Article Overview: Best Time to Visit the Grand Canyon
Imagine standing at the edge of the world, where a vast chasm of time and space stretches out before you, cut deep into the fabric of the Earth. Welcome to the Grand Canyon. This iconic American treasure, with its dazzling layers of red and ochre rock, is an open book of earth’s history and a testament to nature’s beauty.
This isn’t just a place you see, it’s a place you feel, breathe, and live. Here, each sunset can feel like a private showing of nature’s own theater, if you know where and when to go.
As popular as our national parks have become, (and the Grand Canyon ranks high on our list) there are still opportunities to truly experience them – without the crowds, if you’re willing to do a little research. Fortunately, at More Than Just Parks, we’ve done the legwork for you through our extensive travels and research.
First, you should know that the best time to visit the Grand Canyon depends on what you plan on doing while you’re there. Are you planning on hiking down to the Colorado River or completing the vaunted rim to rim hike? Maybe you plan on taking in all of the best viewpoints? Are you going to the less-visited North Rim or the more accessible South Rim? Or maybe the Grand Canyon is just a small part of your Arizona road trip and you only have a day or two.
Activities, crowds, weather, and of course cost, are the major considerations we’ve taken into account to come up with the best time to visit. So let’s get to it!
Table of Contents: Best Time to Visit Grand Canyon National Park
Best Time to Visit Grand Canyon
- Things to Know Before Visiting The Grand Canyon
- Best Time to Visit the Grand Canyon
- Best Time to Visit the South Rim of the Grand Canyon
- Best Time to Visit the North Rim of the Grand Canyon
- How Many People Visit Grand Canyon South Rim Each Month?
- Grand Canyon Weather by Month
- Grand Canyon Shoulder Seasons
- Getting Around the Grand Canyon
- FAQ – Best Time to Visit the Grand Canyon
- Pin the Best Time to Visit the Grand Canyon
Things to Know Before Visiting The Grand Canyon
$35 per vehicle for a 7-day pass ($20 for motorcycles and $20 for bikes or walk-ins) OR if you plan to visit more National Parks within the next 12 months I suggest you go ahead and purchase the America the Beautiful Pass (which can be found at the entrance gates to most national parks). This pass gets you into all National Parks, Forests, Monuments, and more, including 2,000 sites for free after a one-time $79 fee.
Use it. Lots of it. Especially this one which I never leave the house without because it plays nice with our good friend, Earth 🙂
The Best Guide Book for Grand Canyon National Park is this one, which we’ve marked up and highlighted quite a bit.
The Best Map: I like this map best for Grand Canyon National Park.
National Parks Checklist Map: This beautiful National Parks Checklist Map can be ordered to your house.
Framed National Parks Map: We’re a sucker for maps, this framed national parks map is the best.
Where to Stay: This is our favorite hotel in/around Grand Canyon National Park. It’s even accessible seasonally via the Grand Canyon shuttle purple route.
Best Time to Visit the Grand Canyon
Best Time to Visit the South Rim of the Grand Canyon
A lot of websites will tell you that the best time to visit the Grand Canyon is April or May, but they jump to a hasty conclusion. The best time to visit Grand Canyon National Park is October. Sure April and May are great months to visit the Grand Canyon, but October is when it all really comes together.
Yes, October is where the magic happens at the Grand Canyon. This goldilocks month brings together the perfect mix of pleasant weather, fewer visitors, and beautiful scenery. Visiting the Grand Canyon in October means cool, crisp days with crystal clear views that seem to stretch on forever, all set against a backdrop of the canyon’s iconic, earthy hues dappled here and there with the golds and reds of the fall.
In addition to the great weather, amazing scenery, and sparse crowds, October offers cheaper rates for lodging than the summer and spring. (Also don’t sleep on September and November if it’s good hotel rates you’re looking for).
To be clear, October is the best time for avoiding crowds while still enjoying nice weather.
How to Avoid Crowds at Grand Canyon South Rim
If your sole goal is avoiding crowds then you should visit the Grand Canyon in the winter between November and February. Of course during most of that time the Grand Canyon is uncomfortably cold (think temperatures in the 20’s and 30’s). That said, November sees a massive drop off in visitation and the weather, at least in the first half of the month, is really not too bad.
