Here in Northern Arizona, the elevation spans from about 2,000 feet to over 8,000 feet at the Grand Canyon’s North Rim. With extremes in topography that vary this much, we experience a variety of weather conditions during our four seasons in Northern Arizona. In the higher elevations, our winters are cold with intermittent snow storms, while summers bring mild, slightly humid temperatures. Below the Grand Canyon’s rim, summers are hot with occasional thunderstorms from the seasonal monsoons. Winter weather presents mild and damp conditions. As Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon’s summer transitions into autumn in mid-September, cooler temperatures and a drier forecast arrive, which creates ideal conditions to come and explore everything the area has to offer. Fall is simply a fantastic time to visit the Grand Canyon and Northern Arizona, and here are six reasons why!
1. Smaller Crowds
The crowds slow down a little during the fall. The summer crowds at the Canyon start to diminish leading into the winter season, increasing your chances for a quiet Canyon visit. Though the fall weather can create some busy days, most families with kids are back in school and the national park tends to see some drop-off in visitation numbers. Before you go, you can check the South Entrance lines in real time to see how busy the entrance is!
2. Cooler Temps
The American Southwest can be infamously hot in the summer. While still a great and popular time to visit, you have to be a little more strategic about the times of day you go and explore the outdoors. This is another reason that makes autumn a nice time to visit the area.
Cooler temperatures follow the monsoon summer, bringing with them tons of lush, green plant life. The weather on the rim can start to get a little cold in the mornings and evenings, but below the rim you’ll find the perfect weather conditions for hiking. Pushing later into October you might see some light snowfall on the rims but usually fairly small storms. As a guide company, we are always checking the weather reports and we love the National Weather Service as a resource.
3. Fall Colors
One of the best things about fall is of course the amazing color palette. Certain areas are known for showing off bright reds, oranges, and yellows depending on the plant life there. While the Grand Canyon in the fall might not offer the same spectacular scenes as some of the more famous autumn destinations, there are still opportunities to witness some beautiful fall foliage.
The South Rim is going to have a lot of evergreen plant life, and so the color change isn’t as dramatic as in other areas. Over on the North Rim, however, you’ll find there are few more types of trees that can put on a show! If you are staying in Flagstaff, the drive up to Snowbowl also presents the ideal climate to see some truly breathtaking colors.
4. Comfortable Hiking in the Grand Canyon
Hiking in the Grand Canyon is truly an unforgettable experience, and there are many awesome trails to choose from. Hiking below the rim in the summer can be a march into 110+ degree heat. This is not something for the under prepared, as the Canyon can be a very unforgiving place to hike even without the extreme heat. The fall offers some relief from the heat and heavy rain. If you’re looking to do a Rim to Rim hike, just beware that the North Rim of the Grand Canyon typically closes around October 15th.
Hiking with a guide can be a great option if you’re new to the area or would like to let someone else handle the planning and logistics. If you are looking for a guide to show you the best hikes and teach you all about the history and geology of the Grand Canyon, we have some of the best guides around! On our guided hikes, we provide everything you need for a safe, successful, and enjoyable trip. Check out our Private Grand Canyon Hiking Tours to learn more.
5. Wildlife Viewing
Another reason to visit the Grand Canyon in the fall is the chance to view some wildlife. Wild critters on the rim often become fairly active in the fall months in preparation for the wintertime. This is also the time that deer and elk rut. If you’re lucky, you may see some bull elk fighting by smashing their antlers together in an attempt to attract the attention of the females, or hear their ear-piercing bugling sounds. Many of the guests on our Grand Canyon day tours get the chance to see some wildlife while at the Canyon.
6. Fall Festivals in Flagstaff
If you’re visiting the Grand Canyon, there is a good chance you will be staying in Flagstaff. Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon is a pretty short 1.5-hour drive and is a great place to set up base for a few days while visiting other nearby destinations. Flagstaff is home to some great fall festivals, such as Cornucopia Fall Festival, Flagstaff Music Festival, Art in the Park, or the Flagstaff OktoberFest. There is so much to see and do just in the city of Flagstaff, you might want to spend a day or two just hanging out here!
The fall is a great time to be at the Grand Canyon and visit Northern Arizona. The temperatures are perfect for exploring the area—both in terms of outdoor recreation and hanging out in Downtown Flagstaff. At high elevations, you get a chance to see the aspen trees change colors to vibrant golds and yellows. The monsoon rains calm down and allow for more sunny days, which means more comfortable time outdoors. Here at Grand Canyon Adventures, we love giving tours in the fall, as it’s many of our guides’ favorite season here! We have several tour options to visit the Grand Canyon with us, including a Private Grand Canyon tour, Private Grand Canyon Hiking Tour, or our standard Grand Canyon Tour! If you have questions or would like more information, please contact us—we’re happy to help!