Lodges and Glamping

Explore a Snow Kissed Grand Canyon in Winter

Grand Canyon Winter
The South Rim of the Grand Canyon remains open year-round. Credit: Pixabay

As a year-round destination, the Grand Canyon transforms into a snow-kissed desert landscape in winter.  Snow settles on each rock layer and pinyon pine branch around the canyon. With fewer people, winter visitors enjoy a quieter canyon experience and most of the top sights are open year-round. Here’s how to explore the Grand Canyon in winter with kids.

Top Sites at the Grand Canyon’s South Rim

    • Walk along the Rim Trail for views of the Grand Canyon.
    • See a sunset or sunrise at Mather Point or Yaki Point.
    • Tour the Historic Grand Canyon Village, like the El Tovar Hotel along with Bright Angel Lodge.
    • Shop for crafts at the Hopi House.
    • Walk through Kolb Studio.
    • Look over the Grand Canyon edge’s at the Lookout Studio.

A Winter Visit to Grand Canyon

Explore Grand Canyon in winter with your family.
With a blanket of snow, the Kolb Studio along the South Rim glistens in the morning sun. Credit: Catherine Parker

With its easy access from Interstate 40, the south rim of the Grand Canyon offers an ideal stop during a winter road trip. The summer crowds disappear and the canyon offers quiet hikes during the winter.

Grand Canyon National Park at a Glance 

Year Established: 1919
Located: Northern Arizona
Size: over 1.2 million acres
Top Features: Mather Point, Bright Angel Trail and the Historic Grand Canyon Village

 

Read More 

Getaway Guide for the Grand Canyon’s South Rim 
Petrified Forest National Park Guide 
National Parks in Southern California 

Places to go on the South Rim

Grand Canyon Visitor Center

Head to the Grand Canyon Visitor Center first. Find information and maps along with interpretive areas and the introductory film. 

Located next to the main parking area. Note: Closed for 2020. 

Grand Canyon Conservancy’s Park Store

Your source for books and gifts during your visit to the Grand Canyon. 

Located across the from the Grand Canyon Visitor Center. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

Yavapai Geology Museum 

Built in 1928, learn about the geology of the canyon and how it was formed. Also look out of the large windows and it’s especially popular at sunset. 

Located along the rim between the visitor center and Grand Canyon Village. Open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Verkamp Visitor Center 

Built in 1906 by the Verkamp family, it was a kurio shop for decades. Now it’s a smaller visitor center located in the historic village. 

Located in the Grand Canyon Village. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Kolb Studio

Built in 1905, this was a studio for the Kolb brothers, photographers. Located along the South Rim. 

Located in the Grand Canyon Village. Open daily 10 a.m. 3 p.m. 

Hopi House 

Built in 1905, it’s a gift shop dedicated to traditional arts-and-crafts. 

Located in the Grand Canyon Village. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Lookout Studio 

Positioned along the rim, it was built in 1914. It sells rocks and fossils along with souvenirs. 

Located in the Grand Canyon Village. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Grand Canyon Depot 

Walk by the train depot. It’s made of logs and one of three remaining log depots still in existence. Find the Grand Canyon Railroad and the train is in the station most days from noon to 3 p.m. 

Located in the Grand Canyon Village.

Shrine of the Ages

This is a multi-purpose building used for ranger programs and religious ceremonies. 

Located in the Grand Canyon Village and is a separate stop on the blue Village shuttle bus. 

Desert View

Take a scenic drive 25 miles (41 km) east of the Grand Canyon Village. Along the route, you will pass Pipe Creek Vista, South Kaibab Trailhead, Yaki Point, Grandview Point, Moran Point, Lipan Point, Navajo Point and Desert View. The South Kaibab Trailhead is an end point for the Rim Trail/Greenway Trail that runs along the rim. 

In the Desert View area, find Mary Colter’s Desert View Watchtower built in 1932. Designed after traditional southwest architecture, the tower is 70-feet (21m) tall and offer 360-degree views for the top. 

The Desert View area offers a ranger station, general store and deli, bookstore and gas station. 

Note: The East Entrance of the Grand Canyon is closed for 2020. Most buildings are closed at Desert View, including the gas station and the Desert View Watchtower. The parking lot and viewpoints are open.  

The Tusayan Ruins and Museum are also located in this area. Explore the remains of an ancient Puebloan village and find a kiva with interpretive signs. The museums walks visitors through ancient live along the Grand Canyon. Also find a bookstore, restroom and a picnic area. 

Note: Tusayan Ruins and Museum are closed for 2020. 

Hermits Rest

Seven miles (11 km) west of the Grand Canyon Village, find another Mary Colter building along with nine viewpoints. Stop at Trailview Overlook, Maricopa Point, Powell Point, Hopi Point, Mojave Point, The Abyss, The Monument Creek Overlook and Pima Point. 

Hermits Rest was built in 1914 to resemble a miners cabin and part of the structure is buried in the earth. The massive fireplace is made of local stone.  

Hermits Rest is the end point of the Rim Trail and Greenway Trail that runs along the rim. The Hermits Trailhead into the canyon is nearby. 

From March until the end of November, reach the area with a red Hermits Rest shuttle bus and it’s closed to private vehicles. During the winter, private vehicles can drive along the scenic route.  

Explore Grand Canyon in winter with your family.
A hike along the Rim Trail is a must for families, even on a snowy day. Credit: Catherine Parker

Top Day Hikes on the South Rim

Expect snow and ice at any time in the winter on trails. 

Rim Trail—Easy and level 13-mile (20-km) one way paved trail with frequent shuttle stops along its route. Runs from Hermits Rest to the South Kaibab Trailhead. 

Trail of Time—Part of the Rim Trail, the 2.83-mile (4.56 km) one way paved trail runs from the Yavapai Geology Museum to the Grand Canyon Village. The interpretive signs explains the passage of time in the Grand Canyon’s rock layers. 

Bright Angel Trail—A difficult 18-mile (28 km) round hiking path into the canyon. The water supply is cut-off at the 1.5-mile resthouse and the 3.0 mile resthouse for the winter. Snow and ice are common for first 3 miles. 

Tip: Wear appropriate clothes and shoes then pack water and snacks no matter how the length of the hike.

Mule Rides at the Grand Canyon

Since the late 1800s mules have climbed in-and-out of the Grand Canyon carrying cargo and passengers. A mule trip to the bottom of Grand Canyon is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure for many travelers.

The overnight trip to Phantom Ranch departs from the Bright Angel Corral and switch backs down the Bright Angel Trail. Riders enjoy a steak dinner at Phantom Ranch and can swim in Bright Angel Creek. Following breakfast, rider climb out of the canyon via South Kaibab Trail. 

Mule trips require advance planning and reservations are rewarded by lottery for a year in advance. Prices start at $692.59 per person.

Though with less planning, take a two-hour ride near the canyon rim on a mule. In the winter, the mule trip departs at 10 a.m. with two departures from March through October. Prices start from $152.85 per person and reservations required. 

Riders must be at least 9-years-old, four feet, nine inches tall (1.44 m) and weigh less than 225-pounds (102 kg) or 200-pounds (90 kg) for Phantom Ranch trip. South Rim mule rides are offered year-round, regardless of weather so dress accordingly.

Explore Grand Canyon in winter with your family.
Didn’t get the snow boots fast enough before he played in the snow. Credit: Catherine Parker

Grand Canyon with Kids

The Junior Ranger Program is one of the best ways to learn more about this UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s free and takes about two hours to complete. My kids love the patches that the Rangers present them after completing their booklet.

The Grand Canyon Junior Ranger Program has a booklet specially designed for each age group. To earn the Junior Ranger badge, families need to attend a Ranger Program and find a program list at the visitors center.

For night owls, the Grand Canyon offers the Night Explorer Junior Ranger Patch for kids who attend a special Night Skies Ranger Program and complete the booklet that’s available at any visitor center.

