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When is the best time to visit Grand Canyon National Park?

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Are you wondering what the best time to visit Grand Canyon is? You’re in the right place!

The Grand Canyon is one of the most popular national parks, and for good reason! From hiking and biking to watching gorgeous sunsets, the outdoor activities are endless. Plus, the park offers tons of educational experiences on the geology, history, and culture of the area.

So when is the best time to visit Grand Canyon National Park? It depends on how you want to spend your trip. Let’s break it down.

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When is the best time to visit Grand Canyon National Park?

Rocky canyon with red rock under a grey sky

Overall, I think the best time to visit Grand Canyon is in May. The heat and crowds of summer haven’t arrived yet, but the weather is still perfect for all the outdoor activities your heart desires.

There are two main areas to visit in the Grand Canyon.

The South Rim is the most popular, and due to its moderate weather is open year-round. The more remote North Rim, which sees only 10% of Grand Canyon visitors, is open seasonally from May 15 to October 15.

The North Rim offers activities like hiking and backcountry camping, but many of the other activities we’ll discuss in this post are located on the South Rim. 

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Best time to go to Grand Canyon National Park by type:

Green plants growing in a red rock canyon
  • Fewest crowds: If you’re looking to beat the crowd and enjoy the quietest, most peaceful visit possible, winter is the best time to visit the Grand Canyon.
  • Best for hiking: If you plan to explore on foot, April and October are the best months to visit the Grand Canyon because the weather is cooler.
  • For camping: If you plan to camp, May and September are the best months to go to the Grand Canyon. The nights are warm enough to sleep comfortably and sit around the fire without freezing your toes off, and the days are cool enough to hang out in your tent without melting into a puddle of sweat.
  • Best weather: If you’re looking for the best weather for your adventure, the best time of year to visit Grand Canyon is April or May, when temps are still mild and rainfall averages are low.

Visiting Grand Canyon National Park by the Season

The best month to visit Grand Canyon truly depends on what you’re looking for. Find a breakdown here by month!

Spring in Grand Canyon

River flowing through a red rock canyon

Spring (March to May) is less crowded than summer in the Grand Canyon—and cooler, with temperatures around 60°F during the day. This makes spring a great season to visit the Grand Canyon if you want to do lots of outdoor activities without the heavy crowds.

Pros & Cons of Visiting Grand Canyon in the Spring:

  • The weather is still warm enough for outdoor activities like hiking and biking—even rafting, if you visit in late spring.
  • Crowds tend to be lower, making it a quieter, less stressful time to visit the Grand Canyon.
  • However, spring weather is less predictable than summer, with rain or even snow possible.

Grand Canyon Spring Activities:

  • Visit the Yavapai Geology Museum and take a stroll along the Trail of Time. This is a fun, free way to learn about the rocks and minerals in the Grand Canyon and how they formed over millions of years.
  • Bike the Rim Trail. If you didn’t bring one, you can rent a bike or e-bike from Bright Angel Bicycles.
  • Camp at Mather Campground. This is a cheap option without sacrificing too much comfort, since Mather offers amenities like coin-operated laundry and hot showers. Plus, you’re likely to see some elk meandering through the trees behind your tent!

Tips for Visiting in the Spring:

  • Bring a raincoat and waterproof boots, in case you get rained or snowed on.
  • Pack layers. Although spring days are usually warm at the Grand Canyon, the nights will still be chilly.
  • Always wear sunscreen. No matter what time of year you visit the Grand Canyon, you’ll be walking around at high elevation with little tree cover.

Summer in Grand Canyon

Blue waterfall surrounded by red rocks

As you may have guessed, summer (June to August) is the most popular—and most crowded—time to visit the Grand Canyon. It’s also the hottest, driest season, with highs surpassing 85°F during the day. Nights become pleasantly cool, making summer the best time of year to visit the Grand Canyon for stargazing.

Pros & Cons of Visiting Grand Canyon in the Summer:

  • Summer nights are warm, making it easy to explore the park after dark.
  • However, higher nighttime temps can make it harder to sleep if you’re camping.
  • Summer in the Grand Canyon doesn’t get much rain, so the weather is usually good for outdoor activities.
  • Most of the Grand Canyon’s wildflower species are in bloom in summer, so it’s a great time for viewing flowers and butterflies.
  • It gets HOT during the day, especially down inside the canyon (up to 120°F). These temps can make hiking uncomfortable and downright dangerous. Below we’ll give you some tips for hiking safely in the summer.

