Here are the best times to visit Grand Canyon National Park for fewer crowds, ideal weather, and a better trip.
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One of the best-known national parks in the United States, the Grand Canyon attracts roughly five million visitors every year. People from all over the world come to northern Arizona to see the vast, mile-deep, 277-mile-long canyon.
Grand Canyon National Park tends to be the most crowded from late May to early September, when children are out of school and families are more apt to take summer vacations. When planning a trip, decide whether you're interested in hiking, whitewater rafting, or camping — all of which are very weather-dependent, and may be better suited to certain times of year. Here is a breakdown of the tourist seasons:
Whether you're looking for an adrenaline-pumping experience at Grand Canyon West's Skywalk or you prefer to leisurely enjoy the amazing natural views, these are the best times to visit the Grand Canyon.
Best Times to Visit the Grand Canyon for Smaller Crowds
The park gets packed in June, so try to avoid that time if possible. The more flexible you can be, the better, as spring and fall are generally less crowded. If you can visit during the low season, from November to March, you won't encounter crowds, but you'll need to plan ahead since parts of the park may be closed. Try to visit the South Rim, easily the most popular area in the park (and one of the entrances that remains open all year), in the fall to enjoy great weather and fewer crowds.
Several sections of the park are worth visiting — the North Rim and the South Rim, as well as Grand Canyon West, which technically isn't part of Grand Canyon National Park. Each area has its advantages and attractions, but you may need to narrow down which one(s) you have time to visit because of the long driving distances between them. The North Rim is the most remote and tends to be less crowded even during the high season since it takes an extra four hours to reach by car from the South Rim. Grand Canyon West is also about a four-hour drive from the South Rim (or a seven-hour drive from the North Rim), so if experiencing the Skywalk is on your list, plan accordingly.
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Best Times to Visit the Grand Canyon for Good Weather
Weather in the Grand Canyon is at its best between April and June, when rainfall averages are low and temperatures have not yet reached their scorching summer highs. Temperatures can drop below freezing as early as September, so wear layers if you're planning to visit in the late summer or early fall.
While early summer ushers in the best weather across all of the Grand Canyon, it's also the busiest time of year to visit. Temperatures vary quite widely throughout the park — they can be anywhere from the low 40s to the mid-80s between June and August — but the North Rim is almost always the cooler stretch of the Grand Canyon. Note that this section of the park does shut down entirely during the winter, except for backcountry camping and cross-country skiing. For access to all the North Rim's best lodging and restaurant options, plan your trip between May and October.
Hotels to Book for a Trip to the Grand Canyon
Best Times to Visit the Grand Canyon for Lower Prices
To save on flights, accommodations, rental cars, and other travel expenses, keep in mind that prices tend to dip during the winter, spring, and fall. While the Grand Canyon National Park Vehicle Permit costs $35, you can save on admission four days of the year during national park free days: Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday on January 16, the first day of National Park Week on April 22, the Anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act on August 4, and Veteran's Day on November 11.
The National Park Service also offers annual passes for $80, and several categories of guests are entitled to a free one, including former and current members of the U.S. military, Gold Star Families, those with permanent disabilities, and fourth graders, who can get a complimentary annual pass by signing up through the Every Kid Outdoors website. Seniors ages 62 and up have the option of paying $20 for a discounted annual pass or $80 for a lifetime pass.
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Best Times to Visit Grand Canyon West
Although not part of the National Park System, Grand Canyon West offers accessible attractions year-round, including helicopter and pontoon tours, zip line adventures, shopping, and dining. Extending 4,000 feet above the Grand Canyon, the glass floors of the Skywalk offer visitors a unique perspective of the gorge below. You'll also have a chance to check out Hualapai Point, where you can learn more about the Hualapai Tribe by meeting community members and viewing cultural performances and historical artifacts.
Spring is the perfect time to visit for those who want to take a whitewater rafting trip, many of which depart from here. Winter is the least popular time to visit the area and, therefore, the most peaceful time. Grand Canyon West is open every day of the year, and you should plan to arrive early to enjoy all this area has to offer.
Worst Times to Visit the Grand Canyon
July and August are the hottest and busiest months in the park, making them less ideal times to explore the Grand Canyon than during spring or autumn. Temperatures in the canyon often exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit, making hikes unenjoyable (and at times, dangerous) during the heat of the day. Summer can also bring thunderstorms, which are typically brief but dramatic. If you're interested in checking out the North Rim, definitely don't visit during the winter, when all roads, restaurants, and accommodations are closed. It really depends on what you're trying to avoid: large crowds, hot weather, or cold weather.
If you really must visit the Grand Canyon in the height of summer (school schedules are tough, we get it!), at least aim to visit the North Rim. Thanks to its distance from the South Rim and Grand Canyon West, you'll likely encounter fewer visitors — and typically enjoy cooler temperatures.