Yes, You Can Visit the Grand Canyon in Winter (+ Helpful Info for Visiting in 2023/24)

Last updated on:
Some posts on this site contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, I may earn a small commission. Read the full disclosure policy here.

Winter is sometimes called the “secret season” at the Grand Canyon.

It's the season when the skies are the clearest, the temperatures are the coolest, and the tourist numbers are at the lowest – meaning it's an excellent time to visit!

So when a friend of mine decided that she wanted to go see the natural wonder over her Christmas break, I was all in for the Grand Canyon in December.

Many people don't realize that the majority of the US national parks remain open throughout the winter months; very few of them close, even when they get hit with snow and ice. And I think that winter might be my favorite time to visit the popular parks like the Grand Canyon.

Mather Point at the Grand Canyon in winter
Winter views at Mather Point
Grand Canyon in winter

RELATED: 4 Reasons to Visit the American Southwest in Winter

Winter trip to the Grand Canyon

The first thing to know about visiting Grand Canyon National Park in winter is that the North Rim is NOT open to vehicles between October and May. But the South Rim (where the majority of people go anyway) is still fully operational.

Winter brings colder temperatures (and even snow!) to the Grand Canyon, along with shorter days. But it also brings less people; in fact, the National Park Service reports that fewer than 10 percent of the total annual visitors to the Grand Canyon (of which there are usually more than 5 million) visit in December, January, and February.

This means there are more chances to take your time and truly appreciate the awesome power of Mother Nature that's on display if you visit in the winter.

Yaki Point at the Grand Canyon in winter
Get views like this to yourself in winter!

Things to do at the Grand Canyon in winter

If you're going to visit the Grand Canyon during the winter months, I think that 2 days is ideal to see the highlights. Here are all the things I recommend doing:

1. Stop in at the Visitor Center

Start at the main Visitor Center, closest to all the parking lots and Mather Point. Here you can find maps, talk to park rangers, explore some exhibits about the canyon, and watch a 20-minute video called “Grand Canyon: A Journey of Wonder.” (The visitor center is open from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. every day.)

Across the plaza from the visitor center, you'll also find the main park store, which is always worth a browse.

You'll also find Bright Angel Bike Rentals in this main plaza. You might not want to rent a bike or go on a bike tour if it's cold or snowy out, but you can stop in to the shop's cafe for a coffee or hot chocolate – they have the best coffee at the Grand Canyon!

Pro tip: Check the NPS' alerts/conditions for the Grand Canyon before you visit so you'll know about any closures before you get there.

2. If it's snowy: Visit viewpoints via park shuttle

Yaki Point at the Grand Canyon in winter
Yaki Point

Next up, it's time to actually see the canyon! You can walk to Mather Point from the main visitor center in about 5 minutes, so I recommend starting there. Afterwards, you can hop on a park shuttle to see more of the canyon.

The Grand Canyon has 4 different free shuttle routes, but only 2 of them run during the winter (AKA from December 1 through February). These routes are the Village (Blue) Route and the Kaibab Rim (Orange) Route. The Orange Route is the one you want to hop on to get free transport to some viewpoints.

I recommend the shuttle option simply because it beats driving in the snow*. Shuttles run at least every 30 minutes, but sometimes come more often if it's a busier day at the canyon.

Viewpoints worth stopping at along the Orange Route include Yavapai Point, which is also home to the Yavapai Geology Museum (definitely worth popping inside to look at the exhibits); Yaki Point; and Pipe Creek Vista.

Yavapai Point at the Grand Canyon
Yavapai Point

Once you get back to the Visitor Center, you could swap over to the Blue Route, which will take you into Grand Canyon Village. OR you could hop back into your own vehicle to drive out to some of the viewpoints that the shuttles don't service in the winter.

More info on the park shuttles can be found here.

*Note: You don't HAVE to take the shuttles in the winter. As long as the roads are open, you are welcome to self-drive in the snow, and can visit most of the spots on the Orange and Blue routes with your own vehicle. But if you're not used to winter driving, I do NOT recommend driving in the park if there's snow on the roads.

