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What is the best time of year to plan a visit to the Grand Canyon/Bryce Canyon/Zion?

What is the best time of year to plan a visit to the Grand Canyon/Bryce Canyon/Zion?

Nov 1st, 2008, 12:08 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 294
What is the best time of year to plan a visit to the Grand Canyon/Bryce Canyon/Zion?

Our travels haven't yet taken us to the Southwest, but we're interested in seeing "canyonlands" - natural rock formations,arches,canyons - we also enjoy exploring local culture, crafts,festivals & food. Assuming we would fly from Minneapolis to whatever point, rent a car & stay at least a week, what time of year would you suggest, as well as "doable" general area to see in a week? Thanks in advance for any help!
HotWheels is offline  
Nov 1st, 2008, 01:30 PM
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 2,881
Mid-April thru May is great, October is great.

Summer will be more crowded and hotter, winter you'll have a chance of bad weather and icy roads, plus north rim of GC is closed.

So I vote spring or fall.

Summer is still fine (that's when most people visit), winter is OK (these areas are beautiful when covered with fresh snow), but "best" for combo of good weather and smaller crowds would be the months I mentioned above.
Bill_H is offline  
Nov 1st, 2008, 01:43 PM
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 70
This is what we did in one week
we did
San francisco(3nights)-9 hour drive-Laughlin overnight-Grand Canyon-Las Vegas(4 nights)-Daytrips to Zion/Bryce
It was a lot of time on the road
We did this during the first week of april of last year and it was soooo beautiful. Both the grand canyon and bryce/zion are just magnificent pieces of nature. One of the most beautiful, breathtaking sights i've ever seen.

I think las vegas is a good base if you want to explore Zion/Bryce and the Grand Canyon. Keep in mind it's at least a 3-4 hour drive from vegas to any of these locations. I'm sure there are other towns you can stay at besides vegas if you want to explore the canyons.
spongiebob is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2008, 12:28 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 2,301
I agree that April and May are the best times to visit the canyon areas of the Southwest. Earlier, and you risk bad weather; later, and you'll pretty much guarantee crowds and heat. The advantage of spring over fall is that the days are longer -- more time to visit places whose "hours" are dependent on daylight.

By flying into Vegas, staying there the day you arrive and the day before you depart (make certain they are NOT weekends or during a major convention), renting a car there, and then driving to the nearby national parks, you can make a grat visit to the canyons.

Lodging reservations at the Grand Canyon, months in advance, are a MUST. Find a room within the Park first, then make all other plans around the date you can get there.
PaulRabe is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2008, 04:51 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,019
I think April is too early for Bryce Canyon because of the temperatures.
The north rim of the Grand Canyon will not be open. Cedar Breaks will still be snowed in all probability.

The problem is the altitude. Bryce reaches an elevation of 9,000 feet at the southern end of the plateau.

Places like Arches, Canyonlands, Capital Reef and Zion are well suited to late April because by July they are very warm, even hot.

The South Rim of the Grand Canyon would be fine in June even as would Bryce.

If the heat is not a problem for you, then the lower elevation parks would be ok for June, even July.

It is hard to find a time of the year when all of the parks are at a good temperature.

If you only have a week, I would suggest Zion, Bryce, and Capital Reef. How long you spend at each park is a function of how much hiking you want to do.

Where to fly? Probably Las Vegas because it is the closest major airport to Zion and the North Rim. If you include the North Rim, remember that mid May is about when the facilities open.

For Bryce and especially the North Rim, reservations very soon are essential. Bryce fills very, very fast. In fact, it could be difficult to stay in the park now.

The North Rim is the same situation. Reservations there disappear fast because it is well isolated from commercial lodging.

Inside the park, be prepared for sticker shock. Prices are, in my opinion exorbitant - at least $310 per night for a motel room with 2 queen beds hits me as being out of range.

If you want a motel outside the park, Bryce Canyon Pines motel offers slightly cheaper rooms.
The motel is not far from the park entrance - less than 10 minutes drive.

For the North Rim, it looks like you will need to call Forever Resorts.

YOu can look all of this up with a web search.

I have used Bryce Canyon Pines, and it was satisfactory. We had a comfortable room.
bob_brown is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2008, 06:10 AM
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 1,618

With one week, you could do a nice loop from Vegas: 1 night Vegas, 5 nights among Zion, Bryce, North Rim, South Rim, Flagstaff and see the Hoover Dam, with stops to see ancient sites and smaller parks (Red Rock Canyon, for example).

I think if you want to see the arches and the painted desert, more to the southeast, you may want to make a loop out of Pheonix, and skip Zion/Bryce/North Rim.
capxxx is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2008, 07:18 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,012
I've been to Utah twice in the past 2 years. Each trip was for 1 week.

Trip 1
Arrived in LV and immediately drove to Bryce. Two days in Bryce (I went to Grosvenor Arch as well) followed by 1 day in Zion. En route to Grand Canyon spent several hours in Page viewing the sights - Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe bend, the Best Dam View.

Spent evening and morning in GC and drove to Sedonna for 2 1/2 days of spectacular hiking there.

Trip 2
Arrived in Salt Lake. Immediately drove to Moab (4 hours). Spent most of 4 days viewing Arches, Canyonlands, Dead Horse Point, rafting, Fisher Towers and some other area sights.

En route to Capitol Reef stopped in Goblin Valley. Spent a day in Capotol Reef.

One day in Escalante area. Lower Calf Creek Falls (spectacular), Devil's Garden Escalente, etc.

Last day. Hiked thru a real slot canyon - Willis Creek just south of Cannonville about 25 miles from Bryce. Went to Bryce in the afternoon and hiked Navajo Loop to get a feel for the park (I had been there the year before but a friend who joined me this time hadn't). Stopped at Bryce Point and Natural Bridge.

Then returned to SLC for next morning flight home.

Photos at:


Select the Utah trips.
Myer is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2008, 09:40 AM
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 6,509
I think a "doable" area to see in a week would be either Zion---Bryce---Grand Canyon (and possibly with Monument Valley) from Las Vegas, or Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef from Salt Lake City. I don't know which of those might offer more opportunities for local festivals. The southern loop, since it includes tribal territory, might offer more cultural event, crafts, and so on.

Also, I don't know about SLC., but Vegas has to be one of the least expensive places to rent a car. Our recent trip there was 10 days, and our mid-size rental car cost only $200.

As for time of year----we have visited the Grand Canyon in both spring (April) and fall (last week of September), and now prefer fall. The weather was perfect---we were doing some serious hiking and did not want to face extreme heat. Also, the fall colors were lovely, and the crowds much diminished, as compared to our April visits.

Some of the areas, like Bryce, are at high elevation and may still be very snowy in April. The North Rim of the GC does not open until mid-May (and closes in mid-October).
enzian is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2008, 03:39 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 294
Thanks to everyone for all the great information - it's been very helpful; hadn't thought about the Spring vs. Fall longer hours! We will probably do as advised - choose just one route or another to be able to not rush the trip, and come back to do the other route at a later date.
Two other questions - would it be better to fly in/out of LV instead of Phoenix? (Had interest in maybe visiting Sedona)- also, are the cliff dwellings within one of these routes? Again, my sincere thanks for your help!
HotWheels is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2008, 03:59 PM
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 6,509
We prefer flying in to Phoenix . . . but found rental cars less expensive at Las Vegas.

Sedona makes a nice addition, and might be a good reason to favor Phoenix.
enzian is offline  

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