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Best Time To Visit Grand Canyon National Park By Month And Season

Best Time To Visit Grand Canyon National Park By Month And Season

Spring and Fall are widely regarded as the best times of year to visit Grand Canyon South Rim. But the best season and even month for you really depends on the reasons for your visit to the legendary landscape in northern Arizona. We’re going to break down each season month by month to find the best time to visit Grand Canyon.

Do you want to hike down to the Colorado River? Are you just day tripping to admire the best Grand Canyon viewpoints? Or are you planning to be out for unrivaled Grand Canyon sunrises and sunsets with your camera?

Activities like hiking, driving to viewpoints and canyon photography are important but there are three major factors playing a crucial role in determining the best time of year for you to visit Grand Canyon. They are crowds, cost and perhaps most importantly – weather.

Let’s get stuck into the details and find the perfect time for you to visit the mighty Grand Canyon!

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What Do We Mean By The “Best Time”

Hazy and smoky weather conditions causing issues with air quality in northern arizona

There is never going to be one size fits all “best time” to visit anywhere and that includes Grand Canyon National Park. Everyone has different preferences and priorities.

Some may look for best value whereas others will base a trip around weather. Similarly, hiking into the Grand Canyon may be a top priority for some but avoiding crowds at all cost could be another visitors’ main driving factor.

In this guide we will cover a wide range of topics and hone in on the best time for you to visit Grand Canyon National Park.

Remember, the Grand Canyon is one of the most popular and best USA national parks so you need to consider many factors.

Our Typical Considerations

What are some of the aspects we consider when deciding the time of year we want to visit a new place?

  • Crowds – If it’s going to be crazy busy, we personally want to avoid it but others may prefer the busy atmosphere.
  • Cost – The price of rooms, activities, food, rental cars etc have to be in line with all of other aspects. For example if prices are higher, we want the best weather, photography and hiking opportunities. If costs are lower, we know to expect questionable weather or hiking trails to be closed.
  • Weather – Plays a huge role in how enjoyable a trip turns out. At Grand Canyon, you don’t want to be hiking all day in the middle of Summer.
  • Hiking – Are trails accessible, are they safe and are they going to be packed full or empty? What are the best hikes at Grand Canyon? We would look into both Bright Angel Trail and South Kaibab Trail for day hiking information.
  • Photography – Are sunrises and sunsets good at this time of year? Can we shoot astrophotography easily? Is there a chance of snow on the ground? What about Fall colors?
  • Location – What else is nearby that we can visit at this time of year?
  • Specifics – What is unique to the place? For example, haze and smog sometimes impacts views and air quality at Grand Canyon. See image above we took one morning in October of thick haze near Desert View watchtower.

South Rim vs North Rim

Despite Grand Canyon’s obvious popularity, just 10% of all visitors to the national park visit North Rim.

South Rim is the quintessential touristy side. In part because it is much easier to access from many of the closest airports to Grand Canyon, but also because it can stay open all year safely.

As we discuss the best time to visit Grand Canyon in this guide, we are referring to (and will provide statistics for) South Rim which receives almost all visitors.

Fun Rim Facts

  • Did you know it is approximately 10 miles as the crow flies between South Rim and North Rim?
  • South Rim elevation is around 7,000 ft but North Rim sits at a whopping 8,300 ft.
  • Therefore North Rim is colder, wetter and snowier than South Rim.
  • The vast and enormous expanse between the towering walls can create turbulent and changeable weather.

How Many People Visit Grand Canyon South Rim Each Month?

Infographic showing monthly visitor numbers at Grand Canyon South Rim between 2016 and 2019

June and July are consistently the two busiest months of the year at Grand Canyon South Rim. Conversely, January and February are consistently the two quietest months of the year to visit Grand Canyon South Rim.

But if you look at the data in the table above, you can see a fairly reasonable spread of visitors throughout the year. This is because South Rim is one of the top USA vacation spots and it is open year round with full access to every part of the park.

Other popular US parks like Yellowstone National Park and Mt Rainier National Park are seasonal, which mean the overwhelming majority of visitors to each park are in July and August.

The best part of visiting a park like Grand Canyon South Rim is that you have options. You can choose to visit any month of the year depending on your preferences.

Note: We only included data up to 2019 because statistics during the coronavirus pandemic are skewed.

Do you need help planning your visit to Grand Canyon South Rim?

Our popular 30+ Page Grand Canyon South Rim Guidebook and Itinerary covers every aspect of planning a trip to Yosemite including hikes, hotels, restaurants, getting around, things to do and so much more!

How Do You Avoid Crowds At Grand Canyon South Rim?

If you want to avoid crowds during your visit to Grand Canyon South Rim, you should visit in December, January or February. However, March and November are also reasonably low on crowds and have more comfortable weather conditions.

April through October you’re going to be sharing South Rim with a lot of other tourists. You’ll be surprised by how small the Rim is, and how quickly it can fill up in peak season.

It’s all about compromising and finding the right balance, but if your sole purpose is to spend time at South Rim when barely anyone else is around, you need to start planning a visit to Grand Canyon South Rim in Winter.

Annual Weather Conditions At Grand Canyon South Rim

Annual weather conditions at grand canyon south rim consideration for the best time to visit
Source: NPS

Weather can play an important role in how enjoyable your overall experience is during your visit to Grand Canyon South Rim, especially if you’re planning to hike exposed trails into the canyon.

What is the first thing you notice when looking at the average monthly temperatures table above?

The first thing we notice is that even in the middle of Summer throughout June, July and August on the South Rim of Grand Canyon, the average high temperatures don’t seem like too much of a concern.

But the average low temperatures in the Winter months of December, January and February appear to be alarmingly low.

Well, that’s because the touristy area along Grand Canyon South Rim is over 7,000 ft above sea level.

There are two key things to know about weather for your visit:

  1. The temperature increases dramatically when you hike down into the canyon.
  2. You need to pack for colder weather if you plan to sightsee along the Rim.

Key Takeaway Weather Statistics

Let’s take a look at some of the stand out weather statistics on Grand Canyon South Rim:

  • July and August are the two hottest months of the year on Grand Canyon South Rim.
  • January is the coldest month of the year, but it is closely followed by December and February.
  • Mornings and evenings are cold in Zion from October through May.
  • Temperatures are comfortable on South Rim during the day from May through October.

Is Spring The Best Time To Visit Grand Canyon South Rim?

Hiking path on south kaibab trail on a beautiful spring like day

Spring is widely considered as one of the best times to visit Grand Canyon South Rim. There are no Spring blooming flowers or meadows, no waterfalls at their most powerful and no special geological event. But fewer crowds and more hotel rooms available make the park more accessible compared to Summer.

What makes the Spring months of March, April and May such a firm favorite among tourists?

Well, let’s start with weather at Grand Canyon South Rim.

March Weather At Grand Canyon South Rim

Weather conditions in March at Grand Canyon South Rim are beginning to warm back above freezing on average but the mornings and evenings are still cold. Ground snow can cause fog but it usually burns away by morning. Winds can get a little gusty at times.

  • Average High – 51 F (10 C)
  • Average Low – 25 F (-4 C)
  • Precipitation – 1.38 Inches
  • Snowfall – Expected

April Weather At Grand Canyon South Rim

April at Grand Canyon South Rim welcomes more sunshine and a jump in average temperatures when compared to Winter, but snow can continue to fall and the occasional sub-zero temperature will be recorded. Expect winds to pick up on occasion. Overall a very comfortable month.

  • Average High – 60 F (15 C)
  • Average Low – 32 F (0 C)
  • Precipitation – 0.93 Inches
  • Snowfall – Occasional

May Weather At Grand Canyon South Rim

May is one of the best months for overall weather conditions at Grand Canyon South Rim. Along with June, May accounts for the driest time of year with very low relative humidity. May can also be quite breezy and even gusty at times.

  • Average High – 70 F (21 C)
  • Average Low – 39 F (4 C)
  • Precipitation – 0.66 Inches
  • Snowfall – Not unheard-of

Costs In Spring

Prices for rooms in park hotels on South Rim and hotels in towns nearby are going to start out the season with great value after a slower Winter season.