3. If there's no snow: Self-drive to other viewpoints

Grand Canyon South Rim in winter

You have two options when it comes to self-driving at the South Rim. You can head east towards Desert View and the Grand Canyon's East Entrance, or west through Grand Canyon Village and out towards Hermit's Rest. 

If you go east, you'll see some of the viewpoints you can access by shuttle like Yaki Point. Other viewpoints I really like along this route include Grandview Point and Moran Point. And you'll reach Desert View at the end, where you can climb 85 steps to the top of the Desert View Watchtower for fantastic views out over the canyon.

Grand Canyon National Park
Desert View at the Grand Canyon South Rim
View from Desert View Watchtower

If you go west, go through Grand Canyon Village and onto the Hermit's Rest road. During the summer months, private vehicles aren't allowed on this road, and the viewpoints can only be accessed by park shuttle. But it's the opposite in the winter.

All the viewpoints on the way to Hermit's Rest are excellent, including Maricopa Point, Hopi Point, Mohave Point, The Abyss, and Pima Point. 

Mohave Point at the Grand Canyon
Mohave Point

4. Have lunch in Grand Canyon Village

After a morning of sightseeing, stop in for lunch at Grand Canyon Village. You could eat at the classic El Tovar Dining Room, the Bright Angel Restaurant, or the Maswik Food Court (a popular budget option). 

My friend and I ate lunch at the Arizona Steakhouse, which is part of Bright Angel Lodge. The dining area has a view of the Grand Canyon near the Bright Angel Trail trailhead, and is surprisingly affordable considering where it is!

Friends at the Grand Canyon in winter
Outside our lunch spot

5. Do a short hike*

If you want to stretch your legs at the Grand Canyon, you absolutely can, even in the winter. 

The easiest hike is to do a section of the Rim Trail, which stretches more than 12 miles from Hermit's Rest all the way to the South Kaibab Trailhead. Pick a viewpoint to start at, and start walking; the trail follows the canyon edge and is relatively flat.

Grand Canyon in winter
Get views like this on the Rim Trail

Another popular short hike is to hike part of the South Kaibab Trail. Starting at the South Kaibab Trailhead (located on the Orange shuttle route), you can hike down to a place called Ooh Ahh Point, which is a 2-mile round-trip hike (though note that this is a very steep and strenuous hike!).

Some people will also venture a little ways down the Bright Angel Trail, which begins near the Bright Angel Lodge in Grand Canyon Village.

Grand Canyon in winter

*The reason I don't recommend any tougher/longer day hikes is because the Grand Canyon trails are not shoveled or salted or anything during the winter, meaning they can get snowy and very icy. I would not recommend any long hikes to anyone who isn't a seasoned cold-weather hiker, as it can be very dangerous this time of year. If you're going to hike at all, pack some ice crampons like this!

6. Watch sunset at the canyon

Mather Point sunset at the Grand Canyon in winter

Lastly, you'll definitely want to catch a winter sunset at the Grand Canyon. Days are shorter during this season, so you can easily catch the sunset and then go have dinner.

On my most recent Grand Canyon trip, I watched the sun set at Mather Point. This is the most popular sunset spot simply because it's close to the visitor center and parking lots – but it also has a great view!

Other popular sunset spots include Hopi Point and Yavapai Point.

Whatever you do, just make sure you stick around for a little while after the sun officially dips below the horizon. This is when the winter sky is often painted pretty shades of pink and purple.

Mather Point sunset at the Grand Canyon in winter
Sunset at Mather Point
Mather Point sunset at the Grand Canyon in winter

And check out this Grand Canyon with kids guide for tips on visiting with little ones!

