Spending holiday time at the Grand Canyon

Christmas Bison at El Tovar Lodge

Christmas Bison at El Tovar Lodge

It’s cozy by the fireplace, the food in El Tovar’s dining room is tops and you’ll even see a bison with a Santa hat on!

What’s it like at the Grand Canyon at holiday time? From about 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. provided the is sun shining at the Grand Canyon, you may even feel warm while hiking the rim or visiting an outlook and peering into the canyon. Keep in mind that the weather is unpredictable. Winter conditions at the South Rim can be extreme. Expect snow, icy roads and trails, and possible road closures. After 3 p.m. it gets cold and you may want to bundle up or head inside.

At the South Rim you will be at 6,950 feet. Canyon views may be temporarily obscured during winter storms. In such cases entrance fees are not refundable. But, believe me, it’s worth it to go to the Grand Canyon in winter.

How to Pack for a Grand Canyon Holiday
Since you can’t predict the weather, you will be most comfortable if you pack for layering. Make sure you have a warm, water-proof jacket, warm pants and long underwear. Gloves and hats are in order. But remember, the weather may turn very pleasant and you will need to shed a layer or two. Bring sturdy walking shoes with tread or hiking boots. Trails in the winter will have ice or snow, especially in the shady spots. If the trails are very icy and it doesn’t melt during the day you will need crampons.

During the holidays, you may want to enjoy a special meal at El Tovar. While a dress or coat and tie is not necessary, you will feel most comfortable in the evening if you dress up a bit. This might be the time to wear your black velvet slacks and red sweater!

What to See at Holiday Time
When you arrive at the National Park entrance, you will be given a map and guide. Take a look at this as it will help you orient and decide what you want to see. The Visitors Centers are always worth a stop. Our suggestions for winter touring are:

El Tovar Lodge

El Tovar Lodge

El Tovar Lodge: No matter what the weather you can enjoy the cozy lobby. It will be decorated for the holidays. At night El Tovar is magical and warm. With fireplaces roaring and artwork to peruse, a visit to El Tovar adds to the holiday spirit.

Hopi House: Right across from El Tovar, you will find Hopi House. Designed by Mary Colter and built in 1905, Hopi House is a large, multi-story building of stone, shaped and constructed like a Hopi pueblo. At night look for the luminarias lining the roof line. Hopi House is a great way to learn more about Arizona native cultures and, if the spirit moves you, do a little shopping.

Rim Trail: The weather is so unpredictable and the trails sporadically icy, that for winter hiking, we recommend sticking to the Rim Trail. It is safe and scenic. The Park cautions against hikes into the canyon and reminds us that, for other than a short hike along the rim, preparation is necessary. To play it extra safe, hike in either direction from El Tovar. Carry water, a trail snack, dress in layers and, of course, take your camera. Watch your time and know that you can turn around, backtrack, and return to “civilization” without much effort.

Planning for Your Grand Canyon Stay

Grand Canyon Rim Trail

Grand Canyon Rim Trail

Lodging Reservations: You can book online up to 13 months in advance. And, believe me, you’ll want to do this.

Dining Reservations: Advance dinner reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 928.638.2631, ext. 6432 or sending us an e-mail to [email protected]. Dinner reservations can be made 6 months in advance with El Tovar room reservations and 30 days in advance without El Tovar room reservations.

Consider the Train: The Grand Canyon Railroad has day trips and overnight packages. It might be an enjoyable way to approach the Canyon. For children, the Railway offers Polar Express theme trips during winter (these do not go to the Grand Canyon). This year, the Grand Canyon Railway has added a 5th class of service… a vista dome car. Trips originate in Williams.

More Information
Grand Canyon National Park
More on Winter at the Grand Canyon
Book a Grand Canyon Area Hotel Online and Save
Visit the Grand Canyon But Leave Your Car Behind
Visit the Cameron Trading Post on your Way to the Grand Canyon

Photos Copyright: Elizabeth Rose Photography