Grand Canyon in Winter: What you need to know and what to do
The Grand Canyon in Winter is a surprisingly fantastic time of year to take a trip to the Grand Canyon.
The blanket of snow across the canyons, the crisp temperatures and the low tourist numbers brings a unique experience to the Grand Canyon and offers another beautiful look at the magnificent canyons below.
Keep reading to check out these Grand Canyon in winter reviews and what to do in the Grand Canyon in winter. This is everything you need to plan your Grand Canyon visit in winter.
I have also written guides to visiting the Grand Canyon in every month of the year. Below are my guides for visiting the Grand Canyon in December-February
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Is the Grand Canyon open in Winter?
The Grand Canyon National Park remains open for year-round visitors. Although, during winter months the north rim is closed, due to safety concerns.
The South Rim is open year round and there are many beautiful Grand Canyon Lookout Points.
Grand Canyon south rim in winter is completely different and you can experience snow at the Grand Canyon.
Is it a good idea to visit the Grand Canyon in winter?
There is never a bad time to visit the Grand Canyon. Winter in the Grand Canyon is a great time to visit with less crowds, clear skies and cooler weather.
I think the key to visiting in the winter is to have good shoes. You cannot just wear trainers as the snow will melt and get in your shoes. Waterproof shoes are a must!
How busy is the Grand Canyon in Winter?
The more popular South Rim remains open year-round. Due to the wintery conditions, the tourism rate at the Grand Canyon remains at its lowest during these months.
Thus, making winter a perfect time to visit the national park if you don’t want to be surrounded by too many tourists.
The low tourist numbers also allow winter visitors to experience more of the tranquillity that the canyons have to offer.
Is Christmas a good time to visit the Grand Canyon?
Yes, Christmas is a great time to visit the Grand Canyon. There are no crowds at the Grand Canyon during Christmas. You can take your time driving around the park without the traffic and you can take your time taking photos at the lookout points.
Does it snow in the Grand Canyon in Winter?
Yes, the Grand Canyon sees snow during these months and the days appear shorter, the weather remains beautiful. The blankets of snow are contrasted with clear sunny skies and crisp air providing great conditions to get out and experience the beautiful views of the sweeping canyons and Grand Canyon with snow.
Storms in the Grand Canyon in January and February can dump anywhere from 50-100 inches of snow.
How cold does it get in Winter?
Yes, it does get cold in the Grand Canyon in Winter. January and February are the coldest months. During the day it is in the 40s and 50s but at night it can get well below freezing.
There will be snow and at some point in the month there will be around 10 inches of snow in the village. Other times it will only have an inch or two of snow.
Things to do at the Grand Canyon in the Winter
You can do all of the same activities in the Grand Canyon in winter that you can do during the warmer months. Yes, a few trails will be closed due to the icy conditions but as long as you dress warm you will be able to enjoy visiting the Grand Canyon in winter.
I also have a One Day at the Grand Canyon Itinerary if you are short on time and want to see all of the best viewpoints and things to do in the Grand Canyon.
1. Visit the Visitors Centre to find out the conditions.
Located just inside the south entrance station at the south rim, the visitors centre is open from 9am-4pm during these winter months.
Wiki Commons Grand Canyon National Park
At the visitors centre you will be informed of the weather conditions of that day, finding out if it is safe to hike some trails, if some trails are closed off and what viewpoints are safest to visit. Also, at the visitor centre, there is a short film all about the park that takes visitors through a visual experience before jumping into it themselves.
Just a short 5-minute walk from the visitor center is the Mathers Point viewpoint. This is often the number one choice for many visitors, particularly during the winter due to the close proximity to the parking lots and the visitor centre.
To get to the viewpoint does not require much effort nor is it time consuming, making it an easy spot to see the canyon if you don’t want to tread the wintery conditions.
2. Take a Shuttle if its snowy and you don’t want to drive.
If it’s snowy it is recommended to take a shuttle bus to the viewpoints rather than driving yourself. It is safe to drive if the roads are clear, however, unless fully experienced and confident with driving on snowy roads – the shuttles are the best and safest choice.
The Grand Canyon offers two shuttle bus routes to see the best of the canyon, although the orange route (Kaibab Rim) is arguably the best for free transport to the best spots.
Beginning at the visitors center, the orange route shuttle bus leaves every 30 minutes. During the route, the bus takes visitors to 5 major viewpoints offering the beautiful scenery of the canyons.
These viewpoints include, Mathers Point, Yavapai Geology Museum, South Kaibab Trailhead, Yaki Point and Pipe Creek Vista.
3. Drive to Hopi Point – if its not snowy
One of the must visit spots along the west rim of the canyon, is located on Hermits Road, Hopi Point! Located about half way down the 7-mile road lies arguably one of the greatest lookouts of the canyon.
Hermit’s road is only open to private vehicles during the winter months, making it a perfect time to plan your trip out there.
Hopi Points is one the most popular viewpoints along the south rim due to the stunning panoramic views of the Colorado River, the Dana Butte, and the sweeping canyons. Hopi Point is also voted as being one of the best places to see the sunrise and sunset due to the wide vistas.
If, however, it is snowy and the roads a deemed unsafe for private vehicles, the park does offer shuttle buses along the Hermit road which takes you to Hopi Point.
No matter the weather I hope you get a chance to see this beautiful view.
4. Take a Short hike in the Grand Canyon
Take a hike to Shoshone Point. The trail begins along the Desert View Drive at a discrete gate. The trail in its entirety is only 1.7 miles, making it a short and easy hike to do during the winter months.
The trail is along a dirt road and only has a slight almost unnoticeable upwards incline along the way. The end of the trail offers magnificent panoramic views of the beautiful canyons below and due to the privacy of this trail, almost always offers a tranquil and calming experience in nature.
Take a hike to Ooh Aah Point
Located about 0.9-miles down the South Kaibab Trail is a beautiful viewpoint and great end to short winter hike. Although the hike is short it isn’t necessarily easy.
The hike down to Ooh Aah Point is mainly downhill, therefore coming back up takes approximately double the time.
When it isn’t raining or snowing too much it could be a fantastic hike for those who want a small challenge along with a great view along the way.
Check out my post on the best hikes in the Grand Canyon
5. Drive the Hermits Rest Scenic Drive.
Hermit Road located at the west end of the south rim is a popular 7-mile route that takes you along many scenic viewpoints before finishing at Hermits rest.
There are shuttle buses provided by the Grand Canyon on offer along this route. However, the winter months are the only months in which this road is open to private vehicles.
Therefore, assuming safe driving and road conditions, it’s a great opportunity to be able to take yourself out to the many viewpoints along this route.
Along this route, there are some of the best Grand Canyon viewpoints on offer, including the views from Hopi Point, Mohave Point and Pima Point.
6. Rim Trail – Visitors Centre to Village
A nice and easy 2.5-mile trail from the visitor’s center to the Grand Canyon Village. The paths are paved and mostly flat, making it perfect for those who want to see the beauty of the canyons while remaining on flat grounds.
Along the trail, there are many viewpoints that bring in a different piece of beauty to your experience at the canyon. This trail is also perfect for those who love walking as it’s generally easy and can be compared to a walk in the park – with the added bonuses of the canyon views!
7. Tusayan Museum and Ruin
The Tusayan Museum and Ruin located just 3-miles west of Desert View Point is one of the most important archaeological discoveries in Arizona.
The Ruin itself contains the remains of a Pueblo Village that is believed to be over 800-years old. The Museum is located near the Ruins and contains many exhibits designed to give visitors a greater understanding into the unique history of the canyon.
Visiting the museum and learning about the 12,000+ years of rich archaeological history sounds like a great way to spend a crisp winter day.
8. See the wildlife in the park
Many animals in this area have developed a tolerance and adaptation to the colder temperature. So, during the winter months many more animals can be seen out foraging along the trails and forests.
Mule deer, rock squirrels, elk and ravens are all popular sights among the canyons during these colder months.
9. Catch the Sunset at one of these points
There are many places along the Grand Canyon ranked as great places to view the sunset. Two of the best places to sit and enjoy the sunset on a crisp winter’s evening are arguably Hopi Point and Yavapai Point.
