With only a fraction of the visitors to the South Rim, here are the top things to do at the Grand Canyon’s North Rim.
The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is often overlooked as the summer crowds line up shoulder-to-shoulder at the Ooh-Aah Point on the South Rim. For the first-time-North-Rim visitor, most are enchanted with the quieter, and cooler, rim of the famous canyon—I know I was. Only accessible during the summer season, the North Rim isn’t a reflection of the South Rim and offers a completely different look and feel. Though like the southern rim, a trip requires planning. When visiting one of Arizona’s most famous sights, here are the top things to do at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Visiting the other side of the Grand Canyon offers a different point of view, and most first-time visitors are shocked by the differences. Actually, it’s quite green and shady compared to its southern rim during the summer season, due to its higher elevation of over 8,000 feet. With a shorter season and less accessibility, it boasts far fewer crowds, and only 10% of the South Rim visitors make it to the North Rim.
Top Things to Do at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon
There is much to do when you visit the North Rim, but in this article, I’m going to share some of my favorites, including:
- Take a Scenic Drive
- Hike along the North Rim
- See the Sunset
- Attend a Ranger Program
- Take a Mule Ride
- View the Wildlife
- Stay in a Cabin on the North Rim
Scenic Drives on the North Rim
Just driving to the visitor center and lodge along the North Rim is a top activity. The main road, Arizona Highway 67, is a scenic drive. The wow moment for most visitors (myself included) is seeing the view from the rim for the first time. For the most dramatic view, head to the Grand Canyon Lodge first. From there, these are my suggested drives.
Take Arizona Highway 67 to Point Imperial, about 11 miles from the Grand Canyon Lodge. See the Painted Desert and Marble Canyon along with more of the eastern Grand Canyon. This area offers restrooms and is the highest point along the North Rim (8,803 ft.).
On the Walhalla Plateau, Arizona Highway 67 has a turnout for the Roosevelt Point Trail (a .2-mile walk). This is an easy 10-minute walk with great views into the canyon.
Farther along Arizona Highway 67, Vista Encantada area offers a picnic area. On a clear day, the view from here shows Nankoweap Creek in the canyon, with views out to the Vermillion Cliffs and on to the Painted Desert.
On AZ Highway 67, visit the Walhalla Ruins and the overlook. The ruins, surrounded on three sides by the Grand Canyon, was once home to a community of Ancestral Puebloans who farmed the area.
At the terminus of AZ Highway 67, Cape Royal offers a wedding site along with restrooms and picnic tables. The Cape Royal Trail is .8-mile roundtrip. Make a point to visit if you have the time, the views are dramatic.
North Rim Hiking Trails
While the hikers in nearby Zion National Park are sweating through their shirts, enjoy a cool summer hike at the North Rim. Hiking is an excellent way to enjoy Grand Canyon rim views and one of the top things to do at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Though carry water, and keep mindful of the higher elevation.
Bright Angel Point Trail
Bright Angel Point Trail is a half-mile roundtrip hike on a paved trail to one of the best views along the North Rim.
Bridle Path is a 1.9-mile one-way hiking trail on hard-packed ground. This trail is open to leashed pets and bikes.
Cape Royal Trail
Cape Royal is a .8-mile paved trail to an overlook with canyon views. You can also see Angels Window and the Colorado River.
Roosevelt Point Trail
Roosevelt Point Trail is the short, easy trail you access as you drive Arizona Highway 67 and pull out for the trail. This short, .2-mile hiking trail leads to an overlook.
Cliff Springs Trail
For an easy, kid-friendly hike on the Grand Canyon North Rim, check out the Cliff Springs Trail. This .8-mile hiking trail, which you can usually complete in about 45 minutes, takes you through a ravine to a spring.
North Kaibab Trail
The North Kaibab Trail heads into the canyon and is not a day hike. Overnight camping is required on this hiking trail to the Colorado River. It is also used by the mules. The National Park Service cautions that, although this is a less-visited trail, it is the most difficult of the three main trails going into the Grand Canyon.
Biking on the North Rim
Pack your bike for your trip to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon since none are available for rent on the North Rim.
All roads open to vehicular traffic are open for bikes at the North Rim. Bridle Trail between Grand Canyon Lodge and North Kaibab Trail is a multi-use trail and open to bikes.
Visitor Center at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon
Located along the rim and next to the Grand Canyon Lodge, the North Rim Visitor Center is staffed and offers maps, brochures, and junior ranger booklets. Also, find restrooms along with interpretive areas to explore. Finally, learn about seasonal park ranger programming at the Visitor Center.
Park Rangers are often at the Historic Canyon View Kiosk and the Roaring Springs Overlook Kiosk to answer questions, provide maps, and give tips for animal sightings.