But every week closer to Summer you will notice prices increasing and availability decreasing. If you plan to visit in late April or May, we would suggest booking your hotel at least a few months in advance.

Rental cars at Phoenix, Flagstaff or Las Vegas are going to be increasing in price throughout Spring, with highest prices in May.

How Busy Is Grand Canyon South Rim In March, April and May?

Visitor numbers begin to grow rapidly throughout Spring. March is significantly busier when compared to February and by the end of May, visitor numbers are almost on par with Summer.

Overlooks along Desert View Drive and Hermit Road will start to become busy later in Spring but there should be little to no issues with parking or hopping on a shuttle bus earlier in Spring during March and April.

Hiking Grand Canyon South Rim In Spring

Popular hiking trails like Bright Angel and South Kaibab will be relatively free of foot traffic and hiking weather conditions will typically be perfect.

Just be sure to take care on any unusually hot days in May. Remember that North Rim doesn’t open until May, so you can’t hike Rim to Rim until the very end of Spring.

Photography At Grand Canyon South Rim In Spring

Photography is amazing any time of year at Grand Canyon. But Spring brings about milder mornings and evenings when compared to the depths of Winter.

Daylight hours will grow throughout Spring, which means earlier sunrises and later sunsets in May. The Milky Way core will begin to once again glow during the hours right before dawn.

You will notice popular sunrise and sunset photography spots like Mather Point, Yavapai Point and Hopi Point get busier and busier toward the end of Spring.

Is Summer The Best Time To Visit Grand Canyon National Park?

Where Are Those Morgans posing for a photo on a hot summers day in Grand Canyon national park but is summer the best time to visit?

Summer is the busiest season at Grand Canyon South Rim. If you have enough money in your travel budget, can get organized with bookings in advance and don’t intend to do any serious hiking, Summer could be the best time for you to visit the park.

However, we recommend you avoid Summer if you are planning any significant hiking, you’re traveling on a budget or you’re not a fan of big crowds.

The risk of not being able to hike due to high temperatures is enough to put us off a Summer visit alone.

June Weather At Grand Canyon South Rim

June is a transitional weather month at Grand Canyon South Rim with very warm highs, but occasional cool lows and even frosts or light snowfall. In June you will find a similar daytime warmth to July and August but noticeable differences early morning and late evening.

  • Average High – 81 F (27 C)
  • Average Low – 47 F (8 C)
  • Precipitation – 0.42 Inches
  • Storms – Occasional

July Weather At Grand Canyon South Rim

July is the hottest month of the year to visit Grand Canyon South Rim but frequent storms are common. Temperatures easily top 100 F (38 C) down at the canyon floor around Phantom Ranch. July has the mildest mornings and evenings of the year.

  • Average High – 84 F (29 C)
  • Average Low – 54 F (12 C)
  • Precipitation – 1.81 Inches
  • Storms – Frequent

August Weather At Grand Canyon South Rim

August weather is almost as hot as July at South Rim but there are far more frequent storms, often major ones causing flash flooding in the Colorado River. August is the best month to visit Grand Canyon for a chance of seeing lightening flash and fork above the canyon.

  • Average High – 82 F (28 C)
  • Average Low – 53 F (12 C)
  • Precipitation – 2.25 Inches
  • Storms – Frequent

Costs In Summer

Hotels in and around South Rim are peaking at their highest prices of the year. You will have a hard time finding a room last minute and booking well in advance is the smart move.

Restaurants and eateries are limited on the Rim and in nearby Tusayan. In Summer, the few options you have will be packed full of tourists.

Rental cars at Phoenix, Flagstaff or Las Vegas will also be at maximum daily costs for the year. Overall you are going to pay a lot more to visit Grand Canyon in Summer.

How Busy Is Grand Canyon South Rim In June, July and August?

Crowds in June will be busier versus May but still tolerable when compared to July and August at Grand Canyon South Rim. If you have to visit in one of the Summer months, try to make it June.