Helpful times to keep in mind:

  • The Grand Canyon is open 365 days a year, though some roads may close due to weather or snow removal. (For example, one of the days I was there, the Hermit's Road was closed because of snow.)
  • Visitor Center winter hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Park Store winter hours: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Yavapai Geology Museum: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Sunrise/sunset times: In December, the sun is rising around 7:30 a.m. and setting between 5:10 and 5:25 p.m.; in January, the sun rises between 7:30 and 7:40 a.m. and sets between 5:30 and 6 p.m.; by February, you're looking at sunrise time between 7 and 7:30 a.m., and sunset between 6 and 6:20 p.m.

Where to stay near the Grand Canyon

First things first: I recommend staying as close to the Grand Canyon as possible for your winter visit. That way, if you run into snow or ice, your plans won't be affected quite as much.

There are basically two options I recommend:

  1. Staying inside Grand Canyon National Park
  2. Staying in Tusayan

Staying inside Grand Canyon National Park

Staying at one of the Grand Canyon's historic South Rim lodges is nearly impossible during the busy summer season unless you book months (sometimes up to a year!) in advance.

But if you're visiting in the winter (and especially if you're visiting on a weekday and not during a school break), you can often find open rooms at the Grand Canyon – sometimes even at the last minute.

Lookout Studio near Bright Angel Lodge
Lookout Studio near Bright Angel Lodge

Lodges to consider within Grand Canyon Village include:

  • El Tovar Hotel – The most elegant of the bunch, and generally regarded as one of the best historic National Park lodges.
  • Bright Angel Lodge & Cabins – Iconic and rustic and right on the South Rim.
  • Kachina Lodge – A slightly more contemporary lodge within the park.
  • Thunderbird Lodge – Centrally located in Grand Canyon Village.
  • Yavapai Lodge – Also located in the heart of Grand Canyon Village.
  • Maswik Lodge – Located in a more wooded area and home to the popular Maswik Food Court.

Staying in Tusayan, Arizona

If you don't really care whether you stay IN the national park or not, I recommend staying in Tusayan, Arizona. This little town is only a couple of miles from the South Entrance of Grand Canyon National Park; you can easily reach the Visitor Center in 15-20 minutes in good weather, but the hotels are often far more affordable.

I stayed at the Best Western Premier Grand Canyon Squire Inn in Tusayan on New Year's Day and paid $160 for a large double queen room. And that's during one of the busiest weeks of the winter season!

The Best Western is a large, resort-like hotel complete with restaurants, bars, a swimming pool, and even a bowling alley. It's the top-rated hotel in Tusayan on TripAdvisor, has plenty of parking, and is a great option for families. (Book your room here!)

Other similar hotels in Tusayan include:

Another option is to stay in the town of Williams, Arizona, which is about an hour away from the Grand Canyon. If you're interested in taking the historic Grand Canyon train to/from the canyon, it runs from Williams. Compare Williams hotels here.

What to pack for the Grand Canyon in winter

Amanda at Yavapai Point at the Grand Canyon
Me at the Grand Canyon in winter

I can't stress this enough: the Grand Canyon gets COLD in the winter. Grand Canyon weather can vary in the winter, but the canyon sits 7000+ feet above sea level, meaning it's always much colder on the South Rim than lower-elevation spots in northern Arizona. On the 2 days I was there, it was 9 degrees Fahrenheit one evening, and only about 20 degrees F the following day.

It DOES snow at the Grand Canyon in the winter, too, and some of the trails and even sidewalks can be slick – I saw multiple people fall during my visit, mostly on paved trails.

Keeping this in mind, here are the things I'd say are essential for a winter trip to the Grand Canyon:

