South Rim vs North Rim — Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

JoAnna

JoAnna is a globe-trotting, idea-inventing, culture-collecting creativity connoisseur with a global family of foreign exchange students and rescue pets. You can also find JoAnna at joannahaugen.com.

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95 Responses

  1. I have never been to the grand canyon, so both the north and the south seem pretty amazing! Thanks for the tips about both.

  2. Nice overview of the two sides. Both times we were there the fog/smog was unusually heavy and we didn’t get to see much. Maybe 3rd time is the charm?

  3. Scott says:

    Cool article… I’ve only seen the North Rim so I’ve been wondering what I missed out on.

    • JoAnna says:

      I admit that I’m probably more partial to the North Rim over the South Rim, but I think both are worth checking out for different reasons. Let me know what you think if you ever get to the other side.

  4. Sonya says:

    Oh National Parks, be still my heart. Love this post!

  5. Amanda says:

    Great comparison post! I love posts like this. And this particular one was especially helpful, since I AM planning to visit the Grand Canyon this summer! The plan right now is to visit both the South and North rims on separate days, to see the best of both!

  6. Diane H. says:

    If you want to escape the crowds on the South Rim, a good way is to hike into the canyon. We did the hike down to Phantom Ranch (at the bottom) in November and it was very peaceful after the first 1/2 mile or so of the trail. You do need a permit to camp there which you need to book months in advance, but it’s a truly amazing hike. The geography of the canyon has many layers and every hour or so the scenery changed. I’d strongly recommend staying and eating at Phantom Ranch so you don’t have to lug your gear up and down. (We didn’t — we didn’t know it was there until we arrived completely exhausted.)

    • JoAnna says:

      Great point, Diane, although you’re absolutely right about needed reservations at Phantom Ranch. Any overnight trip into the canyon requires a backcountry permit, but those can be hard to come by. I’ve applied a couple times but have never received one.

  7. greta says:

    hi i like the north rim better than the south rim becausenit is more peaceful

  8. Donna Cobb says:

    We’ll be in Phoenix the first week of August and were considering extending our trip. We were assuming the Grand Canyon would be too hot and way too crowded, but your article gives me hope that the North Rim could still be quite pleasant…Please advise…

    • JoAnna says:

      Hi Donna ~

      I was on the North Rim on the 4th of July and it was totally tolerable. If you go to the North Rim, I think it will be more than pleasant during your summer visit.

  9. Alicia H. says:

    I am planning to travel to the North Rim this August. Have done the South Rim multiple times (it’s on my tour for visitors). Just curious, how much hiking is needed to get near the rim. I’m going to the gym to get into shape, but my endurance isn’t that great, plus factor in the altitude. I’m really looking forward to this, just wanted to be prepared.

    • JoAnna says:

      Hi Alicia ~

      There are a few lookout points, but they aren’t directly over the rim. There are a few trails that sort of follow along the rim, but it takes at least a few miles to get to the picturesque view. It’s not about being right on the rim, though, but rather enjoying the entire vista. The closest and best view of the rim on the North side is probably from the deck of the lodge, quite frankly. The hiking and lookouts really are about enjoying the beauty in general. That said, though looking right over the rim is spectacular, do keep in mind that the North Rim offers an experience to appreciate the Grand Canyon in a different way. Enjoy your trip!

  10. Patricia Borthwick says:

    Hi. Two couples are coming in March 2012. We are in Vegas the week and want to take a day-trip out to the Canyon. From what I am reading, the South Rim is more accessible, although more congested. Any tips on driving in? We are told it’s 4 — 5 hours drive from the Strip. We are from Canada.
    Thanks.

    • JoAnna says:

      Hi Patricia ~ The drive to the South Rim is more accessible from Las Vegas, though it is more crowded. However, in March, the North Rim is closed anyway, so your options are limited. You can drive to the West Rim, which isn’t in the national park and is much more expensive, but it is closer to the South Rim, so you might want to consider that as well.

  11. Julie Rice says:

    I am planning a trip to the South rim but I am wondering why the North rim has better options for the mule rides. The South rim has a 1/2 day trip that doesn’t even go into the canyon and an overnight trip that costs $481. The North rim has several 1/2 day trips into the canyon. If the South rim is the busier side it would make sense that they would have more trips available.

