You’ve seen amazing photos of it in magazines and across social media. You’ve heard endless tales from friends and family about its breathtaking beauty.
And you saw it as the backdrop for a legendary chase scene between Will Smith and an alien aircraft fighter in the smash blockbuster Independence Day. And now, you’ve made it the next stop on your growing travel bucket list.
Welcome to the Grand Canyon, and if you ask me, yes, it’s the most incredible, awe-inspiring feat of nature anywhere on Earth.
Today, you’ve landed here because you’ve got tons of questions to ask, like, “How can I get to the Grand Canyon from Vegas?”, “Should I visit the North Rim or South Rim?” and “What are some recommended items to pack for my trip?”
Those are all great questions. But let’s begin by answering the most important question. When is the best time to visit the Grand Canyon?
What Is the Best Time to Visit the Grand Canyon?
The best time to visit the Grand Canyon depends on several factors, including weather, crowds, location, and affordability, which vary throughout the year.
Late spring and early summer are ideal times to visit with excellent weather. However, my favorite month to visit the park is October, with fewer tourists and cool temps. Let’s break down each area so you can better understand when to best plan your trip.
Is It a Good Time to Visit the Grand Canyon During Winter? (December – February)
Winter sees the Grand Canyon frequently blanketed with light to moderate snow. Temperatures drop to a bone-chilling 30° F to 50° F. The frigid air can plummet into the single digits at its coldest, especially during evenings and nights in January and February.
Roads become icy in the winter, hiking trails are slicker, and portions of the national park, like North Rim, are closed. In addition, the days at the Grand Canyon are shorter, as sunset falls between 5 pm and 6:30 pm.
But a steady turnout of cloudy winter skies doesn’t mean you won’t experience gorgeous sunny days. On the contrary, most of the canyon’s winter storms are usually juxtaposed with abundant sunshine. Making it the perfect opportunity to capture the overwhelming beauty of the Grand Canyon covered in fresh white snow underneath a clear blue sky.
Plus, you can still enjoy scenic hikes up, down, and around the Grand Canyon at popular hiking trails, South Kaibab Trail and Bright Angel Trail. In addition, savvy visitors can set up a multi-day camp at Mather Campground and drive to scenic spots throughout the South and West Rims, like Hopi Point and Mohave Point.
What to Wear/Pack for Winter Months at the Grand Canyon
Pack winter gloves, a beanie, a scarf, an insulated water bottle, and trekking poles if you plan to go on the trails. Wear wool socks, a comfortable winter/snow jacket, and hiking boots.
Since there aren’t any auto shops or gas stations around the Grand Canyon for miles, prepare some jumper cables, anti-freeze, road salt, and a flashlight. You never know what could happen to your car in the cold!
How’s the Weather During Spring at the Grand Canyon? (March-May)
Ahh, spring at the Grand Canyon. After three long months of frosty weather and snow-covered plateaus and basins, spring’s warmer temperatures, longer days of sunshine, and picturesque flower blossoms are pretty refreshing.
Starting in March, temperatures gradually increase from a cold winter’s epilogue of 50° F – 60° F into a pleasant 70° F – 80° F range by the end of May. With that, it’s not uncommon to experience late winter snowstorms in early March and April and high 80s/low 90s degree weather just before summer begins in June.
Furthermore, the Grand Canyon’s spring climate is dry and rarely rains. As a result, you’ll find drastic changes in temperature at different elevations and times of the day. Still, the higher temperatures make fun outdoor activities at the canyon, like hiking, rafting the Colorado River, camping, and sightseeing, more tolerable than winter.
What to Pack/Weak During Spring at the Grand Canyon
Prep layers to accommodate the Grand Canyon’s dramatically changing spring weather. Pack a short and long sleeve shirt, sweater, breathable jacket, comfortable cargo pants, jeans, and shorts. You can decide what clothes to wear once you arrive at the Grand Canyon and check out the weather.
Is the Grand Canyon Hot During the Summer? (June – August)
Summer months, June through August, at the Grand Canyon are scorching hot. It’s so hot that I’m sweating just thinking about it. On average, temperatures at higher elevations around the Grand Canyon—like at the observation point you’ll most likely be standing on—can simmer between 80° F to 105° F.
It’s even worse the further you hike down the canyon, where trapped, circulating heat can raise the temperature to a staggering 120° F. Ouch!
Aside from that, skies are usually clear, and the soothing summer sunshine makes way for the most vivid views of the Grand Canyon you’ll ever see throughout the year. So what’s that setting on a camera? … Saturation? Trust me. You won’t even need it!
Moreover, summer at the Grand Canyon brings frequent rain, thunderstorms, and potential flash floods. The intensity of the showers varies, meaning the weather can go from zero to 100, err, rather, gentle to severe, at any moment. According to the US National Park Service, the rain typically pours between 11 am and 6 pm.
What to Wear/Pack for Summer at the Grand Canyon
Bring an insulated bottle to keep your water ice cold. Wear 100% UV protection sunglasses and sunscreen. Pack breathable cargo pants or shirts, a loose-fitting t-shirt, and a long sleeve shirt. Make sure to carry a compact umbrella and cooling towel. If you plan to hike the Grand Canyon, throw in some electrolyte tablets and a wide-brim sun hat and do some serious research before you go.
Is Fall a Good Time of Year to Visit the Grand Canyon? (September – November)
Yep! Autumn is one of the best seasons to visit any region across the world, period. Post-summer temperatures interchange between warm, cool, and cold. The skies are still pretty clear. Everything’s in HD. You’ll probably catch the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets any time of the year.
Fall at the Grand Canyon is no different. Though day temperatures steadily drop from the high 70s to the low 40s, the canyon air remains crisp from September through November. As a result, the jaw-dropping scenery throughout the park is significantly emboldened, making autumn at the Grand Canyon a photographer’s paradise.
Likewise, as the air cools, expect freezing temperatures at night and lower elevations near the basin. Hikes may still be a top activity during the season. Still, as winter approaches, camping at the Grand Canyon becomes much more difficult in late October and November.
What to Wear/Pack During Fall at the Grand Canyon
Wear breathable layers that keep you loose and warm, like sweats, sweaters, and thermal tops. Pack your best camera, like a DSLR or the latest iPhone, and bring a selfie stick.
How are the Crowds at the Grand Canyon During the Year?
Grand Canyon National Park is one of America’s best national parks; big crowds are expected. However, winter at the Grand Canyon brings in the least amount of people, meaning there are fewer crowds and fewer cars on the roads. In addition, the slower overall pace makes exploring the popular scenic attraction a tranquil sanctuary for winter travel enthusiasts.
In spring, crowds at the Grand Canyon remain relatively thin due to the persistent cold from winter. However, expect a slight influx in visitors as temperatures rise and peak season to visit the national park begins. Spring Break and Easter Holiday are popular times to visit the Grand Canyon; the crowds come roaring in by late May.
Summer is the busiest time of the year at the Grand Canyon. School’s out, days are longer, sunshine is stronger, and the urge to travel is more prevalent than at any other time. As a result, you’ll find long queues at popular photo zones, traffic jams at the North and South Rim entrances, crowded parking spaces, and lots, I repeat, lots of tour buses and RV trailers.
Fall sees a steady decline in visitors. Life returns to normal, and as temperatures cool, you’ll find fewer people disturbing your hikes and popping up in your stunning landscape shots of the Grand Canyon. Don’t you hate when that happens?
Should You Visit the Grand Canyon’s North Rim or South Rim?
Hands down, the Grand Canyon South Rim is the most popular rim to visit at the Grand Canyon, especially for first-time visitors. The sprawling canyon is home to breathtaking viewpoints like Mather Point and Ooh Aah Point, numerous hiking trails and campgrounds, fun recreational activities like rafting and guided ranger tours, scenic routes, and a free shuttle bus service. In addition, the South Rim is open year-round.
The Grand Canyon North Rim is quieter and more remote, and many travelers agree that the North Rim is superior regarding the region’s scenery. Plus, as the North Rim sits around 1000 feet higher than South Rim (7200 ft.)—its climate is generally cooler throughout the year.
Hence, summer is a perfect time to visit the North Rim. However, during the winter, heavy snowfall causes the North Rim to ‘close for business’ from late October through May due to safety hazards.
Verdict: The Grand Canyon’s South Rim is the most convenient location. The North Rim is more remote but is considered by many people to be prettier.
What’s the Best Time for Hiking the Grand Canyon?
The best time to go hiking at the Grand Canyon is spring and fall, when daytime temperatures switch between cool, warm, and hot. Remember that temperatures drastically change throughout the Grand Canyon depending on the elevation. Therefore, expect significant temperature increases or decreases the deeper you hike into the park.
What’s the Best Time for Camping in the Grand Canyon?
April, May, September, and October are the best times to go camping in the Grand Canyon. Fewer crowds and warm/cool weather equate to easier access to campsites and bearable temperatures for multi-day overnight stays.
How to Get to the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas?
Est. Driving Time: 4.5 hours
The best way to get to the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas is by car, which takes around 4.5 hours. It’s an incredibly scenic drive that takes you up and down. Around rolling hills and large desert spaces, I suggest having your favorite travel and reflection songs ready to pair with your Bluetooth. Nothing beats listening to great music on the open road!
You can also hitch a ride with various top-rated Grand Canyon tours from Las Vegas. They provide the transportation—shuttle bus, plane, or helicopter—and make stops or flyovers at West Rim, South Rim, and North Rim in a half or full-day trip.
Tours to the Grand Canyon can get expensive, though, with the average price for a general bus tour starting around $100. Nevertheless, you can’t deny the convenience of not having to drive!
How to Get to the Grand Canyon from Phoenix?
Est. Driving Time: 3.45 hours
Driving is the most convenient way to visit the Grand Canyon from Phoenix, Arizona. It’s a straight shot—about 225 miles of highway—and only takes 3.45 hours to reach Grand Canyon, National Park.
There are helicopter tours of the Grand Canyon that depart from Phoenix too. In addition, they offer combo packages that allow for flyovers + hikes, overnight stays, and more.
Getting to the Grand Canyon From Flagstaff
Est. Driving Time: 1.5-2 hours
It’s a pretty easy drive from Flagstaff to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. It’s about 79 miles and takes 1.5 to 2 hours, depending on traffic and your route.
To get to the North Rim from Flagstaff is just over 200 miles and takes about 4 hours. It’s definitely more remote, but the views are insane.
So, When’s the Best Time to Visit the Grand Canyon?
The best time to visit the Grand Canyon is in spring and fall. More specifically, during April, May, September, and October, when there are fewer crowds, temperatures are warm/cool, and accommodation is much cheaper. And now that you’ve got a better understanding of when to visit, the only question is: When exactly are we leaving? Safe and happy travels!
Steve Morrow owns Paddle About, an outdoor recreation and travel blog. Steve loves to travel, kayak, paddle board, camp, hike, and spend time outdoors with his wife and two kids. When he's not exploring the great outdoors, Steve enjoys writing about his adventures and sharing tips for getting the most out of your outdoor experiences. He has a lot of interesting stories to share, and he's always happy to help others get more out of life.