Article Overview: Visiting the Grand Canyon in December (Winter)
Wondering if its a good idea to visit the Grand Canyon in December? Well, that depends on what you’re hoping to see and do. While yes it can be done and there are lots of things to see at Grand Canyon National Park in December, not everything is open or accessible.
If you’ve dreamed of snowy canyon walls, cloud inversions, and bundling up at overlooks then winter could be your perfect time of year to visit!
In this article we’ll go over everything you need to know about visiting the Grand Canyon in December including:
- Things to Know Before Visiting the Grand Canyon in December
- December Activities at the Grand Canyon
- What to Wear at the Grand Canyon in December
- December Weather at the Grand Canyon
- What’s Open and What’s Closed at the Grand Canyon in December
- Tips for Visiting the Grand Canyon in Winter
Ready to get started? Let’s go!
Table of Contents: Visiting the Grand Canyon in December
Table of Contents: Visiting the Grand Canyon in December
- Things to Know Before Visiting Grand Canyon National Park in Winter
- Grand Canyon in December
- Visiting the Grand Canyon in Winter FAQ
- Which Parts of the Grand Canyon Are Open in December?
- What’s the Weather Like at the Grand Canyon in December?
- Is December a Good Time to Visit the Grand Canyon?
- Is there Snow at the Grand Canyon in December?
- How Should I Dress for the Grand Canyon in December?
- Is the South Rim of the Grand Canyon Open in December?
- Is the North Rim of the Grand Canyon Open in Winter?
- Best Things to Do at the Grand Canyon in December (Winter)
- Map of Things to Do at the Grand Canyon in December (Winter)
- Summary of Visiting the Grand Canyon in Winter (December)
- Visiting the Grand Canyon in Winter FAQ
Things to Know Before Visiting Grand Canyon National Park in Winter
$30 per vehicle 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.
James Kaiser is the proverbial bees knees in this department. I love all of his National Park guides and his Grand Canyon Guide is no exception.
I like this map best for Grand Canyon National Park.
Use it. Lots of it. Especially this one which I never leave the house without because it plays nice with our dear friend, earth 🙂
Hours of Operation
The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is open 24 hours a day all 365 days of the year. The North Rim however is closed to all vehicles between December 1st and May 14th with no services offered. From October 15 to December 1 on the North Rim services are limited.
Where to Stay at the Grand Canyon
Here’s my favorite spot to stay at the Grand Canyon.
Grand Canyon in December
Visiting the Grand Canyon in Winter FAQ
Which Parts of the Grand Canyon Are Open in December?
Most folks think of the Grand Canyon in terms of North Rim / South Rim. There’s also an area referred to as Grand Canyon East and Grand Canyon West. Here’s what’s open in December at the Grand Canyon:
South Rim OPEN: The most popular and most heavily visited section of Grand Canyon National Park is the South Rim area located just beyond the South Rim Entrance Station which includes Mather Point & Grand Canyon Village
East Rim OPEN: The east section refers to the area near the east entrance to Grand Canyon National Park which includes the Desert View Watchtower.
North Rim CLOSED*: Located across the canyon from the south rim, the north rim of the Grand Canyon has become increasingly popular in recent years as visitation continues to surge. Despite being roughly 10 miles as the crow flies across the canyon, the drive to the north rim from the south rim takes about 4 hours.
West Rim OPEN: Accessed via the South Entrance followed by Hermit Road or West Rim Drive and includes many of the best overlooks in the park.
Grand Canyon West OPEN: Grand Canyon West is the most recently developed section of the Grand Canyon and managed by the Hualapai Tribe rather than the National Park Service. The famous Grand Canyon Skywalk is located here.
*technically the north rim is open, however all facilities close December 1st including the road to get to the north rim making it virtually inaccessible
What’s the Weather Like at the Grand Canyon in December?
The short answer is cold. Average highs are in the mid 50s and average lows are in the high 30s. While January and February have a higher likelihood of seeing snow, it’s not that unusual to see snow at the Grand Canyon in December.
Is December a Good Time to Visit the Grand Canyon?
It depends on what sort of experience you’re looking for. December brings quiet and solitude to the Grand Canyon. If you’ve been before in the summer, visiting the 4th most visited national park in the country during winter may be a bit shocking.
Overlooks are uncrowded and there’s actually parking available at the Grand Canyon in December.
Is there Snow at the Grand Canyon in December?
There is typically some snow at the Grand Canyon in December although it’s a mixed bag. Last year it snowed 4 times at the Grand Canyon in December with the heaviest snow being a mere .61 inches. Other years have seen large snow storms so you never know!
How Should I Dress for the Grand Canyon in December?
I recommend dressing for the winter, wearing a warm jacket, wool socks, gloves, and pants. There is a common misconception by folks that it will be warm at the Grand Canyon in December because it’s located in Arizona. This is not the case.
For warm weather head down to Saguaro National Park in Tucson!
Is the South Rim of the Grand Canyon Open in December?
Yes, the South Rim of the Grand Canyon is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, so visiting in December is perfectly doable! I highly recommend visiting if you’re dressed warmly and prepared for a frosty visit.
Is the North Rim of the Grand Canyon Open in Winter?
All facilities at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon close on December 1st each year including the road into the north rim making it virtually inaccessible. Technically you could hike in if you wanted but I strongly recommend against it.
Best Things to Do at the Grand Canyon in December (Winter)
5. Visit the Desert View Watchtower
Location: Grand Canyon East Rim
Features: Overlook, Historical
Desert View Watchtower is one of the most iconic sites at the Grand Canyon offering some of the best views in the park. Visiting this incredible site is one of the my favorite things to do at the Grand Canyon in December.