    • JoAnna says:

      Hi Julie ~ I’m not really sure why mule rides are more plentiful on the North Rim. Perhaps the basic rules of supply and demand apply; if there are fewer people competing for the opportunity, the price goes up. I do know that with so many visitors on the South rim, there is a lot more monitoring regarding how many people travel into the canyon every day. Perhaps that has something to do with it.

  12. Dawn Ellis says:

    Am really pleased with your refreshing and frank comparison of North vs South; tour books just don’t speak as plainly. In your opinion, is there a best time of year to visit the South Rim? Also, any opinions on other ‘must dos’ when visiting Arizona? I’ve seen photos of Antelope Canyon for example.

    • JoAnna says:

      I’m glad you found it helpful, Dawn. Summer is incredibly hot on the South Rim, and while it’s nice in the winter, there is definitely snow and it’s cold. I would recommend the shoulder seasons because there will be fewer crowds (though still busy) and the weather will be a bit more tolerable. In terms of must-dos, I recommend you go to the Lookout Studio, which is a little house built right on the edge of the canyon. It has a fascinating history and offers great views, but you need to make reservations in advance.

  13. JJ says:

    Hi JoAnna —  I hoe you don’t mind I have a few questions.….
    * We’re looking to visit late June 2012. If we aim for
    South Rim driving from Vegas (via Hoover Dam) what is our likely timescale (inc stop-offs!).

    * We are planning on staying over 1 night in the Canyon, we would like to be with views of the canyon but maybe within a town/village? Somewhere which is memorable for a 70th birthday celebration…

    * We then plan to drive the following day over to LA — Is this doable? timescales? stop-off suggestiosn along route?

    Thank you so much for your help
    JJ

    • JoAnna says:

      Hi JJ ~

      Thanks for getting in touch!

      In response to your questions: Without stopping, it takes about 5 – 6 hours to get from Las Vegas to the South Rim. If you want to stop to explore the Hoover Dam or just take a leisurely ride, I’d add at least two hours to your drive. The Grand Canyon is about 70 miles or so from any nearby cities, so if you don’t mind making a lengthy drive into the park, then that’s fine, but there is a nice lodge on the South Rim, and you can also rent a private cabin there as well, so consider those options if you actually want to be near the canyon itself. Finally, you could drive from the South Rim to LA, but I really don’t recommend it. It will take 10 – 12 hours, so I would suggest breaking up the trip by staying the night in Las Vegas. From there, take you time getting to LA by stopping in Mojave National Preserve or Joshua National Park.

      Safe travels!

  14. Ryan says:

    I will be staying at Mather Campground on the South Rim this November 12th weekend. I see people talking about the hike down to Phantom Ranch, how long of a hike is that from the campground? I ask because I am very interested in fishing the Colorado River, is it reasonable to assume once can hike down to the River to fish all day, and hike back out before night without having to apply for a backcountry permit? Can you estimate how long each of those hikes would take?

    Thanks for your help,
    Ryan

    • JoAnna says:

      Hi Ryan,

      The hike down to the bottom of the canyon will definitely take a few hours, and it will take you longer to come back up. I would say that you’ll spend the day hiking and not fishing. Can you get down and back in a day? Yes, but it won’t be a leisurely one. I would recommend you get a permit and spend the night at the bottom of the canyon to make the most of your fishing trip.

      Have fun!

  15. Kim says:

    Hi JoAnna,

    We are visiting Las Vegas this Christmas and are wondering if South Rim is a good option for a day trip during winters? Do roads usually shutdown due to snow during that time?
    I have heard that roads leading to North Rim from Vegas are in an un-drivable condition.

    Looking forward to your reply.
    Kim

    • JoAnna says:

      Hi Kim ~

      Where are you thinking of taking a day trip from? It is snowy on the South Rim, so the roads can be slick and it can take a long time to get around due to the wintery conditions. If you are coming in from a nearby town in Arizona, that would probably work well, but don’t try to take a day trip from Las Vegas. That said, there are a couple roads closed during the winter on the South Rim, but the public bus system still operates, and a good portion of the area is open and accessible.

      The North Rim is closed from October to May. The only way to get in is to snowshoe, and there are no amenities available.

      Safe travels!

  16. Ashley says:

    Very helpful and informative post! We are planning to drive or maybe even take a bus tour from Las Vegas to the South Rim around late December. Do you have any pictures you can post from your trip during the winter time to give us an idea of what to expect. Thanks!

  17. Leigh says:

    Nice rundown on the differences.

