Grand Canyon – A Winter Wonderland with Snow!

January 2019 – Even though we have a new Polaris RZR waiting to take us on lots of exciting back road adventures, we’ve had a hankering to do a National Parks Snowstorm Tour for several years now. Our snowy day trip to Jerome a few weeks ago further whetted our appetites, so this week when a blizzard was predicted for the Grand Canyon, we hit the road!

Grand Canyon National Park in snow-min

Grand Canyon National Park is a Winter Wonderland when it snows!

We drove up from Phoenix to Flagstaff, Arizona, and when we got there we had to laugh at all the signs by the road advertising hats and gloves. Desert dwellers love to go to Flagstaff to see snow in the wintertime, and sometimes they forget their winter duds (or don’t even own any!).

Snow had been in the forecast for Grand Canyon, but we saw only dustings and flurries until we climbed the last few miles to Grand Canyon’s South Rim about 75 miles north of Flagstaff. Then it began to snow hard, as it had been doing there for the last 24 hours.

It was a little difficult to tell what was where under all the snow!

Snowed in at Grand Canyon National Park-min

Things looked a little different at the Grand Canyon than we’re used to seeing !

But much to our surprise, despite the snow, Grand Canyon National Park was hopping. Cars zipped here and there, the shuttle buses from the hotels to the rim were packed, and as usual, the languages we heard around us were from all over the world.

Exhilarated, we bundled up and hustled out to the closest overlook we could find on the Rim Trail.

Ready to walk the snow trails at Grand Canyon National Park-min

There was a lot of snow, but we were ready for it!

What a shock it was to find that fog filled the entire Grand Canyon! We could barely see from one overlook to the next, never mind across the whole Grand Canyon to the other side 10 miles away.

Drifts and blowing snow at Grand Canyon National Park overlook in snow-min

Fog filled the Canyon and even obscured one viewpoint from the next!

Nevertheless, tourists slipped and slid down the icy trails and out onto the overlooks to see what they could see — which was nothing!

Grand Canyon overlook in snow-min

Tourists filled the overlooks even though there was nothing to see!

Despite the lack of a real Grand Canyon view, the fresh snow was beautiful and gave the Canyon a mystique we don’t often see.

Fresh snow in Grand Canyon National Park-min

Fresh snow, fog and mist gave the Grand Canyon a special beauty.

Grand Canyon National Park snow and fog-min

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The fog blew in and out and the snow began to fall harder and harder. A woman standing next to me wondered why I was hanging over the edge taking photos.

Photographer in snow at Grand Canyon National Park-min

A photographer takes photos of…fog?

This was her first trip to the Grand Canyon, and although the snow and mist was lovely, she was really disappointed not to see the real view. “What does it usually look like?” She asked forlornly.

Snow at Grand Canyon National Park in snow-min

When you’ve come all the way to the Grand Canyon, you’ve gotta get out on an overlook,
even if there’s nothing to see!

Grand Canyon National Park overlook in snow-min

Usually this tree has a great view!

If only she’d been able to stay another day. When we got to the rim the next day, the snow had stopped falling and sunlight had begun to shine through.

Rim Trail Grand Canyon National Park in snow-min

The sun came out and cast shadows across the Rim Trail.

And what an appearance it made. The light show across the canyon was spectacular!

Clouds and snow at Grand Canyon National Park in snow-min

The sun and clouds chased each other across the Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon National Park stormy sky-min

What a glorious light show!

We were blown away, and so was everyone else. A crowd began to form, and the usual dance of tourist antics and selfies began.

Tourists at Grand Canyon National Park in snow-min

Word got out that the Canyon was on display again, and the tourists lined up!

Views and snow at Grand Canyon National Park-min

Embracing the view.

video

This Aussie/American couple was narrating a video about visiting the Grand Canyon in a snowstorm.

We were mesmerized watching the light and shadows chasing each other through the billowing curtains of mist and fog.

Light and shadow at Grand Canyon National Park-min

Meanwhile the light show went on.

Fog and clouds Grand Canyon National Park-min

Puffs of misty clouds swept by.

Snow at Grand Canyon National Park-min

The Grand Canyon is magical at any time of year, but this was a special moment.

Everyone was taking selfies and handing their cameras around, so we joined right in and did the same.

Happy campers at Grand Canyon National Park-min

We joined the selfie mania. Why not?!

Puppy in snow at Grand Canyon National Park in snow-min-min

Buddy loved the view and being part of the view too!
Fortunately for him, leashed pets are allowed on the trails above the rim.

Most of the Grand Canyon overlooks were closed because the road to them hadn’t been plowed. The whole drive to Hermit’s Rest on the west side of the South Rim was closed and the road to Desert View on the east side was closed as well.

Grand Canyon National Park after a snowstorm-min

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Great Crevasse Grand Canyon National Park-min

The canyon walls in that crack are thousands of feet high!

So, everyone stayed on the Rim Trail and visited just one or two viewpoints. The funny thing is that even though the total number of tourists at the Grand Canyon was a tiny fraction of what you’d see midsummer, because we were all concentrated in one small area it was still packed!

But it didn’t matter and the makeshift nature of things kind of added to the fun. This was a very special moment to be in this place, and everyone was thrilled to be here.

Blizzard at Grand Canyon National Park-min

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Virgin snow Grand Canyon National Park-min

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We all knew the sun would last for only a short while this afternoon because more snow was on its way. So the mood was almost giddy.

Grand Canyon National Park after snow storm-min

What a view!

