail goes past a giant Ponderosa pine that is nearly 13 feet in diameter. It is likely 300 to 500 years old. There are also scrubby oaks and maples. In moister and cooler areas, white fir, Engelmann and blue spruce and aspen thrive on the North Rim.
The trail emerges from the woods after five miles at narrow and wooded Widforss Point that sits above Haunted Canyon.
At the trail's end, Widforss Point offers stellar views of five rocky temples in the inner canyon. You will also be able to view Yaki and Mather points 10 miles away on the South Rim.
The point is at elevation 7,811 feet.
The biggest drawback is that the trail, at times, winds away from the canyon edge. It is also used by mule trains.