The best-kept secret of the Grand Canyon

I’m torn.

Have you ever visited somewhere so amazing, so wonderful that you want to share it with others, so they can experience your joy?  Then, you think, “But if I tell anyone, it’ll become overrun.”

Well, friends, I’m running that risk of beautiful-site-overpopulation and the risk of you thinking I’ve crossed the line into hyperbole to tell you about a place that is beauteous in the micro and in the macro.  I mean, things up close to wonder at and turn over in one’s hand, and sights to see that stretch beyond the horizon, where you feel like you are a part of eternity.

Part of why I find myself so willing to share is because my camera really isn’t that great, so you’ll probably look at the pics and think, “Hmm… looks nice,” but since the majestic splendor of the place is not quite captured in pixels, you just can’t understand how much you MUST visit here.  🙂

First, you enter through a little drive we called The Enchanted Forest, where the aspens and firs are dense, close to the road, and hang overhead, creating a tunnel:

The Enchanted Forest

Then, you park your truck under a huge tree:

Ethan with Grandma Detta

At the edge of the field, where the trees are, evidence of campers abound…  GOOD campers.  Campers who are appropriately in awe, and don’t wreck the place.  Campers who have not — bless God — come out to this lonely and beautiful spot to swill beer and break their glass bottles on the rocks, but campers who make a fire ring out of boulders, leave firewood for the next family who comes along, and pack out every scrap of trash.  I guess this would be due to the fact that if you come out here, it’s not to fish.  It’s not really to hike, even (though hikers tend to be tidier campers than beer-swilling fishermen).  It’s just to be gather in the sights grander than one’s eye can behold, breathing deep the breath of God.  And possibly to collect fossils.  (More on that in a bit.)

We haven’t camped there.  I must admit, I’m partial to water.  I mean, a water spigot from which one can get the essential liquid for washing dishes and dirty hands.  I’m OK with pit toilets, and I can do without a shower, but I really need water.  We’ve never camped anywhere without water, but we’re sure considering it, now.

After the truck is parked, you race to the edge of the pebble-strewn, high-altitude Indian Paintbrush colored field, and look out.  The Grand Canyon is grand.  It’s close by to this spot, and it is beyond beautiful.  But no where else did the breath catch in my throat and tears spring to my eyes.  It’s just that beautiful.

To the north, miles away and far below you, you see the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument and the Paria Canyon Wilderness.

The day was a little misty, sprinkled with showers, which made it a bit hazy (and made us appreciate our jackets).  In real life, though, the cliffs are a striking shade of deep orange-red.

To the northeast, divided from the Vermilion Cliffs by the Colorado River and Marble Canyon, lie the Echo Cliffs, almost matching the Vermilions in splendor.  Due east is actually the Grand Canyon, which makes a jog to the north, turning from the East Rim up through Marble Canyon.  Below this point — which, by the way, is called Marble Viewpoint — between you and the canyon, lies House Rock Valley and House Rock Wildlife Area.  It’s cut by only a very few dirt tracks…  Most of the scenery appears pristine clean, remote, gorgeous.

Grant is there, in the middle, dwarfed by the grandeur

That is the Grand Canyon in the background... where it's (comparatively) smaller. Martin and Audrey kneel on the right.

It’s difficult to explain Marble Viewpoint.  It just out to the north, a narrow finger of land, perhaps a couple of hundred yards wide and an eighth mile?  quarter mile? long.  Along the edges are dropoffs of a couple thousand feet, leading down from the Kaibab Plateau.

To get the scale of it, somewhat, that’s my 9-year-old son, Wesley, one arm raised, in the middle of this picture:

Here, my 11-year-old and mother-in-law venture out with an umbrella (which was quickly abandoned):

The view due east:

Of all the places we roamed in our camping trip, Marble Overlook was by far the favorite of our dog, Tally.  She ran and ran and ran, joy in her step and excitement in her eyes.

Grandma Detta, Ethan, and Tally

Run, Tally, run!

I was delighting in the flowers — penstemon and Indian paintbrush of unknown varieties…


Indian paintbrush and some sort of scrubby grass and all variety of small plants carpet the floor of the overlook.

When I looked down and exclaimed, “Hey!  That’s a fossil!”  Suddenly, we were all hunched over or on our knees, or sitting and sifting through pebbles.  Fossils were EVERYWHERE!

And… since were in the Kaibab National Forest, and not within the boundaries of the Grand Canyon National Park, I already knew the rules:  One may take specimens home — including minerals — for one’s own enjoyment, but may not sell them.  So, we took samples.  🙂  And you may not buy any from me.

Me 'n' my mountain man

We capped off the trip with a photo of everyone in the waning light.

If you go, enjoy it.  Keep it clean.  🙂  And take lots of pictures for me.

To find Marble Overlook:  Take Arizona 67 south from Jacob Lake.  Just south of the Kaibab Lodge and General Store, take forest road 610 east.  Continue on 610, following the signs for Marble Viewpoint.  Travel for… ten miles or so until you reach the turnoff for forest road 219, which will be on your left, leading north.  The number of the road is signed, but there is no additional sign that tells you that this is the way to Marble Viewpoint.  Continue on 219 about four miles.  Towards the end, there will be an area on the left/west that even has a sign proclaiming “Marble Viewpoint”.  DO NOT BE FOOLED.  This is not the true viewpoint.  To reach the viewpoint, continue to travel north about 1/4 mile to the north (through the above-pictured “Enchanted Forest”) until the road ends at the true Marble Viewpoint.

(By the way, for long-time readers, if this sounds familiar, I blogged about a similar adventure in June 2007, when I visited the viewpoint with my mom and children.  Unfortunately, I was swayed by the sign, and we stayed almost the entire time at the not-really-a-viewpoint, and didn’t see the actual viewpoint until it was almost dark.)

About Karen Joy

I'm a partially-homeschooling mother of six -- 3 boys ages 19, 17 and 15 years old, and three girls: 11, 8, and 3. I like birding, reading, writing, organic gardening, singing, playing guitar, hiking, the outdoors, and books. I very casually lead a very large group of homeschooling families in the Phoenix area. I have a dear hubby who designs homes for a local home builder and who is the worship pastor of our church. I live in the desert, which I used to hate, but now appreciate.

Posted on July 21, 2011, in Arizona, Camping, Family, Summer Plans, The Dear Hubby, The Kids, Travelling. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. some day, some day…..I SO want to see the Grand Canyon. bookmarking this for future reference. thank you!

  2. Hi there — I stumbled across your blog while looking for directions to Marble Overlook. THANK YOU for your awesome journal and the pics. We went last weekend and had a blast!

    and, I did take some pics for you 🙂

    Have a great one!

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