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Best Time to Visit Northern Arizona and the Grand Canyon: Monthly Weather and Other Considerations

Updated: Sep 25, 2023


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Northern Arizona is Milder and more varied than you might Think


There’s no doubt a common misconception that as a southwestern state, Arizona consists mainly of deserts and desolation with cacti reaching to the sky, heat waves shimmering on the horizon and tumbleweeds racing across the highways. Yes, there are deserts. And yes, there are tumbleweeds. But Arizona, like all of our unique 50 states, is home to a variety of beautiful landscapes that far exceed any stereotype or misconception. And the areas in and surrounding Grand Canyon National Park are some of the most varied and beautiful the state has to offer.


Due to the diverse climates and elevations, weather is definitely an important consideration when planning any Arizona adventure. So when exactly is the best time to visit Northern Arizona and the Grand Canyon? We’ll give you the rundown of Grand Canyon monthly weather as well as the pros and cons of visiting in each season.


Seasonal Overview

The canyon and surrounding areas like Flagstaff and Williams have four distinct seasons to enjoy, and the good news is much of the Grand Canyon is accessible during all of them. The South Rim and the Grand Canyon Village, the East Rim along with Desert View Drive and Watchtower, and Grand Canyon West with its Skywalk are all open year round, and the North Rim is open from mid-May to mid-October. With careful planning travelers can take advantage of plenty of seasonal sights and activities for all interests.


Grand Canyon Stats

Elevations

South Rim: 7,000 feet

North Rim: 8,000 feet

West Rim: 4,770 feet

East Rim (at Desert View Watchtower): 7,438 feet

Canyon Floor (at Phantom Ranch): 2,546 feet


  • Temperatures increase about 5.5 degrees Fahrenheit with every 1000 feet lost in elevation. So the canyon floor near the Colorado River can be a good 20 degrees warmer than at the rim.

  • January is the coldest month at the canyon, and July and August are the hottest.

  • Holidays and weekends are busier times during all seasons.


Seasonal Exploration- Grand Canyon Monthly Weather


Summer - Not as Hot as you Thought

  • South Rim: highs in the 80s, lows in high 40s and low 50s

  • Canyon Floor (near Phantom Ranch): highs in the low 100s, lows in the 60s and 70s

  • North Rim: highs in the 70s, lows in the 40s

  • West Rim: highs in the 90s, lows in the 50s

Summer in Northern Arizona in general is warm to hot with cooler temps at night. Afternoon Thunderstorms are common in July, August and early September.


Canyon Highlights: all rims open, warm temps, extended daylight hours, diverse activities and encounters


Kids at the Grand Canyon

Summer, as you might have guessed, will be the busiest and warmest season at the Grand Canyon, especially during July and August. Families with children out of school for the summer and tourists from around the world take advantage of the warm temperatures and access to the wide variety of activities and sightseeing options. Staffing will be at its peak during summer months, so knowledgeable resources abound, as do available activities: camping, hiking, biking, rafting, scenic driving, shopping, and touring the canyon in a variety of ways are all great summer options. And with more daylight hours, you’ll have even more time to participate. While crowds are not for everyone, there is something magical that happens when people from all walks of life gather for the both shared and deeply individual and sacred experience of witnessing a world wonder like the Grand Canyon. Walking the Rim Trail, for example, you will hear a wide variety of languages and see many cultures represented from throughout the world. The energy that emanates from such a diverse group of people marveling at nature may even enhance your own personal experience.


Other Considerations

Avoid hiking into the canyon between 10am and 4pm. If you do plan on hiking during the day be sure to bring plenty of water, sun protection, and salty, protein-rich snacks.


To avoid a long wait at the entrance gate of the South Rim, arrive before 9am or after 5pm.


Plan ahead, plan ahead, and…plan ahead. Summer crowds mean that spontaneous adventuring often goes unrealized due to availability. Account for traffic and allow time in your itinerary for busy shuttle services to get you to your destination. Lodging and camping reservations should be made well in advance of your trip, especially if you’re planning to stay in the park itself. You’ll also need to register in advance for specific activities and tours. Backcountry permits are necessary for any camping in the canyon and outside of designated campgrounds, so get yours up to 4 months before your trip before they run out. And educate yourself on the permits required for backpacking excursions to places like Phantom Ranch and Havasupai and apply early—you won’t be allowed to hike without them.


