The Grand Canyon. Which Rim is the Best To Visit

Article Contributer Luke Durban

One of the great wonders of the world, no trip to the US is complete without stopping to experience the Grand Canyon.

But at almost 450 km long, and over 1,100 km in circumference, how do you even know where to start?!!

There are options to take in the West Rim glass skywalk, and stay overnight at a ranch on native land. You can choose to travel on horseback, and witness the magic of a sunrise which most tourists will never understand.
The following are the pros and cons of visiting each of the Grand Canyon’s 4 available rims.

The West Rim

 Rim, where the glass floor of the Skywalk looks straight down into the canyon below.

The Hualapai ranch experience is one of kind. Treated to wagon rides, mock cowboy duels and horseback rides to the canyon edge, the little ranch was built to resemble a western town from the 1850’s.

Staying overnight at the ranch  is the absolute privilege of watching the sun rise and set over the canyon rim, an experience many visitors go without.

Needless to say, the tour of the West rim is worth every penny, and you will look back with only fond memories of this trip.

Though You might feel underwhelmed by the canyon itself,  it is not the vast, endless expanse you might expect.  In fact, it can’t be more than a few hundred metres wide.


Grand Canyon South Rim

The Southern Rim is the most popular and most developed part of the Canyon. This makes it the most accessible, but also the busiest by far. Free shuttle buses leave from the parking lots and service around 7 or 8 different vantage points along the cliffs, each with a slightly different angle of the same view.

There is a visitors center as well as a cafe at the western-most bus stop; visitors are not allowed to drive on the same roads as the shuttles, so a definite con could be that there is no way of avoiding the busy buses.

However, don’t let the onslaught of millions of annual visitors detract you from visiting the South Rim. As one of the widest points of the canyon you are treated some of the most spectacular views, and its actually easy enough to ditch the crowds by straying away from the paved path and walking closer the edge.

For first time visitors I would highly recommend the South Rim over the West, as this is where travelers will witness the iconic image that is so commonly associated with the Grand Canyon.


The North Rim

The Western and Southern Rims are the two most common Canyon areas to visit (mainly due to accessibility from urban centres), however there are of course plenty of additional areas to explore.

The North Rim for example sits roughly opposite the South, though offers intriguingly different views while bringing in about a tenth of the visitors annually. Being a full 1,000 feet higher than that of the Southern Rim, the temperature is also cooler which allows more vegetation to grow.

For this same reason, the North Rim is closed during winter due to heavy snowfall. North Rim will be open from May 15 – October 15 2015.

The East Rim

Horseshoe Bend at the very Eastern Rim is an area of the Canyon which is quickly growing popularity, and while not worth driving to as a sole destination in itself, it is certainly worth the detour for those with extra time.

Crowds here are much fewer, and while there are lesser view points than located on the West Rim, the views are equally as spectacular.

Which Rim is the Best to Visit?

The bottom line is this: The West Rim is closer to major hubs like Las Vegas, and is included in more tours for this reason. 

The Skywalk is cool though a bit gimmicky. However combine your West Rim experience with a ranch stay, and the trip is definitely worth it.

Those seeking photos that will make family and friends back home exceedingly jealous should opt for Grand Canyon South Rim. Hire a car, and consider booking a night in Kingman or Flagstaff to allow enough time for a full experience you will never forget.

While the Northern and Eastern Rims of the Canyon may not offer the same iconic view of the South, these areas see substantially fewer crowds, and are well worth the detour if spending an extended amount of time exploring Arizona State.