The Grand Canyon North Rim doesn’t get as many visitors as the South Rim. In fact, approximately one-tenth of the amount of people who visit the South Rim visit the North Rim. Part of the reason for this is the fact that the North Rim isn’t as easy to get to, and it has fewer traveler amenities as well. Add in the fact that the North Rim closes in the winter, and the lower visitor numbers make sense.
However, all this doesn’t mean that the South Rim is a better destination than the North Rim for trips to the Grand Canyon. They both have their charms, and many Grand Canyon insiders actually prefer the North Rim, precisely because they have fewer other tourists to deal with, which means less-crowded trails, more parking, and less traffic along the canyon roads. When it comes down to it, the north side is actually perfect for people who prefer a more peaceful, laid-back Grand Canyon experience.
The North Rim of the Grand Canyon sits about 1,000 feet higher than the South Rim. This gives the North Rim a more alpine feel and contributes to its higher snowfall levels. The air is typically less hazy on the northern side, and because the canyon walls slope at a steeper pitch, it’s easier to see the Colorado River below. Among the best viewpoints are Bright Angel Point, Cape Royal, and Point Imperial. From Bright Angel Point, you can see Roaring Springs and the South Rim’s Grand Canyon Village. At Cape Royal, a promontory has beautiful views of the canyon, and Point Imperial visitors are treated to both canyon views and views of the Painted Desert to the east.
Grand Canyon North Rim Trails
Many Grand Canyon North Rim visitors look to include some hiking on the itinerary, and for good reason. As is true of the South Rim, the North Rim offers several excellent hiking trails. Among the most popular are the half-mile trail that links the Grand Canyon Lodge to Bright Angel Point and the North Kaibab Trail. Whereas the trail to Bright Angel Point stays along the rim, the North Kaibab Trail heads down into the canyon. In fact, you can take the North Kaibab Trail all the way down to Phantom Ranch and the Colorado River, provided that you have a camping permit and are in good enough shape to complete the hike. It’s about a 6,000-foot descent to the canyon floor. If you don’t want to go that far down, you might hike down approximately 3,000 feet to Roaring Springs instead or opt to make the even shorter 1,500-foot hike down to the Supai Tunnel.
Grand Canyon North Rim Lodging
As far as lodging is concerned, there is only one North Rim hotel within the Grand Canyon National Park boundaries. The Grand Canyon Lodge sits right on the canyon rim, and both rooms and cabins are available at the Grand Canyon Lodge, while the facilities include a trio of restaurants. Guests can also take advantage of the lounge, the free Wi-Fi, and the complimentary bike rentals. If camping is more your thing, there is also a North Rim campground that can be found within the park. It lacks RV hookups and is only open from mid-May to mid-October. Outside of the park, other campgrounds can be found, and nearby lodgings include the Jacob Lake Inn and the Kaibab Lodge. Area visitors might also keep the budget-friendly Kanab Utah hotels in mind.
Regarding how to get here, it is only ten miles from the South Rim to the North Rim as the crow flies, but there is no bridge across the Grand Canyon connecting the two destinations. Instead, those who wish to drive from the South Rim to the North Rim must travel more than 200 miles. At least one company operates a shuttle between the two destinations for those who wish to take advantage, but most travelers who are trying to get to the North Rim come down from southern Utah. The Arizona airports aren’t as convenient for this side of the canyon, but a popular option is to fly to Las Vegas first and then drive over to the North Rim. The North Rim entrance is at the end of Route 67, which links to Highway 89.
Top image: Grand Canyon NPS (flickr)