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The "Other Grand Canyon"—the North Rim—Opens for the Season on May 15th

View of the Grand Canyon from the North Rim.

The canyon from the lodge on the North Rim. NPS photo.

Visitors to the Grand Canyon will soon have another—and less crowded—option for visiting the park. Highway 67 to the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park is scheduled to open for the season on Friday, May 15.

The North Rim is about 1,000 feet higher in elevation that the more heavily-visited South Rim, and as a result the North Rim receives considerably more snow each winter. It's simply not cost-effective to keep the North Rim open during the winter, so that area is typically operational from mid-May until late November, and those dates are subject to change on short notice due to the weather.

Visitors to the North Rim will find similar facilities to those on the south side of the canyon, but on a much smaller scale. The park website has information about campgrounds, lodging, and places to eat both in and near the park. A news release has more details on dates and hours of operation for specific facilities on the North Rim. Options for overnight stays in the area are a bit limited, so plan ahead.

It's been a few years since my last visit to the park, and while I always enjoyed the experience on either rim, there's just something special about a trip to the north side of the canyon. The pace is slower, traffic less congested and the overall experience more relaxing.

The natural environment on the North Rim is different as well. A park publication notes,

Sitting atop the Kaibab Plateau 8,000 to 9,000 feet (2,400–2,750 m) above sea level with lush green meadows surrounded by a mixed conifer forest sprinkled with white-barked aspen, the North Rim is an oasis in the desert. Here you may observe deer feeding or a coyote chasing mice in the meadows, a mother turkey leading her young across the road, or a mountain lion slinking off into the cover of the forest


The higher elevation means cooler weather as well, a nice plus in the summer, but don't get caught without a jacket!

North Rim summer high temperatures are typically cooler than the South Rim due to increased elevation, with highs typically ranging in the 70s (21-26°C). Overnight lows can still drop to near or below freezing occasionally on the North Rim.

Due to the very dry airmass typical of the late spring months, late season frosts and freezes are still a possibility, with subfreezing temperatures being recorded as late as July at the North Rim. Snowfall has been reported as late as the middle of June.

The park website has links to information on road and weather conditions and current weather forecasts.

If you want to experience both the north and south rims of the canyon on the same trip, be sure to allow plenty of time. The NPS notes that although it's "just 10 miles as the condor flies" directly across the Canyon from the South Rim to the North, the trip by road covers 220 miles and requires about five hours—plus any stops you wish to make enroute.

One more reminder if you're planning a visit to either rim of the park: check your watch if you've arrived from another state.

Most of Arizona, including Grand Canyon National Park, remains on Mountain Standard Time year-round. Arizona is on the same time as California and Nevada and one hour behind Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah.

The NPS' 2009 Trip Planner for the park and the 2009 North Rim guide can be downloaded at the park website. You'll also find copies of other brochures, including trail guides on the site.

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