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Best Time to Visit Arizona | When to Go & Travel Tips

Best Time to Visit Arizona | When to Go & Travel Tips

If you’re planning a trip to Arizona, you’re not alone. Home to the Grand Canyon, one of the world’s seven wonders, Arizona has an astounding natural bounty.

The Grand Canyon alone is one of the most visited destinations in the U.S., drawing millions of people each year. However, there’s plenty more to love about Arizona, from desert cities to snowcapped mountains.

Arizona has something for every interest and taste, whether you want a luxurious spa and resort in the mountains or a rugged hiking trip.

Arizona’s weather changes drastically from hot and arid to cold and snow. You should investigate the best climate conditions, least touristy seasons, or best bargain months for the trip you have in mind.

Below, we’ll show you the best time to visit Arizona to take advantage of the weather, beat the crowds, or get the cheapest travel package. 

Why You Should Visit Arizona

Image of a woman looking at the red rocks of Sedona for a piece on the best time to visit Arizona

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If you’re reading this article, you probably have a good idea of why you want to visit the Grand Canyon State. Of course, the biggest attraction is the Grand Canyon, a mile-deep, 275-mile long, and 18-mile-wide crater with some of the most majestic scenery on earth.

The Grand Canyon offers: 

  • Trails
  • Hundreds of lookout points
  • Hiking
  • Helicopter and river rafting tours

There are countless ways to experience it. They’re all equally breathtaking.

Arizona has many more natural, urban, and cultural attractions to explore. A quick drive from the Grand Canyon lies Sedona, a beautiful, spiritual town nestled amongst the deep red canyons and rock formations of Antelope Wells and Horseshoe Bend. 

Northern Arizona has incredible skiing in Flagstaff’s Arizona Snowbowl. To the south, Phoenix and Tucson are bustling metropolises with museum districts, universities, great restaurants, and a lively nightlife scene.

Lastly, the best part about visiting Arizona is that there’s never a wrong time to visit weatherwise. If it’s too hot down south, you can head north for cooler temperatures and vice versa. 

Overall Best Time to Visit Arizona

Canal street in Scottsdale pictured during the best time to visit Arizona

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Arizona welcomes visitors year-round due to its arid and sunny weather. That said, Arizona does experience extreme heat during the summer months in the southern part of the state while northern Arizona experiences freezing and heavy snowfall in the winters.

The best time to visit Arizona depends on what part of the state you want to see and what activities you plan to participate in. However, the best weather is usually in the spring or fall, when the temperatures are cool and the rainfall or snowfall is moderate.

If you want to visit Phoenix, Tucson, and the surrounding southern Arizona mountains and desert scenery, the best time to visit would be from October to mid-May.

Southern Arizona is known for its mild, summer-like winters with temperatures averaging 68 and 75 degrees. Springtime in Southern Arizona sees temperatures between 75 and 85 degrees.

If you want to visit the Grand Canyon, the best time is the spring season, from April through June when the temperatures average around 76 degrees. The early summer experiences drier weather, while mid to late summer is more humid, with mild rainfall from Gulf currents.

Finally, suppose you want to visit Flagstaff, Sedona, and other northern Arizona destinations. In that case, the best times are the fall months between September and November, when the weather is in the 60s and lower 70s.

If you plan to visit the Snowbowl, the best skiing months are February through March to catch the best snow cover and powder.

Cheapest Time to Visit Arizona

Arizona desert highway pictured during the cheapest time to visit Arizona

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If you want to save money on flights to Arizona, you’ll find the cheapest time to visit Arizona during the low seasons for each region.

The low season in Phoenix, Tucson, and the southern Arizona national parks is from June to September. You’ll find the cheapest deals on flights and lodging during this time. The summer months present extreme heat, dust storms, and flash flooding. 

If you’re planning a budget trip to the Grand Canyon, the cheapest time to go is from November through February. These are the winter months with the coldest temperatures. You could see snow!