  • Warm layers – I'm talking at least a base layer under your normal clothes and a warm outer layer on the coldest days. When I went to the Grand Canyon in January, I wore a merino top and thermal leggings under a sweater and thicker leggings, and then wore a down coat on top. 
  • Hat and gloves – Keep those ears and fingers warm! I also recommend a scarf.
  • Warm boots with good grip – Winter boots are not a bad idea – just make sure they have good grip on the bottom. (Winter hiking boots would be ideal – I like these.) 
  • Ice crampons – I wore my Kodiak Surrey hiking boots, which are great boots but not necessarily *winter* boots. As I was slipping along the trail to Mather Point, I was wishing I had brought my Yaktrax with me, which fit over shoes/boots and act as mini ice crampons. These are 100% worth the investment for winter hiking.
  • Hiking poles – If you're going to do any winter hiking at the Grand Canyon, you might also want to bring some hiking poles along with good boots and Yaktrax. Most come with tips that are perfect for snow/ice.
  • Sun protection – This one may seem strange, but winter is actually a very sunny season at the Grand Canyon! And because you're up at a higher elevation, you're more likely to burn faster. Be sure to pack sunglasses and sunscreen!
Mather Point sunset at the Grand Canyon in winter

Tours to the Grand Canyon

If you don't feel like driving to the Grand Canyon yourself, there ARE tours that will take you to the South Rim in winter. Some to check out include:

So there you have it: a couple thousand words to prove that you can definitely visit the Grand Canyon in winter! Hopefully these tips will help you plan an amazing trip during the Grand Canyon's “secret season.”

READ NEXT: Everything You Need to Know About Visiting Zion National Park in Winter

Would you like to visit the Grand Canyon in winter?

Pin it for later:

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

Join the ADB Community!
Sign up here to get exclusive travel tips, deals, and other inspiring goodies delivered to your inbox.

27 Comments on “Yes, You Can Visit the Grand Canyon in Winter (+ Helpful Info for Visiting in 2023/24)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. Great details.. thank you for such a very detailed information. I am visiting GC on 23rd DEC with 2 kids ( 12 and 16).. do you think i can visit those view point by cars ? what would you advise drive around GC ? appreciate for your help.

      You’ll need to check the weather forecast before you go, and visit the national park website to check on road conditions. Usually in the winter, both the Desert View Drive and Hermit Road on the South Rim are open to cars, though sometimes roads can close if there’s snow/ice.

    Hi Amanda,
    Thank you for this blog. My husband and I want to visit the Grand Canyon around Valentine’s Day in February. We have an opportunity to stay at a resort for a week or more in either Sedonia or Butterfield Park in Chandler. I read that Sedonia is closer to the Grand Canyon (2 and 1/2 hrs). Is it worth it to stay at this resort and drive to the GC? Or should we skip the resort and stay at the Canyon the whole time? Are there other things we should do while we are there?
    Thank you for your help.

      A lot depends on the weather, and whether you want to try to hike at all. There’s not a whole lot to do at the Grand Canyon beyond sightseeing at the viewpoints and hiking (but winter isn’t always the best time for long hikes there, especially if there’s snow/ice). I don’t think I would recommend a week at the Grand Canyon. 2-3 days tops, if you really want to take your time and do hiking. If not, 1-2 days is enough in winter in my opinion! Sedona is a great town.

    Thanks Amanda, your blog is amazing.

    I have 7,5 days in the area in two weeks and I’m strugling a bit with my planning as I would like to do Hoover Dam, Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion and Valey of fire.

    Do you think that it’s too ambitious?

    I wanted to start first at grand canyon but I believe it will be complicated to reach Tusayan in half a day before night with a stop at Hoover Dam (I read that the road can be complicated in the dark here). So maybe, the other way?

      That’s all totally do-able in a week! I have a 10-day Southwest itinerary that can give you some ideas: I would consider flying in to Vegas, and going straight to Tusayan. Visit the Grand Canyon for a day, and then head back to Vegas with a stop at the Hoover Dam the following day. From Vegas you can hit Valley of Fire on you way to Zion, spend a day or two in Zion, and then a day in Bryce before driving back to Vegas. It would require a little back-tracking, but is do-able!

    Great post, Amanda! You have beautiful pictures and have truly captured the beauty of the Grand Canyon during the winter. We could not agree more that the South Rim is a perfect winter vacation. Most of our guests choose to visit in the summer which, like most destinations, comes with bigger crowds and higher temperatures. It is great that you have mentioned what to pack and wear during winter because many people assume the canyon has warm temperatures all year around because of its desert location. Choosing to visit in the winter is a relaxing and unique experience to view this natural wonder!

