Arizona Winter Adventures: Christmas in the Grand Canyon

Arizona Winter Adventures: Christmas in the Grand Canyon

December 5th, 2019 12:00am

By Meg Carney

Visiting the Grand Canyon over your Christmas vacation may be the perfect getaway and the only way to truly experience the wilderness of Grand Canyon National Park. You may have to brave some colder nighttime temperatures when spending December in the Grand Canyon, but you will enjoy mild daytime hiking temperatures and near solitude on the trails of the South Rim. 

Grand Canyon National Park receives over 6 million visitors a year, that’s an approximate 2 million person per year increase in the last 7 years (1). Now, on top of that, the majority of those visitors enter the park and hike the trails during peak season: May-September. Visiting the South Rim of the canyon can be busy during these summer months, and even the most remote parts of the canyon can start to feel busy and overcrowded. 

Take a break from the crowds and busy lookouts by venturing into the canyon this winter. 

Visiting the Grand Canyon in Winter

If you are planning a winter vacation that you will remember for years to come, then the Grand Canyon in December is the perfect trip for you and your travel group. Before you book your ticket or your tour, you will want to know where to hike, where to stay, and what other activities there are to do this winter season. 

Should You Visit the South Rim or North Rim?

The North Rim of the Grand Canyon generally receives only 10% of the annual park visitors, which is partially due to the fact that they are closed from December 1st through May 15th each year, whereas the South Rim is open year-round (2). 

This is due to the extreme winter conditions that the North Rim of the canyon experiences during that time. Many road closures make it nearly impossible to reach the park entrance and can make it can be potentially dangerous to travel on snow and ice-packed areas. 

So, if you are planning a winter adventure in the Grand Canyon, expect to only visiting the South Rim. There are some backpacking opportunities in the North Rim. but the majority of the park will be closed to all visitors. Visit the Grand Canyon National Park website for more information.

South Rim December Weather

Weather in the Grand Canyon has always been known to change suddenly certain times of the year, especially during monsoon season and the winter months. Total whiteouts are not unheard-of, and neither are temperatures below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. However, daytime temperatures average around 40 degrees, making mid-day perfect for hiking and sightseeing.

Grand Canyon Winter and Holiday Activities

If you plan on making this a festive seasonal affair, you won’t want to miss out on these Grand Canyon holiday stops that the whole family can enjoy: 

Grand Canyon South Rim Winter Hiking

With such stellar hiking temperatures, you will be able to enjoy many of the most popular South Rim hikes without having to worry about the crowds. Not only that but since there are shorter days and mornings are quite cold, you can sleep in for a later start! 

With fewer people hitting the trails each day, more wildlife ventures into areas that intersect with hiking trails. This gives you a great chance to see some of Arizona’s premier wildlife and some great photo opportunities! If you are a photographer, winter is the best time of year to visit the canyon. You’ll enjoy the stark contrast of red rocks and snow, one of a kind sunrise/sunset colors, and your pictures will have less of a chance of being photobombed by other park guests.

Most Popular December South Rim Hikes

Day hikes are among the most popular during the winter months but do not rule out the opportunity to go backpacking. If you choose to backpack below the rim, you will need to be more prepared for winter weather and have cold weather camping gear. 

Recommendation: Consult a ranger and the backcountry information center before embarking on any winter hike in the canyon as conditions can change and quickly become potentially dangerous. 

Some of the most popular beginner hiking trails include: 

  • South Kaibab Trail
  • Bright Angel Trail
  • Tanner Trail 
  • Hermit Trail
  • Sections of the Rim Trail 

More experienced hikers should enjoy: 

  • The Grandview Trail
  • The New Hance Trail
  • South Bass Trail 

Grand Canyon Hiking Tours

360 Adventures provides premier Arizona adventure travel experiences year-round. That means making your winter canyon vacation even more convenient and worry-free. From helicopter tours, hiking tours, and scenic historic tours, 360 Adventures has something that anyone can enjoy!  Whether it's a guided hike departing from Flagstaff, or a scenic flight from Phoenix to the canyon, we've got the tour for you.

Grand Canyon Day Hikes                         Grand Canyon Flight & Hike


Winter Hiking Tips

Come prepared and tread lightly with these Grand Canyon winter hiking tips: 

  • Wear hiking crampons or microspikes as trails are often snow-packed and icy.
  • Wear layers as the weather is known to change throughout the day. 
  • Utilize hiking poles to keep your balance, especially downhill. 
  • Bring sun protective gear. Just because the temperatures are lower doesn’t mean you won’t get any sun! 

Where to Stay

If you aren’t planning on backpacking or camping during your stay, there are some great options nearby to keep you warm and dry after a day of hiking. 

Flagstaff Lodging
One of the most popular places to stay near the Grand Canyon is in Flagstaff, AZ. This scenic mountain town has a charm of its own and you will have plenty to do here as well. Many of our Grand Canyon and surrounding Northern Arizona tours depart from Flagstaff, making it the perfect place to book a stay.

Grand Canyon Lodging
Grand Canyon National Park offers some amazing lodging experiences within the park as well. Visit the National Park Website for more detailed information on the lodging available for your travel dates. 

360 Adventures offers an overnight tour that includes lodging in the price for your convenience.   Grand Canyon Tour with Overnight

Sedona Lodging
Another popular destination near Grand Canyon National Park is Sedona, AZ. Sedona is a wonder all on its own with amazing trails through distinctive desert landscapes. If you choose to lodge in Sedona, 360 Adventures offers an array of Sedona specific tours to keep your vacation filled with exploration and unforgettable experiences, but don’t worry, you won’t miss out on a Grand Canyon tour either! Here is an option leaving from Sedona.

Other Grand Canyon popular pick-up locations include Phoenix, AZ and Las Vegas, NV.

Other Northern Arizona Winter Adventures

Although the Grand Canyon is the most popular Northern Arizona destination, that doesn’t mean that it is the only place you should stop while you are here! Check out these other breathtaking destinations to add to your adventure travel this winter.

Antelope Canyon & Grand Canyon Combo                   Sedona Tour Options 






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