    One of my most favourite hikes ever is the hike I did from the North Rim to the South Rim in a day. It felt like a great accomplishment — it took us about 11 1/2 hours. We started about 6am in freezing cold temperatures but by the time we got to Phantom Ranch it was in the 70’s. Then we had a day off on the South Rim and the following day took a slightly different way back to Phantom Ranch and then back to our cars at the North Rim. All told — 10000 feet up, 10000 feet down and 44 miles. I actually have a guide on my website with all the accommodation options & info you need…

    • JoAnna says:

      I would really love to go rim-to-rim. I keep trying to get a permit to stop at the bottom, but I haven’t been selected, so I think if I want to do it, I’m going to have to do the full thing in one day.

  18. Don Faust says:

    Great info to have. I love the Grand Canyon, but I’ve never been to the north rim.

  19. Daniel says:

    Thanks for the excellent review. We are planning a trip with some friends and the last time I went was when I was about 10… Now my kids are 6 and I want to take them on a real “traditional” American vacation… sounds like the south rim is to bustling and the north rim might even have a lodge for the friends if they prefer not to camp… thanks again, will comment again when we get back ;)

    • JoAnna says:

      Thanks for your comment, Daniel! Please do stop back and let us know how your trip goes. I hope your kids enjoy the experience!

  20. Ufuk Gencel says:

    Hi JoAnna — 
    We will planning to go San Francisco from Florida by car. We want to see Grand Canyon also. Unfortunately we have a limited time for example 5 – 6 hours for Canyon. We need your advices for our visit. In that time Where should we visit? Which part South or north rim?
    Thank you in advance.
    Ufuk GENCEL

    looking to visit late June 2012. If we aim for
    South Rim driving from Vegas (via Hoover Dam) what is our likely timescale (inc stop-offs!).

    * We are planning on staying over 1 night in the Canyon, we would like to be with views of the canyon but maybe within a town/village? Somewhere which is memorable for a 70th birthday celebration…

    * We then plan to drive the following day over to LA — Is this doable? timescales? stop-off suggestiosn along route?

    Thank you so much for your help
    JJ

    Read more: http://kaleidoscopicwandering.com/2011/02/07/south-rim-vs-north-rim-grand-canyon-national-park-arizona/#ixzz1qw2XFY7E

    • JoAnna says:

      Thanks for stopping by. I hope you found the original post helpful.

      Without much time to visit, I would recommend visiting the South Rim, just because it’s easier to reach. Highlights would include driving along the scenic drive on the rim and stopping by the overlooks along the roads that hug the rim. I would also try to stick in a couple short hikes, which works well on the South Rim, because there aren’t a lot of long hikes available. If you have extra time, consider taking a tour of the studio on the South Rim as well.

      If you are driving from Las Vegas, expect the drive to take at least six hours. There isn’t a place to view the Grand Canyon outside of the park or the Skywalk (on the West Rim), and, quite frankly, any drive into Grand Canyon from a nearby town is pretty far, so I would recommend you stay in the lodge on the South Rim. Then you have great views, and you’re in the heart of the park without having to drive. I’m sure it would be memorable.

      A drive from the Grand Canyon to LA is very far. You’re talking 10 – 12 hours worth of driving, and that’s if you don’t hit traffic. You wouldn’t have time to stop anywhere, so I would recommend breaking up the drive with a night in Las Vegas so you can take the scenic route through the Mojave Desert when you drive through Southern California.

  21. Ufuk Gencel says:

    Thank you for good advices. We will choose south rim. :-)

  22. stoph241 says:

    If you are in LV and want to experience the Grand Canyon and don’t have a lot of time you can visit the West Rim. It only took us about 3 hours to get there. I would say the only benefit would be that it’s not as far as The North or South Rims from Vegas. It isn’t part of Grand Canyon Natl Park but part of an indian reservation. It’s really expensive…I mean really! You have to park once you are there ($25), then take a bus. There is a glass bottomed skywalk, not for the faint, which is kind of cool but really expensive ( I think it was about $40 per person)! There are some great views of the canyon but they charge you outrageous prices for everything from water to snacks. For two of us, not including gas and car rental, it was about $225 in total expenses by the time we left. Overall, if you are in Vegas and pressed for time but really want to see the GC I would say it is worth it. However, if you have more time than do the South Rim, it is truly amazing!

