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Best Time to Visit the Grand Canyon | When to Go

Best Time to Visit the Grand Canyon | When to Go

Wondering the best time to visit Grand Canyon National Park? See the ideal time of year to plan your visit to this vast, awe-inspiring natural formation in Nevada.

Whether you’re planning your trip for great weather, cheaper prices, or smaller crowds, we’ve got you covered with this quick travel guide. 

Why You Should Visit Grand Canyon National Park

Man standing on a cliff at the Grand Canyon during the sunrise

Skreidzeleu/Shutterstock

There’s something almost religious about visiting the Grand Canyon, especially if it’s your first time. Grand Canyon National Park in northern Arizona encompasses 278 miles of incredible trails and views — and of course, the awe-inspiring Grand Canyon. 

This unfathomably deep and sprawling canyon was formed as the winding Colorado River slowly eroded deep channels through banded rock.

Today, the Grand Canyon is more than a mile deep, 18 miles wide, and 278 miles long — bigger than the entire state of Rhode Island, if you can believe it! Photos of the Grand Canyon only hint at the true size and expanse of this famous natural formation.

You won’t understand what all the fuss is about until you’re seeing it with your own eyes. Views of and from the Grand Canyon are often described with words like incomparable, majestic, breathtaking, and mind-blowing.

It’s a wonder anyone can describe the view at all — many are left absolutely speechless when confronted with the actual size and scale of this giant, red-rock canyon in the middle of the desert. The Grand Canyon tells a story of geological history in the layered bands of its famous red rock.

While the Grand Canyon National Park (GCNP) was established in 1919, natural forces have been at work for millions of years to create the stunning gorge that more than 5 million visitors flock to witness in person each year.

Some of the most iconic viewpoints and perspectives of the canyon are on the South Rim side. You can find incredible views from points on the North Rim, too — you just need to know the best!

  • Mather Point (South Main Entrance)
  • Lipan Point (South Rim)
  • Redwall Bridge (North Kaibab Trail)
  • Hopi Point (South Rim Trail)
  • Plateau Point (Bright Angel Trail)
  • Shoshone Point (South Rim)
  • Yavapai Observation Station (South Rim)
  • Desert View Watchtower (South Rim)

When it comes to activities at the Grand Canyon, you won’t run out of things to do. And if you’re up for a real adventure, you can make your way all the way to the bottom to check out Phantom Ranch.

You can even spend the night here and grab a delicious meal to gather your energy for the hike back up to the rim! Day hike or bike along the rim for a less challenging way to experience the canyon.

Take trails that lead deep into the canyon (all the way to the bottom if you’ve got the time and stamina). Transport yourself to an earlier time by descending into the canyon on mules.

Backpack in along steep and challenging trails to camp overnight. Or hop on a boat or raft to see the canyon from a new perspective on the Colorado River. There are lots of options for lodging, food, drinks, and family fun in the park, too.

From the Canyon Village Market and General Store to taverns, coffee shops, food trucks, and dine-in restaurants, you’ll find tons of convenient options right inside the park.

Guided tours and learning adventures happen almost daily during peak season for those want to learn about the geology and history of the Grand Canyon. Ride the Grand Canyon Railway train in from Williams, AZ for easy access to the park.

You can even take a helicopter tour over the canyon to get a unique bird’s eye perspective! Since many of the hotels, restaurants, shops, and visitor centers are closed for a portion of the year, it’s smart to check on the best time to visit Grand Canyon National Park before you start planning your stay.

All the info on when to go is below, from the overall best time to the cheapest and least busy times. You’ll also see the worst time to go and helpful travel tips to make the most of your GCNP trip! 

Overall Best Time to Visit Grand Canyon National Park

Havasu falls pictured during the best time to visit the Grand Canyon

Iacomino Frimages/Shutterstock

  • April-June is the overall best time to visit Grand Canyon
  • Enjoy slightly lower prices and beat peak summer crowds
  • Comfortable highs from low 60s to low 80s

The overall best time to visit Grand Canyon National Park is from April to June. This is the period with the best weather (warm, not stifling hot) and allows you to experience the park before peak summer crowds and higher prices hit. 

From April to June, the Grand Canyon receives very little rainfall — just 1-3 days of rainfall per month on average. This late spring/early summer shoulder season sees fewer visitors than the peak of summer (July and August), and it’s also a lot more comfortable for hiking and camping.

