OK, so you might have heard a few horror stories about Grand Canyon South Rim: it’s hot and crowded in the summertime… hotels booked to the rafters a year in advance… Mule rides? Forget about it! Not only was the Plateau Point ride discontinued, the daily quota for the Phantom Ranch mule ride was slashed in half, making it even harder to grab a spot on what is perhaps the most coveted visitor experience in the Southwest US.
But there’s a time and place where all these rigid rules about Grand Canyon travel soften around the edges. It occurs between May 15th and October 15th, a short but sweet spell where a Grand Canyon visitor can quietly savor the scent of a cool breeze wafting through tall Ponderosa pines, and listen to the call of a canyon wren echoing from the depths of the gorge. Braver souls can even walk up to the tour desk and be lucky enough to book a Grand Canyon North Rim mule ride, not for next year, no – *gasp* the next day!
This is no alternate reality, friends – this is the Grand Canyon’s cooler, quieter and dare I say prettier North Rim.
This debate – South Rim vs. North Rim – is a very hot topic on travel forums such as TripAdvisor.com at this time of year. Several threads on this subject are active as we speak, but here’s one that’s trending now:
Now, all that said, here at GrandCanyon.com, 99% of the time, we recommend Grand Canyon South Rim for first time visitors. Here’s why:
1. Grand Canyon South Rim has a larger viewing area of the Grand Canyon. The views are those vast, colorful “iconic” images that you’re most likely expecting to see anyway.
2. Grand Canyon South Rim has more visitor services such as hotels, restaurants, gift shops, etc. To compare: Grand Canyon South Rim has a dozen hotels in the immediate vicinity of the park; the North Rim has three.
3. Grand Canyon North Rim is far less commercialized than the South Rim, which really is the whole point. But if you’re traveling with kids, particularly teens, they may find the North Rim to be a little too laid-back. The South Rim and its facilities have the activities and amenities that appeal to today’s families. Want a Grand Canyon air tour? They’re at the South Rim. Hotels with continental breakfast, in-room wi-fi, pools, etc? South Rim again.
Now, if you couldn’t care less about any of those things and are more into hiking, photography, or just kicking back and enjoying nature, by all means, go to the North Rim! After all, there’s no such thing as an “ugly” side of the Grand Canyon. Or maybe you’ve already been to the South Rim and are ready for something different. Go North. But the key to a fulfilling visit to Grand Canyon North Rim is to plan ahead, well ahead. The Grand Canyon Lodge, the sole in-park hotel, is typically booked a year in advance. Out-of-park properties, such as the Kaibab Lodge and Jacob Lake Inn, also book several months in advance. Gateway cities are somewhat far away. There’s Kanab, Utah, about 90 minutes from the park; Page-Lake Powell Arizona, roughly 2.5 hours from the park (and also deserving of a couple days of your time – more on that later), and St. George Utah, about 3 hours from Grand Canyon North Rim.
Here are a couple of videos you might watch too:
1. Grand Canyon North Rim Lodging, including in-park and out-of-park:
2. Trips to the Grand Canyon Rims: South, North and West:
Have a “grand” day friends! Talk to you later,