The North Rim
Only 10 miles away as the raven flies, Grand Canyon’s North Rim is a world apart from the bustling South Rim. Before Navajo Bridge spanned the Colorado River in 1929, this part of the state—the Arizona Strip—was isolated from the rest.
Even today, the North Rim’s remoteness means far fewer visitors: about 500,000 annually. Getting here from the South Rim’s Grand Canyon Village takes five hours by car or shuttle or 2-3 days on foot.
Although getting here requires a bit more planning and longer travel time, if you crave peace and solitude along with stunning views, the North Rim’s slower pace and outdoorsy focus will enchant you.
Higher than the South Rim by 1,400 feet and shaded by boreal forests of spruce, fir, and aspen, the North Rim is cooler in the summer—and often buried in snow during winter months. On average, the North Rim receives 142 inches of snow each year.
Officially, the park service closes the North Rim on October 15, but adventurous travelers do visit during the winter to camp and cross-country ski. Beware of sudden storms: At least one apocryphal tale describes a backpacker hiking up from the inner canyon’s desert reaches, unable to find his car, which has vanished under drifts of snow.
Several hiking trails follow the rim or descend into the canyon, and miles of back roads invite exploration of adjacent Kaibab National Forest. From Bright Angel Point, where the historic Grand Canyon Lodge is located, it takes nearly six hours of driving to reach Toroweap, a remote overlook with jaw-dropping views of Lava Falls.
Grand Canyon’s vastness seems even more pronounced here on the North Rim, where it’s obvious that “the canyon” is not a simply single grand gorge but a complex collection of intriguing side canyons. River views are rare from overlooks on the North Rim’s higher elevations, where tributary canyons stretch a long distance before reaching the Colorado River. On the other hand, the North Rim’s mixed forests, similar to those of northern Canada, provide stunning fall color and ample wildlife-viewing.
You can stay close to the lodge and its amenities, but if you prefer your parks a little on the wild side, bring a high-clearance vehicle, a good map, and a sense of adventure. The North Rim offers more for those who love to explore.
© Kathleen Bryant from Moon Grand Canyon, 5th Edition