You’ll catch beautiful desert wildflowers in bloom by visiting in late spring. In April, expect low 60s temperatures with May reaching the low 70s and June hitting the low 80s.

With fewer visitors than the peak summer season, prices on lodging and activities around the park take a little dip before things rev up in July.

The entry fee for the park is always the same ($35/vehicle, $30/motorcycle, or $20/individual), but you can plan your visit in mid-April to take advantage of the fee-free day that kicks off National Parks Week!

Summer as a whole (May through August) is the peak season for the Grand Canyon, so it gets pretty crowded as you enter the middle of the summer season.

If you can plan your trip early in the summer season or in late spring, you’ll avoid the biggest crowds, take advantage of slightly lower prices, and enjoy warm (not stifling) weather.

Cheapest Time to Visit Grand Canyon National Park

Image of the Grand Canyon pictured during the cheapest time to visit, the Winter

Doug Meek/Shutterstock

  • November-February is the cheapest time to visit
  • Prices dip on flights, lodging, and activities during winter
  • Take advantage of 2 fee-free days in Nov. and Jan.   

If your main goal for the trip is making it as affordable as possible, the best time to visit Grand Canyon National Park is November through February.

It’s definitely not the most popular time to visit, but that’s one of the reasons you can score amazing deals on flights, lodging, activities, and packages at this time of year!

When it’s most crowded at the Grand Canyon (summer), prices rise as hotels, flights, tours, and activities stay booked up. But in winter, when the steady flow of summer and fall visitors has slowed to a trickle, those prices take a nosedive.

This is the perfect opportunity to do a trip to the Grand Canyon on a shoestring budget. Expect highs in the mid-40s (December and January) to the upper 40s and low 50s (November and February) at this time of year.

Lows get awfully chilly, down to the upper teens and low 20s at night. This could make camping less comfortable, but if you’re planning on taking advantage of super-cheap lodging anyway, that won’t be a concern.

Entry fees are the same year-round ($35/vehicle, $30/motorcycle, or $20/individual), but you’ll have the chance to score free entry on one of the 2 fee-free days during winter.

On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Veteran’s Day, you’ll pay a grand total of $0 to enter the park! If a cheap trip is your goal, these dates are worth taking note of.

Least Busy Time to Visit Grand Canyon National Park

Man on a rock ledge pictured during the least busy time to visit the Grand Canyon

Galyna Andrushko/Shutterstock

  • September-November and December-February see fewer tourists
  • Temperatures, tourists, and prices drop during these periods
  • Some trails, lodging, and park services are closed

If you want to go when crowds are thin with uninterrupted views of the canyon, the best time to visit Grand Canyon National Park is September-November and December-February.

These periods take advantage of the low visitor numbers in fall and winter to give you a more peaceful experience at the park. Right after the peak summer season, visitors decrease dramatically in September, October, and November.

The kids are back in school after the summer break, temperatures are dropping within the park (low 50s-upper 70s), and seasonal closures begin to take effect.

These factor into the lower visitor numbers at this time of year, but it won’t make the park any less enjoyable for you! It’s a lot more calm and empty at the Grand Canyon in winter.

In December, January, and February, the number of visitors to Grand Canyon National Park is even lower than in the fall. Temperatures drop further (highs in the mid-40s and lows in the upper teens), shuttles stop running, the entire North Rim area and related services are closed, and some in-park lodging is closed for the winter.

But South Rim trails are open year-round, many lodging spots are open with lots of vacancies (and cheaper rates), and many tours and activities on the South Rim still happen on a limited basis.

You can take mule trips down into the canyon, enjoy seeing the Grand Canyon in snow, and benefit from cooler temperatures and less-intense sun that’s less likely to leave you with a sunburn after a long hike. 

Worst Time to Visit Grand Canyon National Park

Image of a large crowd pictured during the worst time to visit Grand Canyon National Park

Scott Chapman/Shutterstock

  • July and August are the worst months to visit
  • Hot weather, more rain, and intense sunrays
  • Peak summer season with biggest crowds

The weather is pretty hot and can get wet during this time (82F-85F with the most rainfall of the year). It’s not a ton of rain — after all, we’re talking about the desert here — but there are an average of 5-6 rainy days per month.

