Envision one of the most popular national parks, devoid of crowds. Hotel rooms are easy to find, restaurants are quiet but open, roadways are virtually empty, and parking spaces actually exist. Now, envision endless blue skies and frosty winter days, bundled-up with your family as you are all walking along a pristine trail that even Robert Frost would envy. The lane is lined with evergreens and snow lies to either side, a foot or more deep, beckoning to the young ones to build-up snowmen. Little birds chirp gently as they flit amongst the piñons, and the wind blows and places a frigid hush upon one of the most grand views imaginable upon this planet. You round a bend and two cow elk, each nearly the size of a full-grown moose, look-up at you all from their foraging, and then stumble away in ungainly fashion. This is the Grand Canyon in winter.
The South Rim of the Grand Canyon, elevation approximately 7,000 ft., is the epicenter of visitor activities for this national park. Winter is a favorite time for a local tour driver, like me, to enjoy the serenity and the beauty. The snow-covered canyon in winter provides an expansive and inexhaustible supply of photographic scenery, and wildlife is often surprisingly prevalent (it seems the trophy animals know there is no hunting allowed inside Grand Canyon National Park).
Facts and Activities:
A car-load of people get a seven day pass into the park for $25. It’s a bargain!
Campers and Recreational Vehicles: Mather Campground (no hookups, RV’s under 30 feet) and Trailer Village (hookups) are open year-round! In winter, spots are almost always available, though I have found that sub-zero temperatures (Fahrenheit) at night can cause water lines on the RV to freeze-up (heat tape and insulation!).
Winter Hiking? Yes you can, if you’re ready for a challenge, and pros only, please! Use the National Park Service’s winter hiking guide to plan your hike. In all cases, check with rangers beforehand for trail conditions, closures, and advisories. Never try to hike during severe weather, as snowfall can be quite impressive at the South Rim. (Hiking Info: http://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/winter-recreation.htm )
The Grand Canyon is 60 miles north of Williams, on Hwy 64, just off Interstate 40. You are an hour-and-a-half from Flagstaff and Snow Bowl (skiing, snowboarding). Flagstaff and Williams offer restaurants and hotels, too.
Remember: drive slowly, as icy roads are common in wintertime Northern Arizona.
Grand Canyon, National Park Service: http://www.nps.gov/grca/index.htm