No hyperbole here: the Grand Canyon really is every bit Grand. And of course everyone thinks so: there were nearly 6 million visitors in 2016. Unbelievably to me, the months with the highest visitation are June, July, and August. It makes some sense with the summer vacation from schools, and the fact that on the rim, with an average elevation of 7,000 feet on the south and 8,000 feet on the north temperatures are really lovely with highs in the low 80s Fahrenheit. However, descending into the Canyon during these months is not a comfortable experience – all three months record average highs at Phantom Ranch in the low 100s Fahrenheit. If you’re a hiker, every other month – January to May, and September to December – is many times preferable.

The visual experience of the Grand Canyon changes with the seasons, every one spectacular. Winter is very special with the sun lower in the sky and further south, and snow and ice on the trail and clinging to the canyon walls. Spring and autumn both evidence foliage changes. On any given day the colors of the sedimentary layers change as you descend. Add seasonal changes, and there is no end to the visual bonanza.

Of course with great adventure comes some risk. Over 250 people are rescued in the Grand Canyon every year, and these are not always people who are new to hiking. But it is often the result of not being prepared. Carefully plan any hike into the Grand Canyon, taking into consideration food, water, clothing, and first aid. See the blog posts here for trail descriptions, maps, and links to specific helpful information in the labyrinthine National Parks Service site. Also read Staying Safe on a Desert Hike.

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Grand Canyon: 36.087396, -112.054710