Is Grand Canyon Worth Visiting in Winter
If you have wondered if the Grand Canyon is worth visiting in winter we have a few recommendations and ideas to make your trip awesome.
We had a great time even with all the snow at the Grand Canyon.
In this Grand Canyon winter itinerary, we will give you a plan of action for a trip to the Grand Canyon in December, January, February, or even March.
Let's talk Grand Canyon weather first!
Grand Canyon Winter Weather
We are going to focus on the Grand Canyon winter weather at the South Rim. The South Rim is open year-round.
December January Feburary March Highs (F) 43 41 45 51 Lows (F) 20 18 21 25
Don't Be Fooled
The Grand Canyon winter temperatures in this table do not look too bad. There are many micro-climates at the Grand Canyon. That means some areas can be really cold and other areas can be a lot warmer.
The South Rim receives a lot of snow starting as early as November and lasting in some places until April.
Fun Fact about Grand Canyon Snow
For every 1000 feet you go down into the Grand Canyon the temperature increases 5.5 degrees. It is warmer at lower elevations.
That is why you will see a lot of Grand Canyon snow fall at the top of the South Rim but not at lower elevations. It typically will turn to rain when it hits the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
Is Winter a Bad Time to Visit the Grand Canyon?
No, The Grand Canyon in the winter is a great time to visit.
Top Reasons to Visit the Grand Canyon in Winter
- Fewer Crowds
- Cooler Temps than Summer
What to Wear in the Grand Canyon in Winter
You will need full winter clothes including hat, gloves, and good hiking boots that are insulated. I had a few layers on under my sweatshirt but I never got warm enough to shed any layers.
What to Wear to the Grand Canyon in Winter
When we went, the Grand Canyon snow pack was hard. The main trail was solid ice. I suggest bringing spikes if you plan on hiking.
Grand Canyon South Rim Winter Hours
The Grand Canyon South Rim is open year-round. The Grand Canyon North Rim is closed for winter. You will have to come to the Grand Canyon South Rim during the winter or visit the West Rim.
The Grand Canyon West Rim is not part of the National Park it is owned by the Hualapai Tribe. It is open year-round.
The South Rim may not be accessible during inclement weather. It is advised to have a backup plan. This means having flexibility with your travel plans.
Hours and Admission
The visitor center has limited hours during the winter. If you have a America The Beautiful National Park Pass you are good to go. If not the cost for admission is $35 per car.
Parking at the Grand Canyon South Rim
Visiting the Grand Canyon in the winter, you probably won't have a problem finding a parking spot. You will want to park at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center. There is an RV parking lot located in this area as well.
Grand Canyon in Winter Itinerary
Now, the fun part. I am sure you are asking yourself “What is there to do at the Grand Canyon in winter?”
Grand Canyon Winter 1 Day Itinerary
I am going to give you a Grand Canyon winter itinerary. This itinerary will take around 3-4 hours to complete. Walking in the snow at the Grand Canyon takes a lot of time!
1. Grand Canyon Visitor Center
The Grand Canyon Visitor Center will be your first stop. Be sure to check out the exhibits inside! It is always fun to learn all you can!
At the Grand Canyon Visitor Center, you can ask rangers for recommendations on the best Grand Canyon winter hikes and other fun activities to enjoy. You will also want to find out what areas are open at the Grand Canyon in Winter.
We always love getting the Junior Ranger books and collector badges when we visit the national parks. You can do that at the visitor center.
Activities near Grand Canyon Visitor Center
There is a park store, cafe, and bike rental shop located just outside of the visitor center. If it hasn't snowed yet you may still be able to ride bikes. Unfortunately, bikes are not allowed on the rim trail.
If you plan to visit the Grand Canyon in January- March, your best bet is exploring the 2 mile Rim Trail from the visitor center to the Grand Canyon Village.
There are lots of fun stops along the way. This is the path we took and we had a fabulous time. I will include the stops we made on our visit and let you know what you can do in each area.
Shuttle Bus Option
If hiking isn't your thing no worries, there are plenty of overlooks to check out. There is a shuttle bus that runs every 10-15 minutes which will get you close to some of the fun options I list below.
2. Grand Canyon in Winter Mather Point Overlook
One of the first stops you will make in your winter in the Grand Canyon itinerary is the Mather Point Overlook. Mather Point is located a short walking distance from the visitor center.
This overlook provides some amazing views! You can see 60+ miles to the west and 30+miles to the east. It is one of the best places to see the Grand Canyon in Winter.
There is a fence rail along this section, but still, be careful not to slip on ice. This is a great place to take pictures and take in the view. Sunrise and sunset are very popular times to enjoy Mather Point.
