6 Breathtaking Hikes on the Grand Canyon’s North Rim

Posted by
Emily Pennington
July 07, 2023
Updated June 28, 2024

north rim grand canyon hikes
Views from Cape Royal Trail. Photo: Billy McDonald

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Home to iconic rust-red cliffs, hundreds of miles of hiking trails, and, yes, even a herd of wild bison, Grand Canyon National Park reached its legendary status with good reason…

…But, only 10% of park visitors ever venture to the remote North Rim. That makes it a fantastic spot to escape the summer throngs that often crowd scenic byways, shuttles, and trails along the more developed South Rim.

The North Rim provides a glimpse into the Grand Canyon of yesteryear – a less-touristed, less Disneyland-esque expanse where hikers can truly roam. Check out our top picks for hiking trails on the Grand Canyon’s North Rim. All distances listed are round-trip.

Best Time to Visit the North Rim

Because of seasonal road closures (The North Rim’s season normally runs May 15 – October 15th for lodging and services, with the road itself staying open a bit later), Grand Canyon’s North Rim is a true summertime destination, perfect for road-tripping when the kids are out of school. You can even tack on a visit to the Grand Staircase Escalante for an epic week-long itinerary.

Want cooler temperatures for big-mile days? Visit the North Rim in autumn, when it’s even less crowded than the summer months. Just keep in mind that Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim, the North Rim Campground, and the area’s in-park restaurants close on October 15. No matter when you visit, be sure to brush up on the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace and leave it better than you found it.

1. Transept Trail


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Why you should go: This mellow out-and-back traverses a stunning side canyon just west of the lodge and campground.

  • Distance: 4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 347 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy

The Transept Trail is an excellent half-day jaunt for hikers who want a low-effort, high-reward excursion. Leave from the official trailhead just north of the general store and traverse “The Transept,” a craggy finger of sedimentary rock that juts out into the main canyon, offering incredible vistas down into this iconic ravine. End your trek at Bright Angel Point, staring down into the enormous, jagged abyss of Bright Angel Canyon.

Related read: 11 Unforgettable Things to Do at the Grand Canyon

2. North Kaibab Trail to Roaring Springs


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Why you should go: Experience life below the canyon rim and marvel at hanging gardens without having to hike the entire rim-to-rim route.

  • Distance: 9.4
  • Elevation gain: 3,517 feet
  • Difficulty: Challenging

If you’re looking to sweat it out on an all-day affair that drops you deep into the canyon’s vermillion cliffs, look no further. Start early in the morning to beat the heat and descend roughly 3,500 feet to a furious waterfall aptly named Roaring Springs.

Along the way, you’ll pass through the Supai Tunnel, check out Coconino Overlook, and tramp across some of the canyon’s remarkable historic bridges.

Related read: Visiting the Grand Canyon in Winter: Things to Do & Where to Stay

3. Cape Final Trail


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Why you should go: Soak up one of the grandest (and most eastern) vistas in the entire park on this uncrowded out-and-back.

  • Distance: 4.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 495 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy

The roughly four-mile journey out to gorgeous Cape Final is an excellent choice for families who don’t want a ton of uphill trails and hikers venturing out on hot summer days because the first half of the trail is shrouded in old-growth desert pines, which give the path ample amounts of shade.

Eventually, the trees open up to peekaboo views of the Grand Canyon herself, before the rocky cliffs give way to an impressive vista at the turnaround point. Bring a snack and a good book – you’ll want to linger a while and soak up this phenomenal view before heading back to the car.

Related read: 10 Best Backpacking Trips in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

4. Ken Patrick to Uncle Jim Trail Loop


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Why you should go: Nab a bird’s eye view of the famous North Kaibab Trail switchbacks on this moderate lollipop loop hike.

  • Distance: 4.7 miles
  • Elevation gain: 730 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Begin on the Ken Patrick Trail, which starts just east of the North Rim’s general store and gas station. After .9 miles of meandering through the forest, turn right to begin the Uncle Jim Trail (named after a former U.S. Forest Service Warden).

A 2.1-mile loop circumnavigates a rocky red finger that protrudes into the belly of the Grand Canyon, offering remarkable views of Uncle Jim Point and the North Kaibab Trail switchbacks, endlessly zigzagging into the gulch. This is an excellent hike for outdoor lovers who want a few shady trees while enjoying some of the best canyon views in the park.

Related read: 13 Grand Canyon Waterfalls You Won’t Believe Are Real

5. Wildforss Trail


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Why you should go: A one-mile dirt road leads trekkers to this all-day romp along the rim of Transept Canyon, before the trail ends with a breathtaking viewpoint.

  • Distance: 9.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,082 feet
  • Difficulty: Challenging

Download a trail guide before heading out to learn about the area’s incomparable human and geological history, then brave a dusty dirt road for a brief one mile before parking and beginning a day-long journey along the stunning Wildforss Trail. Hikers here will meander between forests and cliff’s-edge canyon vistas, weaving a serpentine route west before ending at the pièce de résistance, a panorama at Wildforss Point that takes in the entirety of the North Rim in all its glory.

Want a shorter day hike with many of the same views? The Park Service recommends creating a mellow out-and-back by simply turning around within the trail’s first three miles.

Related read: 8 Best Grand Canyon Hiking Tour Companies

6. Cape Royal Trail


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Why you should go: This paved wheelchair-accessible trail is a fabulous, family-friendly spot to watch the sunset along the North Rim.

  • Distance: .8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 65 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy

An ample parking lot with a picnic area gives way to this paved trail that’s full of incredible vistas. Enjoy thrilling views of Wotan’s Throne and the roiling Colorado River as you stroll past the majestic arch formation at Angels Window.

Continue on for an additional .4-miles to see some truly awesome scenery at Cape Royal, one of the best spots to catch the sunset along the North Rim. Because of its big vistas and minimal elevation gain, this trail is an excellent choice for a mellow daytime stroll, or for families with small kids in tow, too.

Related read: Essential Guide to Hiking the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim

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