    • JoAnna says:

      Thanks for your feedback about this part of the Grand Canyon. This is known as the West Rim, and I don’t recommend it to visitors, which is why I didn’t mention it in the post. The South Rim and North Rim are run by the National Park Service, and there are lots of amenities and facilities that exist for the user while the West Rim is very much about making a profit. In fact, there are currently some lawsuits involved with the West Rim, and I’ve heard that many of the facilities are currently unfinished with no known end date in sight. If you are interested in visiting the Grand Canyon, I strongly recommend the South or North Rim, but if you have no other choice and you really want to visit, the West Rim is an option.

  23. Aurora Sanchez says:

    Hi I am from Flagstaff Arizona I have been to the South rime many times but we want to go camping instead to either the South or North I know the South rime is the hardest to get permit but what for the north rime is a month in advance too late to get a permit?
    Thank you for your help

    • JoAnna says:

      Hi Aurora ~

      You only need a permit if you’re going to be backcountry camping or staying in the canyon. Staying in the canyon is competitive regardless of the rim you hike down from. I haven’t been able to get a permit to hike across from rim to rim, and I’ve proposed itineraries from both sides of the canyon. In regard to getting regular camping spots, I have had better luck reserving spaces on the North Rim. I hope this helps!

  24. Bob Marks says:

    Hi JoAnna

    I plan on making a one day visit to the Canyon in late June. We will be coming from St. George UT and would like to stay one night. The Lodge is booked on the North Rim. Should we stay near the North Rim or travel to the South Rim where there seems to be more lodging. Altogether, we will likely spend two half days. I just can’t figure out if we should stay North or travel South. Any recommendations?

    Thanks
    Bob

    • JoAnna says:

      I believe there is some lodging available in the national forest boarding the North Rim, but it may only be camping. You can check the lodging on the South Rim, but that may be booked up too, as June is one of the busiest months at the Grand Canyon. If you’re looking for lodging options, there are more options in the towns south of the South Rim than there are near the North Rim. St. George is still more than 100 miles away from the North Rim, so you could stay there and drive in for a full day trip, but it will definitely be a drive. I hope that helps!

    • JoAnna says:

      Hi Bob ~

      I did a bit more research on this this weekend when I was at the South Rim, and there is some lodging in the national forest just outside of the North Rim. Perhaps you can see if there is space available there.

      Cheers,
      JoAnna

  25. Christine R says:

    Will it be too uncomfortably hot to tent camp at Mather campground in August? The tent site said partial shade.

    • JoAnna says:

      Hi Christine ~

      I just spent the weekend at Mather Campground, and in early June it was hot during the day (high 80s/low 90s) and cool in the evenings (in the 40s). The Mather Campground is partially shaded throughout, and every campsite has trees. Regardless of what spot you book, there will be shade cover; you just have to make sure you set your tent up under the trees. I don’t think it will be too unbearably hot in the summer in the campground if you take advantage of the shade; the much more exposed area is along the rim of the Grand Canyon. Drink lots of water when you visit.

      Enjoy!

  26. Bob Marks says:

    Thanks Joanna. We decided to do the day trip from St. George as you suggested. It works better for our schedule. We do another trip some other time when we can spend more time and stay near the South Rim. You’ve been very helpful.
    Bob

  27. Sagar says:

    So do you know if there are mule rides available on South Rim? Are they really worth it? I mean, spending 100+ dollars.. ?
    And what about other activities? Have you done any, such as Helicopter ride, plane, river raft, etc. etc.. ?
    Please give some advice on that.. We are planning on visiting North Rim.. So, not sure.. I am very confused!
    In reality, we are driving to Canyon from Las Vegas, stay for ONLY 1 night, and then go to Phoenix (So, basically, we start our drive on Tuesday early morning from Vegas, and direct nonstop to either of the Canyon rim, and then next early morning, drive to Phoenix)..
    And btw, this was a great post/blog about Grand Canyon! Good job Joanna!

    • JoAnna says:

      Hi Sagar ~

      There are a lot of “commercial” activities on the South Rim; in fact, there are more on the South Rim than on the North Rim. In the busy season, you’ll want to reserve these kinds of activities in advance, if possible, as they fill up quickly. Rafting trips, in fact, have a several-year wait. Are they worth the money? That’s your call. You can enjoy the views of the Grand Canyon without doing any of these things. If you want to go to the bottom of the canyon but don’t want to hike, a mule or helicopter ride are your other choices. I think it’s important for people to know that the noise pollution for the helicopters is having an adverse effect on the wildlife, but each person needs to make their own decision about how they feel about that.