    We visited Grand Canyon National Park in the late winter and enjoyed our hike to Ooh-Aah Point. The trail was icy so the microspikes came in really handy. However, the views were incredible, and we loved the fact that the park wasn’t crowded.

    We coupled the trip with a visit to Sedona and loved every minute!

      It’s a great spot to visit in the winter! But yes, you have to be prepared for that ice!

    Hi Amanda!

    This is a great article! We are visiting the Grand Canyon for spring break this year along with several other Parks in Utah and can’t wait to get out and explore. I completely agree with visiting the Parks in the “off season” and we hope that even through it’s spring break, the crowds will be smaller.

    I love your sunset photos and am hoping to get several of those myself. Such pretty reds, oranges, and pinks, and the dusting of snow makes them even more interesting.

    We are also staying at the Best Western, so thanks for the tips!

    Safe travels,


      Hope you have a great trip! I visited over New Year’s (which is the busiest winter week) and didn’t find it too crowded. Hopefully it’ll be similar over spring break!

    I never knew you could really visit there in winter. And yest there will be least tourist in that time, and the view is much different yet beautiful as seen in pictures above. Thank you Amanda for this beautiful post.

    Wow, Grand Canyon looks and sounds amazing in winter, would love to visit one day ?

    Great write up! I do have a question about getting to/from Grand Canyon. Next week, the day we are set to leave and head back towards Albuquerque, snow is expected. Will that impact going back through Flagstaff with road conditions? Don’t know if I40 is affected by that or not.


      It definitely could impact your drive, as the Flagstaff area does get snow! I would just be sure to check weather and traffic reports on the day (but Flagstaff is used to snow, so usually they do take care of the roads).

    These photos are amazing. OMG. The Grand Canyon is so high on my bucket list and yet it never seems to work out. Have you ever gone alone? Thinking of going alone and signing up for a tour, but very intimidated by that.

      I have not gone alone, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t! It’s a beautiful place, and totally safe as a solo traveler!

    ‘Nice one Amanda. In fact we did!
    I’ve only been to America once and it was in winter!

    We were in the US for almost a month from January to February! Our son was 9 years old then, so we had to get extra permission from his international school so that we could extend the winter school holiday from 1 week to 3.5!

    We went to the Grand Canyon where there was snow everywhere and we absolutely loved it. One of the rangers even took our son for a mini-hike, cos he was the only child around!

    We stayed at the Best Western Premier Grand Canyon Squire Inn too and it was so funny having bacon that wasn’t like our bacon, and scones that weren’t scones at all! I’m British by the way!

    Not only did we go to the Grand Canyon, but altogether we visited four National Parks in California, Arizona, Uta and Nevada.
    And all in winter!

      Sounds like it was a great trip! The Grand Canyon in the snow really is something else. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that sunset!

    I’ve seen snowy photos of the Grand Canyon before and thought they were so beautiful. I’ve never been in any season, but as a snow lover I think winter would be the perfect time for me to visit!

      If you don’t mind the cold, then I’d highly recommend going in winter! Even if you don’t get snow, you’ll experience less crowds, which is always a plus!

    My husband, kids and I drove to the Grand Canyon on a grand road trip from the East Coast for Spring Break (early April) a few years back. We arrived on a gorgeous, sunny, blue sky day with a fairly decent size crowd.. Imagine our surprise when we woke to a snow storm the next morning. Our kids wanted to stay inside at the hotel but we made them go out to see the Canyon – and I swear we were the only people there! We used the shuttle bus to go to various viewpoints and the snow made for some amazing photos – just like yours – and we had hot cocoa as the only visitors at one of the stops. One of my favorite travel memories!

      That sounds amazing! Snow storms at the Grand Canyon are definitely special!

    Oh my gosh – how beautiful are the canyons when they are covered with snow?! The colours are amazing!


      The snow really makes the colors and contrasts stand out more – it’s so beautiful!

As Seen On

As Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen On