The North Rim of the Grand Canyon offers a unique experience for visitors separate from the South Rim. Located at an elevation of over 8,000 feet with initial views hidden by the dense forest, visitors reach the North Rim overlook to look out in awe of the Grand Canyon’s magnificence. In this article, we’ll tell you about all the things to do at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, including scenic drives, where to hike, and camp.
Now, let’s plan a memorable road trip to the North Rim!
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Uniquely, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is visited 90% less than the South Rim. The Grand Canyon is so massive that driving from the South Rim to the North Rim takes over four and a half (4.5) hours. The drive from the South Rim to the North Rim is about 220 miles.
If you were to hike from the North Rim to the South Rim, it is a 21-mile trek.
All this to say, that the North Rim is considered a more off-the-beaten-path type of adventure, making it the best type of road trip (in our opinion)!
There are many things to do at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, and it is definitely worth seeing!
The main activities to do while visiting the North Rim include:
There are 13 different day-hiking trails visitors can do from the North Rim.
Below is a quick summary, including the trail name, distance, and time estimated to hike.
The National Park Service manages only one (1) campground at the North Rim.
Check out recreation.gov to make a reservation ahead of time at the North Rim Campground.
Going on a mule ride through some of the Grand Canyon trails is definitely one way to see the North Rim! Mule rides are surprisingly popular.
You’ll want to research some of the guiding outfits to plan your adventure (we have not done this but it looks crazy fun)!
Be sure to stop at the Visitor Center! Grab a trail map, check out the bookstore, browse the exhibits, and be sure to walk to Bright Angel Point!
You simply cannot miss walking the paved 0.5-mile (roundtrip) path to the Bright Angel Point overlook! This location offers one of the more famous vantage points from the North Rim into the Grand Canyon.
If you’re not planning on hiking much, the scenic drive from the Visitor Center to Cape Royal is a great way to visit the North Rim.
Or, if you spend more than one day at the North Rim, hike AND squeeze the scenic drive into your trip!
The Scenic Drive is 23 miles to the Cape Royal lookout point from the Visitor Center. It takes roughly an hour each way.
Be sure to stop at the other main lookout points, including Point Imperial, Vista Encantada, Roosevelt Point, Walhalla Overlook, and Angels Window, to enjoy the views and take photos.
When we visited the first time, we actually paired it with a trip to Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park.
Below are the distances and times to get to the North Rim from other nearby National Parks:
The first time we visited the North Rim, we thought we would drive through the North Rim Entrance Station to be greeted instantly with insanely beautiful views of the Grand Canyon. This was not the case! Haha!
From Jacob Lake, in Northern Arizona, on Highway 67, head south 30 miles. You eventually meet the North Rim Entrance Fee Station.
From the North Rim Entrance Fee Station, you are still 14 miles from the actual rim! Continue driving the winding road through the Kaibab National Forest towards the Visitor Center area.
Below are the distances from other popular road trip destinations to help you plan your trip:
Be sure to double-check with Google or your map navigation system to get times and approximate distances to plan your road trip to the North Rim!
The closest airport to the North Rim is located in Kanab, Utah, 80 miles or two (2) hours away.
The closest major airports are in Las Vegas or Phoenix. Flagstaff is also an option.
There is one (1) lodge to stay at – the Grand Canyon Lodge besides camping.
If you’re interested in staying here, we definitely recommend making reservations way in advance.
As we were saying earlier, there is only one (1) campground at the North Rim managed by the National Park Service, the North Rim Campground.
There are a few other options outside of the Park to camp at and include:
If you’re new to dispersed camping, you might enjoy our article on primitive (dispersed) camping.
To plan hiking in the Grand Canyon and dispersed camping in the Kaibab National Forest, we recommend having the National Geographic maps below:
When planning a trip to the Grand Canyon, you might wonder which part of the Grand Canyon is better to visit.
Both the North Rim and South Rim offer epic views of the Grand Canyon!
The North Rim and the South Rim are different!
While planning your trip, consider the proximity and distances you are willing to drive, the time of year you would like to visit, as well as activities you’d like to do.
We personally love visiting the North Rim because it has fewer crowds, cooler temperatures, and more options nearby for dispersed camping. We also like all of the options for shorter day hikes! Plus, we can take our dog on two (2) of the trails at the North Rim while road tripping, and we typically have the dog!
Did you know the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is closed during the winter?
The North Rim is only open seasonally from May 15 through October 15.
This part of the Park closes because of the snowpack since it is located at an elevation of over 8,000 feet.
The Grand Canyon North Rim’s weather is typically cooler than the South Rim because it is located at a higher elevation. When planning your trip to the North Rim, plan like you’re going on a trip to the mountains! The Weather at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon will be cooler in the mornings; temperatures will warm up as the day goes on, then cool off again in the evenings. There might be an afternoon rain shower or even a snowstorm depending on if you are visiting in May or October!
We visited at the beginning of June one year, and it was cold accompanied by an evening thunderstorm!
Before you go, check out the Grand Canyon National Park Service weather and road conditions.
Plan to pack for all temperatures and bring lots of layers to accommodate the weather and your comfort.
As we were saying, plan for all four (4) seasons when you visit the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Here is a checklist of what we pack in our road trip waterproof duffle bags along with the brands we love:
If you are planing on camping and are curious about what to pack, check out our other post on what to bring for tent camping.
In case you decided to skip through, below is a summary of the main things to do at the North Rim:
We hope you have a memorable road trip to the North Rim.
Thanks for reading.
Ashlee & Pablo
Are you road-tripping through the Southwest?
You might also like our other articles on Southwest National Parks and camping:
When are you planning on visiting the Grand Canyon?
If you have been, what were your favorite things to do at the North Rim?
Did you know the Grand Canyon is a recognized World Heritage Site?
I’m a travel and outdoor recreation writer with dreams to inspire happiness through an outdoorsy lifestyle. I want to help people live their best life by sharing free adventure guides. The USA has been my backyard most of my life, and it’s the place where you’ll find most of our escapades! I’m married to an expat Argentine, chihuahua Mom, and am passionate about the environment. I hold a BS degree in Biology and MS in Environmental Policy & Sustainability. We camp in our Aliner often, love road trips, hiking, and SUP’ing!