Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon’s North Rim a throwback to a simpler time

June 27, 2011, 8:28 am

Talk to travelers about the differences between the North and South rims of Grand Canyon National Park, and most will say the north offers more solitude.

Only 10 miles separate the two edges of the mile-deep chasm, but the north is about 1,000 feet higher in elevation, is closed during the winter and receives about a tenth the visitors the south does.

"The views themselves are even more spectacular than the South Rim," said Greg Maxwell of Reston, Va., who took the 215-mile drive that connects the entrance stations of the two rims with his wife, Diane. "There are fewer people. It’s a little more remote. And the view from Cape Royal is about as panoramic as you get."

The vista from that overlook offers the only view of the Colorado River that can be seen on the North Rim. The .6-mile round-trip hike — one of 13 major hikes on this side of the Grand Canyon — offers views of the Angels’ Window Arch and a chance to walk on top of that natural feature. It is also possible to see Unkar Rapid.

John Rich, whose family has owned the Jacob’s Lake Lodge about 45 miles north of the rim since 1923, said there are three reasons to visit the North Rim. He thinks the views are better, can be enjoyed in relative solitude and the drive into the national park ranks among the most beautiful in the entire system.

The drive into the North Rim features views of the snow-capped San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff, Ariz., as well as alpine scenery and meadows, where mule deer can often be seen.

"You don’t have to stand in line to see the Grand Canyon," said Rich, whose 62-unit lodge is open year-round and often fills to capacity in the summer. "There are places where you can sit all day and not see another person."

That said, fairly limited facilities on the less-developed Grand Canyon Rim make planning a must. The historic lodge on the edge of the North Rim, designed by architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood for the Union Pacific Railroad, fills nearly every night. So does the North Rim Campground.