Grand Canyon

The North Rim
John McKinney

Adding in a trip a few hours south to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in Northern Arizona, made our trip unforgettable. Unlike its South Rim brother which is open year round, the North Rim is only open when the snow stops in May and closes when the snow starts in October. This is definitely a much different experience than the South Rim. The North Rim has a cool, temperate climate even in July. It is also very far from…well everything. This secluded area is an amazing place to spend a few days.

The North Rim Visitor Center is in what I’ll call a National Park Village. Unlike many other parks that spread out some of their amenities, The North Rim keeps everything right around each other. The visitor center, Cabins you stay in, main restaurant, bar, and snack shack are all basically around one cul-de-sac.

The hikes

You don’t have to take long hikes to see incredible views here, just walk from the parking lot to the back of the lodge. There are a few small viewpoints directly behind there and the deservedly popular Bright Angel Point is only a short walk away. All of which offer breathtaking views of the grandest of canyons. The National Park Service definitely chose a great location for their base of operations for the North Rim.

If you’re looking to view more of the canyon, I highly recommend the Widforss Trail. This 10-mile out and back trail won’t tax you much as it doesn’t change elevation much and nearly your entire trek is through shaded woods. The view from the end of the trail is astounding though. On a clear day, you can see parts of the South Rim village. You get to see more of the canyon that is hidden from view at the lodge, made better by the fact that you have to work for the view. The other bonus is that a 10-mile hike scares off most of the masses so you’ll get to enjoy this hike while only seeing a few people here and there.

If you’re feeling adventurous and want much more of a challenge, hike down into the canyon as far as you can on the North Kaibab Trail. Just remember whatever you climb down, you have to climb back up which is exponentially harder. Make sure to talk to a ranger at the visitor center the day before so you can get a feel for how far you should really be going. This is the same trail that you can take if you are hiking from the North Rim to the South Rim. If you’re doing that trek, you absolutely need to talk to a ranger first to check-in and find out predicted weather conditions or any dangers you may need to know about.

Don’t forget to take the scenic drive out to Point Imperial and Cape Royal on the other side of the Park from the lodge. Both offer short walks to exquisite views that will provide different vantage points to the world-famous canyon.

Where to stay

You really only have one choice here if you don’t plan on camping. You can either stay about an hour’s drive away in Jacob Lake and drive in OR you can stay in one of the cabins just a few steps away from the Grand Canyon. Do I really need to tell you what the correct choice is here? I didn’t think so.

Staying in the cabins at the lodge feels a lot like you’re Summer camp again except now you can have wine while watching the sunset out by the lodge. There are a few options for cabins ranging from fancy ones with porches to small no-frill shacks that just have a small bathroom and a bed. We chose the latter, it’s not like we planned on staying in our room outside of going to sleep.

The other option you do have is camping, there are a few really nice campsites in the North Rim. I would enjoy doing that the next time I visit but that wasn’t our selection this trip.

“The other bonus is that a 10-mile hike scares off most of the masses so you’ll get to really enjoy this hike.”

Where to eat

You have four options when staying in the North Rim. You can eat at the Grand Canyon Lodge Dining Room, Deli in the Pines, pizza at the bar next to the lodge, or whatever you bring yourself. The first night we ate at the Grand Canyon Lodge Dining Room, the sunset views alone were worth it. It’s a little more pricey than the other options but the food was delicious. The second night we had Deli in the Pines. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t great either. We had some great drinks at the bar near the lodge and heard a few people really enjoyed the pizza.

How Many Days

You could easily spend as long as you wanted here. There are a number of hiking options to keep you busy, as well as the ability to relax and read enjoying the beautiful weather and views. This place is one of the more peaceful and relaxing places we’ve ever been. We arrived around noon hiked some of the smaller areas and viewpoints the afternoon that day, hiked part of the North Kaibab and did the whole Widforss the next morning into the early afternoon. Did a lot of relaxing both evenings out by the views but definitely wish we had another day or two here. You could stay here for a full week and soak in all this wonderful, remote, and rarely open location has to offer.

Overall the whole experience couldn’t have been more relaxing. I feel like it doesn’t matter how long you vacation in the North Rim, you’ll still leave wanting more. I know there are many who come back every 1-3 years , I wouldn’t mind being counted among them.

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