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Old 10-24-2011, 06:13 AM
 
Location: New Mexico
7,423 posts, read 8,159,737 times
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So next spring I will be experiencing the Grand Canyon for the first time. I know it's a really long drive to get to the North Rim, but for the sake of avoiding crowds and perhaps better scenery is the North Rim a better place to take it all in? How is the drive getting there (from I-40/Flagstaff)? How early in the spring can one visit without the chance of snow or cold weather? Has anyone visted the North Rim and have comparisons to elaborate on from their experiences vs. the South Rim?

I know the South Rim must be more developed. When does it start getting really crowded there?
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Old 10-24-2011, 10:06 AM
 
Location: Verde Valley, Az
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I think the south rim is always crowded. Bus loads of tourists all the time. The North rim is busy, but no where as busy as the South rim. I believe it is ~190 miles to the North rim vs 69 to the South rim from Flagstaff. I have stayed at the North rim 4 times now, camping in the FS campground there. I like it enough that I no longer plan trips to the south.
The drive is easy enough, but the reservation roads are lonely as far as amenities, no Quick Stops, Gas stations, etc.


Curly
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Old 10-24-2011, 02:23 PM
 
Location: Sonoran Desert
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It is not crowded at the south rim if you come mid-March. You can drive from overlook to overlook and find plenty of parking in the lots. The north rim is still closed then (from snow). March can still deliver a storm, but if you are flexible by a day or so, you can work around that. The south rim rarely if ever is socked in for more than a day. The north rim is better in some ways, but you have to appreciate that what you are looking at is awesome even from the south. You will not be disappointed, I don't think. The south rim has more overlooks spread out along the length and there is the historic hotel and tower, the shops, and the ability to walk down the canyon on a very easy trail for inside out views.

Last edited by Ponderosa; 10-24-2011 at 02:31 PM..
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Old 10-24-2011, 08:26 PM
 
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The South Rim gets at least 4 times the visitors. Visitors to the north rim might stay longer. There is a full service lodge / store / gas pump but almost no other development. A lot of South Rim visitors hit it for a few hours and then are gone. The South Rim is sort of a small town of activity. More choices of accommodations, dining, shopping. The canyon views are a bit different but the main difference in scenery are on and back from the rims themselves. The North Rim is dense high-altitude forest. The South Rim is open desert. There was still snow in the campground I stayed at one time near the North Rim in May some years ago (access to the north rim generally opens around May 15). I liked it a bit more than the hotter lower elevation South Rim and its larger crowds but I've been to and appreciated both several times.

The southeast vista at Desert View is good as well (and somewhat less crowded than the main south rim viewpoints). There are remote access points in the north / west that involve backroads and would need dry conditions and perhaps a 4wd vehicle to navigate. Mostly used by hikers wanting a purer wilderness experience.

Either approach is nice in its own way. This site shows some guidance in the same vein as the above comments. http://www.grandcanyon.net/south-rim-vs-north-rim But if you are coming before late May you will have to go the South Rim.

Last edited by NW Crow; 10-24-2011 at 08:43 PM..
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Old 10-25-2011, 09:20 AM
 
Location: Upstate SC
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Heading there in about 2 weeks (Nov 10 or so). Driving from Las Vegas, and heading down to Phoenix over a period of three or four days. The North Rim should still be open then, correct? The NPS website mentions how it depends on the weather, but typically, it would still be OK then, wouldn't it?

We'll be extremely vigilant and not drive there should there even be the chance of snow.
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Old 10-25-2011, 10:02 AM
 
Location: Orange County, CA
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My choice is the North Rim, hands down. 90% of Canyon visitors see the South Rim, only 10% make it to the North Rim. A thousand feet higher and usually only accessible from May to October because of snow. Earlier or later can be iffy, be sure to check weather forecasts and road closure info if you plan to visit these times. Harder to get to, it takes some travel planning, but worth it for those that do not care for large crowds, and offers, in the opinion of many, more pleasant scenery. It is only 10 miles line of sight from rim to rim, but a 215 mile drive to go from one to the other.
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Old 10-25-2011, 05:31 PM
 
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If you've been to the National Park Site then you probably saw this:


Report from the North Rim
date posted Oct 17, 2011

Most visitor services and facilities [note from me: this means food & lodging other than primitive camping] on the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park closed on Saturday, October 15; but the North Rim will remain open to visitors through November 27 or until snow closes Highway 67 leading into the park. Self service gas and diesel fuel will continue to be available in the park through November 27 or until Highway 67 closes."

Grand Canyon National Park - Weather and Road Conditions (U.S. National Park Service)

I post it mainly for others to see as well.