Parking areas at overlooks on Desert View Drive are going to be full in July and August almost all day and you’ll have to circle waiting for spaces to open up.

Hiking Grand Canyon South Rim In Summer

Hiking can become very dangerous at Grand Canyon in Summer. You have to remember that even on a relatively cool day on South Rim, you are at 7,000 ft and it will be much warmer down in the canyon.

Attempting a day hike to the Colorado River and back to South Rim in Summer is not a good idea and we highly recommend you do not try this hike.

There are signs on the trails showing how heat exhaustion can quickly affect the body and each year there are a number of injuries to hikers.

Remember you can hike just a small portion of both Bright Angel and South Kaibab. Each trail has a 1.5 mile and 3 mile turnaround point.

No matter which trail you take on, don’t forget to take as much water as you can carry, particularly on the hottest Summer days. Pack hats, sunscreen and sunglasses for your hike.

Photography At Grand Canyon South Rim In Summer

If you are visiting Grand Canyon for photography alone, Summer is going to provide you with the most comfortable conditions to shoot sunrises, sunsets and stars.

However, daylight hours are longer and you will have to get an early start for sunrise. You will also have to fight for a prime position at Mather Point or the Rim nearby. There will be a lot of tripods here in Summer!

Similarly at sunset, you will have to arrive to your sunset spot of choice early to grab a great spot. We’ve seen hundreds of people lining the Rim at Hopi Point in October, so we shudder to think how busy it will be in July or August.

Is Fall The Best Time To Visit Grand Canyon National Park?

Beautiful golden yellow leaves on a tree deep inside grand canyon national park hiking bright angel trail in early winter

Cooler temperatures, lower costs and lighter crowds return to South Rim in Fall, making September, October and November one of the best times of year to visit Grand Canyon National Park.

Autumn effectively takes the negative aspects of a Summer visit and throws them right into the canyon.

September and October are our personal favorite months of the year to travel almost everywhere in the contiguous 48 US states, after the Summer rush when things are calmer.

Fall colors, better value, lighter crowds and perfect hiking conditions make these two months the sweet spot for US travel.

September Weather At Grand Canyon South Rim

September is the month with the most changeable weather conditions of the year in Grand Canyon with unexpected storms or early winter snow sometimes occurring. This means you could get lightening, snow and sun in one visit lasting a few days.

  • Average High – 76 F (24 C)
  • Average Low – 47 F (8 C)
  • Precipitation – 1.56 Inches
  • Snowfall – Not unheard-of
  • Storms – Frequent early September

October Weather At Grand Canyon South Rim

October is an excellent month for hiking with pleasant daytime temperatures, and reasonable early morning and late evening temperatures. Also, very few potentially dramatic weather events that may cause hiking plans to change. October is our personal favorite month to visit Grand Canyon South Rim.

  • Average High – 65 F (18 C)
  • Average Low – 36 F (2 C)
  • Precipitation – 1.10 Inches
  • Snowfall – Infrequent
  • Storms – Not unheard-of

November Weather At Grand Canyon South Rim

Daytime temperatures plummet in November at Grand Canyon South Rim but during the day it is warm enough to hike in shorts and t shirts. However, mornings and evenings now turning cold and heavy coats required to stay warm if staying on the Rim.

  • Average High – 52 F (11 C)
  • Average Low – 27 F (-3 C)
  • Precipitation – 0.94 Inches
  • Snowfall – Occasional

Costs In Fall

Hotels begin to lower prices after the school holidays in Summer. You can find good deals in Tusayan, Valle and Williams as availability starts to open up, particularly on weekdays.

The further into Fall you go, the more chance of picking up a great price on a hotel room. You do not have to worry about a Fall foliage leaf-peeping season at Grand Canyon driving up prices in October.

Rental cars at Phoenix, Flagstaff or Las Vegas are going to slowly decrease in price throughout Fall, with lowest prices in November.

How Busy Is Grand Canyon South Rim In September, October and November?

Crowds begin to dwindle in Fall after a busy Summer season. September remains busy but noticeably quieter versus August and numbers continue to drop rapidly into October and November.

