With a thousand-foot advantage in elevation over the South Rim, the North Rim affords visitors some of the most spectacular views in the park and some wonderful hiking opportunities. The North Rim is more remote than the South Rim (they are situated only ten air miles from one another, but over 220 miles of road separates them), and is only open between May and October. No services or overnight facilities are available during the winter months, but the North Rim does offer day-use access, weather permitting. The access road, SR 67, is not plowed in the winter. From the Grand Canyon Lodge, close to the North Rim's visitor center and information station, you can hike out to Bright Angel Point. From your perch between the Transept, a side canyon, and Roaring Springs Canyon, you can hear the springs themselves, over 3,000 feet below you. Roaring Springs is the sole water source for both the North and South Rims, with South-Rim-bound water traveling through a pipeline to reach its final destination. The Transept Trail continues along the rim or you can follow the North Kaibab Trail into the canyon itself. The trip to Roaring Springs, where you can reward your efforts with a cooling dip in the water, is almost ten miles round trip, and will take most of the day. The North Kaibab Trail eventually reaches the Colorado River at Phantom Ranch on the canyon floor -- a 14-mile hike, one way. Both short and long mule trips can be arranged from the North Rim on the North Kaibab Trail. The day-long trip to Roaring Springs and back includes lunch and a swim. In addition to the lodge and a campground, a general store and gas station are conveniently located nearby. The rustic, 1920s-era Grand Canyon Lodge was designed by Gilbert Stanley Underwood, the architect responsible for many historic national park lodges including Yosemite's elegant Ahawanee Hotel and lodges at Bryce Canyon and Zion. Picture windows punctuate the massive limestone and timber structure with stunning canyon views, and, in addition to the fine dining room, lodge hospitality includes an ice cream shop and a pub. The lodge features 201 units in all; you can choose a motel room or one of three types of cabins, a few with a view of the canyon. Call 303-297-2757 for reservations and rate information. The North Rim Campground is open from mid-May until October 21 and offers 82 sites without hookups. Laundry and shower facilities are located nearby; fees average $10 per night (call the Park Service for updated prices). Stays are limited to seven days per season. Reservations are strongly recommended and may be made up to (but not more than), eight weeks in advance. Call Biospherics, Inc. at 800-365-2267. This is the only developed campground in this portion of the park; a permit is required for backcountry camping.
I've had the pleasure of visting the Grand Canyon on two occasions, this past September and in 1996. On our most recent visit, we spent a day at the North Rim, hiking a few short trails (Cape Final and Cape Royal) located above the rim soaking in the views from different perspectives of the rim. The lodge at the north rim provides spectacular panoramic views and lots of seating inside and out to hang out. I have to admit I prefer the north rim over the south as it is not quite as "touristy" and definitely less crowded. On our drive out, we stopped at Jacob Lake, a motel, restaurant, gift shop and bakery about 45 miles north of the park. I would strongly recommend making this family owned landmark a destination stop for a meal in their restaurant or lunch counter - the food was tasty and generous. Be sure to save room and check out the cookie counter - some of the best homemade cookies we've ever had!
My visit to the Grand Canyon in 1996 was for the purpose of hiking rim to rim, with an overnight stay in Phantom Ranch. It takes some pre-planning to work out the logistics of transportation to the north rim, lodging on both sides and a stay at Phantom Ranch. Again, I have to say I prefered the hike down the north side with it's alpine setting and cooler temps. During our hike up Bright Angel Trail, we encountered a helicopter rescue. One of the park rangers haulted all traffic on the trail so the helicopter could land and pick up the injured hiker - very cool to see!
For more pictures and details of both of our visits to the Grand Canyon, please check out our blogs: