Thursday, October 27, 2016


Visiting the Grand Canyon During Winter

Wintertime at the Grand Canyon affords visitors to this iconic American landmark some of the most dynamic vistas. As an added bonus, the colder temperatures and shorter days result in fewer hikers on the trails and less traffic on the scenic drives. You can also take advantage of lower hotel rates during the off-season. Those willing to brave the cold will be rewarded with a unique experience at the Grand Canyon.


According to the National Park Service, “winter conditions at the South Rim can be extreme; Expect snow, icy roads and possible road closures. Temperatures are low, and with the wind-chill factor can at times drop below zero degrees. Canyon views may be temporarily obscured during winter storms; in such cases, entrance fees are not refundable. The North Rim is closed in winter.”

With that in mind, you’ll want to take special precautions when visiting Grand Canyon in winter. You may not need tire chains, but they’re good to have with you while you drive in and around the park. Other useful items to store in the car include a small shovel, ice scraper and road salt. As far as clothing goes, layers are key. Why not throw some gloves, knit hats and scarves in the backpack? Like momma always said, “It’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.” If you’ll be hiking while at the canyon, boots with aggressive treads and walking sticks are imperative. Always wear a good pair of sunglasses while exploring the park. This is especially true when the ground is covered in snow, which reflects the sunlight, magnifying your eyes’ exposure to harmful UV rays.

One alternative to driving on potentially snowy roads is to park your vehicle in the town of Williams, about 60 miles outside the park, and take the historic Grand Canyon Railway. Passengers will be dropped off at the picturesque log depot at the South Rim. Families looking to capture the holiday spirit will love Grand Canyon Railway’s Polar Express. The classic children’s book, The Polar Express, comes to life starting annually in November and ending in early January.

Hiking the rim is a must. It’s less common for rim trails to get snowed in. They’re also much less strenuous than other trails such as Grandview Trail, which is north facing and tends to turn around unprepared hikers due to the combination of narrow sections of trail, exposure and ice. If a winter storm obscures your view of the canyon, which happens occasionally, take the family for some hot chocolate at El Tovar. This historic hotel, built in 1905, affords visitors a chance to warm their extremities by the roaring fireplace in the lobby. Winter storms tend to pass through the canyon quickly. Once you finish your hot chocolate and can feel your toes again, the storm should have passed.

If you’ll be taking on any extended hikes, be sure to check in with the Backcountry Information Center. Check out our introductory guide to hiking the Grand Canyon backcountry for more helpful information. So don that heavy coat and make your way out to the Grand Canyon this winter. You might just have this stunning panorama all to yourself. Be sure to like the VegasDaze Facebook page for more Grand Canyon travel advice and recommendations.

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