From May through September you’ll have to contend with crowds at the Grand Canyon South Rim, there’s really just no way around it. My best tip for avoiding stress when visiting during these months is to take advantage of the Grand Canyon Shuttle.
The park’s shuttle system is state-of-the-art and can be used to bypass long lines and time spent trying to find parking if you know what you’re doing.
Best Time to Visit the North Rim of the Grand Canyon
The North Rim of the Grand Canyon offers a uniquely intimate encounter with the unspoiled beauty of this world famous natural wonder. While the South Rim is accessible year-round and bustles with activity, the North Rim offers a more solitary experience, its doors open only for a limited season – from May 15th through October 15th.
This unique rhythm of the North Rim, synchronized with the ebb and flow of nature, offers a spectacular stage to experience the transformation of seasons, where each one seems to paint the canyon in its own palette of colors.
While summer is marked by hot, sunny days, it’s the transition periods that truly capture the essence of the North Rim. Spring spreads vibrant colors throughout the canyon in the form of wildflowers and new chutes of green, while the cooler months of fall drape the landscape in a spectacular display of warm tones, with the abundant deciduous trees offering a brilliant contrast to the evergreen conifers.
So, when is the best time to visit the North Rim? For those who relish peace, solitude, and the vibrant colors of changing seasons, the fringe months of the season – May and October – are undoubtedly the best. Fewer visitors, milder weather, and the spectacle of nature in transition make these times an incredible opportunity to immerse yourself in the North Rim’s unique grandeur.
Why April-May is Not the Best Time to Visit Grand Canyon National Park
Contrary to hordes of travel sites, we’re here to tell you that April and May are not the best times to visit Grand Canyon National Park. Why? Let’s start with April.
April is a nice thought, and it is better than May, but the weather tends to still be quite chilly. Oh, and it also coincides with California public schools spring break – uh oh. Late April is the best time of the month to avoid major crowds and cold weather, but it’s an awfully tight window.
May sounds like it would be the perfect month to visit, positioned before the heavy travel season with nice weather, but the thing is, the secret is out about May and it’s become a very popular month to travel now. School is out and people are ready to pounce on flights and road trips.
Yes, the crowds are still a far cry from those you’ll see in July, but May just doesn’t measure up to the quiet beauty of the park in October. That said, early May is the best time of the month to visit and is still a great alternative if you can’t make it in October.
To be clear April and May are the runner-up months to October, as the weather and crowding is much better than you’ll find June-August. But, having been at various times of the year it’s clear to us that October is the best time to visit Grand Canyon national park.
How Many People Visit Grand Canyon South Rim Each Month?
|Month||Average Visitors (2018, 2019, 2021, 2022)|
Looking at the numbers above you can see that the park sees quite a lot of visitors in any given month, with a predictably heavy concentration in the summer. The Grand Canyon is actually one of the most visited national parks in the US, and it’s easy to see why once you’re there. We rank the park very high on our national park list.
Grand Canyon Weather by Month
Average Temperatures at the Grand Canyon South Rim
|Month||High (°F)||Low (°F)|
Weather is very important to take under consideration when planning your Grand Canyon trip, particularly if you’re planning to do any serious hiking in the park.
Looking at the numbers above you’ve probably noticed that summer temperatures are decidedly mild and winter temperatures are seriously low. That’s because the Grand Canyon is situated on the Kaibab Plateau at an elevation of over 7,000 feet above sea level!
Now for those of you looking to do any serious hiking, there’s another set of temperatures I need to show you. Below are the average temperatures inside the Grand Canyon (meaning down there).
Average Temperatures Inside the Grand Canyon
|Month||High (°F)||Low (°F)|
These temperatures look quite a bit different! Hikers need to bear in mind that temperatures inside the canyon reach serious extremes in the summer and intensify the further down you go. I hiked this beast in July (top to bottom and back up the next day) shortly after graduating high school and I’ve never considered doing it again.
Grand Canyon Shoulder Seasons
The Grand Canyon has two shoulder seasons, the spring (March-May) and the fall (September-November).
In September and October visitors can expect mild weather, fewer crowds, and cheaper lodging and airfare. November sees significantly colder weather creep in and even fewer crowds.
In the spring visitors can expect to see visitation start to ramp up the closer it gets to Memorial Day. March is typically cold, but sees sporadic visitation (Arizona schools have their spring break in March).
April sees a marked improvement in the weather, while still being chilly, but visitation also begins to increase significantly as neighboring states have their spring breaks and people look to get outside. May brings very pleasant weather to the park, but a major increase in visitors.
How to Get to the Grand Canyon
With all this talk of the best time to visit the Grand Canyon I guess we should also briefly talk about the best way to get to the Grand Canyon! While the Flagstaff Airport is definitely the closest to the Grand Canyon, it’s usually fairly cost-prohibitive to go this route given the high prices for flights and/or rental cars.
Your best bet is to fly into either Las Vegas or Phoenix and drive from there. Given their similar distances I would check combined airfare and rental car prices and go with the cheaper one. Below are the various ways you can reach the Grand Canyon.
Nearest Airports to the Grand Canyon
|Airport||Distance||Approximate Drive Time|
|Flagstaff Pulliam Airport (FLG)||90 miles||1.5 hours|
|Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)||230 miles||3.5 hours|
|Harry Reid International Airport Las Vegas (LAS)||275 miles||4 hours|
Driving to the Grand Canyon From the Nearest Cities
From Flagstaff, AZ: Take Interstate 40 to State Route 64 and follow signs (pictured in red above).
From Las Vegas, NV: Take US Route 93 to Interstate 40 to Route 64 (pictured in green above).
From Phoenix, AZ: Take I-17 North to Flagstaff then I-40 West to State Route 64 (pictured in orange above).
Reaching the Grand Canyon by Train:
The Grand Canyon Railway provides a scenic journey from Williams, Arizona to the South Rim.
Looking to do an Arizona road trip that includes the Grand Canyon? Check out my in depth guide to creating the best Arizona road trip.
Getting Around the Grand Canyon
While you might be thinking, “of course I’ll drive around the Grand Canyon”, depending on when you’re visiting it’s probably best to plan on utilizing the Grand Canyon Shuttle. What’s the Grand Canyon Shuttle you ask? It’s only one of the best kept secrets in the entire National Park Service!
For more check out our Complete Guide to the Grand Canyon Shuttle System
The Grand Canyon shuttle has 5 unique routes servicing different areas of the South Rim. The shuttles are air-conditioned and clean, and best of all unlimited use of them is included for free with your park pass. I highly recommend using the shuttles to maximize your time in the park and avoid the stress of long lines and finding parking at every overlook.
Map of the Grand Canyon
FAQ – Best Time to Visit the Grand Canyon
The best time to visit Grand Canyon National Park is October. A lot of websites will tell you that the best time to visit is April or May, but they would be wrong. Whereas April is still quite chilly and May is crowded, October is the goldilocks month, avoiding both of these pitfalls and offering the ideal time to visit America’s iconic natural wonder.
October is the best time to avoid crowds while still enjoying nice weather. February is the least crowded month at the Grand Canyon due to its very cold temperatures.
The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is open year-round! The more remote North Rim is closed seasonally. You can check the park website for the exact dates which vary year to year.
The best month for weather in the Grand Canyon is October. Visitors can expect mild, crisp days, excellent visibility, and very few crowds.
Early October or late September are the best times of year to do the Grand Canyon rim to rim hike. Be aware that the North Rim typically opens May 15th and closes on October 15th.
There’s really never a bad time to visit one of the most incredible natural wonders of the world. That said January and February are very cold and visibility tends to be significantly decreased due to inclement weather.
Without a doubt the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is the least touristy thanks to its remote location and seasonal closures. More info on the north rim here.
Visiting in the off-season is the best way to avoid crowds at the Grand Canyon. We recommend October or April.
The monsoon season is typically from mid-June to mid-September. However, seeing the powerful monsoons sweep through this grand landscape is quite the sight to behold.
Phoenix and Las Vegas are the two most common places to fly into to reach the Grand Canyon thanks to their relative proximity and affordability. You can find our detailed recommendations here.
Pin the Best Time to Visit the Grand Canyon
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