by Matt. Updated Oct 2021
Maybe you’re planning a trip to the Grand Canyon and you’re just now finding out that there are two completely different areas to visit in the National Park: the North Rim and the South Rim. Which rim of the Grand Canyon should you visit?
The South Rim is a place everyone should visit at least once because it has iconic views. But the North Rim is a place you’ll want to return to again because it provides more solitude and better sunsets.
If you’re trying to decide, or if you’ve already decided to visit the North Rim, keep on reading because this article has all you need to know about visiting the North Rim.
In this article we’ll cover:
- North Rim vs South Rim
- 10 Things to do on the North Rim
- Where to stay
- Where to camp
- Where to eat
- Common questions
North Rim vs South Rim
The South Rim has the Grand Canyon Village and more famous views of the canyon. The sheer cliffs on the South Rim are unparalleled, which is why many people will drive to the South Rim, even if the North Rim is closer.
However, what the North Rim lacks in village charm and sheer cliffs, it more than makes up for in atmosphere and more colorful views.
People are known to return to the North Rim again and again because it’s an “escape.” It’s hard to explain, but it’s just a different feeling on the North Rim. It’s more of a getaway.
The next time I visit the Grand Canyon, I’ll be going only to the North Rim.
|South Rim||North Rim|
|90% of visitors||10% of visitors|
|Grand Canyon Village (many buildings)||Grand Canyon Lodge|
|Mule Rides: 3-hour rim & overnight Phantom Ranch||Mule Rides: 1-hour rim, 3-hour rim, 3-hour canyon|
|More activities & tours (Train, bike rentals, helicopters, rafting)||Better sunsets|
|More hikes into the canyon but one rim hike||One hike into the canyon but more rim hikes|
|Open year-round||Open May to October|
|Hot in summer, snow in winter||Cooler in summer, closed in winter|
|More expansive views||More colorful views|
10 Things to do at the North Rim
The main thing to do at the North Rim is to get a drink from the Roughrider Saloon and drink while taking in views from the deck chairs of the Grand Canyon Lodge.
But there are plenty more things to do!
1. Walk to Bright Angel Point
From the Grand Canyon Lodge, it’s only a .5 mile walk on a paved trail to Bright Angel Point. This provides some of the most expansive views of the canyon from the North Rim.
From here, you can look across the canyon to see the South Rim. If you have binoculars, you can spot the Grand Canyon Village, and even the Bright Angel and South Kaibab Trails leading into the canyon.
There is another viewpoint just below the deck of the Grand Canyon Lodge — it doesn’t have a name, but you can’t miss it. Definitely visit both viewpoints!
2. Eat at the Grand Canyon lodge
The Grand Canyon Lodge is the star of the North Rim. It was built in the 1920s, then burned to the ground 10 years later. It was rebuilt in the 1930s and still has that old-school charm.
The views from the dining room are INCREDIBLE! It provides better views of the canyon than any lodge or restaurant on the South Rim.
Dished include Canyon Duck, Lees Ferry Trout, Hualapai Buffalo Tenderloin, the Grand Canyon Beast Burger, as well as vegetarian options.
Make sure to get reservations in advance. Be aware they give preference for those staying at the Lodge.
There are more hikes on the North Rim than on the South Rim, but only the North Kaibab Trail descends into the canyon. The hikes on the North Rim are more forested, but they still provide views of the canyon. There are some good options for longer hikes.
- Bright Angel Trail. This is a .5 mile path that leads to Bright Angel Point. It’s considered a “hike” by the park, and is the most popular hike on the North Rim.
- Transept Trail. This is a 1.4 mile one-way trail that goes along the rim of the canyon, starting at the Grand Canyon Lodge and ending at the Administration Backcountry Office. You can make a loop of it by hiking the Bridle Path trail back to the Lodge.
- Bridle Path Trail. This 1.9 mile one-way trail connects the North Kaibab Trailhead to the Grand Canyon Lodge (via the Administration Backcountry Office). It is the only trail that allows bicycles and leashed pets.
- North Kaibab Trail. This trail descends into the canyon all the way down to the Colorado River, and is used for “rim-to-rim” hikes. However, you can hike down to the Coconino Overlook or to the Supai Tunnel and turn around. Just make sure you PREPARE before you hike into the Grand Canyon.
