quick guide exploring grand canyon north rim

A Quick Guide to Exploring the Grand Canyon North Rim

The Grand Canyon’s North Rim may only be 20 miles away from the popular South Rim as the crow flies, but thanks to its remote location and higher elevation, it offers an entirely different experience.

If you’re torn between the iconic views of the South Rim and the rugged wilderness to the north, our brief guide to the visiting North Rim will help you decide if this off-the-beaten-path Grand Canyon experience is right for you. Keep reading to discover what you need to know before you visit, including what viewpoints to include on your must-see list. Let’s jump in!

3 Things to Know Before you Visit

There are three key differences between the North Rim and the South and West Rims to keep in mind while you plan your Grand Canyon adventure:

1. The North Rim is more remote.

The North Rim is much farther from Las Vegas than the South or West Rim. There’s also no airport nearby, which makes it more difficult to reach. As a result, the North Rim receives only 10% of the visitors seen by the South Rim, which makes for a more peaceful experience that’s perfect for those looking for a quieter, more rugged Grand Canyon adventure.

The quickest way to reach the North Rim from Las Vegas is by airplane. Check out these North Rim airplane tours:

North Rim Airplane & Ground Tour

North Rim Airplane &
Ground Tour

Fly to the North Rim in an air-conditioned flightseeing airplane before embarking on an all-terrain adventure on a 4×4 Polaris Ranger.

RESERVE NOW

Grand Canyon North Rim Helicopter Tour

North Rim
Helicopter Tour

Soar over the Grand Canyon to the North Rim and see the deepest part of the Canyon on 30 minute helicopter tour.

RESERVE NOW

grand canyon imperial helicopter tour

Imperial Helicopter
Tour

Take an awe-inspiring flight over the eastern Grand Canyon and Imperial Point during your 50 minute helicopter tour.

RESERVE NOW

2. The North Rim is about 1,000 feet higher in elevation.

Because of the North Rim’s higher elevation, this region of the Grand Canyon is home to a wider range of vegetation and wildlife. It also results in a cooler climate, with significantly higher amounts of snowfall than the South or West Rim.

STAY SAFE: The North Rim’s higher elevation also means you’ll have to take extra precautions if you plan on hiking. It’s easier to find yourself dehydrated and out of breath at this altitude, so take it easy, take breaks, and pack lots of water and snacks to keep yourself energized. Visitors with respiratory or heart problems may have difficulty.

3. It’s open on a seasonal basis.

Unlike the South Rim, the North Rim is only open seasonally, from May 15 till October 15 because of the higher elevation and cooler temperatures.

Exceptions
  • Hikers and cross-country skiers can access the North Rim through the winter months with a valid backcountry permit.
  • The Grand Canyon Lodge and restaurants close from October 15-31, but the campground remains open with limited services.
  • Between November 1 and December 1, the North Rim is open for dawn-to-dusk day use with limited services, unless the highway is closed due to inclement weather.

Who Should Visit the North Rim?

The North Rim is ideal for travelers who:

  • Have already visited the South and/or West Rim.
  • Are looking for a quieter, more remote Grand Canyon experience.
  • Are on a longer National Parks road trip that also includes Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks.

9 Can’t-Miss North Rim Viewpoints

Like the South Rim, the North Rim is home to a number of breathtaking viewpoints. They may require more effort to reach because the area is less developed, but we promise they’re worth it! Here are 9 viewpoints you can’t miss on your North Rim adventure.

1. Point Imperial

grand canyon north rim point imperial

Point Imperial. Image Source: Grand Canyon National Park via Flickr.
At an elevation of 8,803 feet, Point Imperial is the highest overlook on the North Rim. It also offers the northernmost view of the Grand Canyon. The overlook has picnic tables that are perfect for a mid-day meal or snack, and the trip can easily take half a day, so make sure you leave enough time in your schedule to visit the North Rim’s most iconic vista.

While you’re there, look eastward for views of the junction of the Colorado River and the Little Colorado River, as well as the Painted Desert. You’ll also see Marble Canyon, which opens dramatically into a view of the gaping Grand Canyon that most people are familiar with. Also on display: Mount Hayden, Vermillion Cliffs, the upper Colorado Canyon, and large areas of buttes and cliffs.

How to Get to Point Imperial

Point Imperial is reachable via an 11-mile drive from the North Rim Visitor Center, followed by a short walk after you park.

2. Cape Royal

grand canyon north rim cape royal

Cape Royal. Image Source: Grand Canyon National Park via Flickr.
Cape Royal is the southernmost vantage point on the North Rim. At an elevation of 8,000 feet, it offers the closest thing to a panoramic view of the Canyon, which makes it especially popular at sunset. The Canyon occupies 270 degrees of the horizon, with views of Marble Canyon in the northeast across to the South Rim Visitor Center and the Palisades of the Desert in the south. Keep your eyes peeled for Desert View Watchtower on the South Rim!
How to Get to Cape Royal

Cape Royal is reachable via a 23 mile road from the Visitor Center, followed by a short walk (less than a mile) along a paved, level trail. Along the way, you’ll catch views of Angel’s Window, as well as the Unkar Delta and the Colorado River.