3. Grand Canyon Winter South Rim Trial
The Grand Canyon South Rim Trail is 13 miles long from the Kaibab Trailhead to Hermits Rest. We started at Mathers Point and only walked about 2 miles. It is paved and the elevation gain is minimal When we visited it was really snow-packed. This made it very difficult to walk on.
We did not bring crampon spikes, but that would have been very helpful. I had really nice hiking boots on and it was okay but I was moving a lot slower than I normally would.
Visitor Center to Yavapai Point Geology Museum
It is about .7 miles from the Visitor Center to the Yavapai Point Geology Museum. This part of your hike is pretty cool! You can look out and see the Colorado River. There are lookout telescopes along the path that help you see different spots along the way.
4. Yavapai Point Geology Musuem
As you head down the South Rim Trail about halfway to the Grand Canyon Village there is a Geology Museum. This is actually a cool place to stop.
The site has been around since 1928 and was built right on the edge of the Grand Canyon. In 2007 new exhibits were built and a three-dimensional model of the Grand Canyon was added to the site.
View Point of the Grand Canyon in Winter
If you head to the back of the museum there is a viewpoint area. This area used to be open but now there are enclosed glass windows.
You can look out and see a beautiful view of the Grand Canyon in winter! Plus, you will be able to warm up inside!
5. Grand Canyon Village
The Grand Canyon Village is a fun area with restaurants, gift shops, and museums.
You can visit the different venues and spend about an hour in this area exploring. It is nice that these locations have indoor facilities because it will get you out of the cold for a little bit.
6. Verkamps Visitor Center
I think the highlight of the Grand Canyon Village is the Verkamp Visitor Center. This visitor center focuses on the historic community around the Grand Canyon.
History of the Grand Canyon Village
I really like the walking history trail inside. The exhibits were pretty cool to see. It is a fun way to learn.
7. El Tovar Hotel
El Tovar is a historic hotel located in the Grand Canyon Village. It has a charming cabin feel. If you are hungry after your hike you can eat at the dining room. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Dinner does require a reservation.
If you want to book a night at the El Tovar there are 78 historic suites available.
8. Hopi House
The Hopi House is more of a gift shop with Native American products. There is some fantastic art located on the upper floor.
It was pretty expensive but it is really cool to look around!
9. Kolb Studio
The history behind the Kolb Studio is so fun. The Kolb brothers came to the Grand Canyon in the early 1900s and captured some amazing photographs.
Later, they made one of the first movies of them floating the Colorado River.
Now the Studio honors them with beautiful photos of the Grand Canyon.
Take in the Grand Canyon in Winter
The views from Kolb Studio are breathtaking! It is a great place to take photos of hikers making their way down from Bright Angel Trail.
10. Lookout Studio
11. Grand Canyon Winter Train
There is a train from Williams, AZ to the Grand Canyon. This is a fun way to get to the Grand Canyon. You can book your tickets online.
Departure Times for Grand Canyon in Winter
The train departs at 8:30 a.m. each day and returns at 4:45 p.m. The train stop is at the Grand Canyon Village.
Fun Grand Canyon Winter Adventures
The Polar Express is available to book during the winter. This is a night time adventure with cookies and hot chocolate and of course Santa Clause.
12. Hiking in Winter at Grand Canyon
There are a few hikes you can do at the Grand Canyon in Winter. A lot of the areas are closed during winter at the Grand Canyon but there is one trail near the South Rim that we will highlight.
To be able to hike at the Grand Canyon in winter you will need to make sure you have the right equipment and clothing.
13. Bright Angel Trailhead
Miles: 10 miles to Phantom Ranch
Difficulty: Hard Intense coming up
The Bright Angels trail is one of the most popular hikes at the Grand Canyon. During the winter you will want to be extremely careful.
The snow on the trail can be higher than 1 foot. We did not have the right equipment and I did not trust myself to walk down into the Grand Canyon with snow all around. We did see a lot of hikers heading down.
What is really nice is when you get to a certain point down, there is no longer snow. The temperatures vary in the Grand Canyon so it actually gets warmer as you head down.
Angle Bright Trail
This hike is supposed to take 5-7 hours just to get down and double the time coming back up! The good news is there are accommodations at Phantom Ranch, but you have to enter a lottery to be able to stay at one of the dormitories or cabins.
There is also dining available but reservations are required.
If hiking isn't your thing mule trips are super popular and fun!
Are You Ready to Visit the Grand Canyon in Winter?
Hopefully, this gives you an idea of what to expect when you go to the Grand Canyon in Winter. I think it is nice to have a Grand Canyon winter itinerary.
Even if you only have a few hours the Grand Canyon in Winter is a fantastic place to visit! On our trip, we didn't bring the kids but now after going, I would say it is a great National Park for kids. There are so many wonderful West Coast National Parks.
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