Winter at the magestic Grand Canyon

December Morning at Grand CanyonWinter at the Grand Canyon can be a magical time. Whether you spend your holidays at the historic El Tovar Lodge or head to the South Rim on a day trip when there is a dusting of snow, you’ll never forget this special winter experience.

Taking the Grand Canyon Railway
While the evening Polar Express rides are great for the kids, the train will not take you into the Grand Canyon National Park.

Daytime trips take visitors into the park for an afternoon or for a longer stay. The train runs 65 miles from Williams to the Grand Canyon which takes approximately 2 hours 15 minutes one-way.

During your ride you will enjoy musicians, story-tellers and even be surprised by a train robbery. The Grand Canyon Railway offers a number of packages which include a stay and a meal at the Williams Grand Canyon Railway Hotel. If you can, reserve a seat in the first class car at the end of the train for a ride in luxury and a great viewing platform. More on the Grand Canyon Railway.

Making Your Reservations at the Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon’s North Rim is open from mid-May to mid-October, so for your winter holiday you will be staying at the South Rim.

Use  the Xanterra online reservation service as you can immediately find out which lodges have openings and, with a credit card, make your reservation before someone else takes that room.  During the winter, Xanterra offers some great specials.

If you look at a facility map, you will notice which facilities are on the rim and which are within a short drive of the Canyon’s rim.

Grand Canyon – Places to Stay
Bright Angel Lodge & Cabins:
The Bright Angel complex consists of tightly clustered buildings along the rim. In the 1930’s, the Fred Harvey Co. needed to developGrand Canyon Rider affordable lodging for the many visitors who had begun driving to the canyon. Mary E. Jane Colter, designed both the lodge and the cabins. The cabins were built around several historic buildings. They are cozy and afford ready access to Canyon attractions such as the mule rides.

El Tovar Hotel: The El Tovar is the Grand Dame of the Canyon.  The style is a little Swiss, somewhat Scandinavian, and definitely rustic European. The decor is “elegant hunting lodge.”  The popularity of El Tovar had some bearing on the area’s recognition as a National Monument in 1908, and as a National Park in 1919. El Tovar is the most expensive of the lodges.  Any visitor to the Grand Canyon should take time to walk through the lobby, visit the excellent gift shop and have a meal in the elegant dining room. Reservations are recommended.

Kachina Lodge: Kachina is a two-story Lodge with modern comforts, phone and bath, and is ideal for families.

Maswik Lodge: Maswik Lodge is a two-story lodge & rustic cabins located 1/4 mile from South Rim. There is a restaurant on site.

Thunderbird Lodge: Thunderbird is a family-oriented lodge situated  at the south rim.

Yavapai Lodge: Yavapai is a modern motor lodge in wooded setting between Yavapai Point and the Grand Canyon Village, 3/4 mile from the Canyon’s edge. It has an adjacent cafeteria-style restaurant. The rooms are comfortable and the setting tranquil. You may see wildlife such as deer wandering past your window.

Trailer Village: You can also camp at the Grand Canyon National Park. Trailer Village, only 1/2 mile from the rim of the Canyon and located inside the National Park, offers pull-through, paved sites with full hookups for Recreational Vehicles up to 50 feet in length.

Grand Canyon ChristmasHoliday Time at the Grand Canyon
I have had the pleasure of spending several winter holidays at the Grand Canyon. Each time I made sure to take time to see the decorated lobby at El Tovar and to schedule a special meal in their dining room. The experience served to take me back in time, to a less-rushed era. Even though it is cold, I recommend getting out early on a December morning to watch the sunrise at the Canyon. Weather permitting, the pink dawn will provide you with great photographs and great memories.

From about 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. when the is sun shining at the Grand Canyon, you may even feel warm while hiking the rim. Keep in mind that the weather is unpredictable. Winter conditions at the South Rim can be extreme but they also can be very mild.

Winter at the Grand Canyon is a very special time. There are fewer people and the pace is slower. The vistas, with the ever-changing weather, can be amazing.

Photo Credit: Elizabeth R. Rose

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