The Cape Final Trail: The Grand Canyon’s Most Exclusive Campsite

Last Updated on March 31, 2024 by foxintheforest

Are you looking for sweeping views of the Grand Canyon without heaps of people? Look no further than the Cape Final Trail. With epic vistas and pristine landscapes, this easy hiking trail in the Grand Canyon is a must-see spot along the rim.

One little-known secret about the Cape Final Trail is that there is a single backcountry campsite available right on the rim. With a little bit of planning, you can have the best campsite on the Rim of the Grand Canyon all to yourself, making it easy to decide between the Grand Canyon north rim vs. south rim.

About this Guide to the Cape Final Trail

I’ve been hiking all over the desert for over 4 years. As a professional freelance writer for the outdoors, I’ve got loads of in-depth information about hiking the Cape Final Trail.

In this guide to hiking one of the best trails on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, we’ll cover:

  • Cape Final Trail facts including the location, difficulty, landscape, mileage and time to hike.
  • The best time of year to visit the North Rim of the Grand Canyon
  • How to camp at Cape Final including permit information
  • Tips for hiking in the Grand Canyon
  • What to Pack
  • Other nearby attractions
  • Additional desert travel resources
cape final trail grand canyon
Image courtesy of Rami Hanna.

Where is the Cape Final Trail?

You can find the Cape Final Trail nestled in the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. This side of the Grand Canyon is its own national park. There is about a 4-hour drive between the entrances to the north and south rims.

Of course, you could sneak over and hike the Cape Final Trail for just the day, but there’s a lot to see on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Three days on the North Rim will let you see all the highlights.

Take the main road into the park, towards. Take a right at the Cape Final Road junction, then follow signs until you see the Cape Final parking lot. It’s a small dirt lot that will accommodate a handful of cars. The trail starts here.

Practical Information About the Cape Final Trail

As one of the best easy hikes in the Grand Canyon, Cape Final offers plenty of accessible hiking terrain. You’ll make your way through the high juniper and pinyon pine forests until you’re treated to a few inspiring views.

Overall, the hiking is very mellow and the trail is well-marked, making it one of the most accessible hiking trails in the Grand Canyon.

Continue along the trail on the rim until you reach the end of the trail. You’ll stop at the rocky Cape Final where you can scramble around and get stunning 180-degree views of the canyon.

In the distance, you’re treated to sweeping views of Jupiter Temple and Vishnu Tempe (two prominent peaks). Not to mention the unbelievable panoramic views of the eastern rim. This spot is hands-down one of the best views of the Grand Canyon.

The remote location means you’ll likely be one of a handful of people on the trail. There are no guardrails here, so be sure to watch your step and your kiddos.

Trail Facts:

Mileage: 4 miles round trip
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation Gain: 425 feet
Highest Point: 8,045 feet above sea level
Approximate Time to Hike: 2 and a half hours including a long break to enjoy the views.
Red Tape: No dogs. Permit required for an overnight. Pack out all trash.

When is the Best Time to Go on the Cape Final Hike?

The North Rim of the Grand Canyon sits roughly 8,000 feet above sea level. This means that winters are snowy and cold. So snowy and cold, that this half of the park is only open from May 15th until October 15th.

You can hike to Cape Final anytime the trail is open, but the best time to hike is typically between May and June or September to October. There are even less people and the views are top-notch.

Summers are okay too, but be prepared to hike with more water, since temperatures are really hot and dry. If you’re backpacking Cape Final, you’ll want to bring extra water during the summer months.

camping at cape final

Backpacking Cape Final

One of the best things to do in the Grand Canyon is to snag a permit for the best camping in the Grand Canyon. At Cape Final, there is a single campsite available right on the rim.

Just imagine having the entire vista to yourself for the night. Backpacking to Cape Final was one of the best desert experiences I’ve ever had.

However, camping along the rim of the Grand Canyon has its setbacks. Expect it to be windy, if not very windy. When I backpacked Cape Final it was exceptionally windy, since a storm was rolling in.

Despite the wind, it was 100% worth it to camp at Cape Final. This is the perfect backpacking trail in the Grand Canyon for beginners. In fact, I even took my friend on his first backpacking experience here.

Cape Final Camping Permits

Snagging a permit for the most exclusive campsite on the rim of the Grand Canyon is a little tricky.

Remember, it’s a lottery for the first set of permits. Once all mail-in permits have been processed for that month, it’s a first-come-first-serve process.

You’ll need to enter a backcountry permit lottery through (for a link, see the above “Practical info” section. Once you have your spot in the lottery, you can file for your permit during your assigned window. You’ll find Cape Final under the “above the rim” filter on the permit availability section of the website.

It’s a little confusing, so it’s worthwhile to sign on and check “available permits” just to see how the filters are set up prior to registering for your permit. You won’t be able to see your available date, but you can see the system so you’ll know exactly where to go when you have your assigned time slot!

Backpacking cape final grand canyon

Tips for Backpacking and Hiking the Cape Final Trail in the Grand Canyon

Hiking to Cape Final is super straight forward. This hike is excellent for any new hikers or hikers with small kids. It’s also an excellent place to catch a sunset or sunrise. Here are a few quick tips to hike the Cape Final Trail:

  • Bring plenty of water and some snacks.
  • Always pack out your trash and practice Leave No Trace
  • Go slow if you’re having trouble with the altitude. Remember to acclimatize properly.
  • Bring a wind layer. It’s a windy area and the weather can change quickly.
  • If you’re backpacking, be prepared to hang your food. There are bears and plenty of ground critters in the area.
  • Know how to stake down your tent in the wind. Also, be prepared to use rocks instead of tent stakes, since the ground is pretty hard.
  • Campers should know how to tie taught-line hitch to attach guy wires to rocks.
  • Bring a camera – the views are EPIC!

What to Pack

You’ll want to bring along a few handy items for your Cape Final hike. Don’t forget to pack the following:

  • Sunhat, sunscreen, sunglasses
  • GPS with the trail loaded as well as a map and compass (just in case!)
  • Phone, battery pack
  • Snacks
  • Water. Bring plenty of it since there is no way to filter water
  • An extra wind layer and a warm jacket in case it gets cold
  • First Aid Kit
  • Beanie or warm headband just in case
  • Camera and tripod (if you’d like to stay and snag photos)
  • Headlamp, just in case

Additional Items for Backpackers

  • All of your water for the duration of your stay (there is no place to get filtered water). Leave the filter at home.
  • Camp stove and lighter. Campfires are prohibited.
  • Cooking utensils and eating utensils
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Camping pillow
  • Tent
  • Additional layers for chilly nights
  • Additional food with odor-proof storage and a hang bag
  • Trekking poles (optional)

Related: Get Expert Advice on Beginner Backpacking Gear

camping at cape final trail grand canyon

Other Things to Do in the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

There is plenty to do along the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Here are a few nearby activities to scope out:

  • Head out to all the viewpoints
  • Stop for a drink at the Grand Canyon Lodge scenic bar
  • Camp for free just outside the park
  • Go for a hike along the North Rim (there are plenty of short hikes and several longer ones).
  • Catch a sunrise at Point Imperial
  • Check out Cape Royal to enjoy sunset in the Grand Canyon

Tips for Visiting the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

The North Rim of the Grand Canyon isn’t as warm as the South Rim, thanks to being over 1,000 feet higher in elevation. However, for what it lacks in warmth it makes up for in spanning vistas and fewer crowds.

Plan your visit accordingly and remember to pack cool weather clothing, even in summer. The nights are chilly here. So, the best time to visit the Grand Canyon will vary between the two rims.

Lastly, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is pretty remote, there aren’t many nearby amenities, the nearest town is Kaibab which is around an hour and 50 minutes away.

Get out and enjoy the best views of the Grand Canyon along the Cape Final Trail. You’ll enjoy world-class hiking with blissful solitude.

Looking for a quiet spot in the Grand Canyon? Visiting the Grand Canyon in Arizona is a bucket list trip for many, but that means it can get crowded! If you want to enjoy the best views of the rim of  Grand Canyon without the crowds, here's the best off the beaten path trail, you'll love this travel guide! #GrandCanyon #Arizona #USA
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Meg Atteberry

Meg is a long-time Colorado local and outdoor industry professional. She's spent the last 15 years hiking, climbing, mountaineering, and canyoneering all over Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and Nevada in search of the best views. She's written for Outside Magazine, REI, Backpacker Magazine, and appeared on the Weather Channel.

Hi There!

Meg Atteberry standing on a mountain sticking her tongue out

Meg aka Fox is a 30-something who's born to explore. Toddler mom, queer, and neuro-spicy her favorite things to do are climb in the alpine and camp in the desert. Her mission is to get you out on your greatest adventure.