Hopi Point is one of the most popular places along the south rim to view both the sunrise and sunset. This is largely due to the incredible panoramic views of the canyon that is seen from this point. Making any sunrise or sunset truly magical.
Visiting the Grand Canyon during the winter months has its added bonus of getting to watch the sunset from the best spot without having it being overpopulated by visitors. Making the experience just a bit more exciting.
Yavapai Point is yet another great and popular spot to see the sunset at the Grand Canyon. Just a short walk from the visitor center is Yavapai Point, a viewpoint with truly magnificent views of the canyons and a great spot to view the sunset.
Where to stay near the Grand Canyon
If you are wondering where to stay in the Grand Canyon, read my post on the 5 closest cities to the Grand Canyon and where to stay. This is helpful if you are heading onto other locations.
Tusayan is the nearest city to the Grand Canyon. Tusayan is about 5 miles from the South Entrance of the Grand Canyon.
You will find shops and restaurants there, the Grand Canyon IMAX, and the Grand Canyon Airport is about one mile south of town.
Canyon Plaza Premier Studio and Apartments
Views of the valleys and forest areas are featured in select Arizona apartments. Grand Canyon South Rim Entrance is 5 minutes’ drive.
Studios feature a kitchenette and apartments offer a fully equipped kitchen at Canyon Plaza Premier Studio and Apartments. A balcony is provided in each unit.
JJK’s Restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the Studio and Apartments Canyon Plaza Premier.
Arizona Luxury Expeditions – Grand Canyon
Arizona Luxury Expeditions has tents where you can glamp overnight. This is part of their all inclusive and customized to include 12’x12′ Expedition Tents, all meals freshly prepared daily, and a professional Tour Guide for your stay with us.
The weather at the Grand Canyon during Dec. averages 30-40 degrees Fahrenheit daytime and 20’s degree at nighttime. They provide heaters for inside your sleeping and the private dining tents with plenty of warm heavy wool blankets. Most guests enjoy this time of the year in the Grand Canyon because of less crowds of people and the winter landscape that is incredible to experience.
Best Western Premier Grand Canyon Squire Inn
Located right next to the Holiday Inn Express, the Best Western has 250 rooms. The Best Western has an indoor heated pool, a hot tub, sauna, and fitness center.
There are also two restaurants in the hotel – Coronado Room and the Canyon Room. If you are looking for fast food you can find the McDonalds and Pizza Hut are close.
Holiday Inn Express Grand Canyon
The Holiday Inn Express is located just two miles from the South Entrance of the Grand Canyon. The Holiday Inn Express has 164 rooms and is located centrally in Tusayan which means you can walk to the restaurants and shops.
The Holiday Inn Express has an indoor pool, a whirlpool, and a continental breakfast is included.
The Grand Hotel at the Grand Canyon
The hotel offers 5-star accommodation with a hot tub. All units are equipped with air conditioning, a flat-screen TV with satellite channels, a microwave, a coffee machine, a shower, a hairdryer and a desk. Guest rooms include a wardrobe.
Featuring a restaurant, bar, shared lounge and free WiFi, The Grand Hotel at the Grand Canyon is located in Tusayan, 10 km from Mather Campground and 12 km from Bright Angel Trail. This 5-star hotel offers a concierge service and a tour desk. The hotel features an indoor pool, fitness centre, evening entertainment and a 24-hour front desk.
Grand Canyon Plaza Hotel
Canyon Plaza Premier Studio and Apartments is a 3 star hotel located 6 miles from the Grand Canyon.
There are only 10 rooms here and each room has a microwave, a refrigerator, and a coffee maker.
There is one restaurant here called JJK’s restaurant. Close to the hotel is the Plaza Bonita where you can also eat.
Conclusion – worth visiting the Grand Canyon in Winter?
The crisp cold weather, the blankets of snow across the canyons, the low tourism, the foreign animals roaming about, and the beautiful sunsets all make for winter to be a great time to visit the Grand Canyon.
Many parts of the Grand Canyon offer spots of tranquillity and serenity, however, when visiting in the winter these can be found more frequently and often in many of the most popular spots of the canyon.
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