While the south rim may see more visitors, the Grand Canyon North Rim is widely considered the more photogenic section of the national park. Due to more rapid erosion on the north side of the canyon, the views from each vista provide more dramatic rock formations, vibrant color, a greater sense of scale, and more pronounced layers than the southerly counterpart.
Oh, and it is also far less crowded!
The drawback for most is that the North Rim is more remote and is closed in the winter. Those who wish to visit both sections must drive about 4 hours by car from the Grand Canyon South Rim. Last, hikers wishing to journey to the bottom of the canyon add an extra 1300 feet of elevation by beginning from the North Rim.
That said, travelers will find the North Rim far more comfortable in terms of climate in the summer months and photography enthusiasts will inevitably take home a lot more “keepers” in their camera roll.
This travel guide to the Grand Canyon North Rim aims to provide you with everything you need for planning your visit, including best hikes, vistas, and all need-to-know information.
You may also want to queue up the following Grand Canyon guides as well to help plan and inspire your visit:
Disclosure: In order to keep providing you with free content, this post may contain affiliate links. If you make a booking or purchase through one of these links we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. So a HUGE thank you to you if you click one of these links 🙂
Quick Facts About the Grand Canyon North Rim
- Location: Arizona, USA
- Established: February 26, 1919
- Size: 1.217 million acres (4,926 km²)
- Annual Visitors: 2,897,098 (2020), 5,974,411 (2019)
- Visitor Centers: North Rim Visitor Center (open May 15 to October 15)
- Entrance Fee: $35 per vehicle; $30 per motorcycle; $20 per individual; $80 Interagency Annual Pass
Grand Canyon North Rim Operating Hours
Before planning, be advised that the road to the Grand Canyon North Rim is closed from Dec 1 through May 14! Additionally, many services such as restaurants, lodging, and campgrounds are only open from May 15 through Oct 15.
Technically, the park remains open during this time for snowshoers, backpackers, and cross country skiers, but this requires parking 45 miles away at Jacob Lake and a backcountry permit in advance!
Aside from the seasonal closure mentioned above, visitors may enter and exit the park day or night, but are not allowed to park overnight outside of permitted campgrounds or lodging. This means that even self-contained vehicles, such as RVs and camper vans, are not permitted to freedom camp at viewpoints or trailheads.
Map of Grand Canyon North Rim National Park
To help you plan your visit, we’ve included a couple of useful maps of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon NP below.
Official North Rim Grand Canyon National Park Map
Below is the official park map. You can find a downloadable version of this map and others for Grand Canyon North Rim on the NPS website.
Interactive Google Map of Grand Canyon North Rim
We’ve also put together an interactive Google Map of North Rim Grand Canyon, featuring all of the sights and places we mention within this blog post. Click here or on the image below to open the map in a new tab.
Top Sights in Grand Canyon North Rim
The following are the best viewpoints and short hikes available in the Grand Canyon North Rim. If you are interested in reading more about where and when to visit, be sure to queue up our Grand Canyon North Rim Photography Guide to learn about the best places for sunrise, sunset, and night sky photography.
Bright Angel Point
While this is not my favorite view, it is easily the most visited because it is the most accessible. Bright Angel Point is located at the Visitor Center, near the Grand Canyon Lodge and campground. It is popular for sunrise and sunset in particular, and for enjoying the view from the restaurant with a beverage or meal.
Without a doubt, Cape Royal is the best viewpoint in the Grand Canyon NP North Rim. It is the only place in the park that provides ample views to the east, south, and west, making it great for sunrises, sunsets, and astrophotography.
You’ll have sweeping views over the canyon towards the South Rim, where you can spot various rock features including Wotan’s Throne, Vishnu’s Temple, Desert Watchtower, Grandview Point, and Horseshoe Mesa. To the east, you can also see the Colorado River almost 8000 ft below!
The cape is located at the end of the scenic drive, about 23 miles from the Visitor Center, and is a very windy road. It is not recommended for vehicles over 30 feet.