Where to See the Sunset at the North Rim
Seeing the sunset might be the wow moment of any Grand Canyon trip. With fewer visitors, sunsets are celebrated, and what better way than with a glass of wine. Located in the Grand Canyon Lodge, the Roughrider Saloon sells wine and beer. Grab your glass and head to the back patio of the Grand Canyon Lodge. Best to arrive a bit early, these are the most popular seats on the North Rim.
Bright Angel Point is another popular location to watch the sunset, sans the rosé. It’s located near the Grand Canyon Lodge (a half-mile walk) along a well-traveled trail.
Cape Royal Point offers nice views for sunrise and sunset at the end of the scenic Highway 67 in the park.
Ranger Programs and Special Events
The Grand Canyon offers a rich history, both geologically and human history. To learn more about the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, attend a Ranger-led program during your stay. They are free and usually appeal to all ages, though look out for programming just for kids, labeled Junior Ranger programs.
One of the most popular Ranger-led programs is the Canyon View Walk, a guided walk along the rim. The night sky programs are favorites as well.
North Rim Star Party
Held in mid to late June, the North Rim Star Party features telescopes, and the local astronomy club hosts park visitors.
Native American Heritage Days
Held in early August, Native American Heritage Days gives you a chance to learn about the cultural contributions of the 11 Native American groups who have lived around the Grand Canyon area.
Mule Rides at the North Rim
A bucket list item for the adventurous, Grand Canyon Mule Trips depart from the North Rim. Unlike the South Rim Mule Trips, the North Rim rides do NOT travel all the way to the Colorado River or Phantom Ranch. As a bonus, riders can reserve their trips days in advance, instead of a year in advance (common for the South Rim mule trips).
The stable on the North Rim offers guided mule rides from May 15 until October 15. Canyon Rides offers several different rides with mules that are sure-footed and calm. Trips include one-hour guided rim trips to three-hour guided trips on the North Kaibab Trail into the canyon. A shuttle picks up riders at the Grand Canyon Lodge.
Wildlife Viewing at the North Rim
With fewer people, cooler temperatures, and more vegetation, the North Rim offers a chance to spot lots of animals. The Park Rangers can point out the best areas for seeing wildlife. Traditionally, dawn and dusk are the best wildlife viewing times.
The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is home to several species not seen on the South Rim, such as Bison and Black Bear. Both sides of the canyon are rich with birds, and 450 different species have been identified within the park. In fact, the Grand Canyon National Park is a globally important bird area, and bird watching is one of the top things to do at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
- Big Horn Sheep
- Mule Deer
- Mountain Lions
- American Black Bear
Be Bear Aware
The National Park Service recommends the following guidelines for reducing bear encounters:
- Make noise when hiking.
- Be aware of the possibility of bears at streams.
- Store food when not eating or preparing in the bear-proof storage lockers.
- Keep 100 feet between you and bears. Put all trash in a bear-resistant trash container.
Seasons at the North Rim
The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is wetter than the south and gets about 140 inches of snow a year. Roads are closed from December 1 until May 15. Temperatures range from lows in the teens to highs in the 30s Fahrenheit from December until March. Although the roads are closed in the winter, visitors do use skis and snowshoes to visit in the cold months.
Spring weather starts to pop in April, though snow is still possible. Temperatures warm to highs in the 50s and 60s, with lows in the 30s until early June. Wildflowers start to bloom in spring and continue through summer.
Summer temperatures remain mild, with highs in the 70s and lows in the 40s until mid-September. Though late summer brings monsoon rains to the region.
Fall color starts in mid-September and runs into early October, with quaking aspen turning a bright yellow against the evergreen trees of the area. High temperatures are in the 50s and 60s during this time, with lows in the 30s.
Family Activities at the Grand Canyon’s North Rim
The Junior Ranger Program is the go-to program for families to learn more about Grand Canyon National Park. It’s free and takes about two hours to complete. My kids love the badges that the park rangers present them after completing their booklets.
The South Rim and the North Rim have different booklets to complete. Each is available at Visitor Centers and Ranger Stations. The North Rim Grand Canyon Junior Ranger Program requires that kids attend a Ranger-led program.
For families headed into the canyon along one of the trails, there’s a special Junior Ranger booklet for your excursion—the Grand Canyon Explorer Junior Ranger. The Night Skies Junior Ranger badge is another badge that is easy to earn while exploring the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Where to Eat at the North Rim
When it comes to where to have a meal, there are plenty of options from the rustic, yet elegant lodge to the many picnic areas you’ll find at the North Rim.
Grand Canyon Lodge Dining Room
The hub of activity is centered around the Grand Canyon Lodge. Inside, find its dining room, a historic space with exceptional canyon views, along with a soaring log ceiling and rustic stone design features.
The dining room serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner throughout the day, and reservations are required for dinner. The menu focuses on fresh and healthy ingredients with lots of organic options. The dress code is casual, and hiking boots and pants are the norm.