Autumn is still a busy season at Grand Canyon, but like Spring, the crowds are more tolerable.

Overlooks along Desert View Drive and Hermit Road will become less crowded the further into October and November you plan your visit.

Hiking Grand Canyon South Rim In Fall

Fall is the time to visit if you are going to the Grand Canyon to hike its most famous trails. Hiking temperatures are perfect in late September and early October, with slightly warmer mornings and evenings when compared to Spring.

Roads into and out of North Rim close in October, so if you plan to hike the Rim to Rim trail, do it in September or early October.

Photography At Grand Canyon South Rim In Fall

The Fall season is our favorite for photography at Grand Canyon National Park. The days are well into shortening so sunrise isn’t too early and sunset isn’t right at dinner time.

Colors in the sky burst into life during sunrise in Fall and sunset has a more calming feel at this time of year. There’s a very orangey glow as the sun casts its final rays on the canyon at dusk that illuminates the landscape.

Temperatures are comfortable throughout the day in September but mornings and evenings quickly become crisp as you enter November.

All of the popular photography locations are once more relaxing and there’s enough space to pick your ideal spot to set up.

Is Winter The Best Time To Visit Grand Canyon National Park?

Winter is the best time to visit grand canyon for snow and fog creating unique photography opportunities but it is cold and big coats are required

Winter is a surprisingly excellent time to visit Grand Canyon South Rim because crowds are minimal, hiking can be comfortable and nearby hotels are affordable.

Winter isn’t traditionally a great time to visit US National Parks if you’re looking to do the typical touristy things like hike and sightsee. Usually this is because the parks are closed or in a special Winter season, which is a completely different experience.

However, Grand Canyon South Rim is accessible all year and all roads, facilities, amenities and attractions are open in Winter.

Yes, it can be cold at times. But there are milder days among those colder temperatures. If you can time it right and with a bit of luck, Winter can actually have excellent hiking conditions.

Plus, who hasn’t always wanted to see the iconic Grand Canyon covered in a film of white powdery snow?!

December Weather At Grand Canyon South Rim

Frequent snowfall begins throughout December and it becomes extremely cold early morning / late afternoon into night at Grand Canyon South Rim. Lots of Winter sun helps warm you up but you’ll need to pack warm clothes. With that said, it can be perfectly pleasant during the day further down the canyon if hiking.

  • Average High – 43 F (6 C)
  • Average Low – 20 F (-7 C)
  • Precipitation – 1.64 Inches
  • Snowfall – Expected

January Weather At Grand Canyon South Rim

January is the coldest month of the year at Grand Canyon South Rim with the lowest highs and the lowest lows. It can be fairly bleak but on a good day you can have sun and reasonable temperatures. The best part is you’ll have the freedom of Grand Canyon National Park.

  • Average High – 41 F (5 C)
  • Average Low – 18 F (-8 C)
  • Precipitation – 1.32 Inches
  • Snowfall – Expected

February Weather At Grand Canyon South Rim

February is still very cold and frequent snowfall will occur on South Rim, but it will be extremely quiet, particularly at sunrise which could be perfect for a ‘lost world’ feel. Pack plenty of warm gear and hope for early Spring conditions.

  • Average High – 45 F (7 C)
  • Average Low – 21 F (-6 C)
  • Precipitation – 1.55 Inches
  • Snowfall – Expected

Costs In Winter

If you’re looking for the best bargains and lowest overall costs for visiting Grand Canyon, plan a visit in Winter. You will find excellent value with hotels in Tusayan, Flagstaff and Williams.

But perhaps the best aspect of visiting at this time of year is cheaper rooms in the park hotels along South Rim. You won’t get a better price than the deep Winter months of January and February.

Rental cars at Phoenix, Flagstaff or Las Vegas are also at their lowest price points of the year.

How Busy Is Grand Canyon South Rim In December, January and February?

December, January and February are the three quietest months of the year to visit Grand Canyon South Rim. This is the time to explore Grand Canyon if you want to avoid crowds and have the freedom of photography locations along the Rim.

You might want to read our in depth guide to visiting Grand Canyon in Winter, including 10 important things you need to know before you go.