      I am a bit confused about whether you’ll be on the South Rim or North Rim, as you asked about the South Rim but then said you’re planning on visiting the North Rim. North Rim doesn’t have as many activities, though there are more opportunities for hiking. If you are driving from Las Vegas and only staying one night and then going to Phoenix, it makes much more sense to visit the South Rim as the North Rim will be way out of your way.

      Let me know if you have any more questions. Happy travels!

  28. Christian says:

    I think you just saved me a lot of time and money on gas. Thanks soooo much for your review!

  29. Nicholas and Sarah says:

    Hi joanna! Next month we’re driving cross-country and staying at the north rim for two days. The plan right now is to hike to ribbon falls on the north kaibab trail for day one and camp at cottonwood that night. Do we have to make a reservation for that campground? The second part of my question, is there a different trail that intersects the n. kaibab to get back to the rim so as to see different sights on our return trip? Thank you so much in advance for all your help.

    • JoAnna says:

      I’ve never stayed at the Cottonwood Campground, so I’m not sure how crowded it gets, but my rule of thumb for the Grand Canyon is if you can reserve it, you should. I checked Grand Canyon’s website, and it says the campground is small. I don’t imagine it gets much foot traffic because it’s reach via the North Rim, but I would still hedge your bets and make a reservation if that is an option. Again, the Grand Canyon website doesn’t say whether you can, and the fact that you need a backcountry permit to camp there leads me to believe that you can not make a reservation, but you might want to call and find out for sure. If you can reserve a spot, I would. Here is the information you’ll need: http://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/campsite-information.htm.

      Regarding your question about the North Kaibab Trail, that is actually the only trail on the North Rim that drops into the canyon except for the Ken Patrick Trail, but that goes in a different direction, so you’ll need to bring the same trail out of the canyon as you take in.

      Enjoy your trip!

  30. Jake says:

    Hi,

    I’m going to be in Vegas for a short time and would like to visit the Grand Canyon. I’d only be able to do a day trip. My current plan is to rent a car, leave Vegas around 9 am and be back in Vegas around midnight. It looks like the South Rim would be my best bet but I wanted your thoughts about whether or not my allotted time would suffice.

    Thanks!

    • JoAnna says:

      Hi Jake ~ The South Rim is definitely your best bet. To reach the North Rim for a day trip from Las Vegas isn’t worth it at all. What I would advise is that you leave Las Vegas much earlier than 9:00 am, though. If you leave at 9:00, you won’t reach the Grand Canyon until early afternoon, which is the hottest and most crowded part of the day. Plus, you won’t be able to spend much time at the South Rim before you have to head back to Las Vegas. I’d suggest you make the most of your day and leave at 6:00 am or earlier. Hope that helps!

  31. Doris Boyce says:

    Thank you, been looking up all info where to go from Las Vegas by rental car, north or south rim, south rim is it, you had the best insight. thanks again.

    • JoAnna says:

      Yep! If you’re visiting by rental car for a day trip from Las Vegas, then the South Rim is definitely your better option. Glad you found this information helpful!

  32. Alex Joseph says:

    JoAnna, I was very impressed by your descriptive comments! Thank you, a million times !!! I read through all the posts, and your replies. They were equally illuminating. My wife and I are visiting Las Vegas in mid-October. As we are in our 60’s and as we live in Australia (where we drive on the “wrong side”) we did NOT want to hire a car. Hence we thought of using one of the commercial tour operators to go and see the Grand Canyon. We found the descriptions of the North Rim/South Rim/West Rim in various guide books very confusing, and we were disturbed to see that most tour operators were only offering the South Rim. From your descriptions, we are re-assured that by seeing the South Rim we are “doing” the Grand Canyon “properly” !!!!
    I know you cannot comment on specific tour operators, but can you at least give your thoughts on the “coach versus plane” decision? Plane is of course more expensive, but we save six hours (7 hours as against 13 hours, which gives us more time to see/do things in Vegas. Do you have any opinions? Do we miss anything by going by plane? Are there any fantastic sights by road? And, (if you are allowed to comment!) how safe are the planes? We have both flown by light planes in our travels, but we just did not want to take any undue risks with fly-by-night (pardon the pun) tour operators!!
    Looking forward to hearing from you, and thanking you in anticipation
    Regards
    Alex P Joseph

    PS: what is the temperature like in mid October on the South Rim?
    PPS: apart from the Grand Canyon, and the Hoover Dam, are there any other sights you would recommend (by way of day trips) out of Vegas?

