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Grand Canyon spans 277 miles in length. It is approximately 18 miles wide at its widest point and 4 miles across its narrowest point. Its depth reaches 6000 feet.
South Rim and North Rim define Grand Canyon and they are quite different. So what are the differences between these two rims and should you visit South Rim vs North Rim?
Here are all the pros and cons to help you decide which one is the best for you.
Grand Canyon National Park at Sunset (South Rim) / South Rim vs North Rim
- 1. Should You Visit the South Rim vs North Rim of the Grand Canyon (7 Things to Know)
- 1.1. Number of Visitors to the South Rim vs North Rim
- 1.2. Accessibility to the South Rim vs North Rim
- 1.3. Opening Times of the South Rim vs North Rim
- 1.4. Lodging at the South Rim vs North Rim
- 1.5. Dining Options at the South Rim vs North Rim
- 1.6. Viewpoints at the South Rim vs North Rim
- 1.7. Differences in Temperature - the South Rim vs North Rim
- 2. Intrepid Scout's Tips for the South Rim vs North Rim
Should You Visit the South Rim vs North Rim of the Grand Canyon (7 Things to Know)
Number of Visitors to the South Rim vs North Rim
- Visitors to the South 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 South Rim is very crowded, especially in the summer months.
First of all, the roads leading to the Grand Canyon Village get very congested. Finding a parking spot at the park is a challenge, so be prepared to patiently wait for a vacant spot.
Using the shuttle bus is highly recommended, however, be prepared to wait in long lines before you will be able to board it.
All of the above adds up to wasted time.
Even at sunset, you will have to arrive early to secure a spot. Finding some solitude on the trails or at the viewpoints is simply not possible.
- Visitors to the North Rim
As a comparison, the North Rim receives about 1 million visitors each year. It is blissfully almost empty even during summer months. If you cannot stand long lines, and crowds, and you are looking for solitude, then the North Rim is the right destination for you.
Grand Canyon North Rim / South Rim vs North Rim
Accessibility to the South Rim vs North Rim
- Accessibility to the South 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. The majority of the visitors enter from the South Entrance.
Several large cities in Arizona, like Flagstaff, Williams, and Sedona are in close proximity to the South Rim. In addition, the gateway city of Tusayan is located only about 20 minutes from the Grand Canyon Village.
To top it off, the Grand Canyon Purple Route/Tusayan Route shuttle bus operates between Tusayan and the park and picks up visitors at 4 different locations every 20 minutes. It is a great option to have especially during the summer months.
- Accessibility to the North Rim
The North Rim has a very remote location. It is accessed only via Route 67, which branches off Hwy 89A in the town of Jacob Lake.
The closest town is Jacob Lake, which is about an hour’s drive from the North Rim, other places are more than a 2-hour drive.
However, the North Rim is a perfect destination when combined with a visit to Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks.
Toroweap Overlook at Sunrise (North Rim) / South Rim vs North Rim
Opening Times of the South Rim vs North Rim
- The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is open year-round, 24 hours a day.
- As a comparison, North Rim is open only during the summer months. Specifically, mid-May to mid-October. In the winter months Route 67 is closed to all traffic.
Lodging at the South Rim vs North Rim
- Lodging Options at the South Rim
There are lots of lodging options at the South Rim. You can stay inside or outside the park.
As far as I am concerned, there is nothing like staying inside the park at one of the lodges. You are practically staying at the rim. However, all these places inside the park book at least a year in advance.
My top choice is El Tovar Hotel. It is a historic hotel located directly on the rim of the Grand Canyon. 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.
If everything is booked inside the park, then the following are some of the places just outside the park that I stayed at before. They are no frills type of accommodations, but they work just fine:
- Lodging Options at 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!
View from the Grand Canyon Lodge (North Rim) / South Rim vs North Rim
Dining Options at the South Rim vs North Rim
There are lots of dining options at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. They range from fancy sit-down dinners to simple cafeteria-style meals, and markets for groceries. Check the complete list HERE.
In addition, right at the entrance to the Grand Canyon, you have Tusayan with an abundance of restaurants, fast food places, and grocery stores.
The North Rim offers the Grand Canyon Lodge Dining Room, the Roughriders Saloon, the Deli in the Pines, and the General Store.
Viewpoints at 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 by the viewing opportunities.
- 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.
Grand Canyon North Rim / South Rim or North Rim
Differences in Temperature - the South Rim vs North Rim
The North Rim sits at an elevation of 8,300 feet, as a result, you need to be prepared for cooler temperatures compared to the South Rim which is situated about 1,000 feet lower.
Expect average temperatures in the summer to be at around 70F, while spring and fall temperatures might be at only 50-60F.
The South Rim averages about 70-80F in the summer, 60-70 during spring and fall months, and about 40-50F in winter.
Hiking during the summer months can be challenging or even dangerous with temperatures at over 100F below the rim.
Desert View Watchtower in Grand Canyon National Park (South Rim) / South Rim vs North Rim