Grand Canyon National Park snowy view-min

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Grand Canyon National Park snow-min

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We had buzzed up from Phoenix in our truck and left our fifth wheel trailer behind. Even though the trailer camground was open at Grand Canyon and we saw some rigs with snow on their roofs, we’d decided to take a vacation from our vacation and stay in a hotel.

Snow at Grand Canyon National Park-min

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Grand Canyon National Park snow view-min

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The fantastic thing about the Grand Canyon in the wintertime is that a lot of folks cancel at the last minute when they see snow in the forecast. So rooms were available for 50 cents on the dollar.

Clouds and snow at Grand Canyon National Park-min

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Grand Canyon National Park snow at overlook-min

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If you’re in Arizona for the winter and you want to see something very special, watch the weather forecast at the Grand Canyon and head there when the snow falls!

Clouds and fog Grand Canyon National Park-min

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Puppy plays in snow in Flagstaff Arizona-min

Next time you see snow in the forecast for the Grand Canyon, go for it!

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26 thoughts on “Grand Canyon – A Winter Wonderland with Snow!

  1. Spectacular photos! There is a clarity in the air during winter unlike the summer haze which seems to appear as the days heat up. This from a true Vermonter who has been snowshoeing recently with the mercury in the teens.
    Best regards, Stewart

    • Thank you, Stewart. The air is so crisp in the wintertime, and the fresh snow made it even more clear once the fog lifted. How fun to be out snowshoeing in the brisk air. Hopefully you’ve got hot chocolate waiting for you after being out and about in the teens…brrr!!

  2. Great pictures. I’m trying to upgrade my landscape photo skills and would appreciate more technical info you used to get your shots – camera, lens, shutter etc., if you could fit that data into your blog. Thanks

    • Thank you for the compliments, Bill. We have a very detailed article that explains all the equipment we’ve used over the years and all the online and printed material we’ve used to learn how to take good photos. It is HERE. Learning photography has been a gradual progression, and we are still learning every day. Enjoy your photography outings!

  3. Emily,
    Gorgeous pictures. I doubt you could have timed your trip better. The clouds, sun, shadows, and fog look magical. Buddy looks like he is in his element(s). 😉
    Bob

    • We got so lucky, Bob. We’d been watching the weather for a few weeks, and from what I understand, all we missed in Phoenix was a whole lotta cold rain!! Buddy is quite a snow dog. He just loves tearing around in it and he goes a little crazy sometime!!

  4. Another wonderful adventure shared. Very Beautiful! I’ve seen the Grand Cayon from high above but I have never been there. It is in our future! Your two “guys” look to ge having a great time. You, too! The smiles tell it all.

    • You will love the Grand Canyon when you see it at ground level, Jeff. And there are so many ways to see it: staying up at the rim or hiking down into it or across it, or rafting through it. The North Rim is very special because it’s a little more remote and less visited, so when the day comes, be sure to see it from that vantage point too!!

  5. Beautiful! Thanks for sharing these beautiful views. I have to admit that seeing those people so close to the edge reminded me of the tragedies written about in the book “Over the edge, death in the Grand Canyon”.

    • Thanks for appreciating our efforts, Liz! As for people falling over the edge, it is amazing what people will do at the edges of overlooks in pursuit of a selfie! I don’t know if there are more deaths today than in the past (the first edition of that book pre-dated the smartphone), but we’ve seen people do some crazy things, including blithely leaping over a raging waterfall onto wet slippery rocks on the far side!

  6. Thanks for sharing these beautiful photos! We’ve been to the Grand Canyon several times but never seen it in winter. Great idea to check for room cancellations and stay the night at a discounted rate. We’re wintering in Florida this year but hope to be back in the Southwest next winter so hope to see the canyon winter wonderland in person. By the way Buddy is becoming quite the photogenic companion for you and a great addition to your family! He always seems to strike the perfect pose!!

    • When you get to AZ next winter, Tim, definitely keep an eye out for snow storms up north. It is quite stunning, and snow up there usually means cold rain down in the desert. Buddy is amazingly photogenic and other folks get great pics of him too. Lucky us. We’re always looking for something to put in the foreground!

  7. Hi Em & M,
    Your photos continue to be on par with ANY I have seen in National Geographic! So glad you are on a continuing adventure and share with the rest of us.

    • Wow! Thank you very much, Kathie. That is quite a compliment!! We keep learning and we’re still making new discoveries all the time. It is such a fun hobby, and we feel incredibly blessed to be able to pack it up and dash off to a world renowned National Park to see a snow storm at the drop of a hat!

  8. Your photos are absolutely stunning! We were lucky to be in Saguaro National Park on New Years Day for the snow. It was magical and definitely a giddy energy was in the air there too. A snowy national park tour sounds like a great idea!

  9. Hiked the Canyon many times but never been there with snow. Fabulous photos and the next time it snows there, I too will leave the FW home. But what hotel did you stay in that took dogs? Always my challenge with my 2 rescues.

    • It was gorgeous with snow and had a completely different feel to it as well. If you want to be “on the rim,” Yavapai Lodge has some pet-friendly rooms. If you don’t mind being a few miles away in Tusayan, Grand Canyon Plaza Hotel has pet friendly rooms. There are also lots of pet-friendly hotels in Flagstaff and some in Williams. You pay an extra fee and you stay in pet-specific rooms, but that way your pooches can go with you. If you haven’t seen our blog post about Bryce Canyon with snow, check it out here. Rubys Inn has some pet-friendly rooms as well.

      • Thanks so much. I’ve enjoyed your blogs and articles for many years. And as an AZ resident, i am learning about new places to go! Just sold my Arctic Fox 5th, and looking at Hitchhikers and Cameos for the next chapter!

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