They didn’t name it the Grand Canyon for nothing… it’s literally every bit of jaw-dropping beauty that everyone describes it as. And if anyone says they were underwhelmed by it you absolutely cannot trust that person because they are a psychopath. Kidding… mostly. ANYWAY, my first introduction to this incredible natural wonder was visiting the Grand Canyon in winter and it’s definitely different than what most people experience when they visit. And not different in a bad way, just not what you see when you scroll through #GrandCanyon photos on Instagram. Unless you’re looking at my Grand Canyon Instagram highlight, then you’ll see the snow up close!
But seriously, snow in the Grand Canyon is absolutely stunning and worth visiting for sure. Based on my day at the Grand Canyon in winter, I’ve got five tips that I think would make the experience better for anyone planning their trip in the snow.
Tip #1 – Keep an Eye on Road Closures
There’s about a 99.999% chance if you’re visiting the Grand Canyon in winter you’re visiting the south rim. I don’t even think the north rim is open during the winter months due to safety reasons.
You’ll want to make sure to plan ahead so you know where you’re staying and what roads are open while in the south rim you’re there. The Grand Canyon website is super helpful and will list the road closures and weather alerts on their alert page, so absolutely keep an eye on that so you can plan your day accurately.
Tip #2 – Pay Attention to the Weather
This seems pretty obvious but seriously, keep an eye on it. If you’re not from Arizona and all you think about when it comes to Arizona is desert and palm trees, you’ll be in for a shock. The drive from Flagstaff to the south rim was one of my favorite winter weather experiences ever. The snow was perfect, the trees were tall, and it was a winter wonderland for sure. In Arizona, you ask? Hell yeah, I say!
Winter weather storms form in a drop of a hat around the south rim, and that’s what happened to us. We drove up from Scottsdale the night before we were planning to do a sunrise hike in 50 degree weather the next morning. Within hours that 50 degrees turned into a seven inch snowstorm. We had to change our plans at the drop of a hat and instead of going for a sunrise hike we simply wandered around the open viewpoints. So while we wanted to do some Grand Canyon winter hiking, we weren’t able to because it would have been dangerous to do so. It is very important to let the weather dictate your Grand Canyon winter trip, because your safety is the most important thing.
But seriously look at this gorgeous snow on these tall trees on the drive up to the to the Grand Canyon in winter. I could not stop talking about how pretty this winter wonderland was.
Tip #3 – Wear Warm Footwear
I can’t recommend anything quite as much as warm footwear while you’re there. Your feet will be cold if you’re not prepared. I had my go-to Timberland hiking boots and some super thick socks and I was completely comfortable. My friend however had some super cute, not-at-all for winter riding boots and was dying after a couple of hours. So, if you’re going to the Grand Canyon in winter, you MUST have warm feet.
Tip #4 – Be Flexible with Your Plans
Because there may be winter storms or other winter weather, you might have to be a little flexible when it comes to your plan for the day. We got there rather early in the morning and had a couple of good hours of visibility before some winter clouds took over the sky, covering most of the canyon views. If you can schedule your trip so that you have a couple of days you can choose from to visit the Grand Canyon, you’ll be more successful in getting those incredible views you’re expecting.
Tip #5 – Explore the Area
I already knew the Grand Canyon in winter is going to be an absolute dream. But what I didn’t know how gorgeous the drive around the park would be in the snow. It’s seriously a winter wonderland; it’s like driving through a snow globe. I highly recommend exploring and stopping in the snowy woodlands. There are spots to pull over, get out, and even hike a little bit if you want to everywhere. If we hadn’t made a couple of these stops I truly feel like I’d have missed out.
So there you have it, my top five tips for exploring the Grand Canyon in winter. If you’re thinking about visiting, you’ll love it I promise. And if you do head down there, check out my American Southwest blog posts for some of my favorite spots in the area.