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Arizona,  Destinations,  North America,  Our Adventures,  Road Trips,  Traveling with a Baby or Toddler,  USA

5 Reasons to Visit the Grand Canyon in the Winter

The Grand Canyon is a popular bucket list destination- and for good reason! It is stunning. My husband, baby girl, and I recently spent 24 hours on the South Rim (the North Rim is closed during the winter months). I had never been to the Grand Canyon in the winter, and it was perfect!

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The summer months are the busiest at Grand Canyon National Park, but there are several reasons to stop by in the winter. We were there December 22-23 (the weekend right before Christmas), which is supposedly their winter “peak” days, but it was hardly crowded at all. The weather was cool, but we were comfortably prepared. The sky was perfectly clear. We avoided waiting in lines for restrooms and dining. We had prime parking options. Overall, it was amazing!

Since we had such a short time there and were traveling with our baby, we decided to keep it simple. We didn’t do any major hikes or camp on the ground this time (our itinerary will be posted soon!). If you’re interested in going into the backcountry, check out the National Park Service’s website for all necessary winter information.

After experiencing the Grand Canyon in the winter, I have no desire to ever return during the busy, hot summer months! I’m excited to share 5 reasons to visit the Grand Canyon with the winter, along with some advice that I gathered from our own experience!

5 Reasons to Visit the Grand Canyon in the Winter

  1. No Crowds!

There were plenty of happy tourists at the Grand Canyon while we were there in December, but the crowds didn’t even compare to the summer crowds that we were used to. While we passed several people on the trails, we were often alone on our walks. We didn’t have to wait for prime photo spots to clear, and parking was a breeze (more on that in #5). We also didn’t have to wait in a line to enter the park (and, no, we didn’t have to arrive at the break of dawn), for restrooms, or for food. We took the shuttle around the park, where we always had seats and storage space for our baby’s stroller. It was a peaceful, relaxing, and easy experience!

An Adventure is Calling Grand Canyon in the Winter

  1. Cool Weather

Some travelers worry that the Grand Canyon will be too cold during the winter, but we loved it! We were there for about 24 hours (about 4pm-4pm), and the highs were in the upper 40s. We are from California (until recently, Southern CA), and we did just fine! I actually prefer cool weather when I’m outdoors (I’m not a fan of riding on crowded, warm park shuttles or feeling like I cannot escape the heat during hikes).  My husband and I both wore jeans, warm boots, a warm long-sleeved shirt, a winter coat, and a beanie. I also wore a sweater as a second layer. We both shed layers at different points in the day. Our daughter was bundled up in a snow suit most of the time and stayed nice and warm (and took an amazing nap in her stroller!). We were all comfortable and loved the fresh, cool air!

Tip: Don’t forget your sunglasses! I did, and I regretted not having a pair in the middle of the day.

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It does snow at times during the winter months. We didn’t experience snowfall, but there were some patches of snow on the ground at different points along the trails.

Another tip: There are several water bottle refill stations located throughout the park (in the lodges, visitor centers, etc.). The outdoor options are shut down during the winter (I assume due to freezing temps), so be sure to fill up before you leave on your walk/hike and carry plenty of extra water with you.

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  1. Clear Skies

The views were amazing. The sky was perfectly clear and the air quality was great. The blue sky beautifully contrasted with the red canyon rocks! I’ll let the photos speak for themselves!

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  1. Easy, Delicious Dining Experiences with a View!

We ate 3 meals at the Grand Canyon- dinner, breakfast, and lunch. We never had to wait for a table, and we had perfect window views of the Grand Canyon! On the first day, we ate dinner at the Harvey House Café. They sat us immediately at a booth by a window. We were able to watch the sunset while we dined. The next morning, we ate breakfast at El Tovar. This is considered to be the best food in the park, by most visitors. They do not take reservations for breakfast, and we arrived at 9:30am, fully expecting a crowd. But the restaurant was almost completely empty, and they gave us a table with a beautiful view of the canyon.

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That afternoon, we ate at the Maswik Food Court. It is located off the rim, so a view of the canyon wasn’t an option for this meal, but the food court was nearly empty.

