Reasons to try the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

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The South Rim is busy, hot and packed with visitors.

Most 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’s closer to big cities like Phoenix and Flagstaff, Ariz.; and has more accommodation and food options than its northern counterpart. Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim is also the gateway to the popular Bright Angel Trail, a strenuous bucket-list hike that descends along a massive fault to the Colorado River. The village also has its own post office and rail depot, and morning-to-evening shuttle buses run between key viewpoints and trailheads. There are also bike rentals, guided walking tours, a geology museum, and other activities dedicated to showcasing the legendary mile-deep gorge that ranks among the world’s most beautiful geological wonders.

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

The North Rim has 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 a 220-mile drive and is a world apart in terms of terrain, temperature and atmosphere. In 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 views of the canyon, along with good opportunities for hiking and scenic drives.

At an elevation of 8,297 feet (about 1,000 feet higher than the South Rim), the North Rim features unique “high sub-alpine” terrain with meadows, grasslands, and dense forests of white spruce and aspen, notes Joelle Baird, a wildlife specialist. Grand Canyon National Park Public. Bison sightings are common throughout the Kaibab Plateau on the way south into the park along Arizona Route 67.

“It feels like a different park,” says Baird. “It’s more remote, cell phone service is limited. You can really check it out.” On average, only about 10 percent of Grand Canyon National Park visitors venture to the North Rim, according to National Park Service statistics. In 2021, approximately 221,000 visitors entered 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 Desert View and South Rim entrances during this period.

Visitors to the North Rim still enjoy the breathtaking views of the canyon that define one of the most popular national parks in the US. It’s just a quarter-mile hike along a paved path from Grand Canyon Lodge to Bright Angel. Point, offering close-up views of the Deva, Brahma, and Zoroaster temples. (The Adirondack chairs in the lodge’s courtyard provide similar photo opportunities.) Mule rides are available, though they don’t go all the way to the bottom of the canyon like the night rides that originate from the South Rim. Other highlights: The sunset view from Point Imperial, near the northern edge of the park (at 8,803 feet, it’s the highest point in the park), and the Cape Final Trail, a moderate 4.2-mile hike that features a striking mix of pine trees ponderosa, meadows and scenic canyon views.

Things to note before visiting the North Rim: All services are typically closed from December through mid-May due to winter weather. (Hiking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing in the park are allowed year-round, but require a backcountry permit.) Accommodations in the seasonal park are also limited to a lodge and campground, and are booked well in advance. Dining options include a casual deli and the lodge’s stately dining room, known for regional dishes like local trout and venison pie. (Reservation recommended).

Planning ahead is a must, says Baird. “It’s not a place where you can just show up and hope to find accommodation for the night.” Many visitors to the North Rim are hikers coming from southern Utah as part of the “Grand Circle” tour of national parks that includes Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches and Canyonlands, “all about a day’s drive away.” one from another”. ,” she adds.

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

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

Randall is a writer who lives in Los Angeles. his website is authorlaurarandall.com. Find her on Instagram: @socaltravelwriter.

Potential travelers should be aware of local and national public health directives regarding the pandemic before planning any travel. Travel health advisory information can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s interactive map showing travel advisories by destination and on the CDC’s Travel Health Advisory webpage.

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