As a popular destination with excursions often booked up months in advance, the Grand Canyon is an experience that differs greatly depending on the time of year you visit. There are pros and cons to any season, so, to help you make the best decision for the type of vacation you’re looking for, here is a list of things to consider:
In summer, the park area can be anywhere from 40–85 degrees Fahrenheit (4–29 degrees Celsius), depending on your altitude and the time of day. Winter months bring frost and snow, which closes the North Rim to visitors for most of the season, but the South Rim is still hikeable and significantly less crowded than in summertime. Just make sure to bring appropriate clothing, like waterproof shoes and lots of layers.
Like anywhere, peak season means more foot traffic and less availability when making reservations. If summer is your only time to go, book early and have a solid plan. March, April, and October are good months to go if you want to slip in on the sides.
Most of the animals you’ll find emerge at dawn or dusk. Bring binoculars no matter what time of year you visit. Sightings of certain species are rare, but many have been recorded, such as coyotes, deer, rattlesnakes, foxes, hawks, lizards, bats, and mountain lions. Never feed animals—not only is it illegal, but it encourages them to ask for food and thus puts their lives and visitors’ more at risk. As for photo opportunities (or just enjoying the scenery, camera-free), springtime is by far the loveliest season, with some bright blossoms and blooming cacti.
The Grand Canyon Music Festival (Aug–Sept), Star Party (June), and Celebration of Art (Sept–Nov) are fun to be there for, but they also bring loads of people. Be aware of when things are happening—and, of course, get involved if it’s something you might be interested in! It’d be a shame to get there just after something exciting ended.
Overall, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Book ahead, wear sunblock even if it’s cold and windy, and don’t forget to bring backup clothing—the altitude changes drastically on hikes, and temperatures can rise or fall very quickly!