If a trip to the bottom of the canyon is in your itinerary, there’s a special Junior Ranger badge. Phantom Rattler Junior Ranger patch is awarded at Phantom Ranch, a 10-mile journey, one-way.

Read More 

Junior Ranger Badge Guide 
Best National Park Books for Kids 

Biking on the South Rim

With frequent snow, biking in the Grand Canyon isn’t advised in winter. The Bright Angel Bicycles is closed for rentals during the winter months.

The History of the Grand Canyon National Park

The first human artifacts found in Grand Canyon National Park date back 12,000 years. Though the Colorado River started carving the Grand Canyon nearly 2 billion years ago. To date, the canyon measures 18 miles wide, one-mile deep and 277 river miles long.

First protected in 1893, the Grand Canyon became a national park in 1919. In 1979 it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

The canyon is surrounded by the Grand Canyon National Park, Kaibab National Forest, Grand Canyon-Parashant  National Monument, Hualapai Indian Reservation, Havasupai Indian Reservation and the Najavo Nation. 

People of the Grand Canyon 

Since the Grand Canyon crosses half northern Arizona, many people call it home and have for thousands of years. The Ancestral Puebloans were the first people to live in the area.

The Hualapai People live on the southern side of the Grand Canyon. For 800 years the Havasupai People have lived on the southern portion of the canyon next to the Hualapai. The Hopi People and the Navajo People live east of the canyon. The Grand Canyon is a sacred place to all. 

The Spanish conquistador García Lopez de Cárdenas saw the Grand Canyon in 1540. Mormon missionaries helped establish a ferry across the Colorado River at the area later named Lees Ferry in the 1850s. 

In 1869 John Wesley Powell set out to explore the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon from Wyoming. The Atkinson, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad arrived at the South Rim in 1901 spurring tourism. 

The Fred Harvey Company and Mary Colter 

In 1876, Fred Harvey opened restaurants and hotels catering to train passengers in Kansas for the Atkinson, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad. The Fred Harvey Company became a standard hospitality while traveling on the train in the Southwest. 

The Fred Harvey Company and the Santa Fe Railroad built several building along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon since it was a major destination for the train. Mary Colter an architect for Fred Harvey from 1904 to 1949 designed many of the notable buildings, like the Hopi Hose, the Bright Angel Lodge along with Hermits Rest and Desert Tower. 

Using design elements from the desert landscape, Colter wanted her buildings to look each grew from its surroundings. This was a central element of the NPS at the time and known as National Park Rustic. 

The CCC

A group of young men arrived at the Grand Canyon in 1933. Part of President Roosevelt’s Works Progress Program, the Civilian Conservation Corps worked on conservation projects across the U.S. 

While their tenure, the men of the CCC constructed the stone wall along the edge of the canyon in the Grand Canyon Village National Historic Landmark District. They improved the Bright Angel trail and built resthouses along the route. 

The CCC developed camps the North Rim and Desert View in addition to constructing several trails. And the CCC ran the trans-canyon telephone line to connect the north and south sides of the canyon. 

For our adventure at the Grand Canyon, I choose the Bright Angel Lodge (1935) located steps from the El Tovar on the south rim. The historic property offers the perfect backdrop for my kids to conjure up a western adventure.

From the brightly painted, hand-carved doors of the lodge to the log and stone cabins sprinkled along the rim, the kids love rambling through this property. In the Bright Angel History Room, I found the Geologic Fireplace to show the kids the rock layers of the Grand Canyon.

The cabins feature modern bathrooms and furnishings though a tight fit for most families. Most of the Bright Angel cabins offer one queen bed with room for a pack-n-pack or rollaway. At the Bright Angel Lodge, we enjoyed a hearty breakfast with southwestern egg dishes along with traditional options and kids’ menu.

Note: Dining is limited in 2020.

Explore Grand Canyon in winter with your family.
The interior of the Bright Angel cabin offers updated bathrooms and in-room coffee along with vintage touches.

