Grand Canyon - choosing a Rim
Replies: 10 - Last Post: Sep 9, 2012 1:37 AM Last Post By: Bisbee
Sep 2, 2012 10:20 AM
Grand Canyon - choosing a RimI am coming to SW USA on Sept 29 for a for a driving tour from Vegas to the Grand Canyon to Taos, and back to Vegas via Alberquerque and Sedona. I will have a day or two in the grand canyon, and I know the south rim is the primary destination.
Coming from the North at this time of year, should I still go down to the south rim? Or, is the north rim a good option?
Sep 2, 2012 11:16 AM
1Most people find the South Rim their favorite because it has so many viewpoints to see the Canyon.
Travellers pressed for time sometimes find they only have time for one side or the other as it's about a
250-mile drive from the South Rim to the North Rim. In your case, I think you could work in the North Rim
on the way to Taos, and the South Rim on the return to Vegas.
Sep 2, 2012 12:35 PM
2Thanks! I just redid my Google map and driving directions, coming up to the South Rim on my return... I see what you mean. It makes the overall distance lower. I can do the North Rim on my way East, but I think I might save all my Grand Canyon time for the south rim, and have more time in the canyon and less time driving that way...
Sep 2, 2012 3:13 PM
3Temperatures at night are already dropping to below freezing in the Taos Area, at 9,000 feet elevation. You will see beautiful fall colors. Taos is 90 miles northeast from Santa Fe alongside the Rio Grande. Be sure to visit Taos Pueblo just a couple of miles north of Taos. Depending on how much time you have, Ghost Ranch, where artist Georgia O'Keeffe lived and painted, is about 40 miles northwest of Santa Fe as well as Ojo Caliente Spa hot springs (the highway junction is in Espanola or at another Indian Pueblo village).
Santa Fe has a 400-years-old cathedral, 300 art galleries, a dozen museums, many interesting shops and trading posts selling local Indian crafts and art plus cowboy boots and clothes and boutiques for Christmas shopping. There is a discount Outlet Retail Mall with Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren shops. Albuquerque is 60 miles/one hour south of Santa Fe, along either the scenic Turquoise Trail/N.M. #14 or Interstate-25.
Sep 3, 2012 8:56 AM
4There generally isn't a universal "best rim" for all people with all preferences in all situations.
As a general rule (with lots of exceptions), the South Rim works best for people short of time who want to see the Canyon and want and/or need to move on quickly. The North Rim is best geared to people who can and want to stick around for a little while and get to know the place.
The South Rim is convenient to one of the major east-west travel routes (I-40) and provides a loop access (in from Williams, out to Flagstaff via US180 or the East Rim Drive and US89 - or vice versa - all reasonably fast-going 2-lane roads, except for a bit of fighting through Flagstaff traffic, worst on US180). North Rim is at the end of a long dead-end road (which itself pretty much starts in the middle of nowhere), and is generally a bit slower going than the South Rim access roads. North Rim's best viewpoint for the first-time visitor requires an additional 20 miles on a much slower-going road (but well-paved). Largely for this reason, South Rim gets about 90% of the visitors; traffic jams have been know to occur in South Rim village; heavy traffic is pretty much inconceivable on North Rim. All South Rim viewpoints are fairly similar to one another (to most first-time visitors; not to Canyon connoisseurs), and all give a fairly "standard" very good Canyon view. The major North Rim viewpoints are all very different from one another; only one (Cape Royal) provides the "standard" Canyon view, though I would consider it the best of all the viewpoints (on either rim) which one can access on a paved road.
North Rim is roughly1000' to 2000' (300m to 600m) higher in elevation than the South Rim. This has many consequences. North Rim is cooler/colder than South Rim. In midsummer, South Rim is sometimes quite warm (borderline hot); North Rim never is. In winter, North Rim gets far more snow; as a result, the road is not plowed, and it is inaccessible (except by cross-country ski, snowshoe, or hiking across the canyon) from (generally) sometime in November through mid-May. North Rim facilities close in mid-October; South Rim facilities are open all year. The vegetation on the South Rim is either scrub woodland (scattered trees no more than 20' tall) or rather sparse and small Ponderosa Pine. The North Rim has a full mixed-conifer forest with mountain meadows. North Rim tree sizes are not in the same class as those on the west slopes of the Cascades / Sierras or in the the northwestern Coast Ranges (including the Olympics), but they are reasonably sizable compared to almost anywhere else in the contiguous 48 states.
Rim hiking on the South Rim mostly consists of trails along roads. North Rim has a number of quiet and lightly-used rim hikes leading through the forest to excellent rarely visited viewpoints. First-timers wanting the easiest and fastest hike to the Canyon bottom will want to go down from the South Rim, where they also have the choice of two trails (allowing a kind of loop). The North Rim trail into the Canyon appropriate for first-timers is much longer (takes more time), but I would consider it much more interesting. There are other trails into the Canyon from both rims, but are generally best left to those who already have some Canyon hiking experience.
North Rim has one fine in-park lodge, a few cabins in a meadow about 17 miles (29 km) north, and a slightly larger lodge at the start of the dead-end road, 44 miles (73 km) north. South Rim has a number of good-to-excellent in-park lodges, and a cluster of motels just outside the National Park boundary at Tusayan, about 6 miles (10 km) from the rim. Farther away, abundant accommodation at Flagstaff and Williams.
The major "convenience" exception is for people visiting Zion and Bryce (but not much else) out of Salt Lake (especially) or Vegas. In that case, North Rim is much more convenient than South Rim.
Sep 3, 2012 9:11 AM
Sep 3, 2012 8:15 PM
Sep 3, 2012 8:37 PM
Sep 5, 2012 8:05 AM
8In October there will still be far fewer people on the North Rim than on the South Rim, and considerably fewer people on both rims than in July / August. Crowds an issue? You will probably have company on just about any South Rim viewpoint in October - just considerably less than in July. Some, perhaps many, would consider the issue to have gone away, some would just consider it to have become less bad. In October, you very well may have almost all North Rim viewpoints pretty much to yourself.
Another thing I failed to mention ... the aspen trees on North Rim turn color in the autumn, providing bright color against/amidst the green on the conifers. The color peaks over perhaps a 10 day period. The timing of this period varies from year to year, but generally includes October 1. I don't want to guess the timing this year, but the peak period may be underway when you get there. There are also aspens elsewhere in the southwest above 8000' or so, so you very well may see them someplace(s) else, depending on timing, exact route, etc. No aspen on South Rim.
Minor and perhaps irrelevant point with reference to #7 ... West Rim Drive has traditionally been closed to private autos while the Hermit Road shuttle is still running, which has normally been until the end of November.
Edited by: fdbaz typo
Sep 8, 2012 1:07 PM
Sep 9, 2012 1:37 AM
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