Imagine looking at an enormous layer cake--300 miles long--alternately bathed in white icing and stunning carrot orange. That's what it's like to visit Arizona's Grand Canyon in winter after a snowfall. It's an experience that everyone should have.
There are other reasons as well to plan a winter trip to this awe-inspiring crevice carved by the Colorado River. For one, hotels are cheaper in down season in Grand Canyon Village and tourists will enjoy cool temperatures (instead of scorching sun). Read on to find out more about visiting the Grand Canyon during the "secret season."
Most people who head to the Grand Canyon expect amazing sights. This natural feature has dropped jaws in every season ever since humans encountered it thousands of years ago. While each season at the Grand Canyon offers its wonder, winter landscapes here are especially divine. The Arizona sky is at its clearest in the winter, so fewer clouds, and less rain, or fog will disrupt visitors' views of its scalloped cliffs. Those lucky enough to visit after a dusting of snow will drink in delicious, layered landscapes with alternating lines of white, brown, red, and orange.
It's worth noting that only the more frequented South Rim remains open in the winter, while the North Rim closes due to its higher altitude. This may disappoint some visitors, but the unique winter landscapes with fewer tourists more than make up for it.
According to the National Park Service, the South Rim receives an average of 58 inches of snow every year. People who experience a snowstorm during their visit may have to deal with road closures and other inconveniences.
Smart Travel Tip: Always check the forecast and NPS advisory webpage before heading to the Grand Canyon.
No Waiting In Line Or Scorching Sun At The Grand Canyon In Winter
Anyone who Googles images of "Grand Canyon traffic" will find photos should long lines of vehicles waiting to enter the national park and parking lots filled to brimming. These images are enough to discourage many a traveler from setting out for the Grand Canyon. Fortunately, these tedious scenes most often play out in the summer. So, anyone visiting in winter shouldn't have to worry about waiting in line, fighting with crowds, or finding a parking spot. This improves the quality of the experience by leaps and bounds.
The high temperatures recorded in the park, especially at the bottom at Phantom Ranch, are another deterrent to visiting the park in the summer. The National Park Service reports summer temperatures of over 100 degrees but advises guests that it can feel much hotter in the direct sunlight. Hikers often suffer from dehydration and sun sickness. This isn't as much of a worry in the winter and it's another reason to take advantage of the secret season.
Visiting The Grand Canyon In The Winter Can Be Cheaper
Budget Your Trip reports that visiting the Grand Canyon for a week can set travelers back by $911 per person. That's pretty steep. Visiting in winter can reduce this cost slightly since hotels often charge less during the low season.
Consider accommodation in Grand Canyon Village. According to a recent Expedia search, reserving a double room at the Best Western Premier Grand Canyon Squire Inn for a single night in mid-July costs $321. The value of staying in an equivalent room in mid-January is $188. That indicates savings of more than $50 per person.
One of the easiest (and cheapest) ways to get to the Grand Canyon is flying into Las Vegas and renting a car. Although this requires a four-and-a-half-hour drive, the city's airport is large and offers great deals on flights. In addition, according to Sky Scanner, the cheapest time to fly to Las Vegas is in the winter months: January, February, and March. That means that travelers will save on their flights and accommodation.
Other costs, like rental cars, food, and park admission remain the same throughout the year. Winter visitors may even find that they have fewer options since some restaurants and shops open only seasonally.
Overall, the benefits of visiting the Grand Canyon in winter outweigh the cons by a far shot. Travelers will find themselves enjoying beautiful landscapes against clear skies. They'll pay less for the experience and will be able to take in the natural beauty without being harassed by throngs of loud tourists. That means it's time to pull out the travel calendar and start planning a winter visit to the Grand Canyon.