Grand Canyon in January or one of the alternatives!?
Replies: 8 - Last Post: Nov 25, 2012 9:40 PM Last Post By: pnwwannabe
Nov 14, 2012 3:25 PM
Grand Canyon in January or one of the alternatives!?Dear fellow travellers,
a friend and me (22&23) are planning a trip and we definitely need some kind recommendations.
So our envisaged trip would be to the Grand Canyon South Rim and stay a night there.
We can leave LA at 1/2 afternoon and have to be back in LA at 1/6 in the evening. We planned to rent a car in LA drive all the way due to flexibility and budget considerations.
I did some research now, read in this forum and started to doubt if this is a good idea. Especially because of the weather predicitions:
"Winter conditions on the South Rim can be extreme. Be prepared for snow, icy roads and trails, and possible road closures. Winter weather typically begins by November and becomes well entrenched by December and January, with frequent light to moderate snows and increasingly colder weather."
Honestly, I didn't expect that. We are moderately experienced to drive on snow but not super excited about it. And road closures would be a real bummer due to our tight schedule. But we would really hate not to be able to go there, as we are both from Germany and it could be the only possibilty for a long time to see this American treasure.
We would really appreciate it, if you could recommend it or not. I saw articles about GN in the winter and it looks beautiful, I'm just a little bit frightened now that the weather conditions would kill our excitement. Info: We really don't mind the cold, we just mind if it will be safely driveable and travelable up the South Rim or not.
Given you wouldn't recommend to do it, what alternatives can you think of? We are not interested in Las Vegas and want to see what the nature can offer us. I guess Zion National Park wouldn't be different in terms of weather conditions. What do you think about the Death Valley, would that be worth the drive?
Hope our confusion is clear haha :D I'm happy to answer any question and appreciate all your answers and thoughts!
And have a nice thanksgiving break!
Nov 14, 2012 3:49 PM
1While the weather CAN be nasty, most of the time it is not.
During winter, storm fronts pass through the area once every 7~10 days or so. You'll generally get one or two days of snow and stormy conditions, followed by a week or more of clear, pleasant, slowly warming weather. An unusually big storm may leave troublesome snow and ice on the roads for a few days, but these are somewhat rare. I've visited 3 times during winter and never encountered closed roads or weather issues. Heck, I've never even had to use tire chains. In short, I'd go ahead and plan for GC. Do bring warm, waterproof clothes, etc.!
Here, have a look at http://www.wrcc.dri.edu/cgi-bin/cliMAIN.pl?az3595
The average snow depth is only 3 inches. It's not like the area gets huge drifts that require monster snowplows and dynamite to clear...
Zion is significantly lower. It's maybe 10c warmer and gets somewhat less snow. That said, the trails in the higher areas (Angel's Landing, etc.) can be closed due to snow and ice.
DV is lower still and is warm enough to camp, if that sounds fun. There are gobs of hiking options and day-drives to keep you busy.
You can look up all sorts of climate data at http://www.wrcc.dri.edu/coopmap/
Nov 14, 2012 3:56 PM
2Eh, that official description is true in that it tells you what is possible, but it doesn't really make a distinction for what is likely.
You're likely to encounter cool, sunny days and cold nights. You might encounter snow, although it is very, very unusual for the park itself to close down. There are occasional closings of the internal park roads out to various viewpoints, always during and immediately after a major storm, but the main road into the park is almost always open even in really bad weather.
The canyon in winter is magical. You'd actually be lucky to encounter a minor winter storm - the canyon is never more beautiful than with a fresh dusting of snow. Major winter storms that will mess up or cancel your trip only occur a few times in a typical winter.
Edited by: FlagStuff
Nov 14, 2012 4:19 PM
3wow, thank you for the superquick answers and for giving me my confidence back!
That's sounds not too bad in the end. I think it is good to stay for a night, so even if it is foggy on one day we could have more luck on the second day.
I thought about staying at the Bright Angel Lodge, that looks like the best budget option for us. I'm glad it's off-season so it is still available. I first thought about not booking accomodation, to be weather-flexible and do something else but I guess if I wait too long the Lodge would be booked out by January then.
Any recommendations when we are actually at the South Rim?
Just driving around with the rented car or leave the car at the entrance? I know that there is a shuttle going on, but I don't really get it on the NPS website if they are available in the winter as well.
Nov 14, 2012 4:52 PM
4There's plenty of parking at the South Rim. You'll be able to park your car right next to whatever accommodations you choose. From there, just walk around and take it in. It is overwhelming and stunning, and you will do more than just peek for a few minutes. Click here for a FAQ post about the Grand Canyon. As far as the weather goes, the best advice is to retain some flexibility in your schedule. You'd really hate to come anywhere near the place and then miss it because you only had one day, and it happened to be snowing that day. They keep it open all year for a reason. Believe me, you won't regret it. This really is one of the wonders of the world.
Nov 14, 2012 8:20 PM
5I love the canyon in winter with snow - makes it magical and even more spectacular. A couple of years ago we were caught in a severe snow storm between Seligman and Williams with extremely poor visibility etc it was close to as bad as you could get and still drive.... we pulled into Williams for the night and the roads were all ploughed by the next day. Don't let the weather put you off - I think it's even better to have snow there. Bright Angel is a great choice too - off season so its affordable. Your car will be fine there too.
Nov 15, 2012 1:38 AM
Nov 17, 2012 3:29 AM
7A couple of years ago, we had resevations at the Kachina Lodghe at the South Rim for two nights, including New Years Eve. On I-40, we hit a big snowstorm, and when I saw a couple of cars sliding on the interstate, I pulled off the freeway at Williams and found a hotel, where we stayed the night (fortuantely, the folks at the Kachin Lodge kindly let us out of our obligation for that first night without penalty). We got to the GC the next day without any big problems. Parking was limited due to the snow blocking many spots, and walkways in front of the hotels on the rim were icy, but otherwise we quite enjoyed our stay. Friends who were a couple of hours ahead of us the first day did get to the canyon, but didn't see much due to the storm. If you'll have a rental car, be sure to check on any prohibitions on using chains.
Edited by: BubbaK
Nov 25, 2012 9:40 PM
8i visited Grand Canyon in January a couple of years ago driving from LA as well. since you are driving through the desert, there will be no snow there and the winter weather in the desert during the day is quite warm and sunny. once you start approaching Williams, AZ there might be snow. we did have snow when we visited but the roads were all cleared and safe to drive on; we did not have to use chains. at the Grand Canyon, there will definitely be snow and it'll be cold so take warm clothes including hats/gloves/scarves/jackets but like i said, all the roads were cleared so we did not have any problems at all but of course if there is a snowstorm, that could change.
while there, you can also visit Sedona and Walnut canyon national monument, both very beautiful.
if you're still hesitant about the weather, there will definitely be no snow in Death Valley but expect a lot of people since winter is the most touristy season and the accommodations will be expensive.
have fun on your trip!
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