Bold, big and beautiful, Arizona has plenty to brag about. Framed by New Mexico, Utah, Nevada and California, and with Mexico at its southern reaches – the state gets more than 300 days of sunshine a year and has four distinct seasons, so you can bask in summer, hike and bike in spring and fall and ski in winter.
Arizona's sprawling deserts and massive mountains provide a range of weather conditions year-round, so there's always plenty to do, but hotel rates soar or plummet at certain times of the year. Spring and fall typically have the mildest weather, which draws crowds statewide. Summer can be scorching in the south, but low humidity and monsoon rain showers from June to September help keep the heat in check.
Famed as the gateway to the Grand Canyon, Arizona has plenty of high-elevation hiking trails and mountain wineries, set in locations where the climate is often cooler. Phoenix is Arizona’s top winter destination, luring travelers chasing the sun, but the state also has some great skiing at Arizona Snowbowl near Flagstaff and other mountain resorts.
Whether you're here for summer heat, spring and fall trekking or winter snow, here are the best times to visit Arizona.
October to May is the best time to explore the Grand Canyon
Arizona’s diverse climate means that temperatures can climb above 100°F in places such as Tucson and Phoenix, while higher-altitude areas such as Flagstaff and the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park still haven’t cracked 70°F. Spring brings the fragile beauty of desert flowers while fall brings optimum hiking weather, though both seasons are sublime for outdoor activities. Since these months are also the best times to visit Arizona, they’re also the busiest and hotels can be pricey.
More moderate summer temperatures in the state’s central and northern regions also entice visitors, as well as southern Arizonans escaping the punishing heat. Huge crowds head to parks, forests and mountain peaks, so camping spots and hotels can fill up quickly. Arizona is also home to hundreds of miles of rivers and lakeshore, so wherever you wander, it's easy to find some refreshing water to cool off.
June to November is a great time for desert exploring
Winter temperatures in the state’s northern reaches can dip as low as 42°F, but the brisk weather brings dustings of snow to higher-elevation cities such as Sedona and Flagstaff, kicking off a ski season that lasts until spring. The rest of Arizona is largely covered by the Sonoran, Mojave and Chihuahuan deserts. In the state’s south, temperatures range from the high 60s to the high 80s. Phoenix, Tucson and Tombstone are ideal bases for exploring these unique, arid ecosystems. Get up early to beat the midday heat and increase your chances of spotting wildlife.
January has prime skiing weather
Although the busy holiday season has wound down, visitors from colder climes still come to Arizona in winter for bright sunshine, blue skies and skiing in Flagstaff and Mount Lemmon near Tucson. The weather is also idyllic for hopping aboard one of the hot-air balloons that drift over London Bridge during the annual festival at Lake Havasu.
Key events: Sedona Winterfest, Rock 'n' Roll Arizona, Tucson Gem, Fossil & Mineral Showcase, Havasu Balloon Festival
February sees mild weather in southern Arizona
Arizona is still pleasantly cool in February, luring runners to the Run Sedona Marathon and golf enthusiasts to the fairways at the Phoenix Open. The further south you travel, the higher hotel prices rise in winter; if you’re looking for bargains, choose a base outside Phoenix.
Key events: Sedona International Film Festival, Run Sedona Marathon, Waste Management Phoenix Open
March is a big time for sports
Spring in Arizona is perfect for sports, whether you’re an outdoors enthusiast or an armchair participant. In March, Major League Baseball’s spring training season is in full swing in Phoenix. If baseball isn’t your thing, head to balmy and beautiful Sedona to check out its 400 miles of multi-use trails and annual mountain biking festival.
Key events: Sedona Mountain Bike Festival, Tucson Festival of Books, Cactus League Spring Training
April is a great time for festivals
The culture scene heats up in Arizona as warm spring temperatures kick off several events from music and film festivals to agave appreciation in Tucson and open artisan studios in Sedona.
