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:
BROWSE NORTH RIM AIRPLANE TOURS
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.
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.
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
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
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 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.
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 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 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 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 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.
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
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.
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: