Reasons to try the Grand Canyon North Rim

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The South Rim is bustling, warm and packed with visitors

The majority of the millions of people who visit Grand Canyon National Park each year head to the larger and busier South Rim. It’s no surprise: The South Rim is open year-round; it is closer to major cities like Phoenix and Flagstaff, Arizona; and it has more accommodation and dining options than its northern counterpart. The Grand Canyon Village of South Rim is also the gateway to the popular Bright Angel Trail, a strenuous hike that descends along a massive fault to the Colorado River. The village also has its own post office and railway depot, and shuttle buses run from morning to evening between the main viewpoints and trailheads. There are also bike rentals, guided walking tours, a geology museum and other activities dedicated to showcasing the legendary mile-long deep gorge that ranks among the world’s greatest geological wonders. .

Location: Visitors to the Grand Canyon can fly into Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, located about 230 miles from the South Rim, or the smaller Flagstaff Pulliam Airport, about 90 miles away.

The North Rim offers the same spectacular views with fewer distractions

Although the North Rim is only about 10 miles as the crow flies from the South Rim, it is about 220 miles by road and a world apart in terms of terrain, temperature and ambiance. In the summer, when temperatures on the South Rim can reach 100 degrees in the shade, the North Rim is a cooler, quieter option that offers the same spectacular canyon views, plus good hiking opportunities and roads panoramic.

At an elevation of 8,297 feet (about 1,000 feet higher than the South Rim), the North Rim features unique “high subalpine” terrain with meadows, prairies, and dense forests of white fir and aspen, Joelle notes. Baird, public affairs specialist at Grand Canyon National Park. Bison sightings are common on the Kaibab Plateau on the drive south into the park along Arizona Route 67.

“It feels like a different park,” Baird says. “It’s further away, cell phone service is limited. You can really check. On average, only about 10 percent of visitors to Grand Canyon National Park venture to the North Rim, according to National Park Service statistics. In 2021, approximately 221,000 visitors passed through the North Rim entrance when it was open from May to mid-October, compared to approximately 2.2 million visitors who entered the park through the South Rim’s Desert View and South entrances. during this period.

Visitors to the North Rim are always privy to the breathtaking canyon views that define one of America’s most popular national parks. It’s only about a quarter mile walk along a paved path from the Grand Canyon Lodge to Bright Angel Point, which offers up-close views of the Deva, Brahma, and Zoroaster temples. (Adirondack chairs on the lodge patio provide similar photo ops.) Mule rides are available, though they don’t reach the bottom of the canyon like the nighttime rides from the South Rim. Other Highlights: The view of the sunset from Point Imperial, near the northern boundary of the park (at 8,803 feet, this is the highest point in the park), and Cape Final Trail, a moderate 4 hour hike .2 miles with a striking mix of ponderosa pines, meadows and stunning canyon views.

Things to keep in mind before visiting the North Rim: All amenities are generally closed from December to mid-May due to winter weather. (Hiking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing in the park are permitted year-round but require a backcountry permit.) Seasonal lodging in the park is also limited to a lodge and campground, and they book well in advance. Dining options include a casual deli and the lodge’s stately dining room, known for its regional dishes such as local trout and venison meatloaf. (Reservations are highly recommended.)

Planning ahead is a must, says Baird. “This is not a place where you can just show up and expect to find accommodation for the night.” Many North Rim visitors are day-trippers from southern Utah on the “Grand Circle” tour of national parks which includes Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches and Canyonlands – “all more or less within a day’s drive from each other,” she adds.

Savvy travelers stop at the Jacob Lake Inn for home-cooked meals and fresh-baked cookies on their way to or from the North Shore. The property is 31 miles from the North Rim entrance, but it is the closest contact with civilization for miles. With its folksy hospitality and rustic decor, it is a complementary landmark to any visit to the North Rim.

Location: Flagstaff Pulliam is the closest airport to the North Shore, approximately 212 miles away. Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas is approximately 270 miles away.

Randall is a writer based in Los Angeles. His website is Find her on Instagram: @socialtravelwriter.

Prospective travelers should consider local and national public health guidelines regarding the pandemic before planning any travel. Information on travel health advisories can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s interactive map showing travel recommendations by destination and on the CDC’s travel health advisories webpage.

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