If you’re traveling to Northern Arizona, chances are high you’re visiting Grand Canyon National Park. In which case, let us offer you a piece of advice: THE NORTH RIM IS 200 MILLION TIMES BETTER THAN THE SOUTH RIM.
Yes, it’s harder to get to. Yes, it has a shorter season (May 15 to October 15). Blah, blah, blah—stop making excuses. Going the extra mile to get away from the fannypacked bedlam is absolutely worth it. Here’s why: You can do all of the same things at the North Rim that you do at the South: scenic drives, strenuous hikes, mule rides, ranger-led excursions, and back-country camping. The difference is the lack of people; fewer than 10 percent of visitors to the Grand Canyon make it north. That means no ghastly tour groups, cleaner restrooms, and trails all to yourself.
There is only one campground and one lodge inside the park. Reservations for the rustic Grand Canyon Lodge should be booked six to 13 months in advance, although last-minute cancellations do happen. (Rooms start at $130 a night; the best cabins, including half a dozen with stunning rim views, cost $221 per night.)
You needn’t be a guest of the lodge to revel in its grandeur either. Order a fairly priced Grand Canyon Brewing Company IPA or house cocktail from the lodge’s Roughrider Saloon, and wander out to the open-air patio. You’ll see dozens of rocking chairs and picnic tables free for the taking, many with 180-degree sweeps of the canyon. The views are astonishing, but just you wait until the sun starts setting. If you crave an even crazier vantage point, walk the 0.5-mile paved trail out to Bright Angel Point. At 8,5000 feet, the drop-offs on either side of the trail induce spectacular panic.
North Rim Visitor Center, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona; 928-638-7888.