Overlooks along Desert View Drive will be easily accessible without issue of overcrowding. It is so quiet at this time of year that Hermit Road is open to vehicle access.

Hiking Grand Canyon South Rim In Winter

Planning a hiking trip to Grand Canyon in Winter is a gamble, but if it pays off you will take all of the benefits and still have the same amazing experience of hiking in the canyon.

We day hiked down South Kaibab to Phantom Ranch and back up Bright Angel one Monday morning in December. The weather was perfect with a crisp but clear morning and a beautifully sunny day. We ended up hiking in shorts and t-shirts.

The next day we woke up to snowfall and half an inch of ground snow. When we made it up to Mather Point on the Rim, we couldn’t see into the canyon because the snow clouds were so dense and it was pretty cold. We wouldn’t have wanted to hike down that day.

Photography At Grand Canyon South Rim In Winter

If you’re visiting Grand Canyon in Winter for photography, there’s only one thing you want to see and that is snow on the ground.

We were on the Rim during a heavy snowfall but we missed out on what would have been an incredibly beautiful canyon view the following day with no clouds but all the ground snow.

Even without snow, Winter conditions give the entire canyon a gorgeous pink hue at sunrise and you’ll have the place almost exclusively to yourself.

Daylight hours are shortest which means you can sleep in and still make sunrise, or stay out for sunset and still make a reasonable dinner time.

Don’t forget your fingerless gloves or mittens, they’re life savers in the harsh cold!

Spectacular views over Grand Canyon national park on a cloudy but moderately warm day in late fall the best time to visit the national park in northern arizona

When Is The Best Time To Visit Grand Canyon South Rim?

March, April, May, September, October, November and December are the best months to visit Grand Canyon National Park to get the perfect blend of costs, expenses and crowds.

To summarize: It’s hard to beat shoulder seasons

Now, we know much of the reasoning behind this is kids only getting time off school in the Summer months. But if you don’t have school term times to worry about, you’re better off avoiding Summer. Especially if you want to hike.

You’ll benefit from lower costs across the board, fewer crowds and more comfortable weather conditions for sightseeing and hiking in shoulder seasons.

In an ideal world you could visit once in Winter to try capturing a snow day, once in late Summer in hopes of seeing a lightening storm and once in Spring or Fall for perfect hiking conditions.

But in reality, three visits to the Grand Canyon are highly unlikely. Therefore we would suggest taking your pick between Spring and Fall based on the information provided in this guide.

Whichever you choose, we hope you have an amazing time at one of the world’s most iconic landscapes.

Perfect Season For …

  • Hikers – Spring, Fall or even some Winter days.
  • Photographers – All year but Fall is our favorite.
  • Storm Chasers – Late Summer months.
  • Budget Conscious – Winter, early Spring and late Fall for the best deals.
  • Families – Late Spring and Fall for comfortable conditions, slightly lower prices and fewer crowds.

Need Help Planning A Trip To Grand Canyon South Rim?

Grand Canyon is one of the most visited National Parks in the US. It is one of very few landscapes that will genuinely blow you away and we know how important it is to get your trip off to the best possible start by planning in advance.

We have been lucky enough to visit Grand Canyon South Rim twice, at different times of year and with different goals.

  • First to sightsee, shoot sunrises and sunsets, and see the canyon from every single viewpoint on the Rim.
  • Second to day hike Rim to River, South Kaibab to Phantom Ranch to Bright Angel in one day.

If you’re planning a trip to Grand Canyon South Rim and need a hand with planning where to stay, where to eat, how to get there and use the shuttles, which hikes to do, which overlooks to visit, where to watch sunrise or sunset and any other question you have about your trip, our 30+ page South Rim guidebook with example itineraries is perfect to download to your phone or print a hard copy.

Click below to see the details and have a great time at South Rim!

We hope this guide explaining the best time to visit helps you plan your trip to Grand Canyon National Park!

Have you been to Grand Canyon? Which is your favorite season?

Please let us know if you have any questions or need help planning your visit by commenting below.

Happy Travels,

Mark and Kristen

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