Despite cold weather, there’s nothing more visually stunning than snow-covered canyons. Flights are cheaper and so are off-season rates on hotels and family packages.

The cheapest time to visit northern Arizona is from December through February or the month of April. December through February experience cold, snowy weather, and April experiences strong winds.

The spectacular scenery of snowcapped mountains and red-walled canyons will more than compensate. You can save the ski pass expenses in April while enjoying discounted prices for a luxurious ski resort stay. 

You’ll find the best deals on flights and lodging during the summer. Another cheap season for northern Arizona is from June through August due to the highest volumes of rain.

Additionally, while there are the highest chances for rainy days, Arizona is still an arid state, so you’re guaranteed at least a few sunny days during a summer trip. 

Least Busy Time to Visit Arizona

Sedona pictured during the least busy time to visit Arizona

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Large crowds and hiked-up prices can put a damper on your vacation. Going during the off-season is your best bet if you’re looking to avoid crowds. 

If you want to get the most unfettered views of the Grand Canyon’s north and south rim, the least busy time to visit is from March through May and from September through November.

You’ll beat the summer crowds and experience pleasantly cool weather for less strenuous hikes. The least busy times to visit southern Arizona’s main cities of Tucson and Phoenix are from April to May and September to October.

They’re also the months after spring break and summer break respectively, when most people aren’t traveling. These narrow windows have great weather.

These off-seasons are also great opportunities to look for discounted flights and hotel rates. You’ll also just miss the terrible dust storms that plague the area from July through August.

The least busy time to visit northern Arizona is from June through August and September through November. You’ll beat the crowds and get a better deal on hotels and flights. Just bring warmer clothes when you venture outdoors. 

Worst Time to Visit Arizona

Cactus pictured in Arizona during the worst time to visit

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Arizona’s natural wonders and outdoor appeal are also prone to extreme weather conditions. The worst time to visit Arizona corresponds with the most dangerous weather conditions, whether extreme heat, dust storms, flooding, or freezing.

The worst months to visit the Grand Canyon are the summer months from June through August because they are hotter, muggier, and more crowded than any other season. Since summer break is a highly popular time to travel, hotels and flights are more expensive, too. 

A trip to the Grand Canyon during the summer is still spectacular and a bucket list experience you can enjoy with the whole family. The heat is not as extreme as in southern Arizona, so you can still make day hikes if you get an early start.

The worst months to visit northern Arizona depend on what you have in mind for your itinerary. The snowiest months between December and February are the worst if you aren’t into skiing. If you don’t like big crowds, the summer months would be the worst months. 

Due to very strong winds, the worst all-around month to visit northern Arizona is April. You’ll still get mild weather if you visit during April, but you should be wary of high-altitude hikes.

Southern Arizona encompasses some of the driest and hottest weather in the U.S. Not only is there extreme heat, but within the hottest season, there are also flooding and dust storm seasons. 

The worst season to visit is undoubtedly the summer months, from May through September. Temperatures reach up to 120 degrees during the day, which is far too hot for outdoor activities other than swimming.

July and August experience dust storms and rainstorms, which can lead to mudslides and deadly floods. If you dare to brave the southern Arizona heat, be sure to stay well hydrated and take short hikes or outings in the early morning or nighttime. 

Things to Consider

Camelback mountain pictured overlooking Scottsdale for a piece on the best time to visit Arizona

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Arizona Weather Changes Drastically

Not only does Arizona weather change drastically from North to South and from season to season, but it also experiences a myriad of extreme conditions in a single day.

While days in the desert can be extremely hot, temperatures can drop to freezing at night, so you’ll want to pack clothes for hot and cold weather alike.

Mountain Hiking Preparation

If you’ve traveled to the mountains, you know how temperamental weather patterns can be. Within ten minutes, you’ll be trapped in a windy rainstorm. No matter where you are in Arizona, you should prepare for constant weather changes. This means packing multiple layers of clothing and rain gear.

