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 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.
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, its roads 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 offers in A Winter Northern Arizona Road Trip.
The Weather at the Grand Canyon in Winter
Average winter temperatures at the south rim are 20-40 degrees F, but by March, that goes up to 55. That means that you will need to bring your cold-weather clothes! As a New Englander, I say it’s not that cold. Even at sunrise, we were comfortable in our fall jackets with gloves and a hat.
And with those temperatures comes the snow! An average of three days in March brings appreciable snow- around 8 inches. Every three days brings a little snow, and 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 snowfall 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 sweltering. 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 of booking 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 it 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 I 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 the Grand Canyon, by car and take the two-hour train ride.
- White water rafting through the canyon 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 in winter.
- I love a good helicopter ride; it would be an incredible way to see the canyon. You can even do this from Las Vegas!
- 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 profoundly spiritual experience and a highlight of my life!
Where to See the Sunrise over the Grand Canyon
A trendy spot for the sunrise is Mather’s Point. I saw the sunrise at Yavapai Point in front of the Geology Museum, which was perfect. The point juts out over the canyon, giving you an excellent view of the depths of the canyon. Despite the chill in the air, there are still crowds, so get there early to get a good spot. Don’t be afraid to branch off onto the trails around the point safely. 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 most significant recommendations for you, staying in the Grand Canyon Village makes a lot of sense. A shuttle 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 room for a very low price. We were delighted 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 on the rim. This hotel has been open since 1905 and has been 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 historical setting of the canyon’s oldest hotel. Be sure to make a reservation for dinner well in advance.
If you are here when it is warmer, camping is a perfect Grand Canyon option.
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, and it is only about three hours away and stunningly gorgeous. Be sure to check it out and then head to Sedona.