top of page
  • Writer's pictureCraig Zerbe

Grand Canyon - North Rim - Point Imperial - Vol.2

At an elevation of 8803 feet (2683m) Point Imperial is the highest overlook in the Grand Canyon. It not only has great canyon views, but its high elevation allows you to see across the canyon and miles beyond, far out into the desert.

Grand Canyon - Point Imperial - Sunrise - Photo Guide
Point Imperial at Sunrise

It's an easy 20 minute drive from the North Rim Lodge (10 miles). There is a large parking area and restrooms as well. The main viewing area is a short 2 minute walk from the parking lot. You can photograph from the railed viewing area, but I usually take a little path to the left that winds you down in front of the "designated" view area. It has a wider, less inhibited view and you don't have to contend with someone bumping into your equipment.

The main foreground element here is Mount Hayden. It is also apparently popular with climbers. As the vista is primarily east and south, this is an ideal location to view the sunrise. While the late afternoon and evening sun make for great photo opportunities too, the setting sun is not possible to photograph from the main view point.

Rising sun on Mount Hayden - Point Imperial - Grand Canyon National Park - Photo Workshop
Rising sun on Mount Hayden - Point Imperial - Grand Canyon National Park

Because of the active forest fire, only Bright Angel Point, next to the lodge area, which is not in a good position for sunrise, and Point Imperial which is, were open to the public. I spent every morning, except one, greeting the new sun at this location. With changing weather and smoke from the fire, every sunrise was a little different. In the image above you can see the smoke from the fire creating a haze over the more distant canyon formations.

There was one morning that had a lackluster sunrise, but it was followed by amazing shafts of light that constantly changed, lighting the sky and the desert floor.

point imperial grand canyon national park - north rim - Photography advice
Point Imperial - morning "God Rays" streaming out.

Sunset from Point Imperial - Grand Canyon National Park - Photo Guide
Sunset from Point Imperial

One morning I arrived before dawn and the whole area was covered in clouds with rain intermittent too. But, I had patience, and nothing better to do..... After a couple of hours the clouds and fog started to dissipate.

Mount Hayden covered in fog

Grand Canyon - Point Imperial covered in fog

I guess I am not a "color inside the lines" kind of guy, because I can't help but explore around these areas for alternate vantage points. Sometimes it's a spot just a few yards away that gives me more privacy or a more expansive view. Other times I am looking to add a foreground element or get a unique perspective. I explored this area fairly extensively (I had plenty of time, as much of the north rim was closed to me because of fire). I found another outcropping, just a few minutes away that afforded me some different vantage and also allowed me to get away from the dozen or more

other photographers competing for prime space at the main view point during sunrise.

Map - Grand Canyon North Rim - Point Imperial - Photo Guide
Alternate Overlook at Point Imperial

There is a marked hiking path that continues past the end of the parking area. Take that for 10-20 yards, and then look for a side trail on your left that heads in the direction of the outcropping I have marked (I am obviously not the first person to do this). After you hike down the slope a short ways you will see two outcroppings. Skip climbing up the first one and follow the "path" in front of it to the second, larger one. You should find a couple ways to scramble the 10 or so feet up the large level top.

Point Imperial - Mount Hayden sunrise - Grand Canyon - Photography Guide
Mount Hayden - Sunrise

You can see that the eastern face of Mount Hayden is different here than in the image taken from the main view point

Grand Canyon - Mount Hayden - Photo Guide

Grand Canyon Sunrise - Point Imperial - Photo Guide, workshop

One morning I talked a family of German tourists into "joining" me over at my "secret" spot. The other photographers from a photo workshop kept asking them to "get out of the way". Here is one of them posing for me.

The image below is looking the opposite direction (south-west) in the late afternoon.

Point Imperial - Grand Canyon - Photo Guide

I hiked the Ken Patrick Trail a couple miles from the Point Imperial parking area (the remainder was closed due to the active forest fire). There were some nice views and photo opportunities as well. The morning I hiked it, the smoke was quite evident, as you can see in the image below.

Mount Hayden from the Ken Patrick Trail - Grand Canyon - photo workshop
Mount Hayden from the Ken Patrick Trail - Grand Canyon

bottom of page