The Best Time to Visit the Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is “beyond comparison — beyond description; absolutely unparalleled throughout the wide world,” President Theodore Roosevelt said when he visited the Grand Canyon in 1903.
A century ago, on Feb. 26, 1919, the Grand Canyon National Park was established when Congress heeded Roosevelt’s call to protect one of America’s most iconic natural wonders. If a visit to the Grand Canyon is on your travel bucket list, this year is a great time to plan a trip.
First, decide when is the best time to go. The park, located in Arizona, receives more than 6 million visitors a year, with the busiest—and hottest—time from Memorial Day through Labor Day. You’ll find thinner crowds and cooler temperatures if you go from March through May or September through November.
While you can see the Grand Canyon from the North Rim or the South Rim, most visitors choose the South Rim. It’s open year-round, has more amenities and accommodations and it offers more of the expansive vistas that people associate with the Grand Canyon. A free shuttle bus operates on the South Rim, connecting the visitor center, lodges and campgrounds with the scenic overlooks. If you want to take the road less traveled, the North Rim, which closes for the winter, reopens on May 15.
Next, determine how best to experience the Grand Canyon because there is more than one way. You can stand at either rim and enjoy the view or you can take a tour down into the canyon for hiking, a mule ride or rafting along the Colorado River.
A great way to experience the Grand Canyon is to plan a trip around one of the special programs that are held throughout the year.
Due to its dark skies and clean air, the Grand Canyon is one of the best places in the United States to see the stars. From June 22-29, the Centennial Summerfest and Star Party will take place at the North and South Rim. During the day, you’ll have a chance to explore Arizona cuisine and craft beer. In the evening, amateur astronomers from across the country offer talks and telescope viewing.
From May 19-20 this year, the park celebrates the 150th anniversary of explorer John Wesley Powell’s 1869 expedition to the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon Music Festival returns to the South Rim on Fridays and Saturdays from Aug. 23 to Sept. 7, with classical, jazz and blues concerts. From Nov. 9-10, the park celebrates Native American Heritage Month with presentations on the history and culture of America’s first people.
Lastly, carve out time to see plenty of the sites around the Grand Canyon. Flagstaff, Arizona, a major gateway to the South Rim, is a charming city with a historic downtown. Route 66 runs through the city and Pluto was discovered at Lowell Observatory. At Northern Arizona University, the exhibit “Splendor and Spectacle: The 100 Year Journey of the Grand Canyon National Park” looks at the park’s history from multiple perspectives, including scientific research, exploration and tourism.
For help planning a trip to the Grand Canyon, contact your travel agent.