Is it good to visit the Grand Canyon in the winter? Here's what it's like

·3 min read

Winter is coming to the Grand Canyon. Cold, crisp air combined with snow atop red and orange rock formations are highlights of visiting at this time of the year. There also are fewer visitors in winter, so you might find a little more solitude on trails and at overlooks.

But seeing this natural wonder during the winter requires some planning. The days will be shorter, the temps colder, it's often windy, and you mayencounter snowy or icy road conditions.

Grand Canyon National Park wants visitors to know that the South Rim is open all winter, with some modifications to its operations. Here's what the park says people should know about visiting Grand Canyon in the winter.

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Grand Canyon shuttle bus winter schedule

Shuttle buses are operating on a modified winter schedule, according to the park. Bus service may suspended on short notice due to public health concerns or inclement weather. Masks are required on park shuttles and inside all National Park Service buildings.

Here are the bus routes for winter 2021:

  • The Hermit Road Shuttle (Red) Route will be suspended for the season. The road will be open to private vehicles.

  • The Village (Blue) Route and Kaibab (Orange) Route will begin at 6 a.m. daily and stop every 15 to 30 minutes at designated locations. The Kaibab (Orange) Route will run until one hour after sunset. The Village (Blue) Route will run until 9 p.m.

  • The Hikers Express Buses will operate at 8 and 9 a.m. They stop at the Bright Angel Lodge, Backcountry Office and the Grand Canyon Visitor Center on their way to the South Kaibab Trailhead.

A snow storm on the first day of spring hits Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona on March 19, 2020. Due to the coronavirus health emergency, hotels and services are closing but the park remains open on Thursday.
A snow storm on the first day of spring hits Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona on March 19, 2020. Due to the coronavirus health emergency, hotels and services are closing but the park remains open on Thursday.

Grand Canyon winter driving tips

Be prepared for winter driving conditions, including possible snow, ice and high wind. Drive according to the conditions and allow plenty of distance between yourself and other cars. Keep emergency supplies such as blankets, flashlights, water and snacks in your vehicle.

For road and weather information in Grand Canyon National Park, call 928-638-7496.

To check road conditions across Arizona, visit www.az511.gov or dial 511.

Winter camping at Grand Canyon's South Rim

Online reservations for Mather Campground at the South Rim are not taken in December, January and February. Camping is on a first-come, first-served basis using the automated fee machine at the campground entrance. Park officials advise that Mather Campground is often near or at capacity during holiday periods.

Desert View Campground at the South Rim's east entrance is closed for the season. It will be open April 15 through Oct. 16, 2022. Reservations can be made online.

A snow storm on the first day of spring hits Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona on March 19, 2020. Due to the coronavirus health emergency, hotels and services are closing but the park remains open on Thursday.
A snow storm on the first day of spring hits Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona on March 19, 2020. Due to the coronavirus health emergency, hotels and services are closing but the park remains open on Thursday.

Is the North Rim open during winter?

The North Rim ceases operations between Dec. 1 and May 15, when State Route 67 south of Jacob Lake closes for winter. The hotel, restaurants, store and gas station are closed.

The North Rim Campground is available for winter camping but can only be reached by hiking the inner canyon trails from the South Rim or by hiking, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing 45 miles from Jacob Lake.

To camp at the North Rim during winter, visitors need a backcountry permit. One can be obtained by fax, mail request or in person by following instructions posted outside the Backcountry Information Center at the South Rim.

You can connect with Arizona Republic Culture and Outdoors Reporter Shanti Lerner through email at shanti.lerner@gannett.com or you can follow her on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Grand Canyon at wintertime: What to expect, how to prepare