Christmas Vacationing in Arizona's Grand Canyon

Cultura RM Exclusive/©Whit Richardson
••• Cultura RM Exclusive/©Whit Richardson Getty

The Grand Canyon is a historical park with popular viewpoints like Mather Point, Yavapai Observation Station, the Grand Canyon Skywalk, and Horseshoe Bend. While the Grand Canyon National Park (GCNP) may be beautiful year-round, there's no better time to avoid lines and traffic than around the Christmas holiday. Families and friends looking for a hassle-free, gorgeous, and festive winter vacation should consider making a visit to Arizona's desert and layers of red rock, just 70 miles north of Flagstaff.

During the winter holiday months, the Grand Canyon and its surrounding area, including restaurants, are decked out in Christmas gear. Travelers can expect a festive atmosphere in the small desert towns, along with a laid-back vibe where guests are unhurried and relaxed. Visitors can also look forward to taking in the whole scenery at the Grand Canyon and enjoying its quiet moments, like the changing shadows and colors of the sun as it rises and sets.

Guests at the park should be aware, however, that temperatures are likely to fluctuate in the winter desert environment. It's important to be cautious about ice on the roads and trails and to check weather conditions daily. This is especially key if you are planning on camping. Campers should always bring the proper gear including sleeping bags and tents meant to sustain sub-freezing temperatures. 

Accommodations and Special Holiday Meals

Luckily, rooms are usually available at all lodges during the Christmas season, except at El Tovar, the Grand Canyon's famous historic lodge.

For the best selection, travelers should plan to make winter lodging reservations early—ideally during the summer. The hotels are beautifully decorated for the season with garlands and lights, and children will marvel at the "stuffed" animals with Santa hats in the hunting lodge atmosphere of El Tovar.

Guests will also find holiday magic in front of the two-story high stone fireplace at Hermit's Rest, amongst other gems.

Additional lodging choices including Bright Angel Lodge, El Tovar Hotel, Kachina Lodge, Thunderbird Lodge, and the Maswik Lodge, are all located within the confines of Grand Canyon National Park. Each lodge has a specialty menu for the Christmas holiday which may be viewed in advance of contacting the lodge. Even if you don't stay at the El Tovar lodge itself, it is recommended to make a reservation for their Christmas Eve and Day meals, as the meals are exceptionally prepared.

While staying at a campsite provides ample adventure, choosing to stay at one of the GCNP lodges or hotels comes with a variety of benefits like:

  • Being right on the rim of the Grand Canyon
  • Special deals on tours and mule rides throughout the park
  • A number of exclusive activities only offered to hotel and lodge guests

Benefits to Visiting the Grand Canyon Over Christmas

All shops, hotels, and restaurants are open during regular hours, making it a perfect place to pick up that last minute gift, or to grab a bite to eat while out with your family. There is also a wonderful selection of Native American jewelry, western clothing, souvenir t-shirts, and DVDs of the Grand Canyon to show or gift to your friends back home.

If you have ever waited in line to enter the Grand Canyon National Park or squeezed past a crowd of tourists trying to get a glimpse of the park's beauty, you deserve to treat yourself to at least one off-season visit. During the Christmas season, there are no crowds at vista points and on hiking trails. You will have time to reflect on the beauty of the Grand Canyon, take as long as you wish to compose photographs, and even drive through the park, unlike in peak tourist season when many are forced to take the tram.