The Grand Canyon. A hallmark of the U.S. National Park System. One of the 7 Natural Wonders of The World. Synonymous with breathtaking views and incredible hiking trails. It’s no wonder that, at more than 5 million people per year, the Grand Canyon National Park is one of the most visited national parks in the U.S.
Wow! That’s a whole lot of people! And those summer crowds, well, what can one say? It certainly can get quite crowded along the vastly popular Grand Canyon South Rim. Oh wait – I know! Skip the crowds and head to the North Rim! You won’t find those South Rim crowds here. What you will discover instead, is a different, equally wonderful, less crowded, perspective of the amazingly grand, Grand Canyon National Park.
The Lack of Crowds
The Grand Canyon’s North Rim is not nearly as busy, nor nearly as crowded as the South Rim. Why is that, you ask? Because the vast majority of those 5 million visitors spend their time at the South Rim, never to venture north to the other side of the canyon.
Perhaps it’s because many visitors arrive at the South Rim via Las Vegas or Phoenix. The North Rim is another four hour drive beyond the South Rim, and is one adventure best experienced as more than just a day trip. Perhaps most of those 5 million visitors don’t have the time? Or perhaps they just don’t realize how grand the North Rim really is!
The Historic Grand Canyon Lodge
First stop on any North Rim adventure is the Grand Canyon Lodge. This gem, situated at Bright Angel Point, is front and center to spectacular North Rim canyon views. And what views they are! Wow. Just. Wow. That’s what’s waiting to greet visitors upon arrival at the Lodge, which itself is a National Historic Landmark.
The Lodge’s expansive patios and front-row seats are ideal for soaking in the North Rim’s incredible perspective of the Grand Canyon. Best of all, there’s typically no need to jostle for a prime viewing position, because all the crowds are “down south” at the South Rim!
Book your reservations early if you plan to stay the night or two at The Grand Canyon Lodge. It’s the only lodge right on the North Rim, and it fills up fast. I’d recommend one of the cabins clustered off to the sides of the lodge. Great for family travelers. And if you can score a rim-side cabin, even better!
The Amazing Sunsets and Sunrises
The Grand Canyon Lodge is an ideal venue for magnificent sunrises and sunsets. Whether you catch the sun’s rays as it dips beyond the canyon walls, or greet the day with it’s rising in the east, the wondrous display of color playing across canyon walls will most certainly be worth the trek to the North Rim.
Time your arrival at the North Rim for late afternoon, preferably an hour or two before the sun begins to dip beyond the canyon walls. Grab yourself a rim-side seat, kick back, and be prepared to be amazed by a breathtaking light show across canyon walls as the sun sets in the distant horizon.
Then set your alarm clock for a pre-dawn wake-up call. Your reward for such an early awakening? An equally glorious, splendid sunrise lighting up the sky and the canyon walls. Grab a cup of something warm, and head on out to Bright Angel Point, a short walk from the lodge, for a prime vantage point.
The Breathtaking Views from Bright Angel Point
Bright Angel Point is synonymous with some of the best, most spectacular canyon vantage spots in all of the Grand Canyon. That’s because Bright Angel Point is not only an easy, half-mile walk from the Grand Canyon Lodge, it’s also rarely crowded! If you look real hard, you might just see tiny little hikers way on the other side of the canyon, hiking down the South Rim’s famed Bright Angel Trail.
The views along Bright Angel Point at any time of the day are breathtaking. And that’s just it! To truly appreciate this incredible natural wonder of the world from a North Rim perspective, to capture the essence of this amazing locale morning, noon, and night, you really do want to spend at least one night at the North Rim.
The Incredibly Uncrowded Hiking Trails
Another reason not to skip the North Rim, to spend at least one night here? The hiking! Lace up those hiking boots and head on out along a variety of trails for all different skill levels. Most likely you’ll be hiking in near solitude, just you and your hiking companions. Not to mention that the North Rim tends to be cooler than South Rim, making for oft-times more pleasant hiking conditions.
Take a journey down the Transept Trail, whose trail head can be found just outside The Grand Canyon Lodge. Follow the trail along the canyon rim, past prehistoric ruins of ancestral Pueblo Indians, and into the North Rim Campground. Take time along the way to marvel upon Mother Nature’s handiwork. Then pick up Bridle Trail for a refreshingly cool, wooded return to The Grand Canyon Lodge.
Get in the car for the drive to Point Imperial and its’ relatively easy 4 mile trail hike around the canyon ledge. For a more challenging hike, go beneath the rim with the North Kaibab Trail. Follow it down to Coconino Overlook or Supai Tunnel for incredible canyon views. Note: this trail is not for the faint of heart nor those in poor condition!
Plan Your Own Grand Canyon North Rim Adventure
Ready to plan your own Grand Canyon North Rim adventure? Great! Here are several links to get you started down a journey you will not regret taking.
- The Grand Canyon National Park – the official National Park Service website.
- The Grand Canyon Lodge – don’t forget to make reservations early!
- Jacob Lake Inn – just in case you can’t get a reservation at the Lodge.
- North Rim Driving and Trail Guide – trail map and description of North Rim trails.
- Day Hiking In The Grand Canyon – scroll to the bottom for North Rim trails.
- North Rim Day Hikes – a nice trail summary by Hit The Trail.
We spent two nights at the Lodge, and three days exploring The Grand Canyon National Park North Rim. Well worth the extra time it took to drive from the South Rim to the North Rim. Read more about our complete Grand Canyon Adventure at A Grand Tour Around The Grand Canyon.
Have You Been To The Grand Canyon North Rim?
For this family of crowd-adverse, off-the-beaten path, family of travelers, we actually enjoyed the North Rim more than the South Rim. Future travels to this area will most certainly include more time along the North Rim.
How about you? Have you explored the North Rim of the Grand Canyon? What do you think? Was it worth the extra drive? Will you now include a foray to the North Rim in your future Grand Canyon travels? Do share!
Grand Canyon Lodge patio image by GrandCanyonNationalPark via Flickr. All other images by C.Biederman.