This is another can’t-miss when exploring the North Rim, and is particularly noteworthy for sunrise and Milky Way photography. While your view is limited to mostly just the east by southeast, the viewpoint at Point Imperial provides an incredible landscape and foreground for photos.
In addition to a beautiful setting for photography, Point Imperial is a great place to enjoy lunch or dinner with bathroom facilities and picnic tables provided.
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Best Things to Do in Grand Canyon North Rim
Assuming time, interest, and physical ability, consider adding the following things to your itinerary when visiting the North Rim.
Hike or Ride the North Kaibab Trail to the Bottom
Most visitors wanting to get to the bottom of the Grand Canyon will do so from the South Rim as it is considerably lower in elevation to start. However, it is possible to get to the bottom from the North Rim as well by taking the North Kaibab Trail. Day trips are highly discouraged and permits are required.
If you are a hardcore hiker, consult the visitor center prior to beginning your hike to find out about your options and permits. Hiking distances vary.
For the not-so-athletic among us, you can hire a mule to deliver you to the bottom. This must also be arranged at the visitor center or you can book online in advance on Canyon Rides website. Mule rides are either 1 hour or 3 hours, depending on which ride you opt for, and cost $50 or $100 per person, respectively.
Drive the Cape Royal Scenic Road
The best views of the Grand Canyon are from the North Rim, and the best viewpoints in the North Rim are all along the Cape Royal Scenic Road. This winding, 13 mile detour diverts from Hwy 67 just before Fuller Canyon and provides a buffet of diverse lookouts and picnic areas along the way.
The stops and viewpoints along the way include Point Imperial, Vista Encantada, Roosevelt Point, Walhalla Overlook / Walhalla Glades Pueblo, and Cape Royal.
Watch the Sunset from Cape Royal
Hands down the best place to photograph sunset from the Grand Canyon North Rim is from Cape Royal. The landscapes here are dramatic and photogenic, but what makes it so incredible is having so many different directions to compose photos from.
Often times on the North Rim, the clouds will come in from the east in the opposite direction of the sunset. Being able to capture any color they get while also shooting the side-lighting to the south and even the sun going down to the west makes Cape Royal the best place for sunset.
Photograph the Sunrise at Point Imperial
Most of the North Rim Scenic Drive viewpoints face east over the Grand Canyon, so there are a lot of good options for watching sunrise. With that said, the foreground at Point Imperial is definitely the most impressive and photogenic at first light.
It will require a very early rise, but there is no better place to watch the sunrise over the Grand Canyon from the North Rim.
Enjoy a Brew With a View from Bright Angel Point
The restaurant at the Grand Canyon Lodge provides indoor and outdoor seating with sweeping views of the Grand Canyon at Bright Angel Point. Schedule time to relax and really appreciate what you are looking at over a cocktail, beer, or meal.
See the Milky Way Rise over the Grand Canyon
During most of the time that the North Rim is open, the Milky Way will be visible facing Southeast or South and can be seen rising over the Grand Canyon from most stops along the scenic drive to Cape Royal. In particular, I cannot recommend Point Imperial enough!
If you have never seen the Milky Way before, do not expect your eyes to see the color and detail that a camera picks out, but you will 100% be able to observe it with the naked eye.
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Grand Canyon North Rim Day Hikes
There are a total of 12 hikes available in the North Rim section of the Grand Canyon. Some can barely be considered a hike, while others are quite intense. For ease of reading, every hike will be listed in order of distance with a short description to follow.
Roosevelt Point Trail
Distance: 0.2 mile (0.3km) roundtrip
Not really a hike, but technically listed in the park’s hiking offerings. This very short loop brings you through a shaded woodland with places to sit and have a picnic.
Bright Angel Point Trail
Distance: 0.5 miles (0.8km) roundtrip
This short but steep walk traverses a paved trail and ends at one of the most popular viewpoints for sunset in the North Rim at Angel Point.
Cape Royal Trail & Angel’s Window Detour
Distance: 0.8 mile (1.3km) roundtrip
Take the short, easy walk to perhaps the best viewpoint in the entire park at Cape Royal. This trail also connects you to the top of Angel’s Window, which is as interesting to view from below as above!
