July 2019 – While visiting the North Rim of the Grand Canyon this year, we made it a point to visit a few overlooks that aren’t easily reached by car. Saddle Mountain Overlook on the northeast side of the North Rim Visitors Center was lovely, but Point Sublime Overlook west of the Visitors Center was calling us. With a name like that, we just had to go see it!
There are two ways to get to Point Sublime, and both involve an 18+ mile long adventure on a rugged dirt road.
One day we started out on the more southerly of the two roads which is accessed from the Widforss turn-off of Highway 67 inside Grand Canyon National Park. But we forgot to bring our map and we weren’t really prepared.
We met a passenger car about a half mile down the road and asked them if we were going the right way. “You are, but it’s a four hour drive to get there,” the woman said. “And it’s a miserable drive.”
“Even in this?” We asked pointing at our RZR.
“Even in that!”
We sure didn’t want to embark on a four hour drive just then, especially without having studied the map a bit and brought it with us too! So, we decided to go to Saddle Mountain that day instead which we wrote about here.
The more northerly route to Point Sublime goes through the Kaibab National Forest and is the route the Forest Service and Park Service rangers drive their trucks on when they have to get out to the Point Sublime area.
It is known to be very washboardy, but at least it isn’t super rutted or have any crazy steep sections. However, it starts with Forest Service Road 22 next to Demotte Campground, and we’d driven that road a little bit already and it was incredibly dusty.
The more southerly route is known to be a wild ride in any kind of four wheel drive vehicle. It has sections that are full of huge holes and steep grades, and it’s very narrow in places. It goes through the woods and isn’t especially dusty or washboardy, but it does a good job of shaking you up even so.
After mulling it over, we decided to give the more southerly route a second try despite its fearsome reputation. Why not have a true RZR adventure? So far, our trips on the RZR had been on pretty easy to drive dirt roads and two track trails.
At first the road went through a lovely wide open meadow, ideal for our energetic pup Buddy to run ahead of us and get some of his wiggles out before we got to the tough stuff.
The 18 mile drive took us about 90 minutes all together in our RZR, going from the paved state Highway 67 out to the Point Sublime overlook. The only other people or vehicles we saw on the entire trip out there was a single guy on a dirt bike. He waved as he rode past us. For the whole rest of the trip we had the woods to ourselves.
The two track deeply rutted road wound its way through the ponderosa pine forest. In many places the forest floor was carpeted with a beautiful tapestry of purple lupine wildflowers and lush green grass. We stopped several times to enjoy the quiet and peacefulness of the forest and its spring flowers.
Buddy loved sniffing all the earthy smells around him. At one point he climbed up on a log and did a little tightrope walk along it.
We had such fun taking pics.
About five miles into the drive the road became extremely rough. We averaged 4-5 mph for quite some time as we navigated the deeply eroded ruts in the road.
At times the little RZR tipped wildly off camber, but it never seemed like it would tip all the way over (thankfully!). Side-by-sides are like miniature tanks. Mark put it in four wheel drive and it was able to grind up or down just about anything.
Eventually the road smoothed out a little bit and then the trees parted on our left side, revealing our first glimpse of the Grand Canyon stretching into the distance.
Huge craggy boulders begged to be climbed, and rugged rocky outcroppings jutted out into the view. We wandered through the woods and along the edge of the overlook for a long time, thrilled by the extraordinary vistas and the utter solitude and peace we felt in this far remote corner of the earth.
This warm up spot for the “real thing” at Point Sublime was a good place for a snack and a little drink.
We climbed back into the RZR and followed the two track road a few miles further. We knew the Grand Canyon was just over our left shoulders, but the woods were thick and the road wandered away from the edge, so we waited patiently as the buggy rolled along until suddenly we were driving out onto a huge peninsula.
To our right, as we drove out on the peninsula, the late morning sun lit up the multiple layers and many rich shades of Grand Canyon’s red rock cliffs. Wow!
After not seeing a soul besides the one dirt bike rider at the beginning of our journey, it was a surprise to find a big pickup truck parked at the end of the Point Sublime overlook.
I asked the fellow standing next to it if he’d come the way we had, the southern route through the National Park, and he said no. He’d come through the National Forest on the northern route and he said it wasn’t too bad. This was good to know since we now realized we’d never consider taking our dually pickup (or any other car or truck) on the road we had just traveled!
The Point Sublime peninsula jutted so far out into the Grand Canyon that it gave us 270 degree views. We wandered along the edge utterly enchanted by the way the views changed from one side of the peninsula to the other because of the way they were lit by the sun.
Point Sublime has a few rock outcroppings that hang out over the view and we took turns peering over the edge. Such majesty!!
The remoteness and the vastness were overwhelming, especially after such a long drive through the woods to get there.
Far in the distance we could see the Colorado River. There were some whitewater rapids out there, and undoubtedly there were river rafters riding down the narrow ribbon of water and gazing up at the sheer cliff walls, admiring the Grand Canyon from a totally different perspective!
As we started back from Point Sublime in the RZR, we met a couple coming towards us in a pickup truck. They had just finished the most hair rising part of that more southerly route we’d taken.
The guy leaned out the driver’s window and we started to ask him how the ride had been. But we’d barely gotten a few words out when he blurted out in total exaspiration, “What’s the fastest way to get to a paved road?”
His wife was in the passenger’s seat, and she was white as a ghost. “It was horrible!” She said staring straight ahead out the windshield, eyes like saucers. “Just awful! The worst drive you can imagine.”
Unfortunately for them, the nearest paved road was at least an hour and a half away. But the Point Sublime overlook was just a few miles further on and the last bit of road to get there wasn’t that bad.
Best of all, they’d be able to confer with the guy in the other pickup at the overlook who could give them directions for the washboarded but slightly easier route through the National Forest back to the highway.
If you have the chance and a rugged four wheel drive vehicle and a taste for adventure, give the trip to Point Sublime a try. It is well worth it.
But if you don’t have a way to get out there, the other North Rim overlooks that are accessible via paved roads are just as wondrous and every bit as breathtaking.
Sometimes it’s about the journey, but a lot of times it’s really about the destination, and the Grand Canyon is glorious from every angle!
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More info about this area:
- Grand Canyon Backcountry Info
- Where is Point Sublime?
- Camping options in and around Grand Canyon’s North Rim
Other blog posts from Grand Canyon:
Other National Parks We’ve Visited
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