Grand Canyon Summer Activities:

  • Stargaze in the Grand Canyon, a certified International Dark Sky Park. Since summer sees warm nights and little rain, it’s the perfect time to explore the park after dark.
  • You may also spot some bats—the Grand Canyon is home to 22 species of bat, and they’re mostly active at night.
  • See the canyon from a different perspective by rafting down the Colorado River.
  • At the Grand Canyon Music Festival, usually held in August or early September, you can see world-class musicians playing songs inspired by the spirit of the canyon.

Tips for Visiting in the Summer:

  • Do not underestimate the heat. When hiking, remember that the bottom of the canyon is usually 15-20°F higher than the rim.
  • To stay cool, start your hike early, when temps are lower.
  • Pack plenty of water, sunscreen, and snacks.
  • Watch out for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. If you feel unwell, take a break or turn around.

Fall in Grand Canyon

Sun peeking out in the distance by a rocky canyon with fall foliage

Fall (September to November) brings the return of lower crowds and milder temperatures, typically in the 60s during the day. This makes it a great time to visit the Grand Canyon if you plan on hiking, biking, or rafting.

Pros & Cons of Visiting Grand Canyon in the Fall:

  • Fall temperatures are perfect for outdoor activities.
  • Crowds are thinner than in summer, making it a quieter, less stressful time to visit the Grand Canyon.
  • However, fall weather becomes less predictable, with rain or even light snow possible.

Grand Canyon Fall Activities:

  • Head to Kolb Studio for the Grand Canyon Celebration of Art. For a week in September, you can watch artists painting “en plein air” (outside on location) at the South Rim, and the art stays on exhibit through mid-January.
  • Visit the Grand Canyon in November for Native American Heritage Days at the Shrine of the Ages. You can learn about the area’s native tribes and each one’s unique art, music, and history.
  • Bike or ride up Hermit Road. Hop on the free shuttle bus—or, if you’re feeling energetic, bike the seven hilly miles. You’ll pass nine canyon overlooks perfect for photos or romantic sunsets.

Tips for Visiting in the Fall:

  • Prepare for rain and snow by packing a raincoat and waterproof boots.
  • Dress in layers. Though daytime temps are still fairly high, the nights tend to get chilly.

Winter in Grand Canyon

Snow covering a canyon under a blue sky

While the North Rim is closed, winter (December to February) brings heavy snow to the South Rim, with temperatures in the 20s and 30s. It’s the best time to visit the Grand Canyon with minimal crowds.

Pros & Cons of Visiting Grand Canyon in the Winter:

  • The North Rim is closed, so you’ll be limited to the more popular South Rim.
  • However, winter is the least crowded season at the South Rim, so it’s a peaceful time to visit the Grand Canyon.
  • The South Rim often gets snowfall, making it a magical time to experience the Grand Canyon.
  • Most wildlife in the Grand Canyon area is less active during winter, so you’re less likely to see animals like elk, squirrels, and California condors.
  • Due to the low temperatures, camping in winter requires specialized gear and can be less enjoyable than in warmer months.

Grand Canyon Winter Activities:

  • Get out of the cold by exploring Grand Canyon Village, learning about the canyon’s history, and perusing the wide variety of art and souvenirs for sale.
  • Talk a walk along the Rim Trail. A dusting of snow on the canyon’s dramatic rock formations will give you a unique view that most visitors don’t get to see.
  • Hike the Bright Angel Trail. The bottom of the canyon will be 15-20F higher than the rim, making for a milder, more enjoyable trek than in the summer.

Tips for Visiting in the Winter:

  • Pack a warm coat, hat, gloves, and snow boots.
  • If you plan to hike, bring microspikes and trekking poles to keep you safe on slick, snowy trails.
  • Since winter weather can be unpredictable, stay at least a few days to ensure you get a chance to enjoy the outdoors and get good views of the canyon between snowstorms.

Final Thoughts: Best Time to Visit Grand Canyon National Park

The Grand Canyon is a great place to visit any time of year, but there are pros and cons depending on your preferences. Hopefully, these tips will help you find the best time to visit Grand Canyon for your perfect trip!

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