Beat the heat by experiencing the canyon in temperature-controlled environments such as the Visitor Center, museums, galleries and shops. You can also reserve a helicopter or plane tour of the canyon, or check out the Grand Canyon IMAX Theater outside the entrance gate in Tusayan.


Summer in Northern Arizona

Canyon Coaster at Williams Arizona

Wanting to add some Northern AZ fun to your Grand Canyon vacation? Nearby Flagstaff, Williams and Sedona are perfect for additional summer adventuring. Flagstaff is a beautiful place to recreate during summer months and offers tons of concerts, festivals, and markets as well as a bike park and adventure course for enjoying the mild weather. The Arizona Snowbowl ski resort offers scenic and sunset gondola rides on their lifts for beautiful views of the San Francisco Peaks and beyond. Williams has great options for animal and roller coaster enthusiasts, and there are plenty of hiking options throughout all of Northern Arizona that won’t be quite as hot as hiking into the Grand Canyon. For a chance to cool off, consider a watering hole like Grasshopper Point or Slide Rock State Park in Sedona, Wet Beaver Creek, or even Lake Powell. As with the Grand Canyon, just remember that you might be sharing these experiences with many others who travel to the region to get out of the southern Arizona heat.


Fall

  • South Rim: September highs in the 70s, lows in the 40s; highs by November drop to the 50s, lows to the 20s

  • Canyon Floor: September highs in the 90s, lows in the 60s; highs by November drop to the 70s, lows to the 40s and 50s

  • North Rim: September highs in the high 60s, lows in the high 30s; highs by November drop to the 40s, lows to the 20s

  • West Rim: September highs in the 80s, lows in the 50s; highs by November drop to the 50s, lows to the 30s

Fall in Northern Arizona is typically drier, but late summer thunderstorms or early winter storms are possible, making for sudden changes in weather and temperatures.


Canyon Highlights: fall foliage, cooler temps for hiking, fewer people, lower prices


Fall Foliage at the Grand Canyon

By fall, kids are back in school and fewer trips are planned, diminishing crowds and allowing for a more leisurely exploration of the canyon. Temperatures are still warm enough for rim activities, and fall can actually be one of the best times to hike in the canyon. Remember those temperature variations from the rim to the canyon floor? Even if there’s a chill up top, your journey below the rim will be much more pleasant this time of year. If you’re interested in the canyon’s wildlife, this season tends to yield more animal sightings—lower temps and fewer people mean more animals make an appearance in the park. Fewer people will also make many canyon experiences more enjoyable. Popular scenic viewpoints like the Rim Trail and Mathers Point are less crowded and more accessible, and touring indoor attractions such as the Yavapai Geology Museum and the Kolb Studio can be done more at your own speed. Planning ahead is still recommended, but lodging and various tours are usually easier to find and often a bit less expensive. It’s also a great time to visit the North Rim before it closes in mid-October. You’ll miss the summer crowds and get to enjoy picturesque fall foliage on display.


Other Considerations

Because of the changes in temperature during the fall, weather can be unpredictable and challenging if you’re not prepared. Plan outdoor excursions carefully and bring appropriate gear and attire for sudden changes in temperature and weather conditions.


If snow makes an early appearance in the canyon, take extreme caution when hiking. Freezing nighttime temps can make trails slippery.


Late fall (as well as winter and early spring) is a great time to hike to Havasu Falls, and after being closed for several years due to COVID, the Havasupai Indian Reservation is open to visitors again in 2023. Check out the Havasupai Reservation website for updated information on prices, deadlines, etc. because competition for these permits is steep. There are currently no available permits left for 2023, but come February 1, 2024, there should be another reservation window.


