Colder temperatures, shorter days, and snow bring a slower pace to one of the nation's most visited national parks.
After the December holidays, during January and February, winter visitors find paths less traveled throughout the park. Those prepared for ice and snow will find the inner canyon trails a bit quieter and scenic drives less congested.
Dramatic winter storms, bringing several inches of snow, are contrasted with sunny days, perfect for walking along the rim of the canyon. Crisp air and a dusting of snow bring a new perspective to the temples and buttes emerging from the canyon floor and provide a perfect backdrop to view the canyon's flora and fauna.
Visiting & Driving
The South Rim of the park is open year round, and roads are drivable except in inclement weather. Please note, the park's road crew does not use snow melt or salt to minimize snow and ice on roadways but rather uses rock cinders to increase tire traction. Tire chains are generally not required but may be used by any vehicle, especially in snow or slippery conditions.
Before visiting the park, please check Arizona DOT's webpage that provides road closure information, including for Grand Canyon National Park: AZ 511.
You can also check road conditions and closure information by calling the park's Roads Line at 928-638-7496.
Planning a visit for multiple days allows visitors to experience some of these changes, and provides a good chance for a great view of the canyon.
Sand or cat litter (road salt is not permitted in the park)
Focus on Safety
Don’t let winter hazards take you by surprise! Colder temperatures, slippery road and trail conditions, and severe weather can present challenges when visiting Grand Canyon National Park in the winter. Be prepared for your trip and stay alert to have a fun, safe winter adventure. Grand Canyon trails have snow-packed, icy & muddy places.
Slip-on shoe traction devices and trekking poles are recommended. Bring yours with you, or purchase them at shops within Grand Canyon Village (South Rim).
Locations inside the canyon, like Phantom Ranch and adjacent Bright Angel Campground, offer milder temperatures in winter, and backcountry camping permits may be more easily obtained during the winter months than during peak hiking seasons.
Winter hikers and backpackers should be prepared for cold temperatures, icy trails, and short daylight hours. NPS backcountry rangers recommend bringing over-the-shoe-traction devices, trekking poles, extra snacks, flashlights/headlamps, and layered clothing that can easily be added or removed to adapt to a variety of weather conditions.
Mule deer traipsing through fresh snow and bald eagles soaring above the canyon rims are just some of the wildlife spotted during winter.
Many animals slow down for the winter and are seen less frequently, but there is still a chance to see elk, California condors, ravens, and Abert's squirrels along the rim and in nearby ponderosa pine forests.
Most animals in the park have developed some sort of adaptation to the cold weather. Rock squirrels, frequently seen along the rim during summer months, spend the fall caching food and preparing for the cold winter. Although they spend much of the winter in their burrows, they can be spotted along the rim during warmer days.
Mule deer and elk grow thick winter coats to deal with the low temperatures and the Abert's and Kaibab tree squirrels grow fur tassels on their ears to keep out the cold.
A Winter Getaway
A trip to Grand Canyon can be a great winter getaway, especially with careful planning.
The National Park Service Mobile App is a great place to start. You can download the maps and content from Grand Canyon National Park for offline use. It’s especially handy if you’re exploring remote areas or concerned about data limits.