Cape Royal Drive , a 23-mile (one-way) paved road with views of the eastern Grand Canyon area, may be the highlight of your visit to the North Rim.
With spectacular overlooks and fascinating sights along the way, you’ll want to set aside at least half a day to explore this winding, paved road, longer if you plan to hike or picnic, or if you enjoy a slower pace.
The canyon’s colors are outrageous in early morning or late afternoon, and shadows add texture and depth to panoramas of the Marble Platform, Saddle Mountain Wilderness, and Unkar Delta.
To reach Cape Royal from Grand Canyon Lodge , travel north on Highway 67 for three miles, turning right on Cape Royal Road (also known as Fuller Canyon Road). The road forks at about five miles, with the left fork leading another three miles to Point Imperial , the right to Cape Royal. You won’t want to miss either. You can flip a coin to decide which direction to head first, but Point Imperial is especially lovely in early morning.
To continue to Cape Royal, 16 miles away, take the right fork. The paved road is narrow and winding—watch for oncoming traffic, and take your time. A number of worthwhile sights are en route, and it’s nearly impossible to backtrack if you’ve zipped past an enticing overlook.
At least once a day, ranger-guided activities include a nature walk, usually a relaxed morning or evening stroll through the forest lasting about an hour. Rangers introduce participants to the North Rim’s forest ecosystem and answer questions about the canyon. Check The Guide  for departure times, or stop by the North Rim Visitors Center  to see if additional tours have been scheduled.
On summer afternoons, rangers lead tours at Walhalla Overlook  along Cape Royal Drive. If you correctly time your driving tour to Cape Royal, you can stop at the overlook for a 30-40 minute presentation about the Ancestral Puebloan culture, who lived in a masonry pueblo at nearby Walhalla Glades and tended fields scattered over the Walhalla Plateau .
Head for Grand Canyon Lodge  if you’re interested in a mule tour. Staffers at the transportation desk near the lodge’s main entrance can help you choose a trail ride, make arrangements for shuttle services, or sign you up for the lodge’s evening cookout. Grand Canyon Trail Rides (P.O. Box 128, Tropic, UT 84776, 435/679-8665, www.canyonrides.com ) offers
one-hour rim-side mule rides ($40 pp) and half-day trips ($75 pp) along the rim to Uncle Jim’s Point or partway down the North Kaibab Trail . Children as young as seven can take the one-hour rim tour.
Full-day mule trips ($125 pp, including lunch) head into the canyon via the North Kaibab Trail and travel to Roaring Springs, the water source for both rims. For this 10-mile round-trip, children must be 12 or older. The weight limit for mule tours is 200 lbs. Prices include shuttle transportation from the lodge to the trailhead.
If you have a cell phone, you can listen to two-minute audio tours describing three locations on the North Rim. Look for the numbered “Park Ranger Audio Tour” signs, dial 928/225-2907, enter the stop number, and listen to park rangers talk about Grand Canyon Lodge, Bright Angel Point geology, or Roaring Springs. The prerecorded mini-tours are free, but be aware that cell coverage is particularly sketchy at the North Rim, and not all service providers cover park locations. If you prefer, you can listen to the narrations online (www.nps.gov/grca ) or download text versions.
If you’re interested in a guided trip or a learning vacation, research your options and plan ahead. Grand Canyon Field Institute (P.O. Box 399, Grand Canyon, AZ 86023, 928/638-2485 or 866/471-4435, http://grandcanyon.org/fieldinstitute ) offers a wide variety of classes, including photography, art, archaeology, wilderness studies, and geology. Difficulty ranges from single-day introductory classes to multiday white-water rafting and backpacking trips. Some sessions are designed for women only, and several family-friendly trips are offered.
The Museum of Northern Arizona (3101 N. Fort Valley Rd., Flagstaff, AZ 86001, 928/774-5213, www.musnaz.org ) offers expertly guided adventures with a natural or cultural history focus through its Ventures program. MNA Ventures (928/774-5211, ext. 230, ventures [at] musnaz [dot] org, www.mnaventures.org ) features a rim-to-rim backpacking trip, but MNA can arrange a custom trip based on your group’s interest.