With such divergent elevations, from 2000 feet to over 8000, the Grand Canyon boasts many climate variations. When you are familiar with what this huge canyon area has to offer, you can determine not only the best time to come, but also the right way to pack.
Springtime in the Grand Canyon (March to June)
During spring, the weather is mild and rainfall the lowest of the year in May and June. It takes until around the middle of April for winter to break and allow the warmth of spring to filter through the Grand Canyon. However, the weather can still hold some surprises, with pleasant temperatures turning cold or rainy quite rapidly. It's even possible to get a late snow in May on the South Rim and as late as June on the North Rim.
In April on the rim, the daytime temperatures range from the 50s to the 60s, rising to the 70s or 80s by June.
With fewer crowds, you can get a little more elbowroom to move about and enjoy the sights. If you want to go rafting, you can take part in this exciting venture as early as April. These trips run through to October. Of course, you can take part in all adventures on the North or South Rim, such as hiking and ranger programs. But you'll need to be prepared for cold nights.
Always pack an extra sweatshirt or jacket. It can get windy and you need to stay warm! Also don't forget rain gear. The chance of rain is high in the springtime.
Summertime in Grand Canyon (June to September)
Summer is beautiful in Grand Canyon National Park. June will show a month with some of the lowest rainfall, with August coming in as the month with the highest amount. The July, August and September thunderstorms can come in rapidly and are awesome in the shows they put on across the canyon and rims. They can also be a bit dangerous with large hail and damaging winds.
Temperatures at the North Rim are generally a bit cooler than the South Rim due to the increase in elevation. But in the summer you'll find temperatures in the daytime in the 80s. On the North Rim, daytime temperatures range in the 70s. If going down into the canyon, you'll find temperatures are extreme, with daytime highs often exceeding 105°F.
Summer is busy in Grand Canyon, and if coming during this popular vacation season, you should book well ahead for special attractions, such as mule rides, helicopter tours and the like. Everything is open and everything is busy. I recommend allowing yourself plenty of time to get around and see the sights.
Some things not to forget when packing for a summer vacation at the Grand Canyon are sunscreen, cool clothing and extra shoes if you want to hike. It gets dusty!
Fall in the Grand Canyon (September to December)
The fall is a great season to come to Grand Canyon. The weather is usually mild during the period from September to October and the crowds are less. But always be prepared, because like anytime in this fabulous wonderland, the weather can change rapidly. The summer rains will lessen by the middle of September.
The daytime temperatures will gradually fall from the 60s in September to the 50s by November.
Remember, the North Rim closes in November or early December, depending on when the first heavy snow falls. So plan accordingly. The rafting season goes into October, so you can still have a great water experience in the canyon.
Pack smartly by not forgetting extra jackets and other warm clothes, as the nights get downright chilly.
Winter in Grand Canyon (December to March)
Winter conditions can be extreme in the Grand Canyon, but it is a lovely time to come just the same. Imagine the beauty of seeing fog forming, giving you only glimpses of the sides of the canyon. In late winter and early spring, you may see this in the morning, but you should get out early as it usually breaks up quickly.
Starting in November, the temperatures drop until daytime temps only make it into the 40s. On the rim, snowfall can be expected to average around 50 to over 100 inches each year.
Perhaps winter doesn't seem to be the best time to vacation in Grand Canyon, but it's actually my favorite time to come. There are no crowds and you get some well-deserved solitude to go about your sightseeing. Of course, nighttime temperatures in the winter will get below freezing on many occasions. This will likely rule out camping for you! But for traversing the park and taking to some of the trails to see the sights, it might be the best time of all. Just be ready for reduced services and limited access to attractions and ranger programs.
Although the North Rim is closed to vehicles, if you like to cross-country ski or have snowshoes, you can get permission from the backcountry office and go from Jacob's Lake to the North Rim.
Packing is easy. You bring plenty of cold-weather gear! This certainly includes a parka!
Other things to bring no matter the season
- Shampoo, toothpaste, soap, etc.
- Battery alarm clock
- Camera gear
- Extra filmcard or film and charger
- Plenty of batteries
- Backpacks for carrying cameras, water and snacks
- Hiking boots
- Wet Wipes for cleaning up
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