    • JoAnna says:

      Hi Alex ~

      I’m glad you found this post helpful. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      In response to your questions: Here is a quick break down of the different rims of the Grand Canyon that you’re talking about. The North Rim and the South Rim are both part of the national park and therefore administered by the U.S. National Park Service. The South Rim is the national park side that is easiest to reach from Las Vegas. The North Rim is a little more difficult to reach and tour operators do not go there. The West Rim is run by a Native American tribe and is not part of the National Park Service. The West Rim is closest to Las Vegas and tour operators run trips there, but it is the most expensive of the rims to visit and I do not recommend it for a number of reasons (though that’s not to say it isn’t an option). So, yes, most tour operators only run trips to the South Rim and West Rim, and, out of those two options, only the South Rim is part of the national park.

      There are pros and cons of the coach and plane options. There are some over-road tours that stop by Hoover Dam and/or Lake Mead on the way to the South Rim, which is a worthwhile stop. Taking a plane to the Grand Canyon is a good option too, and there are shuttle buses that run into town, so you can just catch one of these to see the sites. Another alternative is to take a helicopter. Most of these actually land in the canyon, so you’d get a different perspective that way, but you don’t have the freedom to see the canyon from above. I’ve never taken an air tour (plane or helicopter), and I haven’t heard anything in particular about any specific companies. I would suggest you check the ratings on TripAdvisor to determine what company is best for you. As far as I know, all the popular companies are reputable. (I have booked a tour through Tours4Fun before, though, and I recommend them. See the post here: http://kaleidoscopicwandering.com/2010/11/15/tours4fun-a-review-and-recommendation/)

      In October, expect weather conditions in the 60s on the South Rim. The North Rim closes mid-October.

      Regarding other day trip sights, I recommend Valley of Fire State Park (http://kaleidoscopicwandering.com/2012/05/25/las-vegas-valley-of-fire/) and Red Rock Canyon (http://kaleidoscopicwandering.com/2012/07/20/red-rock-canyon-las-vegas-nevad/).

      Enjoy your trip!

  33. jeff says:

    This was extremely helpful in booking the trip with my family. Thanks for the honest and in-depth information!

  34. Alex Joseph says:

    Thank you JoAnna for your replies to my questions!!! It was most helpful!!! We are now going ahead with our bookings.

  35. susan says:

    Joanna, I have found your information to be excellent. Both my husband and I will be arriving in las vegas for the first time late on Saturday 20th October from the UK. Flying to San Fransisco on the Thursday morning. We will definitely visit the South rim of the Grand Canyon, but would appreciate some advice. Do you think we should hire a car and depart early morning on the Monday or Tuesday and return the same day to vegas, or would you suggest we stay over somewhere . We want to see the hoover Dam also. Where can we stay?. The other alternative would be to fly or take a helicopter tour. I would appreciate any suggestions. I keep reading so many reviews and don’t know what to do for the best. We will be returning to las vegas for our last day from LA on November 2nd before departing to the UK .

    • JoAnna says:

      Hi Susan ~

      I’m not sure I fully understand your itinerary, but I’ll do my best to answer your questions. While it is possible to drive to the Grand Canyon and back to Las Vegas in a single day, I don’t think it’s a good use of time because you’ll spend the vast majority of that time in a vehicle. If you want to take a rental car, I would recommend staying in the lodge or one of the cabins on the South Rim. Stop by the Hoover Dam either on your way to or on your way back from the Grand Canyon. If you want to make the trip in a single day, a helicopter tour is an option, though you won’t get to spend a full day at the Grand Canyon. Alternatively, you can take a day trip with a tour company to the Grand Canyon. Though this is a single day trip and you won’t get to spend a full day at the Grand Canyon, someone else does the driving, so it’s not nearly as exhausting as renting your own car. Happy travels!

  36. Jason says:

    Thanks for the nice write up. I have recently planned a trip for next summer flying into Las Vegas. Initially we planned to go to the south rim partly because of common comments that it is less driving from Vegas. However, it seems to be nearly identical driving times, maybe 10 minutes more. Although it is more rural with less facilities stores etc, there will also be considerably less traffic in the middle of summer. For many people, the south rim is more convenient from where they are, especially driving along route 40, but from Vegas, it is nearly the same. Going to the north rim will also allow us to stop for a night at Zion on the way and avoid much of the south rim crowds.

