The North Rim of the Grand Canyon offers a completely different experience than the South. Far less populated with tourists and harder to get to, you won’t find many of the typical offering here. If it’s air tours, restaurants and hotel lodgings you’re looking for, you’ve come to the wrong place. But if it’s solitude, beauty and nature you seek, well the North Rim is worth the extra time it takes to get there.
There is only one road leading to the North Rim, AZ 67, and only one lodge, Grand Canyon Lodge. The closest major airport is in Las Vegas almost 300 miles away, so be prepared to spend time getting there. But your efforts will be rewarded. The North Rim offers some of the most spectacular views most visitors never get the chance to see.
Sitting 1,000 feet higher than the South Rim, the North Rim’s aesthetic is 180 degrees different from the South. Rather than sparse rock and scrub, you enter surrounded by evergreen alpine forest. The landscape is lush and moist rather than arid and the average temperatures are cooler than you might anticipate. With no gift shops or amenities to speak of, the North Rim’s draw is simply its unique beauty and the chance to quietly experience all the natural wonder the Grand Canyon has to offer.
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The reason to choose the North Rim lies in nature alone. This is the place for true outdoorsmen, experienced hikers and dedicated campers. While there are a few amenities, most who come here do so to experience the Grand Canyon in a more organic way. Hiking and camping are the most popular activities at the North Rim. Beyond that, the Grand Canyon Lodge offers the only accommodations in motel rooms and cabins and houses the only restaurant available. The North Rim Campground is a decent hike away but an easy one at that. There is a shuttle that runs from the lodge to the North Kaibob trailhead and mule ride can help you get part way to the bottom if that’s your plan. Rangers give daily talks on various topics including geology and wildlife. And if you do get to the bottom of the North Kaibob Trail, you’ll find yourself at Phantom Ranch and Bright Angel Campground where you can pick up a rafting tour or continue your hike up to the South Rim.
There is plenty to see at the North Rim. Bright Angel Point alone offers stunning vistas and some of the most dramatic scenery available. Spectacular views can be found from Walhalla Plateau, just east of Bright Angel Point. From there you will see Point Imperial, easily spotted for it’s rocky spire jutting out of its peak and come across the remains of an ancient pueblo. Cape Final Trail leads you the eastern point of Walhalla Plateau where you will find yourself enjoying views of Jupiter and Vishnu Temples. It’s an easy hike and well worth the effort. But the North Kaibob Trail is maybe the most hiked and one of the more difficult you’ll find. It starts at Bright Angel Point and ends at Phantom Ranch at the Colorado River. It’s a strenuous hike that should take several days to complete, but those that do travel the gamut of landscape and scenery. Beginning in Ponderosa pine forest, you’ll descend through varying ecosystems as your elevation changes the landscape around you. You’ll walk past two waterfalls and through a narrow canyon on your way to the bottom where you’ll be rewarded with views of both rims from the edge of the Colorado River.