If there’s one thing you can be sure to expect when you visit the Grand Canyon, it’s breathtaking views—sweeping landscapes and jaw-dropping vistas lurk around every corner. If you’ve never been to the Grand Canyon, knowing what else you can expect to experience during your stay can help you plan and prepare for your visit, leaving you with more time to brush up on your Canyon history, research viewpoints, and explore the Rim.
What viewpoints are on your must-see list? Check out our guides:
The Grand Canyon’s North Rim offers an entirely different experience than the popular South Rim. Discover the best viewpoints and more in our quick guide.
The Grand Canyon’s West Rim has no shortage of breathtaking vistas and experiences to offer.
Here’s what you can expect when you visit the Grand Canyon.
One more time for those in the back—you can expect to see some pretty spectacular views when you visit the Grand Canyon. No matter what Rim you choose to visit, you won’t be disappointed. The South, West, and North Rims are all home to numerous scenic viewpoints, so keep your camera ready—there are photo ops around every corner.
The Grand Canyon National Park on the South Rim welcomes over five million visitors every year. Most people visit during the summer, but there can be larger-than-expected crowds even in the winter.
For a less crowded Grand Canyon experience, head to the West Rim—this region welcomes about 1 million visitors per year. If your vacation plans allow for it and you’re up for even more adventure, check out the North Rim.
Regardless of which Rim you visit and how crowded it is, keep an eye on your kids at all times. It’s easy for youngsters to get lost in a crowd.
3. Hot summers
It gets hot at the Grand Canyon during the summer.
- On the South Rim, summer highs average around the low to mid 80s.
- On the West Rim, summers average in the low 100s.
It gets even hotter inside the Canyon—daytime highs at the river level often exceed 100—so if you’re taking a helicopter flight or plan to hike into the Canyon, make sure you come prepared for scorching temperatures. Bring lots of water and snacks, wear a wide-brimmed hat and light clothing, and don’t forget your sunglasses.
4. Cool winters
If you’re visiting in the winter, come prepared for cooler temperatures. In the winter months, South Rim highs average in the low-mid 40s, with the West Rim hovering in the mid 50s-low 60s.
You should also expect snow—yes, snow. Roads periodically close along the South Rim in the winter due to snow and ice, so if you’re planning to drive yourself, be sure to keep an eye on the weather forecast, as well as weather advisories and road closures from the National Park Service. And don’t forget to pack sturdy boots with good tread.
If it’s snowy enough to obstruct views when you visit, don’t fret. Snow is usually temporary, and the Grand Canyon covered by a fresh layer of powder is a sight to behold.
5. If you plan on hiking, expect a workout
Hiking into the Canyon is easy, but climbing back up can be surprisingly difficult. Remember that every step you take on the way down is one you’ll have to take on the way back up, and you can bet it’ll be harder to ascend after a few hours of sunshine and traversing rough terrain. If you plan to hike, come prepare with lots of water and snacks to stay fueled on your journey.
For a less challenging hike with views that are just as spectacular, the Rim Trail is a good alternative. If you’re visiting with kids, this trail is also perfect for families—it’s easy to just hop on the shuttle to head back to the Grand Canyon Village if your kids are getting tired.
The Grand Canyon is home to one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the Southwest, including more than 1,500+ species of plants, 355 species of birds, 89 mammals, 40 reptiles, 9 amphibians, and 17 fish. There’s a good chance you’ll spot some cool creatures on your visit, such as:
- California condors: With a wingspan of 9.5 feet, these impressive birds are the largest land bird in the North America.
- Peregrine falcons: These falcons are the fastest bird in the world, and nearly 100 pairs live in the Grand Canyon.
- Bighorn sheep: Bighorn sheep are the largest animal native to the Grand Canyon area. They’re commonly spotted on the Canyon’s steep terrain and cliffs, and usually roam in herds of 8-10.
- Elk: Elk are not native to the area and are not particularly well-adapted to dry climates, so most of their water comes from human sources, including the puddles below water refill taps on the Rim.
- Rattlesnakes: The Grand Canyon is home to six unique species of poisonous rattlesnakes that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. They’re primarily found below the Rim and won’t attack unless provoked, but if you do hear a rattle, slowly retreat at least 15 feet away.
If you do spot wildlife during your visit, follow these precautions for your safety and theirs:
- Don’t feed the animals. Feeding the local wildlife will disrupt their natural feeding cycle, encourages them to interact with humans, and can even lead to injuries.
- Don’t touch the animals. Not only do you risk injuring yourself, but you can also cause damage to the wildlife. Red-spotted toads, for example, absorb chemicals through their skin, which means that the oils on your hands can harm them if you pick one up.
- Stay back at least 100 feet. Large mammals like elk aren’t afraid of humans, but they will attack if you get too close for comfort.
7. Some good old-fashioned learning
If you’re travelling with kids, set aside some time to participate in one of the many interpretive programs offered by the park rangers at the South Rim. You may love wandering around snapping pics of all the gorgeous viewpoints, but your kids might not share your enthusiasm. Activities like the Junior Ranger Program can help hold their interest, and they’ll learn some neat stuff to boot.
Yep—you can shop at the Grand Canyon, especially if you’re planning to visit the South Rim. If you’re looking to pick up a sweet souvenir from your visit, make sure you stop at these spots:
- Hopi House: Built in 1904, Hopi House was designed by Mary Colter to serve as a market for Native American crafts created primarily by Hopi artisans. Hopi House still operates as a market for local artisans, with handmade artefacts and souvenirs available for purchase.
- Kolb Studio: Originally the home and photographic studio for brothers Ellsworth and Emery Kolb, the Kolb Studio is one of the earliest commercial businesses to operate at the Grand Canyon. Today, the Studio functions as a gallery and bookstore. All proceeds from merchandise sales are used to support and maintain the building.
- Lookout Studio: This unique outpost employs Mary Colter’s signature style of using native rocks to imitate indigenous structures that appear to blend in with the Rim. Initially built to to rival the Kolb Studio, Lookout Studio currently operates as a gift shop and observation station.
Learn more about what you’ll find in the Grand Canyon Village.
If you’re visiting the West Rim, there are also numerous shopping opportunities available.
Next Stop: Grand Canyon
Now that you know what you can expect on your visit, you can start getting excited about all the fantastic viewpoints, attractions, and adventures that await you.