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One of the world’s Seven Natural Wonders, Grand Canyon National Park is an impressive 277-mile-long canyon carved one mile deep by the Colorado River. It’s an iconic American road trip destination in Northern Arizona. If this awe-inspiring scenic beauty is on your bucket list, you’ll want to know the best time of year to visit before making your plans. It all depends on what you want to do.
Timing Your Grand Canyon Visit
When is the best time to visit Grand Canyon National Park? It depends. Are you all in on winter? A summer sun worshipper? Or a backcountry hiker who isn’t phased by weather?
Whatever your vacation style, there’s a time to visit Grand Canyon that will meet your needs.
The South Rim is open year-round, while the North Rim is open seasonally (mid-May to mid-October). Located near Phoenix and Las Vegas, summers at the Grand Canyon can be sweltering, in addition to being peak season for tourists.
Spring and fall draw fewer crowds, yet are fabulous times to visit.
Winter can be a wonderous season to explore the park. Just be prepared for snow and chilly weather (yes, even in Arizona).
I visited Grand Canyon National Park on a day trip from Scottsdale in the spring with my grandparents when I was in middle school. Writer Catherine Parker has visited the Grand Canyon six times. She says the best time to visit the Grand Canyon is when you have time.
“Each season offers unique scenery to discover, though expect crowds in the summer and possible snow in the winter,” she says. “The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is seasonal, though greener and less crowded, when it is open from May until November.”
Here are our recommendations for the best times to visit Grand Canyon National Park, as well as suggestions for trips in spring, summer, fall and winter.
Read More: Best hotels near Grand Canyon
When is the Best Time to Visit Grand Canyon National Park?
Many consider spring to be the best months to visit Grand Canyon National Park. The weather is cooler and conducive to hiking. There are fewer crowds and the popular South Rim is easier to access.
Spring is an awakening season, where daylight stretches longer, baby animals might be out and about and wildflowers can be in bloom. Rafting season also starts in spring. Most rafting trips depart out of the West Rim, which is also home to the Skywalk, a clear, glass walkway 4,000 feet above the canyon floor.
Be aware that the North Rim doesn’t open until mid-May. The North Rim features a visitors center, campground, lodge and trailheads. Check the National Park Service website for updates on weather and conditions:
Who Should Visit During Spring?
- Animal lovers hoping to spot young deer and elk fawns
- Flower lovers hoping to view the canyon in bloom
- Those seeking fewer crowds and cooler temperatures
- Rafting enthusiasts looking forward to the rushing waters at the start of rafting season
Why is Spring the Best Time to Visit?
- Pleasant weather, less precipitation
- Wildflowers and cactus blooms burst into yellow, red and purple flowers
- Perfect temps for hikers – not too hot, not too cold
- More than 12 hours of daylight, allowing more exploration time than in winter
Should I Visit Grand Canyon National Park in Summer?
The summer months are the hottest, rainiest and busiest time of the year at Grand Canyon National Park. Pack your sunscreen and patience, but it’s worth it to experience this treasure of the southwest. July temperatures average in the mid-80s at the rim but can get to over 100 degrees below (so use caution and bring plenty of water if hiking).
Visit the less crowded North Rim during summer, where you’ll also find cooler temperatures.
Who Should Visit During Summer?
- Families with time off from school and work
- Those who appreciate mingling with visitors from all over the world
Why is Summer the Best Time to Visit?
- Kids are out of school. (Because of this, the park gets extra crowded starting in late June through mid-August)
- All services are in full swing
- More park rangers are on hand for discussions and demonstrations
SheBuysTravel Tip: Canyon breezes make it difficult to sense if you’re getting a sunburn, so always apply sunscreen, even if it doesn’t feel super hot. These are our favorite sunscreens for babies and kids.
Should I Visit Grand Canyon National Park in Fall?
Autumn ushers in more comfortable temperatures and fewer crowds; however, there can be stormy skies in the afternoons. You’ll encounter fewer people at the popular South Rim. Keep in mind the North Rim closes in mid-October. It can start snowing as early as September, so dress in layers and bring warm clothing.
Fall is a gorgeous time for hiking. Golden aspen trees speckle the North Rim campground in autumn. Animals are also more likely to be active this time of year, so keep your eyes open for mule deer.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Pack more water than you think you need for hikes. And don’t forget that the hike back up is going to be much more strenuous than on the way down. Here’s everything you should pack in a daybag for hiking.
Who Should Visit During Fall?
- Those who appreciate cooler temperatures and fewer crowds
- Animal lovers hoping to see mule deer and other creatures
- Hikers, especially those hoping to reach the bottom of the canyon
Why is Fall the Best Time to Visit?
- Fewer visitors means it’s easier to book accommodations and activities
- Cooler temperatures make for more comfortable hiking
- Some autumn colors and animal sightings
Read More: The Best Places to Visit in September
Should I Visit Grand Canyon National Park in Winter?
“The winter months are a great time to visit the Grand Canyon with fewer visitors, plenty of sunshine and sometimes a snow-kissed canyon,” says Catherine Parker. Colder temperatures, shorter days, snow and ice make winter the least crowded, but still a beautiful season.
Pack plenty of warm clothing and be aware of road, restaurant and hotel closures. The North Rim is not open during the winter months.
Who Should Visit During Winter?
- Those looking to save money and willing to brave the cold
- Visitors seeking solitude and a slow pace
- Hikers and campers who are prepared for icy conditions (Before you go, check out our winter hiking tips.)
Why is Winter the Best Time to Visit?
- Least crowded season
- More economical flight and lodging options
- Hiking trails are open, but be prepared for snow and ice.
What are the Best Things to Do at Grand Canyon National Park?
- Take a day hike on the Rim Trail. Shuttlebus stops are available
- Gaze across the colorful canyon at Mather Point, an overlook on the South Rim
- Hike Yavapai Point and explore the Yavapai Musuem of Geology at Grand Canyon Village, a popular park entry point
- Ride a mule to Phantom Ranch, the only lodging on the floor of the cayon
- Savor an aerial view of the canyon from a helicopter tour
- Walk 4,000 feet above the canyon floor on the glass SkyWalk bridge at the West Rim
- Raft down the Colorado River via family-friendly float or more intense whitewater trip
- Spend the night at one of the park’s campgrounds. Make sure to book reservations in advance.
- Take in dramatic views on the South Kaibab Trail
- Hike the Bright Angel Trail for exceptional views of the Colorado River
- Bike 13 miles of trails on the South Rim
- Earn a Junior Ranger Badge
- Soak in some gorgeous views from the Desert View Watchtower
- Savor sunrise or sunset at Hopi Point off Hermit Road, a popular viewpoint with wide vistas
SheBuysTravel Tip: “Grand Canyon National Park offers amazing sunsets and sunrises,” says Catherine Parker. “For the best spot to witness this symphony of nature, stop at Yaki or Mather Point. I’ve seen visitors moved to tears at the beauty of this experience.”