As the fall color season winds down in the Arizona high country, there's another sure sign winter is on the way: Most facilities on the North Rim at Grand Canyon National Park will close for the season on October 15. The area remains open for visitors for another month or so, depending upon the weather, and all operations continue as normal at the park's busy South Rim.
The North Rim of the Canyon has plenty of fans, and for good reason. The elevation (about 8,200 feet as compared to about 7,000 feet atop the South Rim) makes for a cool summer climate and an interesting forest ecosystem with some very nice fall color. The relatively remote location also means the North Rim receives only a fraction of the visitation as the opposite side of the big gorge.
As always in life, there's a trade-off for those plusses, and one is the relatively short season on the North Rim. Most visitor facilities in this section of the park are closing for the year this coming weekend, but if you're self-sufficient, the North Rim will remain open through November 27—or until snow closes Highway 67, the only road access into the area.
Here's the rundown from a park spokesperson on what facilities are closing, and when:
Reservations for the Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim, operated by Forever Resorts, will be accepted through the night of October 15. All other concessioner-related visitor services, with the exception of the gift shop and gas station, will close at the end of the day on October 15.
The last meal served at Grand Canyon Lodge will be breakfast on October 16, which ends at 10:00 a.m.
The final day for mule rides on the North Rim will be October 15.
Self service gas and diesel fuel will continue to be available in the park through November 27 or until Highway 67 closes. As always for a trip to the North Rim, plan ahead for fuel--places to fill up are few and far between!
The National Park Service’s North Rim Visitor Center and Bookstore as well as the Backcountry Permit’s Office will remain open through November 27. From October 16 until closure, operating hours will be 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.
Regularly scheduled ranger-led programs, as advertised in “The Guide,” will be offered through October 15.
Starting October 16, campsites with limited services, such as portable toilets, will be available for a $12 fee on a first-come, first-served basis. Water will only be available outside the National Park Service administrative office. Entrance fees and campground fees will be collected through the end of the day on November 27 or until snow closes Highway 67.
What about facilities outside the park?
The Kaibab Lodge, located four miles north of the park boundary, will have full services through October 31. The Kaibab Lodge will close for the season after breakfast November 1. The North Rim Country Store, also located outside of the park boundary across from the Kaibab Lodge, will remain open until noon November 1, weather permitting.
Jacob Lake Inn, restaurant and gas station, located 45 miles from the North Rim developed area, remains open year-round. Beginning October 16, the Kaibab Plateau Visitor Center at Jacob Lake will be open on weekends only from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. That facility will close for the season in late December.
If you decide to make a late autumn visit, be sure to check ahead for road and weather updates. Officials note that although Arizona Department of Transportation officials will try to keep Highway 67 open through the end of November, a major storm with heavy snowfall could close the road earlier. After October 15, visitors are strongly encouraged to call Arizona Highway information at (888) 411-7623 in advance of their trip to check on the status of Highway 67.
There will still be opportunities to visit the North Rim after late November, but you need to be hardy and prepared!
Starting November 28, at 8:00 a.m., the gates to the park will be closed to motorized vehicles, including snowmobiles. Hikers, snowshoers and cross country skiers are still welcome to enter the North Rim of the park throughout the winter months, as long as backcountry permits have been obtained through the park’s South Rim Backcountry Information Center or at the Visitor Center at Pipe Spring National Monument, located in Fredonia, Arizona.
The South Rim Backcountry Information Center is open year-round and can be reached by calling (928) 638-7875, Monday through Friday, from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. MST. Permit requests can be faxed year-round to (928) 638-2125. Backcountry information can be found at this link.
All services and facilities on the North Rim are scheduled to reopen in mid-May 2012.
Finally—just to avoid any confusion—the South Rim and Inner Canyon facilities at Grand Canyon National Park remain open year-round.
If you need additional details on North Rim operations you can phone the North Rim Visitor Center (928) 638-7864 or check the park website.