The Best Time to Visit the Grand Canyon for Temperate Weather and Smaller Crowds
Spoiler: The best time to visit Grand Canyon National Park isn't at the peak of summer
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Considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon was formed tens of millions of years ago through a series of extraordinary geologic events. It’s not uncommon for visitors to stare out at the mind-blowingly massive rock formation—it averages a depth of 4,000 feet for its entire 277 miles—in awe because the experience is so beautifully overwhelming. Each colorful layer of rock tells a story not only about its past but also its present. With thousands of species of flora and fauna found inside the park, it’s literally teeming with life. But that’s just one reason you’ll want to pinpoint the best time to visit Grand Canyon National Park.
It’s also one of the most popular national parks in the country, with an estimated 5.9 million visitors coming from all corners of the map to see this natural wonder for themselves, through mule trips, rafting the Colorado River, hiking one of the many trails or simply gazing out over the edge as far as the eye can see. But not everyone who makes the trek to northern Arizona finds themselves enjoying a picture-perfect day, and that’s because of sometimes intense weather conditions.
It’d be a shame to travel that far for a bucket-list vacation that turns out to be a bust, so it’s wise to research the best time to visit the Grand Canyon prior to planning your trip. Just as you would when booking a cheap beach vacation, consider how weather, crowds and cost factor into your planned activities. And while it may not be one of the cheapest places to travel year-round, you can learn how to travel cheap to this must-see sight.
Whether you’re making a targeted journey to Grand Canyon National Park or tacking it on to a more robust Arizona road trip (set aside a full afternoon to enjoy the views from the South Rim or a couple days if you plan to go hiking, rafting or do other activities), follow this guide to determine the best time to visit Arizona and experience this wondrous place.
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When is the weather the best in the Grand Canyon?
The weather tends to be ideal between April and June, so this is the best time to go to the Grand Canyon. During these months, there is a lower chance of rain, and the temperature is still quite pleasant.
On the South Rim—the most popular portion of the park, because it’s the most accessible—high temperatures range from 60 to 81 degrees from April through June, while lows hover in the 30s and 40s. The South Rim is open 24 hours a day, so if you’re planning to visit early in the morning or in the evening, you’ll need more layers than you’d expect, especially since it can also be a bit windy there.
For comparison, the North Rim sees highs of 53 to 73 degrees and lows in the 20s to 40s during the same months. It’s not just the coolest spot in the Grand Canyon, it’s also the wettest (February gets the most rain).
Summer heats up the canyon (here’s your reminder to pack sunscreen!), with the South Rim reaching highs in the mid-80s in July and August. The Inner Cannon can rise past the 100-degree mark, while the North Rim hovers around a mild 75 degrees. During the fall shoulder season (September and October), the high temperature ranges from around 65 to 76 degrees on the South Rim, 84 to 97 inside the canyon and 59 to 69 on the North Rim.
While you may associate the Grand Canyon (and Arizona itself) with summery temps, you’ll see snow here if you visit in winter. Amounts vary based on your location (and elevation), but in general, the North Rim gets the most. From December to February, high temps on the North and South Rims hover in the high 30s and low 40s, with lows averaging between 16 and 21 degrees.
What is the most popular month to go to the Grand Canyon?
Summer is the most popular time to visit, and peak season runs from late May through early September. This is when you’ll find the Grand Canyon most crowded and most expensive in terms of nearby hotel stays. But between the large crowds and scorching-hot temperatures, July and August are the least idyllic times to visit.
The other problem with visiting during the most popular months is that you may get caught in a monsoon. These storms produce heavy cloud cover that may block your views before turning into powerful thunderstorms that can cause dangerous high winds, flash flooding and lightning. Of course, you might also catch a magnificent rainbow in the process, but it’s not something you can count on.
Holidays are another peak time, with the week of Thanksgiving, the week of Christmas and the week between Christmas and New Year’s as packed as the prime summer months. It’s worth noting that some facilities close during the winter months, which could negatively impact your experience.
In other words, the best time to visit Grand Canyon National Park is outside these high-traffic times.
When is the cheapest time to go to the Grand Canyon?
When it comes to saving money on your journey to the Grand Canyon, you can fly a budget airline or use a flight price tracker to get the least costly fare. Or you could schedule your trip with the best time to book a cheap flight in mind.
Rates are the lowest from November through February, though you’ll likely experience some snow in those winter months, not to mention icy roads and trails and possible road closures. But if you want to have the place all to yourself and save a lot of money on airfare and lodging, then January or February is the best time to visit Grand Canyon National Park.
If a wintry trip isn’t your style but you’re traveling on a budget, save money by visiting during the shoulder seasons (March to June and September to November). And while the park will be busier than it is during the off-season, you won’t face quite as many tourists as you would during the summer.
It’s worth noting that on five days in 2023, all National Park Service sites that charge an entrance fee will offer free admission to everyone. It’s normally $35 for a vehicle permit, $30 for a motorcycle permit and $20 for an individual permit for anyone entering by foot, bicycle, park shuttle bus or private rafting trip, but you can visit for no charge on Jan. 16, April 22, Aug. 4, Sept. 23 and Nov. 11.
Book your stay at the Grand Canyon
Now that you’ve zeroed in on the best time to visit Grand Canyon National Park, you’ll want to plan ahead and reserve lodging, as hotels book up quickly, and there’s a limited supply of accommodations.
Ready to glamp under the stars just 25 minutes from the South Rim? Book a stay at Under Canvas Grand Canyon. For an old-timey adventure that takes you straight to the South Rim without having to worry about parking, stay at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel in Williams and select a package that allows you to ride the Grand Canyon Railway into the park. Yearning to stay just a quarter-mile walk from the canyon’s edge? The Maswik Lodge is calling your name.