Looks like the North Rim has a chance to get 1 inch of snow tomorrow night. Temps well below freezing at night.



Fredonia is at least 3,000 lower in elevation than the North Rim but it is the closest I could find an extended forecast. Fredonia, AZ 86022 Month Weather Report - AccuWeather.com (http://www.accuweather.com/us/az/fredonia/86022/forecast-month.asp?mnyr=11-01-2011&view=table - broken link)
Looks like weather getting cooler and possibly wet on Nov. 8 there, so at the higher North Rim it will probably be about 10 degrees cooler and might be snowing if the storm passes thru at night, though it could melt off the next day depending on the size of the storm system. Check back there and / or at the Nation Park site in a few days and see / hear an updated forecast.


South Rim probably has fairly little chance of snow in early November; might consider it if the North Rim looks bad or sketchy or if you want any services beyond a campground and gas.

Last edited by NW Crow; 10-25-2011 at 05:46 PM..
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Old 10-25-2011, 08:36 PM
 
Location: Sonoran Desert
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Current forecast for north rim from NWS:


7-Day Forecast for Latitude 36.26N and Longitude 112.06W (Elev. 8597 ft)
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Old 10-28-2011, 12:32 AM
Status: "NIMBYs be gone!!!" (set 12 days ago)
 
Location: East Central Phoenix
3,527 posts, read 4,589,155 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by caphillsea77 View Post
So next spring I will be experiencing the Grand Canyon for the first time. I know it's a really long drive to get to the North Rim, but for the sake of avoiding crowds and perhaps better scenery is the North Rim a better place to take it all in? How is the drive getting there (from I-40/Flagstaff)? How early in the spring can one visit without the chance of snow or cold weather? Has anyone visted the North Rim and have comparisons to elaborate on from their experiences vs. the South Rim?

I know the South Rim must be more developed. When does it start getting really crowded there?
The South Rim is where all the activity is, especially in the summer. It's like a small city up there during the peak season, and you're always bumping into people. That's fine if you want to go to the Grand Canyon and be a typical tourist ... but if you're looking for more of a true nature experience and less crowded conditions, it might be worth to take the long drive to the North Rim.

I went to the North Rim in July one year, and I can tell you that not only is it less crowded, it is much cooler than the South Rim due to the higher elevation. Also much better high altitude scenery, including more trees. If I remember correctly, the highway to the North Rim is closed during the winter months due to the heavy snow. I think the road isn't open until at least the mid spring (April or early May), but it can still snow up there as late as May if a stray cold front moves through. Bring a warm jacket if you're going there in the spring, but you'll be fine in the summer.
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Old 10-28-2011, 01:15 AM
 
Location: Green Valley, AZ
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According to Google maps:

Flagstaff to the North Rim village is ~210 miles or 4.5 hours.
Flagstaff to the South Rim village is ~75 miles or 1.5 hours.

Think about how much time you plan on spending at the canyon and plan your trip accordingly. A day trip to the north rim from Flagstaff will cost you 9 hours of drive time, and I wouldn’t recommend it. That basically leaves you a couple hours on the rim before you gotta jump in the car to drive back.

On the other hand, if you are planning on staying for a couple of days, over-night at one of the small towns outside the park (Fredonia or Kanab). You could also camp in the park to the north of the rim. The north rim will definitely get you away from the ridiculously large crowds at the south rim, especially in the summer, but there is still a lot of people there.

In my opinion, early spring is a bit too early in the season to do much but sit-n-stare in the cold. There are fewer people on the rim when it’s cold, so there is an advantage to going early. There could be snow on the ground as late as early April up there. I definitely wouldn’t recommend any kind of hiking when there is snow on the ground. Slip? Oooooooops… splat!

In terms of which is a better rim to go to: Personally, I too like to avoid the crowds, and we thoroughly enjoyed the north rim last time we were there. The north rim is at ~1500 ft higher in elevation than the south rim is, has thicker forest, cooler weather, and more snow in the winter. There are many excellent scenic spots within driving distance from the village that are far away from the crowds, even in the middle of the summer. The best hiking weather is from May to October, with mid-summer having the best temperature range.

The south rim gets a bit too crowded for me, and there aren’t as many escapes. It is a little warmer however, and is probably the better option for an early spring or late fall hiking excursion. It obviously has more amenities.

In terms of view, I think the north rim is a bit better just because it is at a higher elevation and you can definitely notice the additional 1500 feet of scenery. Both rims will grant you a grand viewing experience regardless of which you choose.

Here is a link to some useful climate information for the canyon and on the rims:

http://www.scenic.com/scenic/show_ar...308&lang=en-US
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