Cliff Spring Trail
Distance: .8 mile (1.3km) roundtrip
This short hike delivers you to a small spring.
Distance: 1.9 miles (3.1km) ONE WAY
The Birdie Path follows the road, connecting hikers to the North Kaibab Trail.
Distance: 2 miles (3.2 km) ONE WAY
The Transept Trail connects the lodge to the campground while hugging a beautiful side canyon.
Cape Final Trail
Distance: 4.2 miles (6.8km) roundtrip
For those who want to stretch their legs a bit more, this moderate trail cuts through the woods and provides various views of the canyon along the way.
Uncle Jim Trail
Distance: 4.7 miles (7.6km) roundtrip
You’ll be sharing this trail with mules! The Uncle Jim Trail cuts through a forest and ends at a beautiful viewpoint overlooking the canyon.
Distance: 9.6 miles (15.5km) roundtrip
Walk through a blend of forest and canyon scenery on one of the park’s most popular trails.
Ken Patrick Trail
Distance: 9.8 miles (15.8km) ONE WAY
This trail connects Point Imperial to the North Kaibab trail with plenty of views along the way from the rim.
Distance: 12.1 miles (19.5km) ONE WAY
The Arizona Trail is actually mostly outside the park, though it does cross into it and eventually connects to the North Kaibab Trail.
North Kaibab Trail
Distance: Varies – See Visitor Center for more info
The North Kaibab Trail is the only way to the floor of the Grand Canyon from the North Rim. Backcountry permits are required and as this is a much longer hike than the South Rim, overnight treks are strongly recommended.
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Planning Your Visit to the North Rim of Grand Canyon NP
This section focuses on the logistics of planning your visit. Even if you are not much of a planner, it may be helpful to quickly peruse the information below to maximize your chances of a successful visit.
Best Time to Visit the Grand Canyon North Rim
Most importantly, do NOT plan a visit between Dec 1 and May 15 as the road to the Grand Canyon North Rim is closed to vehicles!
With that in mind, the best time to visit the North Rim tends to be late May through early July. Be advised that July and August are the monsoon months, which is enticing for storm photographers but less-so for hikers and families.
October and November are quieter months but be advised that most services are suspended beginning October 15. This means no restaurants, lodging, or accommodation are available and winter storms can make driving conditions hazardous.
How Many Days to Spend at the North Rim
If you are not hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, you should plan on staying overnight at the North Rim. While the scenic drive and Bright Angel Point sections can be seen in just one day, the park itself is quite remote and you will not want to rush your visit driving long distances in and out.
Staying overnight will give you enough time to do all of the activities mentioned above in the “Best Things to Do” section. These include exploring the scenic drive, watching sunset from Cape Royal, and watching both the Milky Way and sunrise over the Grand Canyon.
How to Get to the Grand Canyon National Park North Rim
The Grand Canyon North Rim is located in the northwest corner of Arizona and is 212 miles (341km) from the South Rim. There is only one way in and out of the North Rim, and that is by driving Highway 67 through Jacob Lake. It is recommended to have your own vehicle as the North Rim is remote and not easily accessible.
Be advised that the road is closed from Jacob Lake during the winter months and early spring (between Dec 1 and May 15).
If you do not have your own vehicle or don’t fancy undertaking the drive, there is also a shuttle. It runs once each day, in each direction, between the North and South Rim between May 15 and Oct 15. Between Oct 16 and Oct 31 there is a limited schedule. The journey takes approximately 4.5 hours each way and reservations are required.
Once in the park, you will be limited on the areas you can reach without a car. The park offers one shuttle to the North Kaibab Trailhead from the Grand Canyon Lodge at 5:45 am and 7:10 am. You are required to reserve a space 24 hours in advance at the front desk of the Lodge.
You can find further information and specific driving instructions on the NPS website.
Gas and Supplies
There is both a gas station (with diesel!) and a general store available at the North Rim campground. Expect prices to be higher than normal, but not extortionate. For reference, the average price for diesel was $2.99 – $3.19 in the region during my visit, and cost $3.79 at the Grand Canyon gas station.
