There are lodging options at Grand Canyon National Park for just about every pocketbook. If price is no object, look to El Tovar Hotel. If you're on a tighter budget, consider the Maswick or Yavapai lodges.
There is just one lodge on the North Rim, the Grand Canyon Lodge, which makes choosing a place to stay easy. And then, you don't stay in a lodge, but rather a cabin. The lodge is for checking in, taking your meals, and enjoying stellar views of the canyon through ceiling-to-floor windows in the dining room.
The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is not nearly is crowded as the South Rim, but that doesn't make it any easier to snag a room for the night at Grand Canyon Lodge. The dining room offers expansive views of the canyon, while the Western Cabins are beautifully nestled in the trees.
A visit to the North Rim produces a much different experience from that of the South Rim. Limited facilities and an isolated location result in a fraction of the visitors found on the much busier South Rim. Canyon views, while still spectacular, are less dramatic on the North Rim. Actually, there is a feeling of being in a completely different park, say David and Kay Scott, Traveler's lodging experts. A visit there isn’t necessarily better than a visit to the South Rim, just different, they say. So different, in fact, that it is worthwhile to visit both rims.
The Scotts spent some time on the North Rim in 2011 as they worked on updating their book, The Complete Guide To The National Park Lodges, 7th edition. Here's what they had to say about the North rim accommodations:
Lodging on the North Rim consists of three types of cabins, plus a limited number of rooms in two motel-type buildings. No guest rooms are in the main lodge. Most cabins were constructed in the late 1920s when the original lodge was built. Western Cabins are generally considered to be the top accommodations. These cabins are fairly large and each have two queen beds. Similar cabins are at Bryce Canyon and Zion national parks.
Pioneer cabins each have two bedrooms, one on each side of a bathroom. This trip marked our first stay in a Pioneer and we found it very comfortable. The second bedroom was perfect for storing luggage and working on the computer. Frontier Cabins are quite small and the least expensive cabin option.
Like the lodges at Bryce Canyon and Zion, Grand Canyon Lodge was built by the Union Pacific Railroad. The first lodge on the North Rim burned in 1932 and had been replaced on the same site with the current lodge by 1936. Fortunately, all but a few of the cabins escaped damage by the fire. The Union Pacific’s operations at Bryce, Zion, and the North Rim were eventually given to the U.S. government.
The main lodge building houses the registration area, a beautiful dining room, a sun room, and an auditorium. A large terrace with chairs skirts the back of the building. Weather permitting, this is where many guests spend time reading, talking, and gazing at the spectacular landscape. On several previous visits we walked to the terrace early in the morning and sipped coffee while watching the rising sun produce a rainbow of colors on the canyon walls. The wind and cold kept us from doing it on this trip.
A word of warning: North Rim accommodations are fully booked nearly the entire season. If you wish to stay here, be certain to make a reservation very early.
On the South Rim, your options are much more diverse. Here you'll find six separate lodges, although two of the larger units are divided into two sections. Lodges directly on the rim include Bright Angel Lodge, Kachina, Thunderbird, and the historic El Tovar. These lodges nearly always fill first because of their location.
Maswik is a large lodging complex a short walk from the rim and other hotels. Yavapai, the park’s largest lodging facility, is near Market Plaza, the South Rim’s major commercial area, but further away from the center of activity in Grand Canyon Village. Most Yavapai guests utilize the free park shuttle for transport to Rim Village. The distance from Rim Village (about one mile) is the single biggest disadvantage of staying in Yavapai.
According to the Scotts, Maswik ($92/night, double in 2012) might be the best buy of any of the South Rim’s lodging facilities. Although not directly on the Rim, cabins are within walking distance and are also near a cafeteria and shuttle stop. In 2012 a standard double with a private bathroom at Bright Angel Lodge, a facility nearer the rim, rented for $94 per night, though you can expect a little price creep.
Perhaps the most unusual place to spend a night on the South Rim is the historic Red Horse Cabin. This two-bedroom cabin is the oldest structure on the South Rim, dating to 1890. Xanterra began renovating the cabin in December 2011 and had it ready for the 2012 season.
Xanterra’s engineering department, along with DL Norton Construction, faced considerable challenges in updating the cabin to today’s standards of building and comfort while maintaining historical integrity. The National Park Service and the Arizona State Historic Preservation Office provided oversight for the project. For example, the roof was replaced by new cedar shingles that matched the existing materials, and flashing was treated to create a weathered look. The crew paid special attention to the foundations and exterior hewn log walls by replacing and repairing mortar and chinking.
Architectural features such as the fireplace stone and brick work were kept as much intact as possible, and some plumbing fixtures were resurfaced. Existing light fixtures were cleaned and rewired to meet all current codes. The crew also worked on windows, flooring, painting, heating, interior walls, insulation, fire suppression/detection, case goods and soft goods.
The two-room cabin is owned by Xanterra and rents for about $340 a night. It measures approximately 750 square feet (25’ x 30’) and is not directly on the canyon rim.