The North and South Rim of Arizona’s Grand Canyon offers the visitor two very different experiences. How will you know which one is right for you? Use these insider tips to help you decide on visiting the Grand Canyon North Rim vs South Rim.
Grand Canyon North Rim vs. South Rim
The Grand Canyon, situated in the northern end of the state of Arizona, is one of America’s greatest icons and one of the seven natural wonders of the world; each year, the Grand Canyon is visited by millions of visitors, in different ways, from all corners of the world, each looking for a unique Grand Canyon ‘experience’.
The Grand Canyon is vast, with two different rims to choose from. Over 90% of visitors opt to visit the South Rim; for those who choose to visit the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, this can be a bonus. However, whichever rim travelers choose to visit, a visit to the Grand Canyon National Park is an unforgettable experience.
The Size of the Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is approximately 277 miles long, 10 miles wide, and a mile deep. The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is over 200 miles (5 hour drive) by remote stretches of road from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is over 1000 feet higher than the South Rim; the South Rim has an elevation of 7200 feet, whereas the North Rim has an elevation of between 8200 feet (Bright Angel Point) and 8800 feet (Point Imperial).
What to Do at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon
The South Rim of the Grand Canyon offers the following activities and services:
- Visitor Center
- Gas Station (East entrance only on Highway 64)
- Hiking Trails
- Historic El Torvar Hotel
- Camping at Mather Campground and Desert View Campground
- IMAX Grand Canyon theater (South entrance)
- Lodging (both at the South entrance at Tusayan and inside the Grand Canyon National Park)
- Grocery Store
- The Kolb Studio
- Mary Colter’s Watchtower at Desert View
- Mule rides
- Drives along the South Rim, including shuttle rides
What to do at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon
The North Rim of the Grand Canyon offers the following activities and services:
- Visitor Center
- Gas Station (near the campground)
- Hiking trails
- Historic Grand Canyon Lodge
- Camping at the North Rim campground
- General store
- Drives to various viewpoints
Seasons, Hours, and Visitor Fees
The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is open year-round, although some facilities may be limited in winter; the North Rim services are operational between mid-May and mid-October. Depending on the weather, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon may be open for day use from mid-October, but the road is often closed by snow during the winter months, and no services are available during this time.
There are visitor fees for entrance to both the North and South Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park; the cost is about $35 per vehicle or $20 for individual foot visitors, bicycles, or motorcycles. This fee is good for 7 days and can be used to enter both the North and South Rim National Parks; however, there are no refunds for bad weather. Additional fees are payable for camping and lodging within the Grand Canyon National Park.
Advantages of Visiting the South Rim
The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is more accessible, is open year-round, and has more facilities and activities. It is possible to visit the South Rim of the Grand Canyon on a day trip from Las Vegas, Flagstaff, Sedona, and Phoenix.
There are many organized tours available to the Grand Canyon South Rim from these cities. If staying overnight at the Grand Canyon, however, it is advisable to book accommodation months in advance to ensure availability. Alternatively, there are campgrounds and RV lots that have more availability than the limited hotels on property.
Advantages of Visiting the North Rim
Due to its geographic isolation, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon has less tourist traffic, offering a combination of solitude and natural beauty.
The North Rim is less commercialized than the South Rim of the Grand Canyon but still offers the basic amenities to ensure a comfortable stay. However, like the South Rim, accommodation is quickly booked up, and, in some instances, it is advisable to book accommodation at the North Rim up to a year in advance.