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5 Reasons To Avoid The Grand Canyon’s South Rim

5 Reasons To Avoid The Grand Canyon’s Overcrowded South Rim

The Grand Canyon is one of the most popular National Parks, with over 5.7 million visitors per year. This big hole in the ground attracts people from all corners of the globe.

For some reason, travelers scurry to sneak up to its edge, then ogle at what lies below.  What they find is an amazing labyrinth of twists and turns, where the Colorado River has cut through rocks as old as the beginning of time.

Discovered here are ancient histories, rugged terrain, challenging outdoor adventures and dynamic scenery that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. 

It’s no wonder that the Grand Canyon is tops on every traveler’s “Must See” list!

About the Grand Canyon

As the world’s #1 tourist attraction, the Grand Canyon displays two wildly diverse atmospheres. 

The North Rim is the canyon’s quieter, more introverted destination. This rim features forested approaches at an altitude of 8,300 feet above sea level. 

It doesn’t host the crowds of its more outlandish sibling, the South Rim. This is most likely because the tourist season here is much shorter. Snowfall closes access to the North Rim during the winter months.

The North Rim lacks in population and crowds… but abounds in stunning landscapes, peace and quiet, and incredible hiking trails.

The South Rim has a more “in your face” attitude. There are many viewpoints, showing off the grandeur of the canyon.  The South Rim has numerous buildings and even a village!

This rim of the Grand Canyon attracts carloads of gawkers to its rim to brag about this worldly wonder.  In fact, it has even enticed a train to transport more tourists in to view the chasms below. 

With all the tourists and tourist attractions, you might want to avoid the South Rim on your Grand Canyon vacation. Here are 5 reasons why:

5 Reasons to Avoid the Grand Canyon South Rim

Overcrowded Viewpoints

There are several vantage points from which to catch a glimpse of the canyon’s depths. But, with so many people angling for the same sights at the same time, it is difficult to enjoy the view.  Also, because this is a geological wonder, there’s no place for expansion of the viewpoints. The wall ends at the canyon and it’s a long trip down if you get too close to the edge!

Image Source: Scottb211 on Flickr

Crowded Campgrounds

These days it’s virtually impossible to get a reservation for the campgrounds that allow them on the South Rim.  You might get lucky and drive into the National Park as a cancellation occurs to grab that spot, but don’t count on it. 

There are a few campgrounds that are considered first come, first serve, but the battle to secure a campsite there is usually epic!

Image Source: Grand Canyon National Park on Flickr – Mather Campground, South Rim

Heavy Traffic Congestion

With so many tourists in vehicles and on foot, it has become increasingly difficult to navigate the park.  You may spend the bulk of your time traveling from viewpoint to viewpoint in traffic jams, or vying for a seat on a shuttle bus, rather than enjoying the canyon itself.

Summer Heat

Because it is situated more than 1,300 feet lower than the North Rim and in a desert biosphere, the summer temperatures on the South Rim can easily reach 120 degrees. 

If you are planning on hiking to the bottom of the canyon, or anywhere on the south side, for that matter, you should be prepared for the heat and possibly complete your hikes before the hottest portion of the day. 

It is likely, too, that you will also be competing with all the other tourists for shade on the rim, as this is a venue that is best enjoyed from the out-of-doors!

The North Rim of the Grand Canyon sits at a higher elevation, so summer temperatures don’t get as high.

Very Touristy

If you are hoping to “be at one with Mother Nature” on this vacation, you may be sorely disappointed on the South Rim.  The Grand Canyon is absolutely jam-packed with tourists from all corners of the globe, even on the off-season. 

You will jockeying for position at viewpoints and in lines at restaurants and museums, too.  Think twice before you consider choosing the south side of the canyon as your vacation destination.  If you want a more natural and secluded experience, you may want to try the North Rim instead.

Image Source: Grand Canyon National Park on Flickr – Sunset at South Rim’s Yavapai Point, one of the less-crowded viewpoints

Is the Grand Canyon South Rim Worth It? 

Your visit to this gem in the National Park lineup should be based on the reason you are coming. 

Do you wish to see the hustle and bustle of life in Grand Canyon Village?  Would you like to experience the historical aspect of life on the rim before it became commercialized, as visualized in the Kolb Brothers Photography studio?  Or are you looking for the quintessential mule ride to the bottom of the canyon?  Then the South Rim may be for you.  

But if you are making the trek to the canyon to take in the vast vistas and tranquil settings, and to get a taste of what this natural wonder was like in the quiet years of creation, the North Rim can be more suitable.  Its peaceful location may be just elixir you need to wind down and relax, overlooking one of the most extraordinary destinations in the world.

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  1. GaryB says:

    You’re assuming summer time travel, however the south rim is spectacular during the winter (north rim is closed)! If you’re lucky there could be snowcapped mesas, canyon cliffs and elk foraging for food. Very little traffic as well. During the summer you can only get to the west end and Hermits Rest by shuttle but during the winter you can drive right to it. We always start at the east entrance (Desert View Watchtower) to avoid the main tourist entry. Remember the north rim is also 200+ miles from the south.

  2. Robert NM Watts says:

    I enjoyed the information on both rims of the canyon. My wife and I plan to go there
    Maybe next year. Thank you

  3. Deborah Kerr says:

    Thank you – good info!! We have never been to the Grand Canyon in the RV – just a tour bus from Las Vegas day trip – but oh how awesome – bus, helicopter, pontoon boat on the Colorado River!! And also the horseshoe glass skywalk is amazing!! I can’t wait to travel there and camp!!

  4. Kyra says:

    I went to the South Rim in the beginning of March, and we got there at sunrise it was spectacular, truly a jaw-dropping experience! We even hiked down to the bottom of the Colorado River and back up in 10 hours that day. One of the best experiences of my life, minimum crowds— a great hiking crew when we passed others on the trail everyone was supportive. Definitely check out both rims, but DONT skip on the South Rim! Just be smart about when/what time you choose to travel!

  5. Stephen McCanless says:

    We have stayed in the bright Angel Cabins at South Rim 3x and the cabins at North Rim 1x. Actually going January 1st -4th and staying in rim side cabin at South Rim in 2 weeks. Both rims are spectacular. Free-range buffalo all around the north rim entry road. Beautiful vistas on both sides. We have stayed at South Rim during the summer 2x and it has never been above 81 degrees during the day in July. Mornings were about 37 in July. Yes, south rim has more visitors, but they all leave by 6pm because they are day visitors on tour buses, etc….be sure and reserve you a room INSIDE the park because they day trippers don’t arrive until around 9am and leave around 6pm. So, the park is quiet from 6pm to 9am. waking up at 6am, making a pot of coffee, put on your robe, sit in rocking chair in front of cabin and watch the sun come up, Nothing more amazing, DO NOT miss it.