The Best Time to Visit Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park - Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Grand Canyon National Park is May.

Late spring is when daytime temperatures are comfortable, and the summer crowds have yet to arrive. While nighttime lows still drop into the 40s, daytime highs reach up into the 70s, making hikes on many of the park’s rugged, steep and unshaded trails more doable than in the heat of summer.

However, keep in mind that this varies based on elevation. From river to rim is a change of nearly 5,000 feet, which means temperatures can differ by as much as 20 degrees from rim to floor.

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Best time for good weather

The best time for good weather in Grand Canyon National Park is April and May.

During mid to late spring, temperatures are milder, allowing you to explore the canyon without worrying about extreme heat. Springtime temperatures range between the low 50s at night and the low to mid-70s during the day.

Snow on the North Rim has also melted away by May. Although it’s spring, late spring also happens to be one of the drier seasons in the park, making wet weather, which is common in the late summer and fall, less of a threat.

Best time for camping

Camping in Grand Canyon

The best time for camping in Grand Canyon National Park is fall or spring.

The shoulder months are a time to enjoy Grand Canyon’s camping opportunities. This is mainly due to weather and crowds. In the spring and fall, crowds are much thinner than during the summertime, making access to campgrounds much easier.

During the peak months, reservations must typically be made well in advance to secure a spot. Alternatively, you can camp at many of the free campsites outside the national park. 

Spring and fall also bring cooler weather, making camping more enjoyable than during the scorching heat of the summer.

Read More : Guide to Camping in Grand Canyon National Park

Best time for hiking

Hiking in Grand Canyon

The best time for hiking in Grand Canyon National Park is May.

May temperatures are warm enough to be comfortable but cool enough to safely hike all of the park’s trails. Hiking in Grand Canyon National Park during the summertime can be dangerous. 

Most trails lack access to water, and many feature steep climbs and rocky terrain with little protection from the blazing sun. This renders many sections so trail impassable in the hot summer months.

In May, colder temperatures at higher elevations have warmed, melting any lingering snow, while highs at lower elevations are still comfortable.

Read More : Hiking Trails in Grand Canyon National Park

Best time to avoid crowds

The best time to avoid crowds in Grand Canyon National Park is December.

The temperatures are low, and the days are shorter in the wintertime, but the crowds are also very thin. This equates to smaller crowds and better deals on travel and accommodations. Temperatures typically drop into the teens at night and reach into the mid-40s during the day.

Make sure to pack plenty of layers and winter gear, including jackets, hats, gloves, wool socks, winter boots. If you plan on hiking, it’s not a bad idea to have crampons to deal with snow and ice.

Best time for rafting

Rafting in Grand Canyon

The best time for rafting is July.

While midsummer is the most crowded time of year in the park, it’s also the warmest, which is the kind of weather you want for whitewater rafting. You’ll want the air temperature to warm you, considering you’ll be splashed by water from the Colorado River, which averages a bone-chilling 50 degrees.

Daytime highs during July reach well into the 80s.

Just keep in mind that rafting is one of the most popular activities in the Grand Canyon. You’ll want to make reservations early for rafting on the river.

Best time for biking

Biking in Grand Canyon

The best time for biking is September.

With all of the park’s roads open to cyclists, biking is a popular way to explore the Grand Canyon. The heat of the summer makes cycling extremely uncomfortable. However, by September, the heat begins to dissipate, with daytime highs reaching into the 70s on the park’s south rim.

Cyclists will also compete with less traffic during this month as crowds begin to thin after Labor Day. Multiple Greenways offer great riding opportunities as does Hermit Road, which is closed to private vehicles through mid-October.

Best time to ride a mule

Mule Riding in Grand Canyon

The best time to ride a mule is June.

There are two options for exploring the interior of the Canyon: mule and foot. The best time for riding a mule down the canyon largely depends on your ability to tolerate heat. 

With highs in the low 80s, June offers warm enough temperatures during the day that you can splash in the water of the Colorado River when you make it to the bottom. However, the heat isn’t so intense that you bake on those exposed stretches of trail.

Keep in mind that reaching the bottom of the canyon involves a 7 or 8-mile hike each way. For that reason, most mule rides to the canyon floor are multi-day adventures.

Best time for a scenic drive

Scenic Drive in Grand Canyon

The best time for a scenic drive through Grand Canyon National Park is February.

While going to Grand Canyon National park in February may seem like an odd time to visit, it affords some of the best opportunities for driving through the park. The park is crowded with road traffic through much of the year; however, winter weather thins the crowds, allowing you to drive through without feeling pressured from behind.

It’s also one of the few months when scenic Hermit Drive is open to private vehicles. Just make sure you check the weather before you go as the Grand Canyon does see snowfall in the wintertime.

Best time for a helicopter ride

Helicopter Ride in Grand Canyon

The best time for a helicopter ride in the Grand Canyon National Park is May.

Making reservations during the peak summer months can be difficult for helicopter tours due to the high volume these companies receive. May presents a great option to see the park from the sky while avoiding the crowds.

May also happens to be one of the driest months of the year at the park, making it less likely that you’ll encounter weather that would cancel or shorten your trip.

Grand Canyon National Park Seasons

Summer

Grand Canyon National Park - Summer

Summer is the most popular season to visit the Grand Canyon, with the park seeing the bulk of its visitors from June to August. Expect to see large crowds at its most popular attractions on the South Rim, including Skywalk and Desert View Drive, and many trails, including Bright Angel and South Kaibab.

Summers at the park are also sweltering with highs in the 80s at the park’s higher elevations and reaching triple digits on the canyon floor, making some of its more strenuous hikes dangerous during these months. A full water bottle is essential for hiking in this weather.

Summer is an excellent opportunity to take advantage of such opportunities as whitewater rafting.

Read More : 12 Essentials to Bring for Summer Camping

Fall

Grand Canyon National Park - Fall

The arrival of autumn in Grand Canyon national park sees temperatures become cooler and unpredictable. It’s not unusual to see highs still in the triple digits on the canyon floor or as low as 60 degrees.

Average temperatures throughout the park include highs in the mid-60s and lows in the 40s. With this in mind, temperatures are perfect for hiking the Grand Canyon’s trails. Plus, the summer crowds have thinned dramatically. However, reservations for camping on the canyon floor are incredibly competitive as this is one of the most popular times for backcountry camping at the Grand Canyon.

Winter

Grand Canyon National Park - Winter

The clear advantage of visiting the Grand Canyon in the winter is the lack of crowds. If you don’t mind the colder weather, then you can enjoy the park’s attractions without rubbing elbows with other visitors. 

It’s also a good time to visit the canyon floor, which is significantly cooler, though still with highs that reach into the 60s, making it a perfect time for hiking. Accommodations are also much easier to find and cheaper in the winter months.

The downside is the weather on the rims, which do see a considerable amount of snowfall in mid-winter. If hiking in winter, it’s highly recommended that you come equipped with crampons and waterproof boots.

Read More : Winter Camping Checklist – 11 Gear to Bring with You 

Spring

Grand Canyon National Park - Spring

Spring offers comfortable temperatures at all canyon elevations, making it a popular time to visit the park. Average highs reach into the mid-60s with warmer temperatures on the canyon floor while lows drop into the low 40s at night. This makes spring an excellent time for exploring the park’s trails.

Crowds are also much thinner this time of year, except for spring break, which is around Easter for most schools.

Gaby Pilson

Gaby is a professional mountain guide with a master’s degree in outdoor education. She works primarily in the polar regions as an expedition guide, though she can be found hiking, climbing, skiing, sailing, or paddling in some of the world’s most amazing places when not at work.