The North Rim of the Grand Canyon receives less than 15% of the traffic that the South Rim does, and is much less developed. For those looking to see a side of this geological wonder missed by most tourists, however, a trip to the North Rim can be a quieter and more personal experience.
Although the two rims are only separated by 10 miles, the trip by road from rim to rim is over 200 miles. While the South Rim is mostly desert, the North Rim is 1,000 feet higher and is heavily forested with pine, spruce and fir. The North Rim gets lots of snow and is closed to all but cross-country skiing during the winter months.
There are several lookouts that one can walk and drive to in order to get varying perspectives of the canyon. The North Kaibab Trail is the only maintained trail down into the canyon to the river. Mule and horse trips are also available. Many multi-park tours visit the North Rim when combining the trip with parks in Southern Utah like Zion National Park or Bryce Canyon National Park.
Kanab, Utah is strategically the most central point from which to base your vacation, as you explore the world-class scenery found in southern Utah and northern Arizona. When you stay in Kanab you are in the geographic center of Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Lake Powell (Glen Canyon), and the Grand Canyon North Rim.
The three developed viewpoints on the North Rim offer a sense of looking across the expanse of the canyon, rather than into its depths. Views of the Colorado River are rare and distant. These descriptions may help you to plan your visit.
Point Imperial and Cape Royal are reached via a winding scenic drive. The trip to both points, with short walks at each and several stops at pullouts along the way, can easily take half a day.
Point Imperial, the highest point on the North Rim at 8,803 feet, overlooks the Painted Desert and the eastern end of Grand Canyon. Here the canyon transforms as the narrow walls of Marble Canyon, visible only as a winding gash, open dramatically to become “grand.” Layers of red and black Precambrian rocks, not visible at Bright Angel Point, add contrast and color. Part of the viewpoint is accessible.
Cape Royal provides a panorama up, down, and across the canyon. With seemingly unlimited vistas to the east and west, it is popular for both sunrise and sunset. The sweeping turn of the Colorado River at Unkar Delta is framed through the natural arch of Angels Window. Look for the Desert View Watchtower across the canyon on the South Rim. This popular viewpoint is accessible via a paved, level trail.
It takes a bit of effort, and four-wheel drive, to reach Point Sublime, the western-most of the North Rim viewpoints. The rough, two-hour (one-way) trip to this remote point is rewarded by a view that lives up to its name. Inquire about road conditions and possible closures before heading out.
Most visitors make a stop at Bright Angel Point, at the southern end of the entrance road. From the parking area it is a short, easy walk to Grand Canyon Lodge and a classic view of the canyon. This facility is wheelchair accessible. A paved, half-mile (round-trip) trail leads from the lodge, out the spine of the ridge, to the point. This trail is steep in places, with drop-offs and stairs, but provides dramatic views into Roaring Springs and Bright Angel Canyons.
The North Rim Campground is open from mid-May to mid-October. Operated by the National Park Service, campsites are $15-$20, no hook-ups, dump station available. Laundry and showers located near the campground for a fee. A maximum of two vehicles, six people, three tents are allowed per site. (A vehicle which is towing a trailer, pop-up, tent trailer, fifth wheel, or a motorhome pulling a vehicle is considered 2 vehicles.) Reservations are required; call 800-365-2267, or if outside the U.S. call 301-722-1257. Reservations may be made up to, but not more than, five months in advance. Check at campground for last-minute availability.
After mid-October, weather permitting, a limited number of campsites at the North Rim Campground with limited services, (portable toilets), will be available on a first-come, first-served basis until snow closes Highway 67. Hikers and cross-country skiers will be permitted to use the park's group campsites throughout the winter months if they have obtained a permit through the park's Backcountry Office.
Rim Tours Mountain Bike Adventures offers the very best mountain bike tours in pristine and beautiful backcountry locations including the Grand Canyon. Rim Tours' experienced staff will ensure your mountain biking vacation is one to remember with stunning campsites as well as incredible rides.