Sunday, October 28, 2012

Cape Final

The other day I posted a trip report that highlighted our visit to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. I mentioned that Kathy and I hiked a couple of short trails that day, including Bright Angel Point and Cape Royal. Not mentioned in that post was our hike out to Cape Final on the Walhalla Plateau.

The Cape Final Trail is an easy 4-mile round trip hike to a limestone outcropping that provides stunning views into the eastern portions of the Grand Canyon. The trailhead is located just off Cape Royal Road, roughly 2.5 miles north of Cape Royal. If you’re seeking a little bit of solitude in the Grand Canyon, this is a great opportunity to get away from the crowds.

Most of the trail travels through an open forest of large Ponderosa Pine, with many wildflowers along the way. Expecting the entire area to be desert, I found this aspect of the Grand Canyon to be quite surprising. Another surprise were the large aspen groves in the North Rim area. Also, as you drive into the park, there’s a very long stretch of road, several miles long, that passes through an incredibly beautiful meadow. It reminded me of South Park in Colorado.

There is a little bit of elevation gain on this hike, mostly during the first three-quarters of a mile, but nothing that would be considered strenuous. Prior to reaching Cape Final you’ll pass two short side trails that lead to additional vantage points. If you have the time you should stop and check them out.

Just before arriving at your destination you’ll notice an abrupt change in the vegetation. Much of the route passes through a montane forest zone, but just yards from the canyon rim you’ll notice a stark transition to the Sonoran desert environment.

At Cape Final you’ll have outstanding views of the eastern side of the Grand Canyon, as well as Marble Canyon and the Painted Desert in the far off distance. Look closely and you’ll see two short sections of the Colorado River, as well as Humphreys Peak, the highest point in Arizona. I would have to say that the views from Cape Final are far more scenic than those found at Bright Angel Point and the area around the Grand Canyon Lodge.

Since the best views look towards the east, I highly recommend hiking this trail during the mid-to-late afternoon so that you won’t be looking into the sun. Since most of the trail travels under the canopy of a pine forest you’ll have a fair amount of shade along the way, which will help keep the temperatures down.

After the hike we drove out of the park and on towards our next destination in Flagstaff. Along the way we stopped at the Jacob Lake Inn for dinner. The historic lodge/restaurant/bakery is located roughly 44 miles north of the Grand Canyon Lodge. Both Kathy and I had their signature sandwich, known as the Grand Bull, a burger with green chilies, caramelized onions and bacon. It was quite tasty! For dessert we tried a couple of German chocolate cake cookies. All in all, well worth the stop!

Trail: Cape Final
Roundtrip Distance: 4.0 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 400 feet
Max Elevation: 8050 Feet

Hiking Grand Canyon National Park provides firsthand descriptions and detailed maps for all of the developed trails in the park—from easy day hikes suitable for novices and children to extended backpack trips geared for intrepid wilderness travelers. The guide covers 15 hikes on the South Rim and 13 hikes on the North Rim. Also included are tips on safety, hiking with children, access, and services, as well as indispensable information about backcountry regulations, permits, and water sources.

Hiking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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