The Grand Canyon is one of the most popular and well-known attractions in the country. With almost 6 million visitors each year, it’s a favorite destination for families and outdoor enthusiasts alike. Located in the northwest part of Arizona, this huge mile-deep canyon was formed from 5 to 6 million years of erosion along the Colorado River.
With the rise of national park tourism during the pandemic, Grand Canyon National Park has become an even more popular place to visit. If you’re planning a trip there, you’re probably wondering when the best time to go is. This post will give you an idea of what you can expect each season and when you should visit based on your interests.
Let’s get to it!
The Grand Canyon at a Glance
In 1908, then-President Theodore Roosevelt declared the area now known as Grand Canyon National Park to be a national monument. It was then established as a national park in 1919 by then-President Woodrow Wilson.
What may surprise you, though, is that Grand Canyon National Park doesn’t include all of the Grand Canyon! The canyon itself covers almost 5,000 square miles, spread out over northwestern Arizona, while the park covers only about 1,900 square miles.
The 2 main areas of Grand Canyon National Park are the South Rim and North Rim. The South Rim has an elevation of about 7,000 feet and is the most accessible and popular of the 2 areas. The North Rim has an elevation of about 8,000 feet and is more difficult to navigate.
A third area, the West Rim or West Grand Canyon, isn’t part of the national park but is a popular section to visit. Most notably, that’s where you’ll find the popular Skywalk attraction, a horseshoe-shaped glass bridge that extends 70 feet into the canyon, giving visitors a direct view to the bottom, 4,000 feet below.
Hot Tip: Deciding which national park to visit? Check out our ultimate guide to all of the U.S. national parks, as well as our guide to virtual tours of iconic U.S. national parks.
The Best Times To Visit the Grand Canyon by Seasons
Spring (March, April, May)
Spring can be a fantastic time to visit the Grand Canyon because temperatures are moderate and the hoards of people you may see in the summer haven’t arrived yet. Highs fluctuate between the low 50s to the low 70s while low temperatures can drop to the 20s and 30s, so you’ll need to pack plenty of layers to adapt to each day’s temperature changes.
While March can see some rain, April and May are some of the Grand Canyon’s driest months.
The North Rim is closed throughout the winter and can still be closed in early spring depending on the weather (it usually opens around March 15) so if you’re planning to visit that area, opt for a visit in the later spring months.
Hot Tip: If you’re planning on doing some hiking during your visit to the Grand Canyon, don’t forget to pack sturdy hiking boots or shoes. You may also want to consider a hiking backpack to store essentials like sunscreen and water.
Summer (June, July, August)
Summer is the busiest season at the Grand Canyon since school is out and the weather is warm. That can lead to large crowds and limited availability at hotels and campgrounds. Summer is also the wettest season in the Grand Canyon with the most rainfall coming in July and August.
When visiting the Grand Canyon during the summer, be prepared for crowds and heat — daytime highs can reach the mid-80s. If you can, try to visit the park early in the day before the sun is scorching. Don’t forget to book your trip early as accommodations, including hotels and campsites, can fill up fast.
The North Rim is fully accessible to visitors during the summer months and it also tends to be a few degrees cooler and less crowded than the South Rim, so it’s a great area to check out during this time.
Hot Tip: The summer, particularly July and August, is the wettest season in the Grand Canyon, so don’t forget to pack waterproof shoes and a rain poncho in case you get caught in a downpour.
Autumn (September, October, November)
Autumn can be a great time to visit the Grand Canyon as temperatures start to cool and crowds start to thin. High temperatures range from the mid-50s to mid-70s with low temperatures ranging from the mid-20s to mid-40s. Again, you’ll need to pack layers if you’re visiting the Grand Canyon in the fall.
While fall, particularly September, can be a fantastic time to visit the Grand Canyon, keep in mind, that once the snow starts to fall, many areas of the Canyon will shut down, most notably the North Rim.
Hot Tip: The Grand Canyon Visitor Center, located in the South Rim, can be a helpful resource to plan your Grand Canyon experience.
Winter (December, January, February)
Not surprisingly, winter is the least crowded time in the Grand Canyon. If you’d like to avoid crowds, this is the time to do it, although be prepared for some chilly temperatures. Highs only get up to the mid-40s with lows dipping into the teens.