Warning: Jacob Lake is more expensive than the Grand Canyon station!
The only nearby places outside the park to fill up are at Jacob Lake located 44 miles from the Visitor Center and at a small station called Meadows Edge located about halfway in between. During my visit, Meadows Edge and the North Rim campground station were the same price, while Jacob Lake was the most expensive option.
Regarding supplies, there is a general store and restaurant near the visitor center that operate from May 15-Oct 15.
Where to Stay at Grand Canyon North Rim National Park
The campground has a total of 47 sites with availability for tents, campers, and RVs up to 40 feet. Services include a staffed camp store, flushing toilets and potable water, however there are no showers and the site does not offer any hook-ups. The campground is closed for winter from Nov 1 – May 14. It is advertised that sites 11, 14, 15, 16 and 18 provide the best views of the canyon so it may be worth trying to book one of these sites!
Both options book up well in advance, so be sure to make arrangements ahead of time.
Additionally, backcountry camping is allowed with a permit. For the extremely adventurous, backcountry camping is possible during the winter. However, this requires a 45-mile hike, often through the snow! If you do decide to backcountry camp, ensure you are well prepared and have your permit. Visit the NPS website to find out more about backcountry camping.
Where to Stay Outside the North Rim
The closest option for camping outside of the North Rim is at Demotte Campground. It is located 7 miles (12 minutes) from the entrance station but 18 miles (30 minutes) from the North Rim visitor center.
Demotte Campground is managed by the US Forest Service and offers 38 campsites with tables and cooking grills. You are allowed tents, trailers, or motor homes, but no hook-ups are available.
If you are not able to make a reservation, 19 of the sites are first-come first serve!
Dispersed / Wild Camping in Kaibab National Forest
You will find a myriad of free options for dispersed and wild camping in the Kaibab National Forest, which encompasses the area just outside the Grand Canyon boundaries. All of these will be first-come, first-serve.
The easiest way to locate these is to download the iOverlander App which provides useful information for wild camping.
If you are looking for accommodation and cannot book the Grand Canyon Lodge at North Rim, the Jacob Lake Inn will be your only other option. It is located about 45 miles from the visitor center.
There is also a campground available at Jacob Lake that is managed by the US National Forest Service. You can find out more and make reservations by visiting their website.
Where to Eat in Grand Canyon North Rim
There are limited options for dining within the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, all of which are located at the Grand Canyon Lodge complex. They are all open daily during the open season, from May 15 to Oct 15. You can get breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as coffee and drinks. The Grand Canyon Dining room is available by booking only for dinner. The Roughrider Saloon and Deli in the Pines offer take-out options. There is also the General Store where you can buy groceries.
As I had my own food with me, I didn’t try any of the dining facilities. The reviews are a bit of a mixed bag, however, the views for a take-out drink are spectacular!
Where to Eat near Grand Canyon North Rim
Due its remote location, you are somewhat limited for food options outside of the park too. There are three places within relatively close proximity to the North Rim:
- Kaibab Lodge Restaurant – Open seasonally for breakfast lunch and dinner. (18 miles/29 km north)
- North Rim Country Store – Open seasonally and sells groceries, as well as camping and souvenir items. (18 miles/29 km north)
- Jacob Lake Inn – Open year-round for breakfast, lunch and dinner. (45 miles/72 km north)
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Useful Tips for Visiting the Grand Canyon North Rim
- Bring cold and warm clothing: The temperatures can be in the 90s (around 32-37ºc) during the summer days and still drop below 50ºF (10ºc) at night!
- Altitude: You will be at an altitude of 8297 feet (2529m) so it’s not uncommon to experience some shortness of breath or dizziness. Make sure you go slow and steady on the hikes.
- Plan ahead: As accommodation is limited in and around the park, availability becomes extremely limited. Make sure you book ahead to avoid disappointment.