Stay Hydrated

 Arizona’s super dry temperatures and hot weather will deplete your water stores, and you often won’t know it because you don’t sweat. You should always bring at least a liter of water on any hike or outdoor day trip. Long hikes warrant camelbacks or multiple water bottles as there’s nowhere to buy or refill water. 

Mobility

Since Arizona is a rugged outdoors state, there are a lot of desolate highways and distance between destinations with little public transportation.

It’s best to have a vehicle when traveling to national parks in Arizona. A vehicle gives you a lot more freedom to adjust your schedule if you want to stay later at one destination or leave earlier than originally planned. 

Planning Trips to the Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon receives over 6 million visitors a year, so you should plan your trip wisely, and reserve camping, hotels, and tours with months of anticipation. Lodging and campsites fill up very quickly.

River rafting trips along the Colorado River that run through the Grand Canyon often don’t have openings until the next year Certain regions of the national park close, so you should also check whether the region you want to visit will be open or not. 

Avoid the Busiest Tourist Seasons

The busiest tourist seasons correspond with the highest rates for hotels, flights, and car rentals. The low seasons are the best time to find budget-friendly rates and to avoid large crowds of people.

If you can plan a visit during a month most people work or when schools are in session, you’ll have a more relaxing, streamlined, and cheaper vacation.If you are going to travel during the high season, mid-week trips will be less crowded than weekends.

Frequently Asked Questions

Beautiful resort in Arizona pictured during the best time to visit

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Take a look at some of the most popular questions regarding visiting Arizona:

Do I have to reserve camping, rafting, or hiking tours in the Grand Canyon? 

Since the Grand Canyon is one of the most visited national parks in the nation, campsites fill up quickly during the summer, and they require a backcountry permit.

Rafting trips and riverside hikes must be led by tour companies or require permits that can take as long as a year to process. The summer months are the most popular tourist season, so be sure to book a hotel far in advance. 

What is the best city or town for a relaxation destination?

The best town for a relaxing and picturesque vacation is Sedona. Sedona is full of new-age boutique hotels, shops, and spas. It’s also a known for its scenery, with unparalleled views of Arizona’s mountains, forests, and canyons.

Phoenix also has a popular luxury resort zone that lies right outside the city center, overlooking the southern Arizona mountain ranges.

Where should I go for the best skiing in Arizona?

The 3 most popular skiing destinations are:

  • the Snowbowl in northern Arizona outside of Flagstaff
  • Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley an hour away from Tucson
  • Sunrise Park Resort in eastern Arizona

What airport do I use for the different regions in Arizona?

Phoenix and Tucson- the two largest cities in Arizona- both have international airports and are major hubs for the south and center of Arizona. The Phoenix airport is usually where you fly to get to the Grand Canyon. Yuma and Mesa also have smaller, domestic airports. 

What cultural attractions does Arizona have to offer?

While Arizona is known for its stunning natural scenery and national parks, Arizona’s cultural scene has a lot to offer. Tucson and Phoenix have burgeoning restaurants and nightlife, museum districts, and the state’s biggest universities.

Arizona is also home to many indigenous groups who live on reservations throughout the state. One of the most famous natural attractions on Native American land is Havasupai falls

So, What’s the Best Time to Visit Arizona?

Havasu Falls in Arizona pictured during the best time to go and at Sunset

Edwin Verin/Shutterstock

To recap, the best time to visit Arizona is during the fall and spring, when the weather is mild, dry, and sunny. The cheapest time to visit Arizona is during the off-season which is different for each region.

In the north, the cheapest months are in April and the winter months from December through February. Southern Arizona is best for winter visits. Summer may be cheap, but the extreme heat and severe dust storms can make outdoor activities impossible.

Arizona’s a magical place for exploring the outdoors, and now that you have an idea of the best times to visit, you can start planning a memorable trip.