Touring the Grand Canyon is something that many people around the globe dream of doing at least once in a lifetime. Some folks save money their entire life just to visit this majestic place, simply because the sheer beauty of this geological wonder beckons to be experienced in person. Looking at a photograph cannot compare to the feeling that one gets when standing high on the rim of this gigantic canyon where the views extend as far as the eyes can see. Hours can be spent studying the features of this canyon anywhere that a visitor stands and the peaceful setting inspires deep meditative thoughts. A Grand Canyon visit can be an enlightening event and the memories will be something to ponder over for a lifetime!
The Grand Canyon South Rim is the most popular destination in this National Park and overcrowding has been a problem during the last decade. During the spring and summer seasons the atmosphere of Grand Canyon Village is the same as being in a fair size city with traffic jams and long waiting lines. For those who simply seek some peace and quiet, the South Rim can be an overwhelming experience during the peak tourism seasons. Fortunately there is an alternative to dealing with the big crowds all the way across the other side of the canyon. The Grand Canyon North Rim Visitors Center facility is located in a very remote area, so far fewer people are willing to do the trip. As a result, it is easy to find some peaceful elbow room.
The North Rim Of The Grand Canyon National Park is only open from May 15 through October 15 each year. The reason why this part of the National park is closed for the winter has to do with the high elevation. The North Rim is over 8,000 feet above sea level while the South Rim is in the 7,000 foot elevation range. The 1,000 foot higher elevation does make a big difference in the amount of winter season snowfall, so the North Rim is subject to dangerous impassible road conditions when winter storms roll through. The daytime temperatures are bitterly cold in the higher elevations too, so coaxing people to visit the North Rim during the winter is an impossible dream and this is why the “gone fishing sign” is posted till spring.
It does not take long for things to warm up at the North Rim after the gates open in May. Late winter storms may occasionally pass through as late as the first week of June on rare occasion, but for the most part, guests will be greeted by sunny skies and comfortably cool temperatures when the wildflowers start to bloom. There is a 5ºF to 10ºF temperature difference between the North Rim and South Rim, so if a summer heat wave is forecasted, the North Rim will provide some relief.
The drive from Fredonia, Arizona or Kanab, Utah to the Grand Canyon North Rim can be as exciting as being at the destination itself. Arizona State Road 67 runs due south for 42 miles from the Jacobs Lake campgrounds through the Kaibab National Forest to the North rim entrance gate, so the scenery along the way is spectacular to see. The road passes through many miles of high elevation grassy meadows and this is where an abundance of wildlife can be seen on any given day. Large herds of wild bison call this region home. Coyote, Elk and Mule Deer frequent this region too, so be sure to keep a good camera handy when doing the drive!
After passing through the entrance gate, there will still be many miles to go before getting to the visitors center. The access roads inside the North Rim of the park are unlike the South Rim, because there is only one way in and one way out. In this section of the Grand Canyon, the high ground mesa extends into the canyon like long branching arms, so some meandering has to be done when traveling by car.
There are three Grand Canyon North Rim overlook areas that are accessible by car and one requires an extra 15 mile ride to get to. The Point Imperial Scenic Overlook can be accessed on the way to the North Rim Visitors Center or it can be accessed on the way to the Cape Royal Scenic Overlook, which is the farthest point accessible by car. The Bright Angel Overlook is located next to the Visitors Center, so it is the most popular place to be. There are several more scenic overlooks that are only accessible by hiking and the picturesque Point Sublime Overlook is well worth doing the footwork.
The North Rim is part of the first tier of the Escalante Grand Staircase geological feature that dominates the central Utah landscape. The colors of the many layers of rock strata on the north side of the canyon do look different than what can be seen on the south side, even though all of the terrain in this entire region was created at the same time eons ago. Being 21 miles north and the higher elevation does make a difference in erosive factors as well, so the Grand Canyon North Rim has a much more untamed look, which is intriguing to see.
Wild and untamed is the theme of the Grand Canyon North Rim and this is how a real National Park experience should be. Unlike the bustling city atmosphere of the South Rim, the North Rim facilities are very rustic by comparison. The North Rim village facilities retained the original rustic mountain lodge atmosphere and there are no fancy bells and whistles. There are no shuttle buses, trains or stores that sell tons of overpriced junk. The North Rim village experience is down to earth and the peaceful rustic lodge atmosphere is quite cozy, which is like a dream come true for those who wish to escape from the South Rim big city crowds.
Most of the photos of the Grand Canyon North Rim during my visit were taken at Point Imperial and at Bright Angel Point. Both of these scenic overlooks have paved walkways, so even those who have mobility challenges can do the short trails. However, the paved Bright Angel Point Trail does have some steep grades, so some visitors may require assistance. Even a short hike in this high elevation can leave a visitor gasping for air, so it is best to take it easy till acclimated. Drinking extra water and snacking does help to alleviate altitude sickness, so be sure to carry a water bottle while strolling around.
The views of the Grand Canyon North Rim are as majestic as can be during the spring season when the air is crystal clear. Toward summer when the wildfire season begins, the North Rim gets its share of hazy smoke, which can create a surreal visual effect, because only the peaks that rise above the haze in the deep canyon can be focused upon. The summer monsoon rain season does clear the air on smoky summer days and viewing the storm clouds over the Grand Canyon does not get any better than at the North Rim. In fact, the North Rim is famous for offering the best sunset views in the entire Grand Canyon and the summer storm clouds at sunset add quite a dramatic effect.
For those who wish to step way back in time to an age when the Grand Canyon South Rim was a peaceful quiet place with no overcrowding problems, the North Rim will certainly suit the fancy! The North Rim is rustic, wild and untamed, just like the majestic Grand Canyon should be. It may only be only about 20 miles from the South Rim to the North Rim as the raven flies, but to get there by car the trip is over 220 miles, because a driver will have to take the long way around the big canyon. It is the extra distance that keeps the big crowds away, which is like music to the ears of those who seek a relaxed peaceful setting when touring the Grand Canyon!
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