Fall in Northern Arizona

Northern Arizona Fall Foliage

Stunning fall foliage displays can be found elsewhere in Northern Arizona, notably in Flagstaff, Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona, and the Verde Valley. If you have the time (and a high clearance vehicle) consider taking the Around the Peaks Loop near Flagstaff in late September/early October. A back-road journey along 44 miles of forest service roads takes you through gorgeous aspen groves and meadows around Arizona’s tallest mountain including the popular Lockett Meadow. Or at least drive up the mountain to see the leaves or take a scenic gondola ride at Snowbowl. Another drive along State Highway 260 takes you through the White Mountains near Pinetop and Lakeside with plenty of colorful fall leaves and picnic locales to enjoy along the way. Or kick off the fall season with festive family activities at Mortimer Farms Pumpkin Fest and Corn Maze in Dewey, AZ.


Winter

  • South Rim: December highs in low 40s, lows in high teens and low 20s; January highs in low 40s, lows in the teens; February highs in mid 40s, lows in low 20s

  • Canyon Floor: highs in 50s and 60s, lows in 30s and 40s (but can vary significantly as cold air gets trapped in canyon)

  • North Rim: December highs in low 40s, lows in low 20s; January highs in 30s, lows in mid teens; February highs in high 30s, lows in high teens

  • West Rim: highs generally in 50s, lows in 20s

Winter in Northern Arizona is cold and snowy with plenty of sunshine between storms. Expect winter weather road conditions and occasional closures.


Canyon Highlights: fewest people, coolest temps for hiking, snowy photo ops, most affordable


Winter at the Grand Canyon

Despite being the coldest months, December–February can be a great time to go to the Grand Canyon, so don’t rule out this off-season in planning an excursion. A winter visit might just be the peaceful and unexpected delight you didn’t know you needed. Winter at the canyon is a photographer’s dream. Clear post-storm skies and lower sunsets and sunrises make for great visibility and unique lighting and color patterns along the canyon walls. Fewer people means a quieter, more contemplative experience as well as less competition for backpacking permits and trips to Phantom Ranch and Havasupai. Snow dusting makes for one of a kind views and pictures that can only be captured during this quiet time of year. You’ll also find the best availability and most affordable accommodations and rates during the winter months. Roads are less congested, and some roads that are usually only open to shuttle buses are temporarily open to the public such as Hermit Road (December–February). Hopi Point on Hermit Road has some of the best sunset views in the park, and winter is the only season in which you can see them on your own. And don’t forget hiking in the canyon. With warmer temperatures on the way down and at the river, winter can actually be a perfect time to take on the challenge.

Other Considerations

As previously mentioned, the North Rim is closed from mid-October to mid-May, so don’t count on seeing that part of the park during a winter visit. That said, with a backcountry permit you may camp at and access parts of the North Rim during the winter. Check the National Park Services website for details on access and winter guidelines.


Winter weather can be extreme and unpredictable at the canyon and result in road, trail, and attraction closures. Be prepared for significant weather changes and regularly check the National Park Services website for updates on closures and attraction hours. Fog can also affect views of the canyon, but it usually lifts by mid-day. Plan scenic viewing accordingly.


If you’re travelling to and from the canyon via Highway 180, beware of ski traffic. The Arizona Snowbowl ski resort opens at 9am and closes at 4pm, so traffic picks up between 3:30pm and 5pm from Snowbowl Road to Flagstaff along 180.



Winter in Northern Arizona

Arizona Snowbowl Ski Run

Northern Arizona is truly a winter wonderland for those who love the snow. It may surprise you to learn that Flagstaff ranks as the third snowiest city in the United States, beating more obvious contenders like Buffalo, NY and Duluth, MN. It’s also one of the sunniest cities, and this combination makes for excellent snow recreation conditions. Located on Humphreys Peak, the tallest of the San Francisco Peaks and the highest point in the state, the Arizona Snowbowl is the perfect destination for skiers and boarders with 55 runs and 8 lifts. The mountain is right off of Hwy 180 on the way to the Grand Canyon, and season and day passes, rentals, food and lodging are all available onsite or nearby. Not far from Snowbowl is the Arizona Nordic Village from which you can cross-country ski or snowshoe on a variety of trails. Flagstaff Snow Park at Fort Tuthill is also a great option for snow play with groomed tubing trails, passive snow play areas and food and merchandise trucks. And Williams, AZ has snow tubing fun at Canyon Coaster Adventure Park.