- Understand the seasonal nature: As has been mentioned numerous times in this guide, the road is closed from December 1 to May 14. Additionally, many services are limited from October onward.
- Leave no trace: Please be respectful of the park. Keep to the trails, dispose of waste properly, and leave any plants etc. that you find.
- Let wild animals be wild: You may encounter many different animals that beg you for snacks or attention. Please do not feed or disturb them! Feeding wildlife can alter their behavior with humans, making them less fearful and more aggressive. This can lead to wildlife having to be euthanized.
- Drive carefully: The roads are small and windy, and you may share them with wildlife. Please adhere to speed limits and drive responsibly.
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Fun Facts About Grand Canyon National Park
- The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is visited by only 10% of all the Grand Canyon visitors.
- Hiking across the Grand Canyon from South Rim to North Rim is a total of 21 miles (34 km). However, to get there by car requires a 4.5 hour drive of 220 miles (354km)!
- The hike from the South Rim to the North Rim involves a 4860 ft (1480m) elevation loss, followed by a 5850 ft (1780m) elevation gain.
- Within Grand Canyon, there are an estimated 1000 caves, of which only 335 have been recorded and only one is open to the public – the Cave of the Domes on Horseshoe Mesa (South Rim).
- Since 1990, the Grand Canyon has been the second most visited national park in the US each year, behind Great Smoky Mountains. The only exception was 2020… but let’s face it that was a weird year all-around!
- The Grand Canyon was formed over 6 million years ago.
- While home to an array of wildlife, the most dangerous animal in the Grand Canyon is the rock squirrel. Each year dozens of visitors are bitten by them! Another reminder not to feed wildlife in the parks!
Frequently Asked Questions
Is the Grand Canyon North Rim open in the winter?
The ROAD is closed from Jacob Lake to the North Rim from December 1 through May 14! The park technically remains open for snowshoers and cross country skiers, whom will need to journey 45 miles from Jacob Lake to access the North Rim.
Is there lodging at the Grand Canyon North Rim?
Yes! You can book accommodation at the Grand Canyon Lodge – North Rim. There is also a campground available within the park.
Can you get to the bottom of the Grand Canyon from the North Rim?
Yes you can, but you add almost 1300 feet (396m) in elevation to your journey. Those who wish to visit the bottom of the canyon can hike the North Kaibab Trail or arrange a mule ride from the North Rim Visitor Center.
What is the best place for sunrise in the Grand Canyon North Rim?
Point Imperial is widely considered the best viewpoint for watching sunrise. However, most viewpoints along the scenic drive to Cape Royal also face east, so there are many options available.
Where is the best place for sunset in the North Rim?
Most visitors will watch sunset from Bright Angel near the visitor center as it is the most accessible. However, the best place to watch and photograph sunset in the Grand Canyon North Rim is Cape Royal at the end of the scenic drive.
Is the Grand Canyon North Rim wheel-chair friendly?
Mostly, yes! Most of the viewpoints along the scenic drive do not require any hiking at all, and those that do can mostly be traversed by wheelchair. Additionally, there are viewing platforms in the Bright Angel region that are entirely accessible as well. However, the terrain can be rugged in some places and assistance may be required.
Is the Grand Canyon North Rim worth visiting?
Absolutely, yes! Not only is it worth visiting, it is far more photogenic than the South Rim.
What is the elevation of the Grand Canyon North Rim?
8297 feet (2529m), almost 1300 feet (396m) higher than the South Rim at 7000 feet (3134m).
Final thoughts on Visiting the Grand Canyon North Rim
The first time I visited the Grand Canyon, I went to the South Rim and was honestly a little disappointed. It was hard to get a sense of the grandiose scale, the air was extremely hazy, and there were way too many people. The North Rim, however, was the complete opposite!
If you have the opportunity, make the effort and visit the North Rim and truly experience what makes the Grand Canyon National Park so special! Before you go, you may also find the following guides useful:
As always, do not hesitate to leave feedback in the comments if there is anything we can do to improve our guide, or if you have found anything to be inaccurate. Or if you found it helpful and have something nice to say – we like that too! 🙂