At GrandCanyon.com, our hands-down favorite time of year is early fall, which we interpret as mid-September to early October. Grand Canyon weather is about as close to perfect as it gets with daytime highs also in the 65-75° range. Late September does tend to be prone to the occasional afternoon thunderstorm, but in general, sunny, breezy days predominate. The crowds also tend to thin out in the fall as schoolchildren get back into their regular routines. As mentioned in Travel Tip #2, Grand Canyon South Rim and Grand Canyon West are open year-round, so fall is a good time to visit both of these areas.
Insider tip: early autumn is prime time for a visit to the Grand Canyon’s prettier, cooler and quieter side – the North Rim. At 8,000’, Grand Canyon North Rim supports plant and animal life that the drier South Rim cannot. In addition to Ponderosa pine trees, the Kaibab National Forest on the North Rim has oaks, birches, aspens and even some trees in the maple family. In about mid-September, the forest breaks out in a dazzling array of autumn color that has to be seen to be believed (photo above right). The North Rim is in recovery from a major forest fire that took place in 2006, so there is a large burn area about 25 miles North of the park. Access to that area may be limited to facilitate clean-up and restoration efforts.
Summertime is the Grand Canyon’s warmest and most crowded time of the year. If you’re not traveling with children and don’t have your heart set on having access to lots of services, activities, etc., here again, consider a visit to Grand Canyon’s North Rim. If you are traveling with children, the South Rim will be your best bet as it has more of a variety of hotels, activities and tours that are kid-friendly. At 4,000’ in altitude, Grand Canyon West is more typical of a desert landscape, meaning treeless and HOT. If extreme heat bothers you, you probably wouldn’t want to visit Grand Canyon West in the summertime.
In wintertime, Grand Canyon National Park almost becomes a different world. The time period from November through February is unquestionably the quietest time of year at the park, with only 15% of its annual visitation occurring then. Since Grand Canyon North Rim closes from mid-October to mid-May, you would want to choose between Grand Canyon West and Grand Canyon South Rim for a wintertime visit. Winter, as you can imagine, is very cold, with average daytime highs ranging from 35-50°F. Nights are even chillier, typically getting down to the teens and even below zero on occasion. And of course, snow is a contingency one always has to plan for. But, if you’re seeking peace and solitude, and a photo opportunity like no other, winter is a wonderful time to visit the Grand Canyon. Plus, most of the popular Grand Canyon tours are still operating.
Insider tip: Save money by scheduling your trip between November 1st and March 1st, when Grand Canyon hotels discount season can mean anywhere from $10 to $40 a night savings – you won’t see savings like these in peak season!