Even with the potential for snow, winter is an ideal time to visit the Grand Canyon
Winter is a great time to visit the Grand Canyon. Daytime temperatures average in the 40s; nighttime temperatures can dip into the single digits.
Get oriented at the Canyon View Information Plaza, a short walk from Mather Point. Designed as the terminus for Grand Canyon National Park's proposed transit system, it has trail information and an excellent bookstore.
Hermit Rd. and Yaki Point Rd. are open to private vehicles Dec-Feb. After Mar 1, you must use shuttles.
Park admission is $20 per vehicle. For more information visit www.nps.gov/grca or call (928) 638-7888.
Always check the local weather forecast before heading out, especially if you plan to hike below the rim; instep crampons and hiking poles (for sale at Canyon Village Marketplace; 928/638-2262) are essential for icy patches on steep trails. Layered clothing is your best preparation for changing conditions. Even in winter, dehydration remains a threat; carry water.
Guided hikes with rangers are sometimes available. For specifics on these, and for trail maps and information on trail conditions, visit www.nps.gov/grca.
HIKES BELOW THE RIM. Though the Rim Trail gets the lion's share of attention, hiking below the rim is a great way to get a different perspective on the canyon. The South Kaibab, Hermit, and Bright Angel Trails all have options for 3-mile round-trip hikes (with add-on paths). All three are fairly strenuous because of the steep return climb. The Hermit Trail in particular has rocky footing.
RIM TRAIL. Winter is an ideal time to have the usually crowded Rim Trail practically to yourself. Views along this trail are more expansive than those on hikes below the rim. It's also an easier hike.
Art and architecture
For information on the Grand Canyon Village Historical District, pick up a brochure for the self-guided walking tour. In addition to the Bright Angel Lodge (designed by Colter, with a fireplace built of rock strata found in the canyon), check out the Hopi House, Lookout Studio, and El Tovar Hotel. The Kolb Studio―built by brothers Ellsworth and Emery Kolb, pioneering photographers―has a gallery featuring paintings by various artists.
El Tovar Dining Room is the South Rim's class act, thanks to its vintage lodge setting and gourmet menu. Dinner reservations recommended (928/638-2631). At the Bright Angel Lodge, the Arizona Room (opens at 4:30 daily; closed Jan 1-Presidents' Day weekend) is another good dinner choice, with grilled specialties and a relaxed Western atmosphere. Try the Bright Angel Restaurant (6:30 a.m.-10 p.m.) for breakfast. The Maswik Cafeteria (6 a.m.-10 p.m.) has no-frills fare.
OUTSIDE THE PARK. In nearby Tusayan, Café Tusayan (928/638-2151) is a good choice with an eclectic menu. The Yippee i o Steakhouse at the Grand Canyon (928/638-2780) is a festive place where food is cooked over a juniper wood fire.
Xanterra Parks & Resorts operates the lodges at the South Rim. The 1905 El Tovar Hotel is the most impressive of the rim-front choices; the Bright Angel Lodge is also historic but more modest. The Kachina and Thunderbird Lodges have less character but offer additional rim-front rooms. Maswik Lodge doesn't sit on the rim, although it's comfortable and within walking distance of most South Rim attractions. From $59 (El Tovar from $127). www.grandcanyonlodges.com or (888) 297-2757.
OUTSIDE THE PARK. In Tusayan, the Grand Hotel has a lodgelike feel and features nightly entertainment. From $99. www.visitgrandcanyon.com or (888) 634-7263.