Opening at 5:30 am for the early risers, find barista-made coffee along with grab-and-go items at the Coffee Saloon.
Deli in the Pines
Deli in the Pines opens later—at 10 am. There, you can find grab-and-go items for hot and cold sandwiches, along with salads, pizza, and soups. It offers a range of beverages and snacks. All items are served to-go.
Grab a cold one at Roughrider Saloon starting at 11 am, along with an assortment of snacks. It’s the meeting spot in the evening as guests gather and retell the adventures of the day.
Picnicking at the North Rim
Along the main road, a third of the way between the Backcountry Office and the North Rim Visitor Center, find an unnamed picnic area. Find additional picnic areas at Vista Encantada, Cape Royal parking area, and Point Imperial.
Lodging and Camping on the North Rim
Visitors to the North Rim can choose between cabins, lodge rooms, or camping. Note that you cannot just show up at most of these, but need to plan ahead and reserve a space.
Grand Canyon Lodge
The Grand Canyon Lodge building features a dining room, along with a sunroom and two terraces overlooking the canyon. Lodging at the North Rim consists of historic, freestanding log cabins, along with two buildings with motel-type rooms. The cabins range from smaller Frontier Cabins to the Pioneer Cabins with room for six people. The Western Cabins offer front porches, and all cabins are located within walking distance of the lodge.
Lodging opens in mid-May on the North Rim and closes for the season in mid-October. Again, this is a popular destination, so make reservations well in advance.
Note, none of the lodging at the Grand Canyon’s North Rim offers air-conditioning, but the rooms feature telephones. Cell phone coverage is spotty.
The lodge offers its guests a complimentary shuttle to the Kaibab Trailhead twice a day.
North Rim Campground
- Seasonal from mid-May to October 31
- Reservations only
- 87 sites, no RV spots
- Potable water with flush toilets
- No Showers
- Seasonal Dump Station
Find a general store in the area with self-serve laundry, paid showers, along with picnic and camping supplies. Gas is also for sale in the area. You can get up close to the canyon when you camp on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
History of Grand Canyon
The Colorado River carved out the Grand Canyon that measures 18 miles wide, one mile deep, and 277 river miles long. Human artifacts that date back 12,000 years have been discovered in the Grand Canyon.
Grand Canyon was proclaimed a national park in 1919, though it was protected as a forest reserve in 1893. The railroad arrived at the South Rim in 1901.
On the North Rim, Gilbert Stanley Underwood designed the Grand Canyon Lodge using local, native materials. It was completed in 1928 though it was burned and rebuilt in 1937. Underwood also designed lodges at Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park. In 1987, the Grand Canyon lodge earned its designation as a National Historic Landmark.
The Civilian Conservation Corps
A group of young men arrived at the Grand Canyon in 1933. Part of President Roosevelt’s Works Progress Program, the Civilian Conservation Corps worked on conservation projects across the US, especially in the National Parks.
During their tenure, the men of the CCC worked on the trails on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. They constructed the Colorado River Trail on the bottom of the canyon. In 1935 the CCC connected the North Rim to the South Rim with the Trans-Canyon Telephone Line.
The People of Grand Canyon
People have lived in and around the Grand Canyon for thousands of years. From pictographs to hunting points, experts continue to discover artifacts. Note that you cannot remove anything you might find while visiting the Grand Canyon.
In more recent times, 11 different Native American groups live in the Grand Canyon area. During your visit, learn about the arts and culture of the region. On the South Rim, the first-voice interpretation of the Grand Canyon area at the Desert View Inter-tribal Cultural Heritage Site will open in late 2022.
Getting to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon
The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is about 57 miles southeast of Fredonia along Arizona State Highway 67. From December until mid-May, AZ State Highway 67 is closed at Jacob Lake. Driving from the South Rim to the North Rim requires a 220-mile drive and takes a minimum of four hours.
Grand Canyon is open 365-days a year and 24 hours a day, so people can enter on foot (or snowshoes) during the winter. Admission is $30 per vehicle for a 7-day pass, or you can use an America the Beautiful annual pass ($80).
Anytime you go above 8,000 feet, you can experience altitude sickness. Look for the following symptoms, and know it can affect anyone regardless of age or health.
- shortness of breath
- loss of appetite
- trouble sleeping
Over-the-counter medications and hydration can help, and symptoms should improve in 24 to 48 hours. If symptoms don’t improve or get worse, consult a medical professional. Also, take plenty of water with you when you visit the Grand Canyon.
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The North Rim of the Grand Canyon Won’t Disappoint
A trip to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon offers a whole host of wow moments, especially when enjoying the sunset. Even as a seasoned traveler of Arizona and the Southwest, I didn’t plan enough time to explore and yearn to go back.
When your plans include a family road trip or you are looking for the perfect national park vacation, be sure to check out Wander to help you plan an unforgettable adventure.