Key events: Piano on the Rocks International Festival, Tucson Folk Festival, Agave Heritage Festival, Arizona International Film Festival
May brings rising temperatures and cactus flowers
Warmer days bring spring blooms to the desert, with the wildflower season peaking in May, depending on where you are. In Saguaro National Park, for example, Arizona’s iconic cactuses are crowned with white flowers that later produce deep-red fruit. May is also a prime time for learning about nature by attending a birding event or taking in an eco-conscious film.
Key events: Illuminate Film Festival, Southwest Wings Spring Fling, Cinco de Mayo
June is the last winter for exploring before the summer heat
Temperatures haven’t started to soar just yet, making June a good time to hit one of Arizona’s historic highways on a road trip. Check out everything from artsy towns to desert sanctuaries. Before you set off, get primed for framing the state’s unmatched landscapes with your lens at Sedona’s annual PhotoFest.
Key events: Sedona PhotoFest, Made in the Shade, Flagstaff Rodeo, White Mountains Balloon Festival
July sees locals seek out cooler weather
It’s not unusual for Arizonans to be on the move in July, seeking cooler weather or planning getaways near the water for activities such as fishing and waterskiing. Weekends are especially busy with kids out of school and day-trippers contributing to the crowds. Hotel rates are high but it’s still worth heading north to expand your cultural knowledge. Visit Flagstaff during its annual celebration of Indigenous heritage or take Route 66 to Williams, which hosts an annual Celtic festival complete with Scottish-style games and bag-piping. Summer temperatures in Flagstaff average around 70°F.
Key events: Heritage Festival and Native Art Market, Arizona Highland Games, Sedona Hummingbird Festival
August is hot all over Arizona
Almost everywhere in Arizona is reliably hot in August, but it’s rarely humid and the desert tends to cool down at night. Stayed chilled out by going on a moonlit night hike, visiting museums and art galleries and retreating to one of Arizona’s spas for some R&R. Or just head for the hills and pine forests, where temperatures can be 10 to 20 degrees cooler.
Key events: Sedona Photography Symposium, Southeast Arizona Birding Festival
September is great for wine tasting
Arizona has a thriving wine scene, with some great tasting rooms in the Verde Valley, Sonoita and Willcox (the latter two are in the south). Taste local drops during local wine and food fests, and maybe explore a corn maze or two. Gorgeous weather means accommodations and restaurants can get busy, so book well ahead to avoid disappointment.
Key events: Arizona Restaurant Week, Harvest Wineopolgy, Sedona Winefest, Red Rocks Music Festival
October sees things quieten down in Arizona
With Arizona’s busy season easing off, October can be a good time to find more competitive rates on accommodations. Slightly cooler days are ideal for outdoor festivals that celebrate the state’s flourishing arts and crafts scene. It’s also the season to discover craft beer culture during Oktoberfest events held throughout the state.
Key events: Sedona Plein Air Festival, Red Rocks Oktoberfest, Sedona Arts Festival, Pride in the Desert
November brings welcome cooler weather
November seems to bring a reprieve to Arizona as temperatures ease down and tourist numbers thin out — for a little while, anyway. There are a few big and bold festivals such as the Fountain Festival in Fountain Hills, which showcases the work of some 475 local artisans, and Phoenix Pride, a two-day celebration of the LGBTIQ+ community.
Key events: Phoenix Pride, Fountain Festival of Fine Arts & Crafts, Uncorked Arizona Wine Festival
December has plenty of holiday spirit
It might seem strange to see Santa in the desert, strings of lights adorning cactuses and snow in the desert, but Arizona embraces holiday revelry to the max. You might find moderate rates in less touristy places and even Sedona is at its quietest in December. People chasing the weather (warmth in the south, skiing in the north) can drive up costs at weekends and during winter holidays.
Key events: Tlaquepaque Festival of Lights, Arizona Bowl, Holidays at the Heard