    • JoAnna says:

      Hi Jason ~ The drive from Las Vegas to the North Rim is just a touch longer, but, you’re right, there are lots of good reasons to take the longer drive. In addition to Zion National Park, you’ll also be near Bryce Canyon National Park, so consider stopping at both if you have a couple extra days to spare. Safe travels!

  37. Jennifer says:

    Thanks for a great article. Just one question. I have visited the North Rim and you mention there not being overlooks that are on the rim. We stopped many times along the road and took pictures on the edge of the canyon. We are planning another trip this summer and I’ve been trying to decide which rim to visit. Has the number of overlooks changed? We were there in 2001. Thanks!

    • JoAnna says:

      Hi Jennifer ~

      There are still outlooks on the North Rim, but they aren’t like the overlooks that people have on the South Rim, and there aren’t nearly as many (four along the scenic drive on the North Rim versus around a dozen on the South Rim). Plus, the South Rim has a trail right along the rim. There is a trail along the rim on the North Rim but it goes between the campground and the lodge and isn’t a trail like the one on the South Rim. You’ll certainly have great views on both rims, but the overlooks and “traditional” Grand Canyon views are more plentiful on the South Rim. Enjoy your trip!

  38. Daniel says:

    We used your advice and took our kids on a “traditional” camping vacation at the North Rim. We could of not been happier. The south rim definitely has a city feel to it… the north was anything but. We stayed in the north rim campground for a few days and can tell you, even the drive into it was fantastic. Once there, the campsites were large and offered unimaginable views of the canyon… will never forget this vacation, so thank you for putting this page together as it was the determining factor in going to the north rim ;)

    • JoAnna says:

      I’m so glad to hear you found the information in this post helpful, Daniel. We really love the North Rim for the reasons you mentioned — it’s not as “urban” and you can get that quiet, traditional camping experience at one of the most popular natural features on the planet. It really is amazing that so few people have experienced it. Thanks again for stopping by!

  39. Debbie says:

    Hoping to get to the Grand Canyon soon — thanks for the great tips!

  40. Tasha Day says:

    Hi Joanna,
    Loved reading all your posts they are so full of great info! I am hoping you could answer a question for me.
    We will be driving to the south rim from Phoenix in mid January.We come every January from out of state for a conference my husband has and then stay on longer hence the Jan GC trip.
    I am a little nervous of road conditions once we start getting further north. How are the roads going up ( north). I’m from Wisconsin and do a lot of driving in snow I’m just worried that there may be a lot of the twisty drop of type roads!

    Any info you can give would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks,
    Tasha

    • JoAnna says:

      If you’re from Wisconsin, Tasha, you should have no problems at all. Yes, the roads can get slick and it can be snowy and icy, but the park is equipped to keep the roads cleared, and other roads remain closed on the South Rim during the winter. You should be fine. Enjoy!

  41. Faith Johnson says:

    Hi Joanna,
    My husband and I are planning a vacation to the Grand Canyon sometime in July. We have found flights to Las Vegas a lot cheaper than flying into the airport in Arizona. We would like to drive to the north rim and spend 2 – 3 days there at the lodge and then maybe driving to the south rim just to see the sights there and then head back to Vegas to do several day trips.
    Is the drive from Vegas to the North rim difficult? We think we would love the atmosphere there much more than the congestion and popularity of the South.
    Thanks so much,
    Faith

    • JoAnna says:

      Hi Faith ~

      I’m glad to hear you’ll be visiting the Grand Canyon. Do realize that it can be quite hot and crowded in July, especially on the South Rim. The drive from Las Vegas to both rims is about the same, but it takes a bit longer to get to the North Rim because it’s not right off a major road. It is an easy road to drive, though, and the weather and crowds are a bit more manageable in the middle of summer. That said, either rim is worthy of a visit. My only note of caution is that the drive from either rim to the other side of the canyon is a LONG drive, so you may want to choose one rim or the other to visit.

      Enjoy your trip!

  42. Michael says:

    Hey. Thanks so much for all the great info. My girlfriend and I are planning a road trip from Georgia to Moab utah. I hope you do not mind, but I have a few questions. First off, since we will be driving from GA to Moab, which rim do you think will be more convienent for us to visit? We will most likely stay for around 2 days. I would like to know because I’m not sure if I need to reserve a camp sight. We will be arriving mid may sometime. One other thing, we will be camping in my truck, the tent and everything goes up in the bed of the truck. So I would like to know if i could drive out further when I get to one of the rims and camp?
    Thanks.

