The North Rim of the Grand Canyon

By wasatch | Jul 1, 2021
North America > United States > Arizona > Grand Canyon


The advantages of the North Rim are:

  • 1: it is much less crowded, and
  • 2: its altitude is 1,000 ft. higher than the more popular South Rim, which is to say that the canyon when seen from the North Rim is 1,000 ft. deeper than as seen from the South Rim;
  • 3: the view from the table windows in the restaurant in the North Rim lodge is one of the best views of the Grand Canyon anywhere on either rim, and
  • 4: everything considered, I think the best views on either rim are the view from the North rim's Cape Royal.


  • 1: On the North Rim, you face south to look into the canyon, so the sun is kind of in your eyes except at sunset and sunrise, when views are best anyhow because of the lighting. Important Note: We visit the North Rim in October, when the sun is much lower in the sky that in midsummer. I suspect the sun in our eyes problem (its not really much of a problem either, but it is a problem that is not seen from the South Rim at all), but if you stay here overnight, you can see the canyon at sunrise and sunset with the sun not in your face.
  • 2: Unlike the South Rim, the North Rim is not open year round. Due to its higher altitude, the road is blocked by winter snows, although not so much lately because of man made Global Warming.

The Views

The North Rim Lodge, restaurants, and North Rim Visitors Center are at Bright Angel Point. There are tables in the dining room that look right down into the canyon. The view from the front window tables in the dinning room give you a sensation of floating in the air above the canyon because you cannot see the rim, about 5 feet away and 10 ft below the window tables. There is a restaurant in Eze Village, France, that produces the same sensation, like you are floating in the air above the Mediterranean, but Eze Village is only 1,100 ft above the water.

The best rim views from the North Rim are on the 52 mile drive round trip from the North Rim Visitor's Center to Cape Royal and Point Imperial. At 8,800 ft above sea level, Point Imperial is the highest point on either rim.

Hikes and Walks

The Bright Angel Trail is a trail to the bottom of the canyon. It is more than a mile more straight down to the river, but the problem comes when it's more that a mile straight up to get back. That's why most who descend to the bottom of the canyon ride the mules on Bright Angel Trail from the South Rim. Either way, take lots of water, for the temperature often increases 30-40 degrees F (roughly 10 degrees C) as you go down. The Bright Angel Trail is the only hiking trial that connects both rims of the Grand Canyon, but note this, if you do it one way, its 234 miles by road back to where you started.

The Bright Angel Point Trail is something different. Every road accessible view point on both rims of the Grand Canyon are located on the top of the canyon rim except Bright Angel Point, which is a peninsula extending out into the canyon from the rim. From the rim, you see a 180 degree view of the canyon. The view from Bright Angel Point is almost 360 degrees-- look straight ahead, which is the south rim view too. Then look to the left, look to the right, look behind you and every look looks down into the depths of the canyon

There short and long trails along the rim which are relatively flat. Flat is is good because at 8,000 ft above sea level, most visitors will be gulping for oxygen with fairly little exertion.


The largest town in Arizona on the North Rim side of the Grand Canyon has a population 1,314 people. The North Rim doesn't live on local visitors. Everybody who visits the North Rim is from far away and needs a room for the night. Rooms at the North Rim Lodge either face the canyon or, on the other side, the forest. There is also a motel and a cabin village close to the lodge. We have never stayed there because visiting the North Rim is not a once in lifetime experience for us. Instead, its a scenic day trip to get there. We have always stayed in Kanab, UT, about a 90 minute drive from the North Rim. Rooms in Kanab are way less expensive. Kanab is less than a two hour drive from Zion National Park and from Bryce canyon National Park. NOTE: the North Rim Lodge requires advanced reservations, possibly as long as a year ahead.

There are also scattered motels, dude ranches, and lodges on the road to the North Rim in and south of Jacob's Lake, AZ. When we visit the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, we usually stop at Jacob's Lake Inn for dinner when returning to Kanab rather than eat at the inferior restaurants in Kanab. The quality of the food at Jacob Inn would tempt me to stay there if we wanted lodging an hour closer to the North Rim than Kanab.

In the Neighborhood

The Grand Canyon is one of 9 National Parks on the vast Colorado Plateau. You cannot schedule a trip long enough to fully see the wonders of the Colorado Plateau, but on the scale of the Colorado Plateau, here are some relatively nearby places worth seeing: Pipe Stream National Monument (a real Wild West Ranch); Vermilion Cliffs, the second step of the Grand Staircase; The highway goes down to river level at Lee's Ferry, important in Utah History and in the history of the Wild West. Near Page, AZ and Lake Powell:, Goose Necks, and Antelope Slot Canyon. Antelope Canyon requires advanced reservations, possible as long as a year ahead.

A Little Geology

More than a mile below the rims, the Colorado River did not carve its way down through the rocks to create the Grand Canyon. The river is where it always was while tectonic forces slowly lifted the bottom of a 100,000,000 old sea up to the altitude of today's Colorado Plateau, reaching almost 12,000 ft above sea level on Boulder Mountain, the last “step in the Grand Staircase.

From the river, at about 2,600 ft altitude at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, the North Rim (8,000 ft.) is the first step of the Grand Staircase. The Vermilion Cliffs are the second step, then the white Grey and pink cliffs (Bryce Canyon). From Bryce Canyon (8,000 ft.) You can see the last step, the Aquarius Plateau, more than 10,000 ft. altitude and , about 200 miles north of the Grand Canyon.

The rock colors come from different layers of sandstone that were deposited on the sea floor over 300 million years. Making a long story short, the dominant reddish rock colors come from rusting sand.

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Written by wasatch
1st international trip: 1965. ~57 EU vacations. Visited 6 continets. Extensive USA travel. You can email me at

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