3. Bright Angel Point

bright angel point north rim

Bright Angel Point. Image Source: Grand Canyon National Park via Flickr.
Bright Angel Point is the most popular viewpoint on the North Rim. It offers viewf of the South Rim 11 miles across the Canyon, as well as Bright Angel Canyon, a small part of the inner Grand Canyon gorge, and the Walhalla Plateau to the east.
HISTORY FACT: Bright Angel Point got its name from John Wesley Powell, one of the Grand Canyon’s earliest explorers. On an 1869 expedition along the Colorado River, Powell named a muddy creek upstream the “Dirty Devil”. He regretted this choice, so when he came across another creek with sparkling clear water, he called it “Bright Angel” instead, after a character in John Milton’s Paradise Lost. The name stuck, and you’ll find references to it throughout the Grand Canyon.
How to Get to Bright Angel Point

Bright Angel Point can be easily reached via a half-mile paved trail, with spur paths that provide access to views of Bright Angel Canyon below, as well as buttes and temples.

4. Roosevelt Point

roosevelt point grand canyon north rim

Roosevelt Point. Image Source: Grand Canyon National Park via Flickr.
Roosevelt Point was dedicated in 1990 to commemorate President Roosevelt, who was instrumental in the creation of the Grand Canyon National Park. Views at Roosevelt Point are slightly restricted, but you will catch a good view of the scenery to the north, as well as views of Tritle Peak and a flat plain that stretches between Echo and Vermillion Cliffs. There are also benches where you can sit down and have a picnic, or simply enjoy the sights.
How to Get to Roosevelt Point

This lookout is located close to the main road, about halfway between Bright Angel Point and Cape Royal, and is accessible via a short, downhill trail.

5. Walhalla Overlook

walhalla overlook north rim grand canyon

Walhalla Overlook. Image Source: Ken Lund via Flickr.
Walhalla Overlook offers similar views to Cape Royal; however, this viewpoint has a lower elevation than other North Rim viewpoints, which means it offers a better view of the Unkar Delta, as well as part of the Colorado River where the ancient Puebloans used to farm, called the Walhalla Glades. More than 100 farms have been found on the Walhalla Plateau, all of which were occupied between 1050 and 1150 AD.
How to Get to Walhalla Overlook

Walhalla Overlook is located on the Walhalla Plateau close to the end of the Cape Royal Road, about 1 mile before Angel’s Window.

6. Cape Final

cape final grand canyon north rim

Cape Final. Image Source: Grand Canyon National Park via Flickr.
Cape Final offers nearly 270 degree panoramic views of the eastern Grand Canyon, with views that are less obscured by trees than you’ll find at Cape Royal. Other views from Cape Final include several miles of the the South Rim plateau, the Painted Desert to the east, and a mix of mesas, cliffs, and ravines, such as Juno Temple, Jupiter Temple, Unkar Creek, and Freya Castle.
How to Get to Cape Final

Cape Final is accessible via a 4 mile round-trip hike (2 miles each way). The hike isn’t overly difficult, and is less well-traveled than other trails on the North Rim.

7. Uncle Jim Point

uncle jim point grand canyon north rim

Uncle Jim Point. Image Source: brewbooks via Flickr.
Uncle Jim Point is named after James T. Owen, a game reserve warden who lived on the North Rim for over 10 years. The trail to Uncle Jim Point offers partial views of Roaring Springs Canyon. At the overlook, you’ll be able to see a short section of the South Rim in the distance, as well as the first few miles of the North Kaibab trail. Most of the Colorado Gorge is hidden behind the Walhalla Plateau in the east and Bright Angel Point in the west.
HISTORY FACT: James Owen reportedly killed more than 500 mountain lions in an attempt to strengthen the area’s deer population. Unfortunately, his plan backfired. With no predators to keep them in check, the deer population exploded, and many died due to starvation.
How to Get to Uncle Jim Point

The Uncle Jim Trail initially parallels the Ken Patrick Trail, another well-known North Rim hiking trail. After about 20 minutes, you’ll reach the point where the Ken Patrick and Uncle Jim Trails split. Keep right for the Uncle Jim Trail.

8. Widforss Trail

widforss trail grand canyon north rim

View of Transept Canyon from Widforss Trail. Image Source: Grand Canyon National Park via Flickr.
Named after Gunnar Widforss, an early 20th century artist who lived at and painted the Grand Canyon in the 1930s, Widforss Trail follows the Canyon rim for about 2.5 miles before heading into the forest to emerge at Widforss Point.

Widforss Point is a narrow, wooded promontory located about half a mile southeast of the end of the trail, with nearly 360 degree panoramic views. Be warned—the point is hard to reach, requiring a scramble off-trail across steep, bushy land, and a 200 foot climb.

9. Point Sublime

Point Sublime is difficult to reach. A 4-wheel drive vehicle is recommended, as you’ll have to traverse a 17-mile bumpy dirt road that’s often washed out to reach this viewpoint.

North Rim Lodging

The Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge, which was originally built by Gilbert Stanley Underwood in 1927-1928, is operated by Forever Resorts, an official NPS concessioner. The lodge offers a range of accommodations, including motel rooms and cabins. The National Park Service also operates a campground on the North Rim.

Whether you opt for the Grand Canyon Lodge or a camping excursion, reservations are strongly recommended.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a quieter Grand Canyon experience with fewer visitors, the North Rim might be perfect for you. Explore the North Rim’s rugged landscape on one of our North Rim tours:

North Rim Airplane & Ground Tour

North Rim Airplane &
Ground Tour

Fly to the North Rim in an air-conditioned flightseeing airplane before embarking on an all-terrain adventure on a 4×4 Polaris Ranger.

RESERVE NOW

Grand Canyon North Rim Helicopter Tour

North Rim
Helicopter Tour

Soar over the Grand Canyon to the North Rim and see the deepest part of the Canyon on 30 minute helicopter tour.

RESERVE NOW

grand canyon imperial helicopter tour

Imperial Helicopter
Tour

Take an awe-inspiring flight over the eastern Grand Canyon and Imperial Point during your 50 minute helicopter tour.

RESERVE NOW