    • JoAnna says:

      Hi Michael,

      If you’re headed to Moab, then the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is definitely your better option. In mid-May you shouldn’t need to make reservations, BUT do call ahead of time to make sure the North Rim is actually open (it reopens when they can clear the roads of snow). It never hurts to make reservations, but I’ve driven up on the 4th of July and found a spot to camp. Regarding your vehicle, there’s nothing tricky about driving along the roads or getting to the viewpoints. If you have a standard pick-up truck, you should be just fine in reaching all the sites on the North Rim by vehicle.

      Safe travels!

  43. Sandy says:

    Enjoyed your comments and tips. Heading there tomorrow…taking the train from Williams on Tues AM and staying a night at the El Tovar and then the train back the following day. Really looking forward to seeing some of the winter views I have seen on TV…and its snowing there now so there should be a good dusting of snow up there. Thanks again.

  44. The information you gave regarding which to see-north rim vs. south rim was right on the marker! In fact it answered every question I had in deciding which fit best in my travel plans. I want to thank you for your knowledge and tips.
    Sincerely,
    Teri

  45. Jane C. says:

    I am planning a trip to the Grand Canyon this summer and am hoping to see both of the rims. I have two days which I cannot decide the best options for us. We are driving from LA to Williams, then the next day driving up to visit the South Rim in the morning and then I am not sure if we should continue on to the North Rim or to Page? Can you drive from Page to the North Rim and back during the day? If you visit the North Rim do you recommend staying there? After the Grand Canyon we are going to head to Zion and then finish in Vegas. Any recommendations?

    • JoAnna says:

      Hi Jane ~ Visiting both of the rims of the Grand Canyon is difficult, and it’s all but impossible to do in two days. I recommend spending a day at the South Rim, and from the South Rim, it is a full day’s drive to Page or the North Rim. I actually think the North Rim is best explored over the course of a couple days, especially if you enjoy hiking. Rushing in for a day trip on either rim (but especially the North Rim) leaves a lot to be desired. Given your situation, I would honestly skip the South Rim and go straight to the North Rim, followed by your trips to Zion and Las Vegas. The South Rim is really out of the way given where you’re going post-Grand Canyon. I hope that helps ~ good luck!

  46. Fran says:

    Thank you for your post. I have read through all the comments and still don’t know which rim to visit! We will be driving from California and then flying home from Vegas. My choices at this point are to just visit the South Rim. Or to drive to Bryce Canyon for the afternoon, spend the night, and then go to the North Rim the next day. I’ve never been to the Grand Canyon…so I want to make the best choice!!

    • JoAnna says:

      Hi Fran ~ What time of year will you be visiting? If it will be in the summer months, I recommend the North Rim over the South Rim (the North Rim is closed from mid-October to mid-May). I think it’s a great idea to add on one of the additional parks in southern Utah as well — I’m a big fan of all of them. Don’t feel rushed. If it sounds like too much, then drop something from the trip, but if you have the time, I’d recommend a stop at the North Rim while hitting one of the national parks in Utah as well.

  47. Beth says:

    JoAnna…Thanks for all this valuable information. From what I’ve read one can walk from south to north rim in about 11 hours, but it takes a day to drive from south to north rim? In September we’ll drive from Sedona to Grand Canyon, hoping to visit south rim first day and north rim second day, then drive to Albuquerque after that. Now it sounds as though we should just visit south rim.

    • JoAnna says:

      Hi Beth ~ Well, I wouldn’t say that you “walk” from the South to the North Rim in 11 hours. It’s actually a really strenuous hike, and it’s recommended that you spend the night at the bottom of the canyon before heading up the other rim, which actually requires a back country permit. And, yes, it takes a full day to drive from one rim to the other because you have to go all the way around the canyon. You could visit the South Rim one day, drive the next day and then visit the North Rim the day after that, but it sounds like, based on where you’ll be coming from and where you’re going, the South Rim might be the best bet. The North Rim, while rewarding, is definitely out of the way for you. Hope that helps!

  1. July 6, 2011

    […] The majority of visitors to Grand Canyon National Park enter via the South Rim, but the North Rim can provide an equally rewarding park experience. North or South? Here’s a break down of the pros and cons of both rims to help you decide. [Kaleidoscopic Wandering] […]

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