The North Rim is closed during the whole winter season, but the South Rim and West Rim (home of the Skywalk) are still open during this time.
- Grand Canyon Celebration of Art (September to January)
Bottom Line: Overall, the best times to visit the Grand Canyon for the best balance between decent weather and minimal crowds are late spring (April, May) and early fall (September).
The Best Times To Visit the Grand Canyon by Interests
The Best Time To Visit the Grand Canyon’s North Rim
If you’d like to visit Grand Canyon’s North Rim, don’t go in the winter because it completely shuts down for the entire season. The North Rim is only open from about May 15 to October 15 each year. While this is a busy tourist time, the North Rim is more isolated than other areas of the park so it tends not to be as crowded. Plus, because it’s a little bit cooler than other areas the summer heat won’t be as oppressive.
The Best Time To Visit the Grand Canyon’s South Rim
The South Rim is one of the most popular areas in Grand Canyon National Park and remains open year-round. It’s here you’ll find the visitor center, bus service, an airport, and plenty of accommodation options. For the best balance of weather and crowds, visit the South Rim during the late spring or early fall. You’ll miss the summer crowds and while the weather is cooler, it’s not as frigid as the winter months.
The Best Time To Visit the Grand Canyon’s West Rim
The West Rim, or West Grand Canyon, isn’t actually part of the national park, but it’s still a popular area for tourists. Its most recognizable attraction is the Skywalk which stands 4,000 feet in the air. The spring is the best season to visit the West Rim to avoid crowds and extreme heat.
The Best Time To Visit the Grand Canyon To Avoid Crowds
If you’d like to avoid crowds when visiting the Grand Canyon, go during the cooler winter months. While you’ll need to dress warmly and take extra precautions, you’ll have the park practically to yourself.
The Best Time To Visit the Grand Canyon To Save Money
Prices will be the least expensive during the Grand Canyon’s low season, which is approximately November through February. While the park will be uncrowded during this time, the weather tends to be cold and parts of the canyon are closed during these months.
The Best Time To Visit the Grand Canyon for Camping
Not surprisingly, the best times to camp in the Grand Canyon are during the shoulder months in the spring and fall when temperatures are mild and crowds are lower. There are more options for camping in the South Rim, but if you’re looking for seclusion, head to the North Rim. Keep in mind the North Rim is only open from mid-May through mid-October.
Hot Tip: If you’ll be camping in the Grand Canyon, don’t forget to pack the essentials you’ll need to make your trip as comfortable as possible.
Cost of Visiting Grand Canyon National Park
You’ll have to pay an entrance fee to enter Grand Canyon National Park.
- Vehicle Permit: $35
- Motorcycle Permit: $30
- Individual Permit (For Entrance by Foot, Bike, Bus, Rail, Raft): $20
Kids 15 and younger are always free.
There are a variety of passes that visitors can purchase to save money on national park entrance fees.
Frequent park visitors might consider getting an America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass for $80 per year which grants access to over 2,000 federal recreation sites, including National Parks which usually charge an entrance fee.
Discounted passes are available to seniors ages 62 and older for $20 per year or $80 for a lifetime pass.
Free passes are available to select groups including:
- Current military members and their dependents, veterans, and Gold Star Family members
- Fourth-grade students and their families
- U.S. citizens and permanent residents with permanent disabilities (lifetime access pass)
- Volunteers with over 250 service hours with participating agencies in the Interagency Pass Program
Fee-free Days in 2022
All National Parks that charge an entrance fee are free on the following days in 2022.
- January 17, 2022: Martin Luther King Jr. Day
- April 16, 2022: First day of National Park Week
- August 4, 2022: Anniversary of Great American Outdoors Act
- September 24, 2022: National Public Lands Day
- November 11, 2022: Veterans Day
The free entrance fee days don’t cover amenity fees or activity fees such as camping, boat launches, tours, etc.
The Grand Canyon is a popular place to visit for a reason — it offers spectacular views and plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventures. Generally speaking, late spring and early fall offer the best mix of mild weather and smaller crowds. July and August are the hottest, wettest months and can have large crowds, so it’s best to avoid those months. The low season from November to February tends to be very cold and some of the park is closed, so it’s best to avoid those months unless you are after total seclusion.
Whenever you choose to visit the Grand Canyon, make sure to take time to slow down, put your phone away, and just enjoy the immense natural beauty this area has to offer.