Guide to the Grand Canyon (North or South Rim?)

So... I lived out of my car all Summer.

Yup. And I must say, it was awesome and I can't wait to do it again.

I went anywhere I wanted, whenever I wanted, and met a whole bunch of interesting people along the way.

The lessons I learned during this time are vast. I couldn't have imagined just how much the experience would change my life and how much more confident in myself I would become.

Last Summer, I just added things to my "must-do" list, but didn't really do any of them. This Summer I said f*ck it, I'm doing all this stuff with or without other people.

I lived out of my car, ate mostly snack foods, and I went places where I could hike and mountain bike all day long - two activities that I love!

So today is all about the Grand Canyon, because what a better way to end a Summer of adventures than with the grandest of all canyons.

How did I end up peering over the edge of the Grand Canyon on a Sunday afternoon in September?

Well, I got off work on Saturday evening and I drove South a few hours into the forest and slept in my car - that was step one.

Then I got up in the morning, took in a deep breath of crisp morning air and decided I was going to go to the Grand Canyon.

A few hours later, I was there.

his was my second time at the Grand Canyon and my first time at the North Rim. Having seen both, I will admit they are different.

Based on the people I talked to (or overheard), it seems most like the North Rim better.

If I HAD to choose, I would agree, mostly because I like to hike, and as I will discuss, the North Rim has more opportunities for that.

That being said, each rim is different and it's worth seeing them both. But if you can't see them both right now and you're having trouble deciding, below are a few things to consider that may help you choose:

1. Crowds

For starters, if you don't like crowds, I'd recommend that you avoid the park all together in the Summer and go in the off-season (Spring or Fall). In general, the North Rim is much less crowded than the South Rim, so keep that in mind.

2. Hiking

The second thing to consider is what you want to do at the Grand Canyon. If you're like me and you want to hike, then I think the North Rim is much better. If you just want to drive and stop at some lookout points, then the South Rim is probably better. But here's the thing, if you can, go hiking. The hikes along the North Rim (which I will get to) are not that strenuous and the views are well worth the effort.

I haven't done the rim-to-rim hike yet (which is strenuous), but I do think that's probably one of the best ways to really experience the canyon and I fully intend to do it one day!

3. Camping

If you didn't reserve any camping in advance, the South Rim is your only option for first-come sites within the oark. The North Rim has a campground, but there are no first-come, first-serve sites - you must book in advance on-line. Just outside the park boundaries, there are other paid campgrounds that have options for day-off bookings. On the North Rim, I think the De Motte campground is the closest option.

As usual, I opted for the free dispersed camping outside of the park. In the Kaibab National Forest at the North Rim, there are many options for dispersed camping. How about those stars?!

4. Time of Year

The North Rim is closed in the Winter.

5. Geology

On the South Rim, you get more of a sense for how deep the canyon is. On the the North Rim, you get a sense for wide the canyon is. Why? Well the North Rim has eroded more than 7 miles from the rivers edge, while the South Rim has only eroded about 3 miles. This is because the North Rim is higher, and therefore captures more snow and rain than the South Rim.

Water from the North Rim runs south into the canyon creating greater erosion on this side of the canyon. Water on the South Rim runs south too, away from the canyon. This is why the South rim is steeper and has less erosion on the canyon wall. The view from each rim really is different! The canyon is 1 mile deep. You get a much better sense of that depth from the South Rim.

Since I'm most familiar with the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, the following is a little more detail on some of the hikes I've done and what I recommend.

Cape Final Trail: This is an awesome easy hike to some spectacular views. I did this hike in the late afternoon at the end of September and I had the whole place to myself. I couldn't believe it. I stood there at the point with my arms wide open as the wind blew through my hair and was so in awe at the magnificence of this place. This trail is 4.2 miles (6.8 km) roundtrip.

Cape Royal Trail: This is short flat walk to a spectacular view of the canyon. It's a great place to catch the sunset. It is 0.8 miles (1.3 km) roundtrip.

Widforss Trail: This was my favorite hike of the trip. In fact, it was one of my favorite hikes of the Summer! This trail is named after Gunnar Widforss, an early twentieth-century artist who lived and painted at the Grand Canyon in the 1930s. Again, because of the time of year I went, there were very few people around, which I loved.

This hike is a blend of wandering through the forest and awesome canyon scenery that ends at Widfross point. I took my mandala drawing stuff and sat at the point for an hour and drew a mandala. It was such an inspiring place. This hike is 9.6 miles (15.5 km) roundtrip.

For views of Widforss point, a tour into the car that I lived out of all Summer, and a peak into the mandala drawing process, check out the video I made below!

I had so much fun filming this one :)

I hope you feel inspired to get out there and plan a trip to the Grand Canyon. It is hard to capture in video or words just how grand it really is.

Get out there and immerse yourself in something much bigger than you... it's very humbling.