I’m sure you’re familiar with the Grand Canyon and know that it is GIGANTIC! That might even be an understatement.
However- what you generally read about online, see photos of, and usually plan your visit around- is the South Rim. Roughly 5 million people visit the South Rim of the Grand Canyon each year. I can’t blame them. Every nook, cranny, and crevice is beautiful. It’s also easier to access and is open year-round.
In general, the Grand Canyon is amazing. The National Park Service provides this awesome information on the park:
“The Park contains several major ecosystems. Its great biological diversity can be attributed to the presence of five of the seven life zones and three of the four desert types in North America. The five life zones represented are the Lower Sonoran, Upper Sonoran, Transition, Canadian, and Hudsonian. This is equivalent to traveling from Mexico to Canada. The Park also serves as an ecological refuge, with relatively undisturbed remnants of dwindling ecosystems (such as boreal forest and desert riparian communities). It is home to numerous rare, endemic (found only at Grand Canyon), and specially protected (threatened or endangered) plant and animal species. Over 1,500 plant, 355 bird, 89 mammalian, 47 reptile, 9 amphibian, and 17 fish species are found in the park.” The Grand Canyon is also home to the California Condor; a rare bird.
While the South Rim is beautiful, the North Rim is breathtaking in my opinion. It’s around 1,000 feet higher in elevation than the South Rim and it’s visited by far fewer people on a yearly basis (less than 1 million). It’s also closed in the winter because of all the snow it gets (closes completely by December 1st or when the snow blocks the road). They don’t bother plowing the roads and there’s no use in doing so, either, due to so few visitors that time of year. If you’re driving to the North Rim from the South Rim, it’s an additional 220 miles so you probably shouldn’t plan to visit both in the same day.
The North Rim has more vibrant colors than the South Rim and tends to have a lot more green from the trees, bushes, plants, etc… Here’s a small sample of some photos we’ve captured on one of our trips to the North Rim:
See what I mean? The colors just pop! You can definitely camp on the North Rim and you can either stay in the park campground or find dispersed camping- this is our preferred route. You’re generally fine to pick a spot down a fire road as long as you are obeying fire safety and not burning a fire on a no burn day. You can get fined if you make a campfire when there’s a no burn day or the fire danger level is high.
You can also reserve a lodge to sleep in if you’re not the camping type. I’ve never done this as we always camp since dispersed camping doesn’t cost a nightly fee!
If you visit the North Rim, be sure to check out the Grand Canyon Lodge and have dinner at sunset if possible (open from May 15th -October 15th). The lodge overlooks the North Rim and provides a beautiful backdrop to your meal as you wind down from your day. Reservations are a good idea. There are plenty of trails to bike and hikes to choose from, one of which takes you along the rim and is a nice out-and-back trail that’s fairly easy. (Hydrate before you go and bring lots of water! Also, PLEASE don’t begin your hike in the middle of the day during summer if you’re not used to the Arizona heat!) If you’re doing the rim-to-rim hike (21 miles one way), make sure you make reservations! You’ll be super ready to eat as soon as you are done hiking. You can also set up shop whether in the lodge or camping and then spend your days doing mini-backpacking trips or even do a river trip (advanced planning is necessary).
A great resource for planning your trip to the North Rim, South Rim, or even down to Phantom Ranch can be found by clicking here. If you’re planning a visit, you can also always feel free to ask me your questions as well!
Are you one of the few that visit the North Rim? Let me know! I’d love to hear your experiences. Whether you visit the North Rim or some other part of the Grand Canyon, let’s face it: it’s all beautiful. Arizona is lucky we get to claim it as our own. I’ll leave you with some more photos taken during one of our trips. Enjoy your day!