If you’re looking for a rugged mountain-bike journey or have a sturdy high-clearance, 4WD vehicle, consider traveling the 17-mile route (calling it a road would be overly generous) to Point Sublime.
You’ll pass through deep ponderosa forest carpeted with purple lupine and yellow butterweed, mostly over a rocky two-track. About halfway along, an overlook offers up-close views of the Dragon, a mythically shaped rock formation extending south from the rim. The end of the road, Point Sublime, is an isolated peninsula utterly surrounded by the canyon and monuments.
Before you head out, it’s a good idea to check with the North Rim Backcountry Office (8 a.m.–noon and 1–5 p.m. daily) to find out the latest road conditions. The office is housed in a small trailer located off Highway 67, just north of the campground road.
Be sure to travel with a good spare tire and plenty of water—this infrequently traveled route presents plenty of hazards, including deep sand, high crowns, and tire-eating rocks. Allow at least five hours of daylight to drive to the point and return, and more if you plan to picnic along the way.
With a backcountry permit , you can spend the night at this primitive overlook, which has fewer than a dozen campsites. The wisest course is to apply for an overnight permit well in advance. The Backcountry Information Center (P.O. Box 129, Grand Canyon, AZ 86023, www.nps.gov/grca ) accepts permit applications up to four months prior to the month of your trip. Applications are available online, but they must be submitted by mail, by fax, or in person. If you arrive at the North Rim without a permit, however, you can check at the North Rim Backcountry office to see if a last-minute permit is available.
To get to Point Sublime, drive 2.5 miles north of the lodge on Highway 67. Turn left onto the gravel road that leads to the Widforss Trail  parking area. Just past the parking area, the road begins to change to a rocky two-track, and it will change character several more times as it heads west to Point Sublime.
En route, you’ll come across a small parking area near the rock formation known as The Dragon. This might look like a peaceful corner of canyon for a lingering picnic, but on most summer days, helicopter tours will thunder over it at regular and frequent intervals.
As you near Point Sublime, you’ll pass over a narrow causeway of dirt and stone lined with half a dozen picnic tables, cliffrose, and beavertail cactus. The causeway leads to what feels like very the ends of the earth (you can’t help but wonder how the picnic tables got here).
A short footpath leads still farther, until you are standing on a narrow spit of limestone, the canyon dropping away on all sides. It’s like being on a diving board high over the ocean, but instead of water, you are surrounded by stone.