Designed by one of the southwest’s most influential architects, Mary Colter West, Desert View Watchtower was constructed in 1932 and remains in place today.
Her buildings at Grand Canyon include: Desert View Watchtower, Lookout Studio, Hermits Rest, Phantom Ranch, Bright Angel Lodge, Hopi House, and two employee dormitories – Colter Hall and Victor Hall.
The design is intended to reflect elements of the native tribes and blend with the natural environment of the Grand Canyon. Inside the tower you’ll see beautiful, recently restored murals featuring tribal artwork and pictographs.
At one point the Desert View Watchtower was turned into a gift shop but has since been restored to its original purpose as a scenic rest station for visitors.
The tower is 5 stories tall with different experiences on each level.
4. Watch the Grand Canyon IMAX Movie
Location: Tusayan, Arizona (South Rim)
Features: Air Conditioning, Family Friendly, Accessible
One of the best things to do at the Grand Canyon in December for folks looking for a little heat and relaxing is watching the epic Grand Canyon IMAX Movie.
While the theater is technically located outside of the park, about 10 miles (15 minutes) south of the South Entrance in Tusayan, it’s a great addition for families and folks looking for a bit more understanding and appreciation for the Grand Canyon.
Ticket Prices: Adult(Ages 11+ to 54) $13.59 Youth Tickets(6-10) $10.33 Senior(55+) $12.50 Military $12.50
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit the official Grand Canyon IMAX website.
3. Cruise the Scenic Desert View Drive
Location: South Rim & West Rim
Features: Overlooks, Driving, Hiking Trails, Family Friendly, Wildlife
Looking for another warm activity at the Grand Canyon in December? Here’s one that comes with heat!
The first time I realized that there were elk at the Grand Canyon was seeing one cross the road while driving Desert View Drive. In fact, I didn’t even realized there was more to the national park than Grand Canyon Village and the South Rim the first time I visited.
Desert View Drive has some of the park’s most beautiful scenery and attractions including Desert Viewpoint (one of the best in the park), Desert Watchtower, Navajo Point, Lipan Point (another great one), The Tusayan Museum, Moran Point, Grandview Point, Shoshone Point, Yaki Point, & access to the South Kaibab Trial including Ooh Aah Point.
2. Walk the Trail of Time
Location: South Rim
Features: Historical, Geological, Family Friendly, Accessible, Hiking Trail,Overlooks
The Trail of Time is one of the really great interactive things to do at the Grand Canyon in winter that gives you a real appreciation of the canyon’s epic formation over billions of years. The paved trail starts just behind the Yavapai Geology Museum and is completely accessible.
The first portion of the trail (about 150 yards) covers a span of one million years. The second portion is approximately 2.8 miles and transports you through 2 billion years. Every meter on the second part of the trail represents 1 million years of geologic time in the Grand Canyon.
The trail takes about an hour to complete and provides you with sweeping views of the canyon along the way.
1. Soak in the Epic Overlooks at Mather Point & South Rim Viewpoints
Location: South Rim
Features: Overlooks, Family Friendly
Must do at the Grand Canyon because:
Stepping out onto Mather Point for the first time and getting “the view” of the Grand Canyon is a right of passage for every national park lover out there. Mather Point is a quintessential American viewpoint featuring one of our most prized national treasures. As far as the best things to do at the Grand Canyon go, this is an absolute must for everyone visiting the Grand Canyon for the first time.
With that being said, the South Rim is chocked full of stunning overlooks and viewpoints, most of which are far less crowded than Mather Point which can feel like the opening seconds of Walmart on Black Friday.
Other South Rim Viewpoints include:
- Mary Coulter’s Lookout Studio
- Bright Angel Trailhead
- Yavapai Point
- Pipe Creek Vista
- South Kaibab Trailhead
- Yaki Point
- Shosone Point
- Grandview Point
Map of Things to Do at the Grand Canyon in December (Winter)
South Rim Lodging Options
At the South Rim of the Grand Canyon there are two options if you’re looking for hotels. The first, more expensive option is staying at one of the premiere lodges that are located inside the national park at Grand Canyon Village. For those Grand Canyon hotels see the Xanterra page.
The more affordable option is getting a hotel in Tusayan (5-10 minute drive). I’ve compiled a full listing of the best Tusayan hotels.
Summary of Visiting the Grand Canyon in Winter (December)
- Dress warmly
- Cold weather & potential for snow
- Expect solitude
- The South Rim is the place to visit
- North Rim is closed
- Check out Desert View Watchtower
- Grand Canyon IMAX
- Mather Point
- Walk the Trail of Time
- Cruise the Desert View Scenic Drive
Helpful Related Articles
Grand Canyon Viewpoints: 20 Best Views of the Grand Canyon (National Park)
Grand Canyon South Rim Things to Do: 15 Amazing Things to Do at the Grand Canyon South Rim
Things to Do at the Grand Canyon: 20 Best Things to Do at Grand Canyon National Park
Closest Cities to the Grand Canyon: 10 Closest Cities Near the Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon Facts: 15 Fascinating Grand Canyon National Park Facts
Desert View Watchtower: Explore the Historic Desert View Watchtower (Grand Canyon)
Grand Canyon in Winter: Visiting the Grand Canyon in December (Winter Guide)
Arizona National Parks: 24 Epic Arizona National Parks to Visit (Photos + Guide)
Things to Do Saguaro NP: 15 Best Things to Do Saguaro National Park
Things to Do Zion NP: 18 Epic Things to Do at Zion National Park
Best Hikes Saguaro NP: 10 Best Saguaro National Park Hikes
National Parks Near Tucson: 10 Best National Parks Near Tucson
National Parks Near Phoenix: 10 Best National Parks Near Phoenix
Living in Phoenix: Pros & Cons of Living in Phoenix
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