Five Misconceptions About the Grand Canyon’s North Rim

Each year, approximately half a million visitors trek to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon to admire its majestic beauty or engage in recreational activities. By contrast, the canyon’s South Rim receives an average of 5 million visitors per year. Consequently, the North Rim is not as well understood as the South Rim, and there are a number of public misconceptions about it.

One misconception is that the North Rim is made impossible to visit in winter by snow. The truth is that the snow is less of a problem that the antiquated, badly designed infrastructure at this side of the canyon. For example, many of the water pipes are subject to freezing because they are not buried deep enough. The few buildings that are supplied by deeply buried water pipes remain open in winter.

A related misconception is that the North Rim closes for winter every October 15. In reality, although the Grand Canyon Lodge closes on October 15, the park itself remains open for visitors and their vehicles through November 30—or until heavy snowfall forces the closing of Arizona State Route 67.  Of course, once the lodge closes, food and beverages services, as well as indoor restroom facilities, are no longer available.

Many people incorrectly believe that once Route 67 is closed, only authorized park personnel are allowed at the North Rim. However, the rim can still be accessed by hiking, snowshoeing, or skiing, and individuals entering the area in any of those ways are welcomed to camp along the rim. These visitors are required to have proper backcountry permits.

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There seems to be an idea among the general public that the North Rim is less popular than the South Rim because its natural scenery is less attractive. But anyone who actually visits both rims knows that this idea is far from true. The primary reason for the South Rim’s greater number of visitors is its location near the comforts of civilization, such as good roads, restaurants, and hotels. The North Rim is comparatively remote.

One final misconception is that cell phone service is not available at the North Rim. Truthfully, the most reliable cell service is at the Grand Canyon Lodge, but service can be found at occasional spots along the rim.