The Best Time to Visit the Grand Canyon

Sunset from the over look on Cape Royal. Wild fires caused the spectacular colors in the sky and enhanced the orange glow on the sandstone walls.
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The best time to visit the Grand Canyon National Park, which is open year-round, is between April and June, when the temperatures are pleasant, and the rainfall averages are low. The summer months are, arguably, the worst time to visit this 277 mile-long canyon due to a high number of tourists as well as unfavorable hot weather, especially if you're planning on hiking in the Inner Canyon. Winter is also not the optimal time to visit the North Rim of the Grand Canyon due to road, restaurant, and hotel closures.

Whenever you decide to go, use this guide to help you plan your trip to this well-loved national park, known for its impressive deep canyons—with a depth of over a mile—carved by the Colorado River.

Weather in Grand Canyon National Park

No matter what time of year or season you decide to visit the park, be sure to check the weather before your trip. The National Park Service provides up-to-date information on temperature warnings, rain, air quality, fire danger, and road conditions. A webcam at the South Entrance Station will let you see how much traffic you might encounter during your visit.

Late spring and early summer are the drier times of the year. Depending on where you are at in the park, or on the trails, the weather varies drastically. Precipitation and temperature are dependent on the variabilities in elevation, which ranges from 2,000 feet to over 8,000 feet. You’ll encounter the most rain on the North Rim, while Lees Ferry is the driest. Winter precipitation is usually exhibited as snow on the rims but turns to rain as it reaches the canyon’s bottom.

The highest temperatures are found at the lowest elevations—the further you go toward the bottom of the canyon, the hotter it gets. The average high on the South Rim during the month of July, for example, is 84 degrees F while the average low is 54 degrees F. The average high in the Inner Canyon during the month of July is 106 degrees F while the average low is 78 degrees F.

Conversely, in the winter months, you can expect an average high for the month of January to be 41 degrees F on the South Rim and 56 degrees F in the Inner Canyon. Be sure to dress appropriately for the changing weather and always bring enough water for your entire adventure.

Peak Season in Grand Canyon National Park

Millions of visitors set foot in the Grand Canyon each year, especially during the summer months when most people have time off from work and school. Early summer tends to be the busiest time of year. If you must go during this time, consider visiting the less populated North Rim. The South Rim is the most popular area of the park, making summer the least ideal time for a visit. If you can swing it, bundle up and aim to visit the South Rim in the fall instead.

Most Affordable Ways to Visit

Flights, lodging, and restaurants tend to be more affordable in the low season, between November and February. While the Grand Canyon National Park permit costs $35 per vehicle, no matter when you visit, there are six national park free entrance days, which will help you save money. If you plan on visiting more than two national parks in a year, consider purchasing an America the Beautiful Annual Pass. It covers entrance, amenity, and day-use fees for a driver and all passengers in a car or for four adults.

Tourist Attraction Availability

The Grand Canyon is one of the most popular national parks in America and it’s well-visited throughout the year. The North and South Rims are accessed from opposite sides of the canyon, with the South Rim—this is where the main Visitors Center is located— being the most popular year-round. The North Rim is closed in the winter.

South Rim mule rides operate year-round and you can sign up for a day adventure or spend a night or two at the famous Phantom Ranch on the bottom of the canyon.

The South Entrance Visitors Center is where you’ll likely start your adventure on either Hermit Road, a 7-mile scenic drive on the canyon rim, open to private vehicles December—February, or Desert View Drive, a 22-mile popular route, open to cars any time of year.

Winter

This season can be quite lovely because all of the tourists, for the most part, have left. You’ll still enjoy the incredible views at the South Rim that folks see at busier times of the year. Keep in mind, the North Rim is inaccessible by car during these months and fewer resources are available.

Events to check out:

  • Trails may be accessed this time of year, however, you’ll have to plan for snowy and potentially icy terrain as well as cold weather. Using a guide is recommended.

Spring

Spring is an ideal season to visit the park, due to pleasant weather, fewer tourists, and better deals and availability for hotels, campgrounds, and tours. Be sure to pack an extra layer for warmth on the rims. This season is also the best time to hike down in the canyon before Inner Canyon temps soar over 100 degrees F. Spring and early summer are when you’ll see more color in the park—desert blooms and grasses.

Events to check out:

  • Make plans to visit the Grand Canyon’s West Rim during the spring to experience the Skywalk, operated by the Hualapai Tribe, with fewer tourists. Extending a whopping 70 feet from the canyon’s ledge, the horseshoe-shaped walkway has a glass floor and sides so that visitors can see 4,000 feet down into the canyon.
  • Take a helicopter tour and see the Grand Canyon from above. There are many operators to choose from, with flights that are weather-dependent, ensuring that you have a safe and fun adventure.
  •  For North Rim ranger programs, including the North Rim Heritage Week, visit from May to October.
Grand Canyon

TripSavvy / Alisha McDarris

Summer

Expect summer weather to be hot and sunny. Be sure to bring along proper sun protection—like hats and sunscreen—as well as plenty of water, especially if you plan on hiking the trails. If you do go hiking, plan to arrive earlier in the morning to beat the heat. This season has longer days of sunshine and faster moving weather patterns. Utilize the complimentary shuttle system during the summer months as parking will be difficult.

Events to check out:

  • The multi-hued sunsets during the summer are quite spectacular. Make early arrangements to find a viewing spot and have your camera ready. Mather and Hopi Points are popular sunset watching sites.
  • The official rafting season on the Colorado River is from April to October, with the summer months being ideal. You’ll need to get a permit and book a guide so make sure you plan in advance for this popular activity, especially if you’re hoping to do it during the busiest time of year.
  • The Hikers’ Express Shuttle Bus operates each summer from the Backcountry Information Center to the South Kaibab Trailhead.

Fall

Like spring, fall is also an ideal time to visit the park, due to mild weather, fewer tourists, and better deals and availability for hotels, campgrounds, and tours. You’ll want to be sure to pack extra layers for warmth. This season, expect the weather to be quite dry as rain becomes less frequent.

Events to check out:

  • With cooler temperatures in the Inner Canyon, spring and fall are the best times to hike the popular Bright Angel Trail and South Kaibab Trail via the South Rim.
  • Visit the Yavapai Museum of Geology, where you’ll enjoy stunning canyon views, peruse the bookstore and shop, and learn from park rangers during special programs each day.
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