When most people think of Arizona, they think of heat, sand dunes, cactus, and rattlesnakes. Many do not realize that the only place you’ll even find large concentrations of sand dunes in Arizona is near Yuma, right on the Arizona/California border! Even much of Phoenix rises over 1000 feet in elevation. The South Rim of the Grand Canyon sits at about 7000′ (2135 meters); the North Rim rises up to nearly 9000′ (2745 meters). Remember, Mount Washington in the White Mountains of New Hampshire is only 6288′ (1918 meters) high and notorious for its extreme and unpredictable weather.
Just as the weather differs from the top of the peak down to the cities below, so does it differ in Arizona. I cannot tell you how often we see visitors driving up from Phoenix to the South Rim in November wearing only shorts and t-shirts! I can tell you the local stores that sell jackets and sweatshirts do a booming business! I’ve experienced snow in June at the South Rim and sixty degrees in the middle of winter. These are the mountains folks! Dress properly. And although I’ve included a table below showing annual average temperatures on the South Rim, weather is unpredictable; it can vary widely from the “average.”
- Grand Canyon Weather and Road Conditions – NPS Website
- National Weather Service – the most accurate weather forecast for Grand Canyon and Northern Arizona
- Phantom Ranch Weather – NWS forecast specifically for Phantom Ranch
- Indian Garden Campground Weather – NWS forecast specifically for Indian Garden
- North Rim Weather – NWS forecast specifically for the North Rim which is 1000 feet higher than the South Rim
- Toroweap/Tuweep Weather Forecast – Remote area located on Arizona Strip in western Grand Canyon off of North Rim above Lava Falls
- Grand Canyon Webcam – Live view of Grand Canyon from the South Rim’s Yavapai Point
- Weather Underground – Another favorite weather site for current, extended, and historical conditions at the Grand Canyon. Access to historical conditions is very helpful when planning a trip for a particular time of year by comparing what happened in previous years.
- For the latest Road and Weather Conditions in Arizona, dial “5-1-1″ on your phone. For Grand Canyon specific information, enter this speed code “4215#” from the opening menu.
- The National Weather Service provides an audio weather report that is the most up-to-the-minute forecast available. In fact, this is the weather forecast that the Park Service uses to post their weather report!
- Did you know that official temperatures are taken in the shade? As you can imagine, it is much hotter in the sun than the shade. To find out how much difference there can be between shade and sun, grass and concrete, as well as other contributing factors, read the extremely informative “What Does it Mean to be Hot?” page from NASA Earth Observatory.
To the left is a live image from the webcam located at Yavapai Point on the South Rim of Grand Canyon. Click on the image to go to the webcam page for more detailed information and a larger view on the park service site. If the image is black, you’re very likely looking at Grand Canyon at night. It gets dark out here!
Keep in mind that the climate between the rims and the inner canyon differs dramatically with the change in elevation. The South Rim is 4500′ (1372 meters) higher than the Colorado River. The difference in temperature between the two is usually 15° to 30°F warmer in the inner canyon. There is an even greater difference between the North Rim and the inner canyon, since it is over 1000′ (305 meters) higher than the South Rim.
Summer temperatures on the South Rim are relatively pleasant (50°-80° F), but inner canyon temperatures are extreme. Daytime highs at the river often exceed 100°F. North Rim temperatures are cooler than those on the South Rim due to increased elevation. Afternoon rain showers are common on both rims in the summer. Summer is also the time that we experience most of our severe weather. Weather and how you deal with it plays a major role in your survival outdoors. Did you know that flash floods are the number one weather related killer in the United States, killing about 150 people per year?
Winter conditions at the South Rim can also be extreme; expect snow, icy roads and trails, and possible road closures. Canyon views may be temporarily obscured during winter storms; in such cases entrance fees are not refundable. The North Rim is closed in winter (usually first snowfall in November until near Memorial Day).
Spring and fall weather is extremely unpredictable; be prepared for sudden changes in the weather at those times of year. Shown below are “average” temperatures for each month of the year for the South Rim, North Rim, and Phantom Ranch.
|SOUTH RIM||NORTH RIM||INNER CANYON|
Note that the average temp of 106°F during June and July and 103°F in August can be misleading. Here are some eye opening weather facts that may interest you! Please realize that the following temperatures are taken in the shade in a special ventilated enclosure with a calibrated gauge suspended five feet off the ground. To get an idea of what actual temperatures are in the direct sun, add 20°F/11°C to those listed below.
To give you a realistic idea of what you might expect for temperatures during the three months of summer (June, July, and August), I’ve included a table showing a sampling of how many days were over 110°F/43°C during each summer and what the hottest recorded temperature had been. Courtesy of Sjors, Phantom Ranger Station. The years not showing any dates are missing because Sjors was not at Phantom Ranger Station those summers.
|Year||# Days over 110°F||Hottest temp of year|
National Weather Service – An excellent, easy-to-navigate site to find weather information for all of Arizona and the United States.
Flagstaff National Weather Service – For a complete resource and up-to-date information on all of Northern Arizona’s weather, including at the Colorado River near Phantom Ranch, be sure to check out NOAA’s site. For those running the river, NOAA’s site also has river flow (hydrology) information for the entire area.
The U.S. Naval Observatory Astronomical Applications Department has an excellent web site for those wishing to find out sunrise/sunset times and the phases of the moon. To get data for Grand Canyon, simply fill in “Arizona” in the state section and “Grand Canyon” in the city section for whatever date you’re interested in. This is especially useful if you plan on doing any night hiking using moonlight to avoid the heat of the day, or if you are interested in viewing as many constellations as possible with a new moon. I love to plan my trips so that I will be at a spectacular viewpoint for the sunset and rise of the full moon—someplace like Plateau Point. Awesome!