My kids were understandably nervous about venturing down into the Canyon, and this drive was our substitute for exploring below the rim. (As we left the Canyon, though, they vowed to change this on the next visit). The vistas at every stop on this drive are amazing, with views across large extents of the Canyon.
It’s not quite 25 miles from the Lodge to Cape Royal. You begin by following the route to Point Imperial, but after nine miles, you bear right and head south along the eastern edge of Walhalla Plateau. Most of the altitude change and a few switchbacks are in this first stretch. One way to do this trip is to start early in the morning and drive directly to Cape Royal, making all the stops on the way back. Or you can start in late morning and make the stops on the way out (we did a little of both). Either way, the timing allows for a stop at Vista Encantada at lunchtime, a great place for a picnic. There are several tables in the shade, with a fabulous view off to the side. After finishing our salami sandwiches (the official lunch of this vacation), we explored along the edge, where a few trails run off along the rim.
Vista Encantada is oriented mainly northeast, and in a few miles another overlook points southeast, to the main part of the Canyon. This is Roosevelt Point, commemorating Teddy R’s contributions to making the Canyon a national preserve. The temperature climbed throughout the afternoon, but it was here that we had the optimal combination of blue skies and stark white clouds, and watched while the latter moved their shadows up and down the rock temples below. A short trail heads north from the lookout, partway down into the Canyon. My youngest and I followed it for a while, and it served as a great way to get away from any crowds that may be there.
From here, the road leaves the rimside for the last 10 miles to the parking lot at Cape Royal. When we arrived, it was midday and hot, and the parking lot was pretty full. It’s a short walk to the first overlook, with Angels Window off to the right, a hole in a fin that juts into the Canyon. This was a precursor to the hoodoos and windows of Bryce Canyon, with one amazing exception: at the right angle, you can see the Colorado through Angels Window.
The trail out to Angel’s Window runs along that fin, and is pretty narrow in spots, but the paving, railing and fencing make it safe. The view here, and further south from Cape Royal itself, are well worth the short hikes, which must be around a mile altogether. You feel as if you’re standing in the middle of the Canyon, with the castles and cliff faces rising around you on all sides.
Two of my family stayed behind at Angel’s Window, resting on a bench that was nicely situated in the shade. When the rest of us returned, we sat on the rim’s edge for a while, cooling off from our time in the Sun.
Before driving back to the Lodge, we stopped at Walhalla Overlook, just north of Angels Window, for one more vista. Across the road are the ruins of an ‘Anasazi’ village, used by people who regularly hiked from riverside to rimtop as part of their lifestyle.
There are two terrific hikes that we didn’t take advantage of: the Cliff Springs Trail at Angels Window, the Cape Final trail about 3 miles before Cape Royal. The first heads east to more wonderful view of the Canyon, and the second visits an Anasazi granary. I won’t skip either on my next visit, which will hopefully be soon.