Widforss Trail, on the North Rim of
the Grand Canyon, winds through
pristine forest landscapes that
lead to Widforss Point.
© Randy Prentice
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Widforss TrailIt's true, there are a lot of great hikes in Arizona, but this one is the best. There, we said it.
By Robert Stieve
It's hard to single out the best hike in Arizona. There are too many 10s. That said, a solid case can be made for the Widforss Trail. It's quiet, the ecosystem is exceedingly diverse and over your left shoulder you'll see one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. The only thing the Widforss doesn't offer is elevation gain, which is important to hikers who want to burn calories while drinking in the scenery. Still, this is a 10-mile round-tripper, so a few calories will be incinerated.
Named for artist Gunnar Widforss, this relatively easy trail follows the rim of the Grand Canyon all the way to Widforss Point. A few minutes into the hike, you'll see a box with trail guide pamphlets inside. Grab one. The guides include numbered listings that correspond to numbered sites along the first 2.5 miles of the trail. No matter how many times you've hiked this trail, you're bound to learn something from the guide.
When you're not learning, take time to enjoy the idyllic forest of Colorado blue spruce, Engelmann spruce, white fir, Douglas fir and aspens, the latter of which you'll see growing in droves where recent fires have burned. You'll be amazed at how quickly the aspens move in and shoot up once the sun isn't blocked by the towering evergreens, including the one you'll see at Site No. 8. It's not official, but this might be the biggest ponderosa pine on the trail. It's definitely impressive, and it's several hundred years old.
From the big tree, the trail meanders through the quiet forest. Before long, you'll start catching glimpses of the Canyon to your left. Then, after about 30 minutes, you'll come to a short side trail that leads right to the rim, from which you can see into Transept Canyon below — it's a side canyon of the big canyon.
The scenery stays much the same as you rack up the miles, and after about an hour, the trail angles away from the rim and eventually leads to a lush valley, which ranks as the best part of the trail — other than the Canyon, of course. Here, the narrow path cuts through a beautiful grove of aspens and ferns and tall grasses. The wind blows a lot on the North Rim, and this is a great place to pause and appreciate the sound. Also, if you sit still long enough, you might catch a glimpse of a Kaibab squirrel, a shy, dark animal with tufted ears and a bushy white tail. Deer and turkeys are likely to cross your path, as well.
Take your time, but keep in mind the best is yet to come. Not far from the lush valley is the approach to Widforss Point. Although the trail stops short of the actual point, the views from the end of the trail are out of this world. Among other famous Canyon landmarks, you'll be able to see Isis Temple and Cheops Pyramid. You can also see Phantom Creek. Bottom line: The views are second-to-none. As you're standing there, you'll agree that there might be other trails in Arizona that compare to the Widforss, but few, if any, have this kind of diversity and solitude. Not to mention the temples and the pyramids.
Trail Guideclick to expand
Length: 10 miles round-trip
Elevation: 8,200 to 7,811 feet
Directions: Drive 4 miles north of Grand Canyon Lodge on the North Rim, and turn left onto the gravel road marked with a sign to the trailhead.
Vehicle Requirements: Accessible to all vehicles
USGS Map: Bright Angel Point
Information: Backcountry Office, Grand Canyon National Park, 928-638-7875 or www.nps.gov/grca
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