Spring

  • South Rim: March highs in low 50s, lows in mid 20s; April highs in low 60s, lows in low 30s; May highs in low 70s, lows in high 30s

  • Canyon Floor: March highs in low 70s, lows in high 40s; April highs in low 80s, lows in mid 50s; May highs in low 90s, lows in low 60s

  • North Rim: March highs in mid 40s, lows in low 20s; April highs in low 50s, lows in high 20s; May highs in low 60s, lows in mid 30s

  • West Rim: March highs in low 60s, lows in mid 30s; April highs in high 60s, lows in low 40s; May highs in low 80s, lows in low 50s


Spring is often breezy, even windy, without much precipitation. Late frosts and snowfall are possible through June.


Canyon Highlights: flowers, wildlife, cool temps for hiking, fewer people, lower prices


Beautiful View of Grand Canyon

Spring at the Grand Canyon can be similar to a fall experience. There are fewer people, and it is less expensive and easier to get reservations for lodging and activities. Excursions along Desert View Drive and at its various lookout points and hiking trails are much more accessible, as are other attractions within the park. Instead of viewing fall foliage you’ll have the pleasure of seeing the canyon in bloom. Flowering cacti, Indian Paintbrush, and Evening Primrose are just a few of the many beautiful flowers that might make an appearance this time of year. You might even catch a late snow dusting that will provide a striking backdrop for the spring blooms and wildlife. Baby animals born from fall mating might be spotted near and throughout the canyon, and hiking inside the canyon is just about perfect late in this season because of the warmer temperatures that greet you as you descend. You’ll notice a hopeful energy throughout as the canyon’s unique ecosystem wakes from cold winter months and welcomes rebirth and growth.


Other Considerations

The one big exception to spring having fewer park visitors is Spring Break. This usually falls around the third week in March, and during this time you’ll see crowds rivaling or even surpassing busy peak summer months. Follow the same suggestions mentioned for summer visits to the canyon to avoid unexpected delays and missed opportunities.


As with fall, weather can be a little tricky during this transitional time of year. Be aware that late snowstorms and freezes can still leave trails with dangerous patches of snow and ice. So dress in appropriate layers and watch your footing.


Late spring is a great time to visit the Grand Canyon West Skywalk to avoid summer crowds and high temperatures.



Spring in Northern Arizona

Petrified Wood

Speaking of baby animals, you won’t want to miss a trip to Bearizona in Williams, AZ. As you drive through the park you’ll likely see more animal activity than in summer because of the lower temps, but best of all you might get to see some new spring arrivals. Spring is also the perfect time to visit nearby attractions that tend to heat and fill up during the summer months. Slide Rock State Park and other red rock attractions in Sedona are less crowded this time of year. Petrified Forest National Park near Holbrook is a fascinating hub for geology, paleontology and archeology. And if you can’t get enough of the dinosaurs there, don’t miss the dinosaur tracks near Highway 160 in Tuba City. A knowledgeable Native American Guide will take you on a hike to see hundreds of tracks embedded in stone from the Jurassic period, and you won’t overheat in the process. If you want to go as far south as Phoenix, the Desert Botanical Garden is abloom with gorgeous flowering cacti during wildflower season (February–May) and you’ll catch some mild temperatures before the heat of summer sets in. Baseball fan? Check out a Spring Training game before you make your flight out of PHX.



A Destination for All Seasons

Backland Glamping Tent



Weather and crowds are often unpredictable, and we can’t guarantee that your unique Grand Canyon experience will stick to these estimations we’ve provided. One thing we can guarantee is that Backland Glamping Resort is open March to December to provide an unforgettable stay during your Grand Canyon vacation. Our temperature-controlled luxury tented suites will keep you warm in winter, cool in summer and give you a front-row seat to nature’s beautiful displays in every season.





When is the best time to visit the Grand Canyon and Northern Arizona? Anytime!

If you hope to avoid crowds and extreme temperatures, spring and fall are worth a look. Want to stay warm and enjoy diverse interactions? Plan a summer canyon adventure. And don’t discount winter months for a quieter, more private experience. Remember to do your research, plan ahead, and be prepared for changes in weather conditions. Whatever time of year you choose, the Grand Canyon and Northern Arizona are ready to welcome you for an unforgettable visit making memories that will stay with you season after season.


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