Star Party on the North Rim, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 13272A, Service/ Volunteer


  • Spend a week on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon
  • Enjoy evening programs gazing at the stars
  • Help maintain and enhance the Grand Canyon’s North Rim infrastructure


  • A great campsite
  • Hearty, filling meals prepared by a chuckwagon cook
  • A day off to hike on the North Rim


DatesJun 8–15, 2013
StaffAudrey Cullen

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Trip Overview

The Trip

The North Rim of the Grand Canyon not only offers unique, expansive, breathtaking views of one of the world's largest canyons, it is now the host of one of the biggest, open-to-the-public stargazing parties on the planet! By day you can take in views that’ll take your heart away. At night we’ll have an extraordinary opportunity to view the sky through several telescopes set up by the Phoenix Saguaro astronomers! See an informative slide show before the sun goes down -- then step outside to see a star-filled sky. This annual gathering is a great place for the layperson to learn about planets, stars, and galaxies as the host group loves to inform and educate their audience.

The less visited North Rim has much to offer you as a Sierra Club member, from beautiful old Ponderosa pine to the quacking Aspen -- and if you’re a flower-lover you’re in a for a pleasant surprise! Many plants are in bloom in June; Lupine, Indian Paintbrush, White Geraniums, and Cliffrose to name a few.

As Sierra Club members we will have a chance to share the responsibility for ensuring that future generations have the opportunity to form their own connections with the Grand Canyon National Park. We will be providing much needed support and help in maintaining and enhancing the Grand Canyon’s infrastructure on the North Rim.

The Project

The Project will involve various projects on the North Rim. This could include assembling and painting picnic tables or brushing trails and improving campgrounds. Each day will start with a breakfast, the packing of lunches for the day and assembly for work assignments. All tools and equipment will be provided by the Grand Canyon Park staff. Training needed in the use of tools will also be provided by the staff.


We will meet at the North Rim Campground on the afternoon of day one. That time will be spent setting up camp and exploring the Grand Canyon North Rim area.

The workday begins at 8:00 a.m. We will travel to the worksite and perform various tasks related to maintaining the North Rim infrastructure. At the end of the workday, showers are a short walk from our campsite. Dinner is ready at 6:00 p.m. and afterward you'll have plenty of time to attend the evening's star parties at the North Rim Lodge.

Wednesday will be our day off. You can choose to explore the North Rim trails -- many of which are easily accessed from our campsite -- or you can use the day to take it easy. The trip will end before noon on day seven.



Getting There

You are responsible for your transportation to and from the Grand Canyon North Rim campground. The cost of this transportation is not included in the price of this trip. The closest airports with regular commercial service are in Las Vegas, NV; Salt Lake City, UT; and Phoenix, AZ. There are also smaller regional airports in Flagstaff and Tusayan, AZ and St. George, UT. These might also meet your transportation needs. In any case, it is suggested that you contact other attendees with the possibility of sharing transportation costs from any of these airports. Transportation while at the Grand Canyon will be provided by the park service. More detailed information regarding routes to the North Rim will be provided to those who sign up for this trip. 

Accommodations and Food

The first meal will be dinner on the first day. The last will be breakfast on the final day.

The trip staff prepares menus, and every effort is taken to accommodate various dietary needs. Any special needs -- especially food allergies -- should be noted on the questionnaire sent to you. Meal preparation will be directed by staff and assisted by trip members. All trip members can plan on one full day of commissary chores. Mealtimes and daily commissary assignments will be posted and announced on the first day.

We will be camping in a developed campground area. You will need to bring a tent, pad, sleeping bag, and whatever else you may need for your comfort. Showers are only five minutes away.

The normal temperatures this time of year dip down to freezing at night. During the day temperatures can rise to over 70 degrees. However, temperatures have been known to drop to as low as five degrees, during the night this time of the year. You need to be adequately prepared for such fluctuations.

Trip Difficulty

This will be a moderately strenuous trip. Be in good shape and prepared for lots of hard work and fun. Anyone who doesn't live in mountain/high desert environs must have a healthy respect for the altitude. Many concerns about having an enjoyable trip are tied to the altitude. At 8,000 feet, your lungs must work harder to get extra oxygen. This accelerates water loss, even before you add a little healthy perspiration.

As your body strives to adjust, the altitude may affect your attitude. You may experience common -- but not long-lasting -- symptoms, such as headache, fatigue, or mild dehydration. The physical impact of high-altitude exertion cautions all of us to work at our own pace and rest when necessary. No one will be pushed past his or her limits -- the need to accomplish a goal does not preclude doing so safely and in an orderly manner.

If you haven't seen your doctor in the last five years, schedule an appointment. Please ask him or her to sign the medical questionnaire. Minor medical conditions are no impediment to having a full, enjoyable experience. Also, do not forget, all participants must have a current tetanus shot. This vaccine -- currently given in the combination Diptheria + Tetanus -- is in short supply. If you require a shot or booster, contact your physician. You should not go on a service trip without this shot.

Equipment and Clothing

Trip members are expected to furnish their own daypack, comparable to a student book bag, not a fanny pack. Bring at least three one-liter/one-quart containers for carrying water, your own supply of moleskin and Band-Aids, sunscreen, insect repellent, and lip balm. Bring clothes and boots (not running shoes) that are comfortable. Bring clothes that are broken-in but not worn out and that can be easily layered for warmth and removed as the day's temperature increases. The only special item you must bring is a good pair of gloves. Gloves, like boots, serve best when broken in early.


  • Butchart, Harvey, Grand Canyon Treks.
  • Blakey, Ron and Ranney, Wayne, Ancient Landscapes of the Colorado Plateau.
  • Aitchison, Stewart, Grand Canyon's North Rim and Beyond: A Guide to the North Rim & the Arizona Strip.


The three developed viewpoints on the North Rim offer a sense of looking across the expanse of the canyon, rather than into its depths. Views of the Colorado River are rare and distant. But these intriguing views call out to many visitors as they explore the less often visited North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Because this area is not as often visited, the services and facilities at this location are a bit more primitive. For this reason, and because of the harsh winters that can be visited upon the North Rim, extra effort has to be put into the maintaining of the North Rim facilities. Our volunteer time will be spent helping maintain this unique area for the use of all who take the extra effort to visit this side of the Grand Canyon.



Audrey Cullen is from Minneapolis and is an avid hiker and outdoors person. She has been a leader on other trips as well as this and brings a wealth of experience to help make the trip enjoyable for everyone.


Charlie Schulz has lived in the Southwest for more than 40 years and has hiked extensively in Arizona, Europe, and Mexico. Since retiring, hiking has become an even more important part of his day, making him a useful resource for information on hiking in the Southwest. He has participated in numerous Sierra Club service trips in the Southwest.

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