Planning A Trip to Grand Canyon’s North Rim

National Parks
Jul 2017
Overlook view of Grand Canyon National Park at sunset

Time spent at the North Rim of Grand Canyon is like no other adventure you’ll ever experience due to the remote wilderness and incredible canyon views! These and other highlights are perfect reasons to start planning a trip to Grand Canyon’s North Rim. Removed from the tourism magnet of the South Rim by a 10-mile-wide gash in the earth, the North Rim’s relatively quiet atmosphere allows hikers to enjoy the Grand Canyon without dodging tour buses and family photo shoots.

The Kaibab Plateau, through which the Grand Canyon was carved by the mighty waters of the Colorado River, is sloped toward the south, creating a different erosion pattern on the walls of the North Rim than on the South Rim. This geologic uniquity allows North Rim visitors to view South Rim’s towering and colorful cliffs from the best vantage point possible, the back patio of the North Rim Grand Canyon Lodge.

Why Visit Grand Canyon’s North Rim?

If your goal is to see the Grand Canyon through the windows and interpretive displays of a Visitor’s Center, the North Rim is not for you. Its remote location and limited open season limit the amount of development the park can and will manage. Amenities include one 140-cabin lodge, one restaurant (plus a pizza place with basic pre-made sandwiches, and some limited options at the amazing Rough Rider Saloon), one 100-site campground, and a few trails.

North Rim Season

  • Grand Canyon North Rim lodge – open May 15th through October 15th
  • Camping and other limited services are available through the end of October

 

North Rim Hiking Trails

Go on a guided Rim to Rim hiking trip with AOA
Photo by: Jill Richards

North Kaibab Trail

14 miles one-way to Phantom Ranch.

Shorter popular options on this trail include hiking to Supai Tunnel at 1.7 miles one-way (this is the first water re-supply location), and Roaring Springs at 3 miles one-way. Check out this NPS trail guide to learn more.

  • Trailhead is 2.1 miles from the lodge
  • Water and non-flushing restroom at trailhead
  • Parking at trailhead
  • The lodge provides a $20 one-way shuttle at 5:30am and 6:30am (reservation required: call 928-638-2389).

Widforss Trail

5 miles one-way to beautiful Widforss Point and including 2.5 miles along the rim of the canyon; learn more with this trail guide.

  • Trailhead is near North Kaibab Trailhead except you turn west down a dirt road and drive 1 mile, instead of turning east into the Kaibab Trailhead parking lot.
  • The trail is named for Gunner Widforss, an artist who lived and painted here

Cape Final Trail

2 miles one-way; trailhead is located at the end of the Cape Royal Road and is little visited.

  • No restrooms. Make sure to bring your own water and maybe a picnic lunch to enjoy at this magnificent viewpoint!
  • A longer, less maintained version of this kind of hike could be had on any of the 10 miles of the Ken Patrick Trail as well, which runs from the North Kaibab Parking Lot to Point Imperial. Recommend starting at Point imperial where there is water and restrooms and the trail is slightly easier to follow.

 

Where to Stay at the North Rim

Whether you are a camper or prefer to sleep indoors, the accommodations at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon are one of its most charming components and hearken back to its still-vibrant history of early- to mid-century western travel and tourism. Cabins at the North Rim are basic, amounting to just a bathroom (with shower, no tub), beds, a desk, and heat. 3 cabin sizes are available, from the tiny Frontier with space for 2-3 people (barely), to the Pioneers with space for 2 adults plus a bunk bed and futon to house a family. My personal favorites are the mid-sized Western Cabins, with two queen beds and beautifully quaint porches, complete with rocking chairs. Reservations are available 13 months in advance by calling Forever Resorts at 877-386-4383 or going online.

Eat and Relax at Grand Canyon Lodge

When you finish your day of epic Grand Canyon hiking, I recommend a dinner reservation for around sunset time at the Grand Canyon Lodge’s dining room (actually, make your reservation for about 30 minutes before the start of sunset since service is notoriously slow). Or enjoy an early or late dinner, and secure one of the wooden Adirondack chairs on the secluded back patio of the lodge to watch the sunset. Make sure to stay up past your bedtime on new-moon nights for Star Parties where amateur astronomers set up telescopes to view the sky’s most spectacular sights!

Whether looking for the quieter side of Grand Canyon, or wanting something different than the usual tour bus stop, Grand Canyon’s North Rim is worth the long drive. Click here to find more information on all there is to see and do at the North Rim.