If you know someone who has been to the Grand Canyon, there’s a 90% chance they went to the South Rim. They probably told you it was beautiful, but also crowded. If you want to enjoy the Grand Canyon and get off the beaten path a bit to avoid the crowds and beat the heat, then the North Rim could be perfect for you.
The North Rim only gets 10% of the park’s visitors each year, so it is much less crowded. It has a lodge, small visitor center, a restaurant, and cabins for rent if you want to stay in the park.
Besides the smaller crowds, the North Rim is also cooler because it sits roughly 1,000 feet higher in elevation. The North Rim is at about 8,300 feet above sea level, so you might find yourself out of breath a little bit quicker as you hike, but because it is higher altitude, it is also about 10 degrees cooler, which is really nice in the summer!
Places to See
North Rim Visitor Center
This is a relatively small visitor center, mostly filled with books, clothing, and helpful park rangers. Outside, they have some educational displays and water bottle refill stations of Grand Canyon Spring water. Always remember your water bottle to keep from using disposable plastic ones!
Grand Canyon Lodge offers sustainably sourced food at their restaurant or deli, which are two-star Green Restaurant certified. This time, we brought sandwiches and ate them while we relaxed in the large back patio chairs and enjoyed the view. There are also two overlooks you can walk to from the back patio.
Bright Angel Point Hike
0.5 miles round trip | Moderate | Out & Back
The trail to Bright Angel Point is a short but steep walk to a wonderful view of the Grand Canyon. At times it is a drop on both sides, but the trail is paved and very safe as long as you use common sense.
Point Imperial Overlook
Situated at just over 8,800 feet above sea level, Point Imperial is the highest point of the rim of the Grand Canyon. It is also the northernmost overlook in the canyon, and looking out east you can see where the canyon really starts to open up and become one of the natural wonders of the world.
Point Imperial is on the way to Cape Royal Point (more info below), so from the visitor center you take Cape Royal Road, then branch off on to Point Imperial Road. It’s only a couple miles down the road to the overlook.
0.5 miles round trip | Easy | Out & Back
The trail to Angels Window is easy and paved. It actually has a couple of stops. The first stop is the Angels Window viewpoint, where you can look out to the southeast and see the “window” in the nearby cliff. As you continue down the trail, you’ll arrive at the top of the Angels Window rock outcropping, where you can walk out onto the top of the arch. If you continue on this trail, you will get to Cape Royal Overlook (the 0.5 miles of this trail count towards the 0.8 miles of that trail).
Cape Royal Point
0.8 miles round trip | Easy | Out & Back
After stopping at Angels Window, you can continue another .3 miles to Cape Royal Point, which looks out onto Wotan’s Throne (pictured below). Wotan is another name for the Norse god Odin. Since the late 1800’s, geologists have had a tradition of naming these giant rock formations after mythological deities.
From Cape Royal Point, you can also look across the canyon and see the Desert View Watchtower on the South Rim! This is the final viewpoint on Cape Royal Trail, and was our favorite viewpoint in the park!
The drive to Cape Royal Point trail has several more overlooks that are worth a quick stop:
- Vista Encantada
- Roosevelt Point
- Walhalla Overlook
Kaibab Plateau Forest
The forest on the way to the park is lovely. We saw amazing colors and even saw a herd of bison!! We stopped the car to take a picture at a safe distance.
Jacob Lake Inn for Cookies
While not particularly eco-friendly, Jacob Lake Inn is well known for their delicious cookies. It’s a nice stop on the way between the North Rim and Kanab to grab dessert and stretch your legs. There were many great flavors to choose from, and I was happy that they packaged the cookies in paper rather than plastic.