South Rim Grand Canyon or North Rim Grand Canyon, Which One Is Better?

  1. By Kevin
  2. On May 24, 2017
  3. North America
  4. Travel Tips

For family holiday vacation about 4 days outdoor plan, South Rim Grand Canyon or North Rim Grand Canyon, which one is better? The Grand Canyon is by far one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States. Attracting upwards of 5 million visitors per year, this steep-walled canyon is one of the most well-known natural wonders in the world. People flock to its rims from all over the world to peer into its depths.

South Rim Grand Canyon or North Rim Grand Canyon

And for good reason. Because, even if you tend to shun “touristy” destinations, I'm willing to bet the Grand Canyon will blow you away. You can see this work of Mother Nature in photos and in movies. But, until you're actually standing on one of its rims and squinting down at the Colorado River a mile (yes, a mile!) below, you can't truly understand its magnitude.

The Grand Canyon does not just have one side or vantage point to awe you with, however. It actually has three distinct and different rims that you can visit: the South Rim (the most popular), the North Rim (the lesser touristed), and the West Rim (the newest to open to visitors).

I didn't have the chance to visit the West Rim, so I can't really include it in this Grand Canyon smackdown. But I did visit both the North and South rims in one day, so I can give you my take on those. They're the two rims people most often have to choose between anyway when visiting the Grand Canyon.

The Grand Canyon is not exactly the most accessible tourist attraction. It's in the middle of nowhere in northern Arizona, and only has a couple of main highways that lead to it. Even though the North and South rims are only about 17 miles apart as the raven flies, there's just one 220-mile driving route available to take you between the two sides that will take you roughly 5 hours to traverse.

South Rim Grand Canyon or North Rim Grand Canyon

The North Rim is only accessible via Route 67, which branches off of Route 89A in the town of Jacob Lake. Due to the road often being impassable during the winter months, the North Rim is only open from mid-May through mid-October. Which is probably why it is much less visited. It also isn't nearby any major cities/towns. The closest town of any size beyond Jacob Lake is Page, Arizona, a 2+ hour drive to the northeast.

The South Rim, in comparison, is open and generally accessible year-round via Route 64 from either the east or the south. It is 1,000 feet lower in elevation than the North Rim, so the roads here are usually not closed due to snow in the winter. Several Arizona towns are within 2 hours driving distance from the South Rim, including Williams, Flagstaff, and Sedona, and a variety of tours and/or shuttles depart from these towns for Grand Canyon National Park each day if you don't have a car of your own. In fact, it's suggested you don't drive here at the South Rim. Instead, it's recommended you park your car and use the park's free shuttle service to get between each viewpoint.