With summer crowds subsiding and its rock ridges sometimes punctuated by a dusting of snow, the chilly winter months can still be a magical time to visit Grand Canyon National Park. However, travelers planning to visit the Grand Canyon should note that a number of services will be scaled back starting December 1.
Though it's a colder visit in the winter, there are some distinct advantages to packing some warm clothes and visiting in winter. Accommodations at some of the park's iconic lodges, like the Swiss chalet-inspired El Tovar, are more easily booked. Plus, you’ll have a bit more serenity to marvel at the beauty of the canyon.
But, with fewer visitors arriving, the park does scale back some of its services. If you’re planning to visit the Grand Canyon during the winter months, make sure you're prepared for driving in winter weather, pack some warm clothes, and prepare for some of the canyon's other seasonal changes before you arrive.
Grand Canyon shuttle bus operations change for the winter
Starting December 1, the park makes changes to its shuttle schedule. It will suspend the Hermit Road Shuttle (Red Route) and open up that road to private vehicles. The Tusayan (Purple Route) from the gateway community of Tusayan is also canceled for the 2021 season.
The Village (Blue) and Kaibab (Orange) routes begin service at 6 am each morning and will operate every 15-30 minutes. The Hikers’ Express Route, which only operates one direction to drop hikers out at the South Kaibab Trailhead, will depart at 8 am and 9 am from Bright Angel Lodge. The shuttle will make stops at the Backcountry Information Center and the Visitor’s Center Shuttle Bus terminal before ending at the trailhead.
Masks are required on public transportation within the park.
The North Rim closed to vehicle traffic for winter
Starting December 1, the road leading to the North Rim, State Route 67, will close for the season, as will the General Store.
Though you can't access it by car, you can still camp at the North Rim Campground if you reserve a backcountry permit and prepare to trek it out on foot. You’ll have to either hike from South Rim using the inner canyon trails (23.9 miles) or approach by hiking, cross-country skiing, or snowshoeing from Jacob Lake (45 miles).
The park hopes to reopen the North Rim on May 15, 2022.
Grand Canyon winter camping is still available
Starting on December 1 through February 2022, the Mather Campground will not accept reservations through the recreation.gov online reservation system. Instead, campsites are available on a first-come, first served basis. You’ll need to pay at the kiosk at the entrance to the campground using the automated system as the kiosk is not staffed during the winter.
Keep in mind, these spots are still in demand during the holiday season and can fill up quickly.
If you want to plan for next year, you can book online reservations for camping up to six months in advance.