 

Where to Stay at the South Rim

Explore Grand Canyon in winter with your family.
The premier hotel along the south rim,  El Tovar Hotel offers antiques individually decorated rooms. Credit: National Park Service

El Tovar Hotel

Opened in 1905, El Tovar Hotel was designed by Charles Whittlesey for the Atkinson, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad. Built of local limestone and Oregon pine, find log walls, limestone arches along with Arts and Crafts furniture. It’s a National Historic Landmark.

As the premier property on the South Rim, it features a dining room along with a lounge and in-room dining. Find standard rooms to suites and reservations required. Rooms start at $270. 

Bright Angel Lodge 

Opened in 1935, the Bright Angel Lodge was designed by Mary Colter, an architect for Fred Harvey. It features log construction, abode and local limestone. Inside, find the geological fireplace along with the hand-caved and painted doors.  

Surrounding the main lodge, find log cabins, some with rim views. It’s near the Bright Angel Trail and part of the Grand Canyon Village National Historic Landmark District. Find historic lodge rooms and semi-detached cabins, reservations required. Rooms start at $124 and cabins start at $174. 

Kachina Lodge and Thunderbird Lodge

Both designed in the late 1960s, the Kachina Lodge and Thunderbird Lodge offer rim views and partial rim view along with modern conveniences, like TVs and full baths. A good choice for families wanting a standard hotel room with a convenient location in the historic landmark district. 

Find standard rooms with king beds or two queen beds. Rooms start at $278 and reservations required. 

Maswik Lodge 

Another lodging option with modern rooms. This property is closed until Spring 2021. 

Yavapai Lodge 

Located near the Market Plaza area, this is largest lodging property on the South Rim. The Yavapai Lodge offers a cafeteria and some rooms feature air-conditioning. 

Find rooms with king beds, two queen beds and accessible and pet-friendly rooms. Rooms start at $105 and reservations required. 

Phantom Ranch 

Designed by Mary Colter and built in 1922, the lodging at the bottom of the canyon used rock found found on site along with Oregon pine. The mule train brought the building materials to the site and the area is still serviced by a mule train. 

It takes about five hours to reach on the mule train or hiking a canyon trail. Lodging and meals are provided and rooms are awarded on a lottery system, 14 months in advance. Meals can be arranged in advance for those camping with a few days notice. 

Explore Grand Canyon in winter with your family.
The original Bright Angel cabins offer a cozy nights sleep along the south rim of the Grand Canyon.

My Stay in a Bright Angel Cabin

For our winter adventure at the Grand Canyon, I choose the Bright Angel cabin for the ambience. The historic property offers the perfect backdrop for my kids to conjure up a western adventure.

From the brightly painted, hand-carved doors of the lodge to the log and stone cabins sprinkled along the rim, the kids loved rambling through this property.

The cabins feature modern bathrooms and furnishings though it’s a tight fit for most families. Most of the Bright Angel cabins include only one queen bed with room for a pack-n-pack or rollaway, though it’s a tight fit.

The following morning we ate at the Bright Angel Lodge. We enjoyed a hearty breakfast with southwestern egg dishes along with traditional options and kids’ menu.

Note: Dining is limited in 2020.

Explore Grand Canyon in winter with your family.
The interior of the Bright Angel cabin offers updated bathrooms and in-room coffee. Credit: Catherine Parker 

Read More

Top National Park Lodges 

Winter Camping at Grand Canyon’s South Rim 

Mather Campground 

Only the Pine Loop is open in winter.

  • Year-round
  • Reservations not accepted in winter.
  • 55 sites
  • Potable water and flush toilets
  • Showers and coin laundry located nearby.
  • Dump station nearby.
Trailer Village RV Park
  • Year-round
  • Reservations recommended 
  • Pull through sites with full hook-ups, a vehicle limit of 50-feet 
  • Potable water and flush toilets
  • Showers and coin laundry located nearby.
  • Dump station nearby.

Gateway Towns to the South Rim

The South Rim of the Grand Canyon offers the most year-round services and attractions. 

