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Know Before You Go: Visiting the Grand Canyon in Winter

When the snow falls, the crowds depart, and this world wonder can be yours.

Grand Canyon during the winter
Hi, I'm Jacqueline!

Jacqueline Kehoe is a freelance writer and photographer with work seen in National Geographic, Thrillist, Travel + Leisure, and more. Find her out on the trails or at jacquelinekehoe.com.

If you’re planning a winter trip to the Grand Canyon, you’re in for a treat. Though winter experiences in the Grand Canyon may not be as numerous as their summer counterparts, they come with one rare prize: a fraction of the crowds. With a winter visit, you’ll get far more one-on-one time with this UNESCO site and world wonder—and some even say, in a blanket of white, the canyon is at its most beautiful.

Here’s what you need to know for Grand Canyon winter travel tips.

Can I visit the Grand Canyon in winter?

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Yes, you can visit the Grand Canyon in winter—just stay on the South Rim.

Between December and mid-May, the Grand Canyon’s North Rim is closed to vehicles. It’s 1,000 feet (304 meters) higher than the South Rim and experiences wilder weather. That’s OK, though—the South Rim is where you probably planned to explore anyway. It has the park’s vast majority of infrastructure, including hiking trails, restaurants, attractions, and sightseeing opportunities.

If you’re driving in, the South Rim’s main roads are open year-round (including Hermit Road), though you might run into temporary closures during inclement weather. Bring a snow shovel and a windshield scraper just in case—you’ll be happy to have them if you need them.

Can I hike in the Grand Canyon in winter?

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Yes, you can hike in the Grand Canyon in the winter, as long as you’re prepared for snow.

Winter hiking at the Grand Canyon can be spectacular, with crowds a fraction of their summer size. That being said, some trails will be more treacherous than others: The Hermit Trail tends to get the least amount of snow and ice, and as you descend into the canyon, conditions improve. The South Kaibab Trail is another decent option—it follows the ridgeline and receives considerable sunshine. The initial section can be snowy, but it typically improves from there.

How cold does the Grand Canyon get in winter?

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Temperatures vary from day to day.

Average temperatures in Grand Canyon National Park can be anywhere from 30º–60ºF (-1º–15ºC) during winter—quite the range. Every day can be different, so pack in layers, bring your snow boots (and gloves and a hat), and be ready for driving in snow or on ice. Hikers will want to bring trekking poles or traction devices, like ice cleats, to be comfortable on the trails.

Is the Grand Canyon Skywalk open in winter?

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Yes, the Grand Canyon Skywalk is open for year-round adventure.

Yep, folks bold enough to take on the vertiginous Grand Canyon Skywalk—a glass platform that dangles over the canyon—can visit in winter. That being said, hours are reduced compared to summer and mirror the canyon’s shorter days, opening roughly from sunrise to sunset.

What is there to do at the Grand Canyon in the winter?

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The Grand Canyon’s South Rim is open during winter; the only difference is the snow.

The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is closed in winter; the South Rim stays very open. Apart from that, the Grand Canyon’s list of winter and summer experiences isn’t all that different—you can still hike, attend ranger demonstrations, ride the Hikers' Express buses, take a scenic drive, and more, regardless of season. You’ll do the same activities, just in a jacket and winter boots.

Winter visitors get one bonus: During December, January, and February, Hermit Road—a scenic, 7-mile (11-kilometer)drive along the canyon rim—opens to private vehicles. While the Hermit Road shuttle ceases operation, all other shuttles remain in service.

Frequently asked questions

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Everything you need to know about visiting the Grand Canyon in winter.

  • Is it worth visiting the Grand Canyon in winter? Yes, it’s absolutely worth visiting the Grand Canyon in winter. If there’s fresh snowfall, the red rocks of the canyon can look even more spectacular.

  • Which part of the Grand Canyon is best to visit in winter? Be sure to visit the South Rim of the Grand Canyon in winter—the North Rim closes from December to mid-May. From there, where you go is up to you.

  • Is Christmas a good time to visit the Grand Canyon? Christmas is not a great time to visit the Grand Canyon, as during the holidays, the canyon sees far more visitors than it will even just a week before or a week after.

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