A trip to the Grand Canyon should be high on any bucket list. I have been there twice and both times have been magical. It is one of those places that is even better and grander than you imagine. Although any visit to the Grand Canyon is spectacular, I love the views from the south rim. Because it is at a lower elevation than the north rim, from there you most fully appreciate the gigantic proportion of the north canyon walls. The only problem with the place is that word has gotten around. What is a traveler to do? Visit the Grand Canyon in winter and get the added bonus of seeing this natural wonder dressed in white. We decided that visiting the Grand Canyon in March was the best time. Winter is starting to thaw, but its beauty and silence are still present.
- 1 The Grand Canyon in Winter
- 2 Can I hike into the canyon in the winter?
- 3 Things to go on your Grand Canyon bucket list
- 4 Where to see the sunrise in the Grand Canyon
- 5 Where to see the sunset at the Grand Canyon
- 6 Where to stay at the Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon in Winter
Can I visit any rim of the Grand Canyon in March?
Although you can hike up to the north rim, the roads into it are closed in the winter. The west and south rim’s roads are open, except in inclement weather. Even better, some roads usually closed to cars in-season are open in the winter on the south rim. Find out more about what each rim has to offer in A Winter Northern Arizona Road Trip.
The weather at the Grand Canyon in Winter
Average winter temperatures at the south rim are around 20-40 degrees F. That means that you will need to bring your cold weather clothes! As a New Englander I say it’s not that cold though. We were actually very comfortable in our fall jackets with gloves and a hat, even at sunrise.
And with those temperatures comes snow! An average of three days in the month of March brings appreciable snow- around 8 inches. Every three days brings a little snow. We were blessed with just a few inches. So travel was easy, but we got to see the canyon with some white. You can see specific snow fall predictions here.
Can I hike into the canyon in the winter?
The weather at the base of the canyon in winter is spring-like, while in the summer it can get ridiculously hot. I am not a heat girl— sorry! So if you aren’t the sort of person that likes to feel like you are in an oven on vacation, hiking into the canyon in winter or spring may be the perfect thing for you.
The main inner trails are open, weather permitting. You have to give yourself flexibility, but you will have a much better chance at being able to book one of the rooms inside the canyon. The rooms at Phantom Ranch are in such high demand that they go by lottery.
Things to go on your Grand Canyon bucket list
- Hiking from one rim to the other- This needs to be done over two days, but is possible any time of the year, conditions permitting.
- Take the train to see the Grand Canyon from Williams. I always love a train ride, so think this is a good idea if you are short on time. It makes the visit easy, but you will miss my last bucket list item. You can stay at their hotel in Williams, about an hour south of Grand Canyon by car, and take the two-hour train ride in.
- White water rafting through the canyon- This is still on my bucket list, but you can read about Leigh’s experience in her best adventure yet. Better yet, you can book your own here, but not for the wintertime.
- I absolutely love a good helicopter ride and it would be an incredible way to see the canyon. You can even do this from Las Vegas! You can book your ride here.
- But the thing that should go highest on your bucket list is free and easy- watch the sun rise and set over the Grand Canyon. It is a deeply spiritual experience and a highlight of my life!
Where to see the sunrise in the Grand Canyon
A very popular spot for the sunrise is Mather’s Point. I saw the sunrise at Yavapai Point in front of the Geology Museum and it was perfection. The point juts out over the canyon giving you an excellent view of the depths of the canyon. In spite of the chill in the air, there are still crowds, so get there early to get a good spot. Don’t be afraid to safely branch off onto the trails around the point. This time of year we were about to drive right to the point and easily park. These roads are closed to traffic in high season.
Where to see the sunset at the Grand Canyon
The most recommended spots to take a shot of the sunset are Hopi Point and Yavapai Point. All of these spots can be accessed by the shuttle bus system in Grand Canyon Village.
Where to stay at the Grand Canyon
Because seeing the sun rise and set at the Grand Canyon is one of my biggest recommendations for you, staying in the Grand Canyon Village makes a lot of sense. There is a shuttle that will take you all around the south rim for free. It is generally pretty expensive to stay in any of the village’s six hotels. Reservations usually need to be made well in advance, but in March we got a great deal and were even able to book an extra room on the day we arrived.
This is where we stayed. We had a spacious, but dated room for a very inexpensive price. The Lodge is being refurbished soon, but we were very happy with the friendly staff, summer camp atmosphere and convenience of staying in the park. It is not far from the rim, set in a wooded area.
El Tovar Hotel
We went to El Tovar Hotel for dinner at their famous Native American-decorated dining room right on the rim. This hotel has been open since 1905 and visited by Presidents Roosevelt, Taft and Clinton. The location is ideal and this would be a great place to stay if you are up for more of a splurge. You can book a room here. The dinner did not impress, but we loved the historic setting of the canyon’s oldest hotel. Be sure to make a reservation for dinner well in advance.
I hope you find the Grand Canyon as magical as I do! Before planning my Grand Canyon trip the nearby Petrified Forest National Park wasn’t on my radar. It is only about three hours away and stunningly gorgeous. Be sure to check it out and then head to Sedona.