- Cape Royal Trail. This .8 mile round trip path leads to our favorite viewpoints: Angels Window and Cape Royal.
- Cliff Spring Trail. This is also .8 miles round trip, and it ventures into a little side canyon. We haven’t done this one yet, but we’ve heard from a few people that this is their favorite trail.
- Cape Final Trail. This 4.2 mile round trip trail is heavily forested and ends in canyon views.
- Widforss Trail. This 9.6 mile round trip trail is very popular and provides a variety of different scenic views throughout the hike. We haven’t done this hike yet either, but it seems to be a fan favorite.
- Other, longer hikes: Uncle Jim Trail, Ken Patrick Trail, Arizona Trail, and Point Imperial Trail.
4. Drive the scenic drive to other viewpoints
The scenic drive will take you through the Kaibab Forest to scenic viewpoints along the rim. It’s a 20-mile drive to Cape Royal Point, with a few viewpoints along the way.
Our favorite viewpoint is Angel’s Window, with awesome views of Wotans Throne and Freya Castle.
We had a picnic lunch at Vista Encantada, sitting right next to the rim.
A 2.5-mile spur road will take you to the popular Point Imperial as well.
5. Ride a mule
We rode a mule on the North Rim through Canyon Rides, and we loved it. The guides were so friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable.
Mules are a mix between donkeys and horses. They have a long history in the Grand Canyon because they are big like horses and sure-footed like donkeys.
If you want to know more, see our article about mule rides.
6. Touch Brighty’s nose for good luck
Inside the Grand Canyon Lodge is a famous statue of a donkey named Brighty. Brighty was a real donkey who lived on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in the early 1900s.
Brighty was a major tourist attraction. Brighty even had a book and a movie made about his life! They are both called Brighty of the Grand Canyon.
This statue was controversially removed in the 1970s but brought back in the 1980s. Today, visitors rub Brighty’s nose for good luck!
7. Look for bison
There is a small bison herd on the North Rim. We saw them on the drive into the park.
These bison are not native to the canyon. Therefore, the park doesn’t want them here.
They were brought to the Grand Canyon in the early 1900s by Charles “Buffalo” Jones. The goal was to mix them with cattle and help restore the species. But nowadays the park doesn’t want anything that isn’t native in the park, so they remove them as much as resources allow.
8. Visit Jacob Lake
Jacob Lake, Arizona, is the gateway to the North Rim. It’s located an hour away from the Grand Canyon Lodge, but you have to drive through Jacob Lake to get to the North Rim.
The famous thing to do here: get cookies and shakes at the Jacob Lake Inn.
It’s barely a town, but there many things to do in and around Jacob Lake!
9. Go to the Visitor Center
The North Rim has a visitor center where you can go to talk to a ranger or learn about the park. It also has a gift shop right next door.
Both of these are located right by the Grand Canyon Lodge.
10. Take a picture at the park sign
This is a common activity at any National Park, but since very few visitors to the Grand Canyon visit the North Rim, your entry sign photo will look different than everyone else’s!
Where to stay at the North Rim
There is only one place to stay inside the park at the North Rim: The Grand Canyon Lodge. However, there are a few other lodges, cabins, and inns nearby. There are no chain hotels within an hour of the North Rim.
Grand Canyon Lodge
This is the only lodging in the park. They do not have rooms within the Lodge; all rooms are cabins located nearby. Some of them are close enough to the rim you can see the canyon from your window or front deck.
I haven’t stayed here yet, but I will next time I visit. It looks amazing!
There are a few other places nearby:
- Kaibab Lodge. This is located only 6 miles from the park. Reviews are mixed, with some people complaining about the thin walls and basic accomodations. People seem to like the steak dinner, however.
- Jacob Lake Inn. They have hotel rooms and cabins here, as well as a restaurant and those delicious shakes and cookies. They average $150/night.
- Big Springs Cabins. Located 1.5 hours away from the rim. These cabins are owned by the Forest Service, and you can reserve them online at recreation.gov.
