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The South Rim vs North Rim of the Grand Canyon? Which should you visit? Here are some basics to help you choose the Rim that is right for you to visit.
The South Rim vs North Rim
Number of Tourists in the South Rim vs North Rim
The majority of visitors head to the South Rim. Specifically, about 5 million tourists flock to the Grand Canyon South Rim each year.
As a result, the entire place is very crowded especially in the summer months. Needless to say, finding a parking spot at the park is a challenge. The roads leading to the Grand Canyon Village get very congested. In addition, you will end up waiting in lines for a shuttle bus.
Even at sunset, you will have to arrive early to secure a spot. It adds up to a lot of wasted time. Finding some solitude on the trails or at the viewpoints is simply not possible.
As a comparison, the North Rim receives about 1 million visitors each year. It is blissfully almost empty even during summer months. If you are looking for solitude, then the North Rim is the right destination for you.
Accessibility to the South Rim vs North Rim
The South Rim is easily accessed either through the South Entrance which you can reach from Hwy 180, and the East Entrance on Hwy 64. Majority of the visitors enter from the South Entrance.
The North Rim is accessed only via Route 67, which branches off Hwy 89A in the town of Jacob Lake.
Opening Times of the South Rim vs North Rim
The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is open year round. As a comparison, North Rim is open only during summer months. Specifically, mid-May to mid-October. In the winter months Route 67 is closed to all traffic.
Location of the South Rim vs North Rim
The South Rim is located close to several large cities in Arizona. Namely, Flagstaff, Williams, Sedona. In addition, the gateway city of Tusayan is located only about 20 minutes from the Grand Canyon Village.
The Grand Canyon Purple Route/Tusayan Route shuttle bus is operates between Tusayan and the park. It is great option to have especially during summer months. The Purple Route/Tusayan Route shuttle buses run every day starting March 1 through November 30. Furthermore, Purple Route/Tusayan Route shuttle buses pick up visitors in Tusayan at the following four stops:
- IMAX Theater/ R.P.’s Stage Stop
- Best Western Grand Canyon Squire Inn
- The Grand Hotel
- Big E Steakhouse and Saloon
After making four stops in Tusayan, the shuttle bus heads straight to the Grand Canyon Visitor Center By the way, shuttle buses run every 20 minutes between 8 am and 9:30 pm. It takes about 20 minutes to reach the Visitor Center.
Read more about the Grand Canyon South Rim shuttle bus service: Grand Canyon Shuttle Bus – Everything You Need to Know
The North Rim has a very remote location. The closest town is Jacob Lake, other places are more than 2-hour drive from the North Rim.
Lodging at the South Rim vs North Rim
There are several options for lodging at the South Rim. And, I have to add, that, there is nothing like staying inside the park at one of the lodges. You are practically staying at the rim. If you decide to stay at one of the lodges, then you need to reserve your room at least one year in advance. Following are some of the options:
The South Rim:
El Tovar Hotel
My top choice is El Tovar Hotel. It is a historic hotel located directly on the rim of the Grand Canyon. It first opened its doors in 1905. The hotel was designed by Charles Whittlesey, Chief Architect for the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway. The hotel was built from local limestone and Oregon pine. It cost $250,000 to build, and many considered it the most elegant hotel west of the Mississippi River.
In 1987 the Hotel was designated a National Historic Landmark. In the past, the hotel has hosted such luminaries as Theodore Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, Western author Zane Grey, President Bill Clinton, Sir Paul McCartney and countless others.
El Tovar has 78 rooms many of which are suites. If possible, book a suite! Due to the historic nature of the hotel no two rooms are alike, which gives the hotel distinctive charm. In addition, make sure to check out the restaurant located in the hotel.
Following is the website for El Tovar Hotel: El Tovar Hotel
Bright Angel Lodge and Cabins
Bright Angel Lodge is located at the top of Bright Angel Trailhead. It was designed in 1935 by famed Southwest architect Mary E.J. Colter. Bright Angel Lodge has a natural rustic character and is a Registered National Historic Landmark.
Bright Angel has 90 lodging units ranging from rustic cabins to lodge rooms (with no television and shared bath). Following is the website for Bright Angel Lodge and Cabins: Bright Angel Lodge and Cabins
Kachina Lodge and Thunderbird Lodge
Katchina Lodge and Thunderbird Lodge are my two personal favorites. They both sit along the Rim Trail in the National Landmark Historic District. Above all, they are practically a stone’s throw from the canyon abyss.
Maswik Lodge is less expensive than the options above. However, it is a 250-room lodging complex located in the Ponderosa pine forest about quarter-mile from the canyon’s edge. You might want to check it out and see how you like it. Following is the website for Maswik Lodge: Maswik Lodge
There are numerous accommodations available in the gateway community of Tusayan Tusayan is located 7 miles south of Grand Canyon Village, along Arizona Highway 64. Following are some of the options:
The North Rim:
In comparison, there is not much as far as lodging options at the North Rim. The Grand Canyon Lodge is your only choice and it needs to be booked months in advance. Either cabins or motel rooms are available. I would describe the accommodations as rustic, which, to be honest, is very charming. By the way, the views from the lodge are breathtaking!
Following is the website, check it out: Grand Canyon Lodge
Viewpoints – The South Rim vs North Rim
The Grand Canyon South Rim is essentially one grand viewing stand. If you were to unfold a map of the Grand Canyon South Rim, you are going to be totally overwhelmed with the viewing opportunities.
Following is my guide to the best viewpoints along the South Rim.
The North Rim only has a few main viewpoints, including a couple that are only accessible via long, windy dirt roads that can take up to half a day to traverse.
However, the North Rim does boast the Grand Canyon’s highest viewpoints, at over 8,000 feet. The most popular is Bright Angel Point, which is just a short walk from the Grand Canyon Lodge. From here, you can take in sweeping views of the canyon, and see all the way to the South Rim.
Other popular viewpoints are Point Imperial which is the highest point on the North Rim at 8,800 feet and Cape Royal, which is a very popular spot for sunsets.
The Bottom Line – The South Rim vs North Rim
Hands down – the South Rim offers a multitude of stunning viewpoints. It can be easily accessed and enjoyed year round. If you do not mind the crowds, then head to the South Rim. Following is my post that has a ton of information about the Grand Canyon South Rim – everything you need to know to plan a great trip!
The North Rim is a very remote destination, as a result not a lot of tourists venture out to the North Rim. It is a fantastic choice if you seek a more primeval, natural, quiet and uncrowded Grand Canyon experience.
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The Grand Canyon National Park