Which Grand Canyon Rim Should I Visit?

Whether you have been to the Grand Canyon or not, there is a lot to consider for a future visit.

We want to help you understand a bit more about each, so you can make the best choice for your visit. To say the Grand Canyon is a big place, is a major understatement.  Not only is it large in area, but the elevation and topography vary so widely, even within the geographic boundaries, that its area seems vastly larger in person than its display on a map. The Grand Canyon is in the northwest corner of Arizona, near Nevada and Utah.

There are a number of “Rims” or areas of the Grand Canyon:

  1. South Rim, within the National Park
  2. North Rim, within the National Park
  3. West Rim, on the Hualapai Reservation
  4. Havasu Canyon and Havasu Falls, on the Havasupai Reservation
  5. Toroweap, in a remote area of the National Park

South Rim

The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is the most developed area, and lies within Grand Canyon National Park.  Most visitors to the Grand Canyon visit this area.  It offers a number of lodges within the park, restaurants, shops, and a shuttle transportation system.

The views from within the different points at the South Rim are the widest and most expansive.  There are trails along the rim area, as well as trailheads for much longer trails that continue deep into the canyon.

Just outside the park, the town of Tusayan also offers many lodging and dining options, and at a lower price than within the National Park.  There is also an IMAX movie at the visitor center and multiple helicopter, jeep and other tour options.  A free shuttle connects Tusayan with the National Park, offering visitors an easy way to get around, within the network.

You can reach the South Rim of the Grand Canyon from Hwy. 64. There are actually two entrances to the South Rim.  The South Entrance takes you to the center of the South Rim’s accommodations, visitor centers and restaurants. The East Entrance is farther out, less crowded and of course has different views.  National Park Express offers Grand Canyon Tours from Las Vegas to the South Rim.

South Rim Highlights

  1. Most accommodation options
  2. Restaurant and shopping options
  3. Shuttle bus within the area and to Tusayan
  4. Wide, expansive views
  5. Miles of paved and dirt paths for exploring

North Rim

Also inside Grand Canyon National Park, but on the opposite side of the wide expanse, is the North Rim.  It is only an average of 10 miles across between North and South Rims, but it takes about 5 hours to drive from North Rim Village to South Rim Village, about 200 miles (322 km) apart.  And, although only 10 miles apart, the climate, scenery and views are quite different.  The North Rim sits at a higher elevation, and therefore has many pine trees and more green vegetation all around.  It is a cooler climate than the South Rim, which is more of a high desert climate.

It is important to note that the road to the North Rim is only open during summer months, generally May to October. The high elevation of the road leaves it snow-covered much of the winter.  At the North Rim, there are accommodations in the Lodge as well as a number of cabins, all of which must be booked well in advance.  Since lodging is very limited in the North Rim, the crowds are always relatively small.  It only receives about 10 percent of the National Park’s visitors.  It is always less crowded and a great experience for those lucky enough to have planned for a place to stay.

The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is the closest to Utah.  The park entrance is 30 miles south of Jacob Lake, Arizona, on Highway 67. The visitor center and another 14 miles south of the entrance.

North Rim Highlights

  1. Less crowded
  2. Higher elevation, greener vegetation
  3. Limited accommodations
  4. More remote location
  5. Outstanding views
  6. Only open during summer months

West Rim

Grand Canyon West is the name of the destination at the West Rim.  This is not part of the National Park, and is located within the Hualapai Reservation.  This is the location of the Skywalk glass bridge. Admission to Grand Canyon West must be purchased at the entrance and is not associated with any National Park fees or passes.

Grand Canyon West is managed by the Hualapai Indian tribe.  It is located 240 miles west of the South Rim, about a 4.5 hour drive. When traveling from Las Vegas, this is the closest part of the Grand Canyon, with a drive of just over 2 hours.  Many day visitors from Las Vegas choose this destination due to its proximity.  Grand Canyon West Tours are available from Las Vegas.

Inside Grand Canyon West, there are different viewpoints such as Eagle Point and Guano Point, as well as recreations of Native American Dwellings with arts, crafts and jewelry on display and for sale. There is also Hualapai Ranch, offering food, mechanical bull riding and zipline.  The Ranch also offers a number of cabins for overnight guests.

The Skywalk is a glass bridge about 10 feet wide and stretches 70 feet out over the edge of the Grand Canyon. Guests cannot bring bags, purses or cameras on the Skywalk, but these items can be secured in a locker.   Professional photos are available for purchase after your Skywalk visit.

West Rim Highlights

  1. Optional upgrade to include Skywalk Glass Bridge
  2. Separate admission fees
  3. Closest drive from Las Vegas
  4. Optional zipline and mechanical bull riding
  5. Native American cultural displays

Havasu Canyon

Havasu Canyon and Havasu Falls is a section south of Grand Canyon National Park, on land owned by the Havasupai tribe. Havasu Falls is one of the most picturesque waterfalls on our planet.  The unique color combination of the red rocks with the rare blue-green waters offer a stunningly beautiful scene.  “Havasupai” means people of the blue-green waters.  This area is accessible by a  10-mile hike which is somewhat strenuous.  Advance permits are required, which are for 3 nights only–no single day or night permits are granted.  Entrance fees and environmental uses fees are required by the reservation, these start at approximately $300 per person.

Havasu Canyon Highlights

  1. Beautifully colored and unique scenery
  2. Swimming available at the falls
  3. Difficult to access, requires 10-mile hike each way
  4. Costs start at $300 per person fees into the area
  5. Remote location requires advance planning and obtaining permits

Toroweap Overlook

An extremely remote, dramatic and stunning destination, Toroweap offers views from 3,000 feet (915 m) over the Grand Canyon. The sheer cliffs allow visitors to fully feel the depth of the canyon.  The topography is also unique, with volcanic cinder cones and ancient lava flows.  View rapids, far below, on the Colorado River.

Toroweap, also called Tuweap, is reached by rough, unpaved roads from either Fredonia, Arizona or St. George, Utah.  Four-wheel drive is necessary.  There is no lodging, food, or gas in the area. The area is within Grand Canyon National Park.  The National Park Service maintains the Tuweep ranger station 6 miles north of the overlook. Due to its remote location, only visitors prepared for very rough roads and changes in the weather should visit Toroweap.  Summer rains or winter snows could make the road impassable.

Toroweap Highlights

  1. Dramatic views over steep drop off
  2. Remote, away from crowds
  3. Difficult access, requires 4×4 and preparation
  4. Caution required due to terrain and weather conditions
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