Experience Arizona’s natural marvel away from the bustling crowds and tour buses of the South Rim by exploring the North Rim, a hidden gem boasting lush forests and secluded day hikes.

The Grand Canyon frequently features on lists showcasing the United States‘ most striking natural wonders. This magnificent chasm stretches across the northern region of Arizona, spanning an impressive 277 river miles in length, up to 18 miles in width, and reaching depths of one mile.

Bathed in sunlight, the canyon’s vibrant tapestry of reds, magentas, and golds come to life, while in the winter months, a blanket of snow adds sparkle to the rocky landscape.

Two Sides to the Canyon

The Grand Canyon National Park attracts nearly five million visitors annually, with most of them flocking to the South Rim, which remains open year-round and is more accessible. However, the North Rim, situated 21 miles away by foot or 220 miles by car, offers a markedly different experience.

There’s no direct route between the South and North Rims, necessitating a five-hour detour along Highway 89 near Page, Arizona. While a hiking trail connects the two rims, it’s too strenuous for a single day’s trek. To camp at the canyon’s base or stay at Phantom Ranch, you’ll need to secure a backcountry permit in advance.

Situated between 8,000 and 9,000 feet above sea level, the North Rim sits 1,000 feet higher than the South Rim, resulting in cooler summers and snowy winters, causing closures until reopening on May 15 each year.

The higher elevation also nurtures expansive forests filled with quaking aspen and Rocky Mountain maple trees, accompanied by vibrant wildflowers that seemingly overtake hiking trails.

Perhaps the best and quickest way is by helicopter tour from Las Vegas. Grand Canyon chopper tours allow visitors to appreciate the magnificent South, North and West Rims.

The South Rim

bustles with tour buses, but the North Rim remains untouched by tour operators. The South Rim’s Grand Canyon Village offers an array of amenities, including dining options, souvenir shops, camping supplies, a medical clinic, a pet kennel, and a shuttle service for popular sites.

In contrast, the North Rim provides a more independent experience with a visitor center, bookstore, general store, and limited food services. However, the tranquility, silence, and newfound appreciation for the national park more than compensate for the reduced conveniences.

Your Own Personal Trail

While the South Rim features some hiking opportunities, the North Rim offers even more enticing trails. Thirteen day hikes immerse you in dense forests, leading you away from the canyon’s edge for hours. The South Rim’s desert climate contrasts sharply with the verdant North Rim, often surprising visitors. Many North Rim trails meander through wooded landscapes, culminating in unique, albeit less dramatic, Grand Canyon overlooks.

The Widforss Trail (10 miles round trip) combines forest and canyon vistas, ending at a large rock perched on the canyon’s edge. The Uncle Jim Trail (five miles round trip) concludes with a view of the canyon and North Kaibab Trail switchbacks, while the Cape Royal Trail (0.6 miles round trip) offers more pronounced canyon perspectives.

On longer trails, you can often hike for hours without encountering another soul, making it difficult to believe you’re even at the Grand Canyon.

A View to Remember

The Grand Canyon Lodge on the North Rim, originally built in 1928, ravaged by fire in 1932, and reopened in 1937, is truly awe-inspiring. Nestled on the canyon’s brink, the lodge seamlessly blends with its surroundings, featuring massive ponderosa beams and a stone exterior.

The expansive windows and back deck, however, steal the show by providing arguably the best view of the Grand Canyon’s North Rim. Enjoy a cocktail or coffee with just a few others while soaking in the breathtaking panorama, leaving behind the congestion, crowds, Grand Canyon helicopter rides South Rim and tour buses. Relish the mesmerizing dance of colors across the canyon without jostling for a vantage point.

Although the North Rim receives significantly fewer visitors than the South Rim, it remains a popular destination. To secure accommodations at the Grand Canyon Lodge on the North Rim, it’s advisable to book well in advance. The same applies to camping, but it’s not uncommon to find available spots just days before a busy holiday weekend.

In summary, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon presents a more serene and intimate alternative to the bustling South Rim. This hidden treasure, with its lush forests, secluded day hikes, and breathtaking vistas, offers visitors an entirely unique and unforgettable experience. By following the path less traveled, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the majesty and beauty of this iconic national park.