  1. Easy Parking

This could fall under the “no crowds” category, but I wanted to elaborate on it a little bit, because it really does make a huge difference in your trip. Parking was a breeze! If you’ve ever been to the Grand Canyon during peak season, or almost any other national park during its peak season, then you know that parking can be stressful. We arrived in the afternoon on the first day, and we decided to park at the visitor center near the entrance of the park. The parking lot seemed pretty full, but there were several spots available. We caught a shuttle and had a good, quick experience. Then we realized that we could have parked much closer. My in-laws gave us a great tip that I want to pass on to you- check out parking near the lodges! During this time of year, the lodges are not very full (even on a holiday weekend!), and there were plenty of available spots. We arrived around 9am on the second day and found parking right away near El Tovar.

Later that afternoon, we drove to Powell Point (during the summer months, this road is closed to cars and only open to shuttles; during the winter, shuttles do not run there and they open it up to cars). The overlooks on this side of the canyon (e.g., Hopi, The Abyss, Pima, etc.) have very limited parking, but we had no issues! We parked right by the lookout and enjoyed the view!

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I honestly believe that the Grand Canyon is beautiful during every season, but we truly enjoyed our winter experience. It left us longing to go back! Have you been to the Grand Canyon during the winter? Or another season? I would love to hear about your experience!

Where to Stay Near The Grand Canyon

If you’re looking for a fun Airbnb experience or a comfortable hotel near the Grand Canyon, check out these options:


Booking.com

 

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24 Comments

  • Jane Dempster-Smith

    Great comments about visiting the grand canyon. we have not done that yet but knew it was very busy during summer. your tips have persuaded us that maybe we should consider winter instead. your photos are excellent. thanks.

  • Paula

    Wow, looks amazing with the clear sky! I have only been at the north rim years ago and everything was hazy because of a wildfire near by. Last thanksgiving we were thinking of going but ended up to other places instead. But I think grand canyon is in our cards for april, yay! hopefully it is not too crowded. I am thinking you are right about the easiness of visiting during winter.

    • Leah

      Yes- it was SO clear! I’ve been lucky with my Grand Canyon visits (I’ve always experienced clear skies), but it isn’t always that way. Enjoy your trip in April! I’m sure it will be lovely then too!

  • Daniel

    I was already sold on visiting in winter because i love winter. But this post gives me even more reasons to visit the grand canyon during the winter. I’ll defnitely visit next winter.

  • Soumya Gayatri

    I had no idea we could visit the grand canyon in the winters. These are great tips. Seems like it is the best time to appreciate the beauty all on your own. no crowds at all. even i like to walk and hike on relatively cooler days. So this suits me just fine.

  • Sandy N Vyjay

    I am sure that the Grand Canyon is equally beautiful during all seasons, but of course it must assume a different avatar during winter. We were there some years back during fall and thoroughly enjoyed the place. it is definitely one of the most magnificent of natural landscapes that we have been to. a grand experience in every sense of the word.

  • Courtney hopkins

    I love this list! I have gone to grand canyon inbith winter and summer and completely agree With your summer comment about it being hot. I was prettyy miserable but the winter was excellent. It was quite a bit more crowded than when you went (we parked far away 🙁 ) so maybe i should think about before christmas next time. I have not been to the north rim, but would like to go someday.

    • Leah

      Next time you go in the winter, try parking up near the lodges. We were shocked at how many spaces were available. 🙂 I would love to go to the North Rim too! I have only been to the South Rim.

  • blair villanueva

    Thanks for sharing this travel hack. does the entrance fee in grand canyon (if any) is much affordable during winter season? I can imagine that would be a glorious time to visit, with less crowd around.

  • Emmanuel Damian

    I have heard a lot about the Great Canyon and it’s one Place I really want to visit when I come in the US. I didn’t know that there’s cool weather in the canyon itself as I thought it’s hot whenever I see it in photos. It’s also a very accessible place because of the parking. I need to tell my American friend to bring me there ASAP!

  • Andi

    I definitely prefer the GC in the winter over the summer! We live in Phoenix so we try to get up there several times a year. I just wish the north rim was open in the winter as I am sure it would be amazing as well. You may get grey sky and clouds or even hail, but it doesn’t usually last love and I LOVE the lack of crowds!

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