Grand Canyon North Rim, Wild and Wonderful

Written by on September 23, 2009 in AZ Outdoor Adventures - Comments Off on Grand Canyon North Rim, Wild and Wonderful

The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is 1,000 – 2,000 feet higher than the South Rim, giving you an extraordinary view not only of the canyon, but of the land to the south. Viewpoints on the North Rim provide memorable opportunities to look across the expanse of Grand Canyon and for hundreds of miles beyond on a clear day. Point Imperial and Cape Royal, reached by long scenic drives, also have short hikes at each for perfect views over the canyon — this is at least a half day adventure. Point Imperial, the highest point on the North Rim at 8,803 feet, overlooks the Painted Desert and the eastern end of Grand Canyon. Cape Royal provides panoramic views and is a popular destination to view sunrises and sunsets.
The North Rim is also far less explored, wild, secluded and much less developed, therefore fewer visitor make the trek. It wasn’t visited by Europeans until 236 years after the South Rim, when Father Escalante became the first European to visit the North Rim in 1776. Ownership of the North Rim was disputed by both Arizona and Utah, and it wasn’t until 1912, when Arizona was granted statehood that the issue was finally decided. This also explains why the North Rim is much less developed. In addition, because of its elevation, it receives harsher winter weather and the park is only open from May through October.

What makes the North Rim so special? Aside from the isolation, fewer visitors and extraordinary views, the climate and vegetation are noticeably different from the South Rim because of the higher elevation. It is as if the North and South Rims are two separate parks, which is essentially the case since it is a five hour drive between the two visitor’s centers. No roads or bridges cross the mile-deep canyon along the 277 miles of rim, hence the five hour drive.

The North Rim Visitor’s Center is directly opposite the Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim (although separated by 10 miles of canyon) and is a good place to launch your exploration of the North Rim. The Visitor’s Center offers exhibits and ranger-led interpretive programs during the season. The Grand Canyon lodge sits next to the Visitor’s Center and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987. It is the only lodging available on the North Rim, unless you want to camp.

Camping on the North Rim is restricted to the North Rim Campground. Because there are a limited number of camping sites and this is a popular destination, you should call for reservations in advance. The Tuweep Campground, nine primitive sites, is challenging to get to, including secondary county roads, which, through graded occasionally, are pretty rough, and the last three miles across slickrock are the roughest. It generally takes several hours or more from the highway to reach the overlook and campground. Outside the park, there are several campgrounds operated by the U.S. Forest Service, including DeMotte Campground (16 miles to North Rim) and Jacob Lake Campground (45 miles to North Rim).

There are dozens of hiking trails along the North Rim. Some of most popular include Bright Angel Point Trail (1/2 mile), the Uncle Jim Trail (5 miles) and the North Kaibab Trail to Roaring Springs (9.4 miles).

Mule rides are another popular way to see the North Rim. Experienced wranglers guide the one hour to half-day trips and share their knowledge of the canyon along the way.

More stories in the Grand Canyon Series include:

Formation of the Grand Canyon
South Rim of the Grand Canyon
North Rim of the Grand Canyon
Inhabitants of the Grand Canyon
River Rafting the Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon Railway
Grand Canyon Skywalk
Condors Make a Comeback in the Grand Canyon
Top 10 Things To Do at the Grand Canyon
Legend of Egyptian Artifacts in the Grand Canyon
The Ghost of Crash Canyon
Phantom Ranch at the Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon Lodge – North Rim
Reservations: 877-386-4383 (877-Fun-4-Ever)

North Rim Campground
National Recreation Reservation Service: 877-444-6777
Online at

Grand Canyon National Park
P.O. Box 129
Grand Canyon, AZ 86023
General Visitor Information: 928-638-7888
Backcountry Information Center: 928-638-7875

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