Compare that to the slightly cooler and less-crowded May and June, which receive 1-2 days of rain on average. On the bright side, everything’s open and in full swing at this time of year (including the North Rim, all services and shuttles, and more available slots for tours and activities).

You’ll just have to slog through a lot of heat, possible sunburns, and crowded trails while jockeying for clear views of the canyon. 

More Things to Consider

Image of the stairway to heaven pictured during the best time to visit the Grand Canyon

Tom Runge/Shutterstock

Now that you know the best time to visit Grand Canyon National Park for ideal weather, prices, and smaller crowds, let’s talk about the things you might not think about while planning.

These are the travel tips every Grand Canyon visitor needs to see before they book a trip and head to the great gorge!

  • Know about park entry fees and fee-free days. Grand Canyon National Park charges $35/vehicle, $30/motorcycle, or $20/individual for entry, year-round. There are 5 annual fee-free days when it’s totally free to enter the park. Learn more about fees and fee-free days here
  • Pay attention to seasonal closures. From mid-October to mid-May, the entire North Rim of the park shuts down for the season as temperatures drop and snow begins to fall on the colder side of the canyon. South Rim shuttle services stop running at the end of May, bicycle rentals close up shop at the end of October, and you may run into some lodging, restaurants, and visitor centers that close during the winter. Plan your trip around the services and openings you don’t want to miss! 
  • Temperatures fluctuate a lot. While there are good guidelines in terms of average highs and lows, temperatures in the Grand Canyon shift a lot by the season, area, and elevation you’re in. It’s much colder on the North Rim side, where the elevation is higher, and temperatures can drop quickly as the sun sets in the canyon. If you plan to hike overnight or camp — even in summer — bring lots of layers and blankets to keep warm as temps drop overnight. 
  • Use the free shuttle service. Trans-Canyon shuttles transport you between the South Rim and North Rim at no charge. There are 4 South Rim shuttles (also free) to cart you around to different trailheads and overlook areas so you can access the best views. Shuttles can take you where private vehicles aren’t permitted to go, and it’s a great way to get around the park without losing your parking spot. 
  • Decide where you want to enter the park. You can enter GCNP from the North Rim or South Rim, but the South Rim is much more popular. It’s easier to access and open year-round, while the North Rim closes to traffic from mid-October to mid-May. You might want to enter at the North Rim entrance to avoid bumper-to-bumper traffic in the peak summer season. 
  • Consider taking the train into the park. If you’d rather relax and take a train into the park, the Grand Canyon Railway offers round-trip rides into the park (and lodging packages) from nearby Williams, AZ. Park your car at the depot, ride into the park, and the train will bring you back to your car. This is a great way to avoid the hectic summer traffic into the park! Learn more here.

So, What’s the Best Time to Visit Grand Canyon?

Gorgeous view of a sunset over the North Rim during the best time to visit Grand Canyon National Park

Erik Harrison/Shutterstock

Overall, the best time to visit Grand Canyon National Park is sometime between April and June. It’s nice and cool in April, progressively warming up to the low 80s by June. Visitor numbers are picking up, but it’s not yet the height of peak summer season.

The weather is dry and warm. By the time May and June roll around, the North Rim is open and all services (shuttles, tours, etc.) are open and running full-swing.

The Cheapest Time to Go

For the cheapest trip, the best time to visit Grand Canyon National Park is in November through February. The colder winter months mean there are fewer visitors coming to stay.

So lodging and flight prices take a major dip. You can take advantage of 2 fee-free days during November and January and enter the park for free!

The Least Busy Time to Go

For the least-crowded trip, the best time to visit Grand Canyon National Park is September through November and December through February. The fall and winter months see the fewest visitors for a few reasons.

These include the closed North Rim side, limited park services and tours, and colder temperatures. If you can handle the chilly temps, this is the least busy time to go and you’ll save money with cheaper prices on flights and lodging!

The Worst Time to Go

Just try to avoid going to the Grand Canyon in July or August — these are the worst months to visit. It’s the hottest time of the year here, the summer crowds reach their peak.

And you’ll find it harder to get great views of the canyon with so many others on the trails and overlook areas. Prices on flights and lodging are also at their peak during this time. 

Final Thoughts

Armed with all the info you need on the best time to visit Grand Canyon National Park, it’s time to start planning your trip! Check out the guides below to learn more about visiting Arizona or another awe-inspiring national park.