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
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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:
- The Grand Hotel at the Grand Canyon
- The Grand Canyon Plaza Hotel
- Best Western Premier Grand Canyon
- Holiday Inn Express Grand Canyon
- Glamp in an Airstream
- Sleep under the Stars in a Shooting Stargazer
- Teepee under the Stars
- Stay in a Chic Yurt
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