Driving around Grand Canyon NP?

Old Oct 18th, 2014, 04:41 PM
  #1  
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Driving around Grand Canyon NP?

Hi,
We are travelling to the US from Australia for the holiday of a lifetime. We are staying at the Grand Canyon NP at the South Rim village this coming January. We are there for 2 nights. I was wondering... we have a car, so is it possible to drive yourself to different areas of the park? We will do a helicopter flight over the Canyon, but we were also hoping to just be able to get in the car and show ourselves around a bit. Is this doable?
Thanks
Kym
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Old Oct 18th, 2014, 05:09 PM
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I hope you've checked the weather and are prepared for cold and snow - since the Grand Canyon rims are at a a fairly high altitude (also prepared for possible effects of altitude - which bothers some people).

Have not done heli tour but I believe they are not allowed over much of the canyon.
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Old Oct 18th, 2014, 05:23 PM
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As nytraveler wrote you will have weather issues in January. I'm not sure if anything will be open.
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Old Oct 18th, 2014, 05:46 PM
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Weather can be an issue, but it's almost always a short term one. Snowstorms are usually of the intense but brief variety; roads are usually cleared very quickly. However, if there's a storm, do not drive; it's far too risky. You'll need to be prepared to be a little flexible with your plans. Whatever you do, bring warm clothing. In January, night time low temperatures average less than 20 degrees Fahrenheit -- and the record low is -17F / -27C !

Everything at the South Rim village remains open 365 days a year, so no worries there.

You absolutely can use your own car; it's the only way to get to some of the best views. From the village, you can drive east along Desert View Drive. I forget its exact length, but it's about 25 miles to the easternmost viewpoint (the Watchtower). There are many lookouts; stop at least at two or three -- more if you prefer. To the west of the village is Hermit Drive; it's about seven miles one way. During the warmer months, private cars are not allowed on Hermit Drive, but in January you can drive yourself. Again, stop at least a couple of times, or more if you like.

Have fun!
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Old Oct 18th, 2014, 06:23 PM
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If you are able, I encourage you to hike down either Bright Angel or South Kaibab trails a ways. Just remember it will take twice as long to get back up. Even if there is snow/ice on the trail if you have some yak trax or some other form of shoe traction it is safe. There will be lots of people on the trails.

My preference is South Kaibab because the canyons are much better. You can drive down to the trailhead or take a shuttle. Bright Angel trailhead is in the El Tovar Hotel area.
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Old Oct 18th, 2014, 08:39 PM
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What lgott said.
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Old Oct 19th, 2014, 12:31 AM
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Wow! The things I assumed...! I knew it was winter, but didn't think for a moment that the Grand canyon got snow! So, I expected the cold, but not the snow. I hope we get a good break and have clear, trouble-free driving days. We are only there for 2 nights, and the whole day in between and we want to see as much as we can in that time. When you say it snows there and weather changes, if that happens, how long could we be stuck on the side of the road or is the road kept pretty well clear? We want to drive to Las Vegas the following day - tell me they don't get snow there!!!!
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Old Oct 19th, 2014, 04:08 AM
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You won't be stuck on the side of the road because you won't leave until the snow is over and the roads are clear enough to be safe.

You will watch the weather on television to know the forecast, you will ask at your lodging about local conditions before departing, and you will talk to the local police if you have any doubts.

There is snow and there is snow, but "short but intense", as described above, is the worst kind since it inhibits visibility, though the roads are likely to be cleared quickly. Western snow is generally dry snow, but if you are not used to driving in it, this is probably not the place to learn.

I don't know how long your total trip is nor your route, but January travelers in the US can expect delays, whether traveling by car or by air.
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Old Oct 19th, 2014, 01:39 PM
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Thank you for your advice, I will take heed. We are there for a month and start our holiday in Seattle, so i have researched the weather/conditions/possible delays/alternative routes really well, with the help of many Fodor folk. I just hadn't realized that the GCNP got snow too, an oversight. I was thinking that these 'sudden storms' that catch people unawares might also catch us unawares en route, hence my question about the length of delay by the side of the road.
I will certainly ask the right questions of the authorities when we set out on our trips. I am pleased to read that the conditions tend to clear quickly, as I wouldn't like to get stuck for lengths of time, but as you say, i need to expect delays at that time of year.
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Old Oct 19th, 2014, 08:40 PM
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Use their Internet data:
Home: http://www.nps.gov/grca/index.htm
Click on "Plan Your Visit" to the left
Newspaper/Guide: http://www.nps.gov/grca/parknews/upl...014_letter.pdf

Snow is good, especially for photography unless it is snowing-not good.
Best time to see the canyon is AT sunrise and about 1 hour before sunset to sunset. Color become less harsh (less blue) and shadows give definition. Do be in your room or eating during this time.

Note: North Rim Grand Canyon concessions close mid-Oct and gates generally close a month later depending on snow depth. North Rim is 1,000 feet (305 m)higher.

Vaga
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Old Oct 19th, 2014, 10:29 PM
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Thank you Vaga, I am a very keen photographer, so I am looking forward to the photo opportunities (with or without snow!) that the Grand Canyon will present.
When should we be in our room or eating?
We won't be able to get to the North rim, time just won't permit.
Thank you for your reply.
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Old Oct 20th, 2014, 10:43 AM
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We visited on Dec. 31 about 10 years ago. We dragged our butts out of bed to see the sunrise, and it was too overcast to see it! It did clear up about 45 minutes later, though. The weather was not too cold, though coming from Chicago we're pretty hardy. There were patches of light snow on the ground but none fell while we were there.
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Old Oct 20th, 2014, 11:09 AM
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lgott has it right on the driving part. To get an visual of where everything is located, look at a couple maps here:
http://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/maps.htm

The relevant ones are the South Rim Village Transit Map and the East Rim Drive and Desert View. Those two encompass all of the driveable areas during your trip time. Just keep in mind the transit map is valid for fall months and the shuttle info is different for the time of your trip. Just revisit that link in December and the updated version should be there.

I agree with Connie that if you are going to do any hiking down into the canyon, South Kaibab is the best option. Once you get down about a mile you will be hiking along the top of a ridge with great views up and down the canyon. In contrast, Bright Angel is entirely within a side canyon so your views are more restricted. Plus, Bright Angel tends to be in shadows more, which in winter means colder and potentially more snow/ice on the trail.
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Old Oct 23rd, 2014, 04:55 PM
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In summer many of the viewpoints are only accessible by a shuttle, but in January when you will be there you can drive to most of them.

As far as snow, it should be unlikely that it will snow when you are there. You will be very unlucky to see any serious snow at the South Rim.
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