Tusayan—Located right outside the south entrance to the Grand Canyon National Park. This town is one-mile long though offers the most convenient lodging and dining outside of the Grand Canyon Village. Also Tusayan is a base for many commercial tours and flightseeing operations.  

Williams—Located along Interstate 40, Williams is a larger community than Tusayan and it’s 53 miles south of the Grand Canyon South Rim Entrance. Additionally it’s the departure point for the Grand Canyon Railways. 

Flagstaff—Located southeast of Grand Canyon National Park, this mountain destination offers easy access to the Grand Canyon along with the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and southern Utah. It’s 72 miles from the South Rim entrance. 

Las Vegas—For air travelers, Las Vegas offers the most flights along with The Strip. It’s the closest city to the Grand Canyon SkyWalk on the western side of the Grand Canyon (not at the South Rim).

Weather at Grand Canyon’s South Rim 

Winter: Highs 40sF (8 to 9C), Lows mid 20sF (-4 to -2C)

Spring: Highs mid 50s to mid 70sF (15 to 25C), Lows low 30s to mid 40sF (0 to 8C) 

Summer: Highs mid 80sF (26 to 29C), Lows 50sF (11 to 15C)

Fall: Highs low 50s to mid 70sF (15 to 25C), Lows mid 40s to upper 20s (6 to -3C)

Average Rain and Snow averages about 1 inch per month. 

Getting to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim 

Explore Grand Canyon in winter with your family.
Didn’t get the snow boots on fast enough for this one. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Located north of east-west Interstate 40, Grand Canyon is a frequent road trip stop. Head north for 59 miles on Arizona Route 64 from Williams, AZ, to get to the South Rim Entrance, open 24-hours a day. The South Entrance is the most popular gateway just north of Tusayan

Williams, AZ, offers Amtrak train service on the Southwest Chief line. Amtrak offers vacation packages including meals and tours of the South Rim. 

The East Entrance offers an alternative to the South Entrance by driving north out of Flagstaff on U.S. Route 89 to Highway 64. Take the scenic drive along the rim from Desert View Watchtower to the Grand Canyon Village. NOTE: The East Entrance is closed for 2020.

The closest airport with commercial flights is Flagstaff, Arizona (FLG), 80 miles away.

Las Vegas offers the largest international airport (LAS) in the southwest. Also find dining, lodging and entertainment options on The Strip along with the surrounding city. Las Vegas is about 274 miles from the Grand Canyon’s South Entrance. 

Grand Canyon National Park remains open 365-days a year and 24-hours a day. Admission is $35 per vehicle for a 7-day pass or you can use an America the Beautiful annual pass ($80.)

Find the most parking at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center. Depending on the season, free shuttle buses  run along the south rim. Please check with Grand Canyon National Park for current routes and times.

Read More

National Park Passes
Best National Park Guides and Books

Know Before You Go:

  • Be prepared for winter weather including several inches of snow.
  • Make reservations for lodging and tours as soon as possible. Make lodging reservations up 13 months in advance.
  • The cabins are cozy in the winter though they don’t have air conditioning for summer guests.
  • The roads at Grand Canyon aren’t plowed as frequently as the highway leading into the park.
  • The Market Plaza features a general store, ATM, post office, amphitheater, laundry and pay showers.
  • I found year-round campgrounds for those prepared for winter camping and a full-service RV park.
  • El Tovar Hotel and Bright Angel Lodge feature restaurants. Snack bars at Maswik Lodge, Desert View and Hermits Rest.
  • For the Phantom Ranch Mule ride, riders must be 4’7” and weigh less than 200 lbs.

Visit an American icon at the Grand Canyon in northern Arizona. Explore the National Park in winter and experience the desert southwest with a dusting of snow. Get details on what to do, where to stay and where to eat during your winter visit to Grand Canyon National Park. #NPS #GrandCanyon #Arizona How to visit the Grand Canyon in Winter | Where to Stay in the Grand Canyon | What to do at the Grand Canyon in Winter

 

Write A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.