- Grand Canyon Ranch and Outfitters. This is a dude ranch offering a high-end experience of participating in a cattle drive. They offer 5-7 day packages.
- Fredonia, Kanab, or Cliff Dwellers. These are three cities that are about 2 hours away from the park. I wouldn’t recommend staying that far away, because you’ll want to stay at the park late enough to see a sunset.
Where to camp at the North Rim
North Rim Campground
There is only one place to camp inside the park: the North Rim Campground. It’s an affordable $18 per night. With only 87 sites, it books up early. There are no hookups.
- Demotte Campground. Located 7 miles north of the Grand Canyon and owned by the Forest Service, this is a great backup option if you can’t get into the North Rim campground. Get reservations on recreation.gov.
- Kaibab Camper Village. The only real RV park between Jacob Lake and the North Rim, Kaibab Camper Village is your best bet if you have a big RV or want some nicer amenities.
- Jacob Lake Campground. Another Forest Service campground, Jacob Lake Campground is located right in the town of Jacob Lake, but don’t let that fool you. Jacob Lake is barely a town, so this little place still feels very peaceful. We stayed here and LOVED it. Walk or drive across the street to get a shake at the Jacob Lake Inn. Get reservations on recreation.gov.
There are a few boondocking sites on the North Rim. All these are part of the Kaibab National Forest.
CAUTION: Boondocking roads can be incredibly rough with little turnaround space. Some people get stuck in tight situations and cannot turn around. Read reviews carefully and scout ahead if you try any of these sites, and consider checking with the Forest Service as well.
Saddle Mountain Overlook. There are only four campgrounds here and it takes a 13-mile drive on a gravel road to get there. But it’s located on the rim of the canyon with spectacular views.
Dog Canyon Apron. I really only found this by zooming in on the North Rim area on google maps. I don’t know much about it.
Forest Road 611. I saw quite a few reviews raving about this one.
I don’t feel comfortable giving directions or advice about these places since I haven’t stayed here, so I’ll refer you to the maps on the Kaibab Forest Service website.
Where to eat at the North Rim
There are no stand-alone restaurants at the North Rim. All the lodges mentioned above have restaurants.
Grand Canyon Lodge
This has the more expensive Main Lodge Dining Room, the grab-and-go Deli in the Pines, and the Roughrider Saloon for drinks and snacks.
The Kaibab Lodge serves a breakfast and dinner buffet, as well as a grab-and-go lunch.
Jacob Lake Inn
The Jacob Lake Inn offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as those cookies and shakes.
There is a food and coffee truck called Meadows Edge located at the North rim general store. I also saw a Navajo Food truck at the Jacob Lake Inn.
We brought our own food to eat at the Vista Encantada overlook of the canyon.
How long does it take to get to the North Rim?
From Las Vegas, it takes 4.5 hours. From the South Rim, 4 hours. From Zion National Park, 2 hours. From Bryce National Park, 3 hours. From Jacob Lake, 1 hour.
How long does it take to see the North Rim?
Most people probably spend a few hours at the North Rim (same with the South Rim). In a few hours, you can see the canyon from Bright Angel Point, walk around the Grand Canyon Lodge, and do a short hike or drive to Point Imperial.
I would recommend a full day or at least staying long enough to watch a sunset.
Where is the best view on the North Rim?
Angel’s Window. It provides views of the east side of the canyon, and it’s the only viewpoint on the North Rim that offers the sheer drops that the South Rim is famous for. Other popular viewpoints are Bright Angel Point, Point Imperial, and Cape Royal.
Is the North Rim worth visiting?
Absolutely! While the South Rim is more famous, the North Rim tends to get repeat visitors who come to get away from it all.
When is the best time to visit the North Rim?
Summer. Temperatures are in the 70s or 80s. The North Rim is only open from May 15 to October 31. Spring and fall can be quite cold.
It’s common to visit the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in conjunction with Zion National Park or Bryce National Park. These are the “Big Three” in Southern Utah/Northern Nevada.
We’ve visited these places many times, and we know them well.
That’s why we created a guide to help you enjoy your trip. Our guide provides a step-by-step itinerary for you. It takes the stress out of planning and ensures you don’t miss out on the best things to see.
Make sure to check it out so you don’t miss out!