Tent Camping at Point Sublime, North Rim, GC
Point Sublime, on the Grand Canyon’s North Rim is located 18 miles off the beaten path. Although a day trip is possible, we obtained an overnight permit weeks ago so we could watch the sunset and the sunrise at a place that can make one feel at peace and insignificant in the same moment.
Research and Plan
For several years we spoke of visiting the Grand Canyon, but never made time for the trip. Many barriers, some real, some self-imposed, prevented the trip from occurring. But, we finally got serious in 2015 and started researching and planning. An important decision was soon made, we were skipping the “tourist trap”, the South Rim, and were headed to the less visited North Rim. So, after many additional hours of research, reading reviews, studying how to prepare, what to bring and watching many youtube videos, we were ready to roll out; we were ready to travel to the North Rim, with specific plans to tent camp at Point Sublime. It didn’t take much to convince Tricia that this was a great idea for a camping trip in the wilderness, miles from everyone. “We’ll be fine”, I said, as she looked at me with cautious eyes.
On our way
The road to Point Sublime starts a couple of miles North of the Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge.
Yes, the road can be hazardous and is infrequently traveled by other visitors. It is possible to drive this off-road trail and not see anyone else for hours, or days! Be prepared for the unexpected! The modern world will not be available for immediate rescue!
The first views of the Grand Canyon are profound, unexpected; our imagination has not prepared us for the first glimpse through the trees. Viewing images and videos of the Grand Canyon are beautiful, but fail to capture the scale, the breadth, the depth of the actual experience.
The 2.5 hour off road trip is an awesome visual time warp. As we travel, we enjoy the ponderosa forest, highland meadows, wildlife, Grand Canyon views and the off-road trail. After all the previous discussions about, and preparations for, potential vehicle break-downs, getting stuck, trees blocking the road, wildlife encounters, we safely arrive at Point Sublime early afternoon. At the end of the road, Point Sublime juts out into the Grand Canyon, creating a narrow peninsula. Trish and I stand in one spot, turn, and see distant mountains, 270 degrees of red, yellow, orange, white layers of rock, cliffs and canyon that continue to be eroded and exposed by the Colorado River.
And the Rainstorms Begin
We thought of everything. We prepared for everything. At least, I thought we did. Even though one of us is scared of heights, we also successfully navigate across the final approach to Point Sublime. This approach is about 150 feet long by one Jeep wide with a drop off on either side into the canyon below. Upon arrival, we explore and admire the views for about 45 minutes, set-up camp, and then notice rain clouds in the distance, with the wind pushing the rain and lightning towards us. For me, potential lightning strikes are a more realistic threat than driving off the edge of the canyon wall. It didn’t take me very long to decide to leave the Point, cross the narrow one lane road again and hide in the Ponderosa forest until the storm passed.
What a relief, most of the storm passes further South of us. I drive back to camp, while Tricia says something about that “d#@*d narrow, skinny, road again!” Although, this time, I think both of us kept our eyes open, to watch the road and enjoy the view and experience the adrenaline rush for a third time. So, we made it through the afternoon, the beautiful rainy views (no lightning), hot dogs and chili, beer and wine; then dove into our tiny tent as the rain and wind started at dusk.
Should we leave?
I know that about dusk, she is thinking about leaving. It starts raining at dark. By 10:00pm, she is not sleeping, due to the rain, thin sleeping mat, wet floor, wet blankets and my snoring. By 1:30am, she is still not sleeping, due to the blowing rain, wet bedding, wet pillow, howling canyon winds, shaking, vibrating tent and my snoring. By early morning, 4:30am, her description of the experience is different from mine. She demonstrates this by starting to pack, in the dark, with a flashlight. In many unspoken words, I’m sure she is questioning my sanity, as I state and question, “Sunrise, sunrise is not for an hour. We can’t leave yet. OK, ok, ok?” As I walked around in the dark, with my camera around my neck, I assist in the packing, waiting for the clouds to clear and the sun to appear.
A Late Compromise
Yes, we reach a compromise. We wait for the sky to clear, and are rewarded with some sunshine. We are hoping for more, but after a couple of hours of daylight and a few intermittent sunlit moments, we drive across the “d#@*d narrow, skinny, why couldn’t they make it wider road again” for the last time.
Would we do it again?
Yes! We will do it again! As we navigated our way back to the RV via a different and longer route, we discussed and relived our grand, imperfect Point Sublime experience. We realized that our trip was not everything we wished, but we did not get hurt, get stuck, break-down, get blocked by fallen trees, encounter any dangerous animal or run out of beer, wine or food. It was “all good”; a successful trip off the beaten path; providing a few adrenaline filled moments.
What would we do different?
Here is what you can learn from us:
- Do not over-pack. We had too many clothes, too much food, etc.
- Test your tent before the big trip
- Stay 2-3 nights at Point Sublime; the weather sometimes makes photography difficult
- Consider a longer stay; the preparation and effort warrant a longer visit
- Invite others to share the trip (our invited couple could not make the trip)
- We did not touch the “tip” of Point Sublime; find it and touch it.
My one memory!
There are many great memories from this trip captured in digital and mental images. One photo, shown below, captures the essence of the experience.
“Point Sublime: sub·lime (səˈblīm) – of such excellence, grandeur, or beauty as to inspire great admiration and awe”