Canyon weather is divided into three zones:
- South Rim (about 7000 feet above sea level)
- North Rim (about 8000 feet above sea level), and the
- Inner Gorge (about 2000 feet above sea level).
arid South Rim is pleasant, even
in the peak of summer. It gets nippy in the winter. The forested
North Rim is generally cool in
summer and receives so much snow that it is closed during the winter
months. Pleasant summer temperatures on the rims give no clue of
the inferno atmosphere of the inner gorge. Inner
Gorge temperatures are generally 20 to 25 deg F warmer than
those experienced at the North or South Rim. Elevation differences
create this temperature variation.
What's the inner gorge like in the summer?
Try this: Preheat your oven to 500 deg F. Open the door to let the
wave of heat envelope you. Stand there. Keep standing there. Imagine
you can't close the door. Imagine that heat is every where you turn.
There's no escape. There's no shade. Even the night radiates relentless
heat. That's the Inner Gorge Grand Canyon in the summer. Is your
body prepared for that? Are you prepared for that?
adaptation. Just as body physiology adapts to altitude, your
body adapts to desert conditions. Your body learns how to use fluids
more effectively. Your body learns how to sweat more effectively.
Desert adaptation takes about two weeks.
How does your body react to desert conditions?
You must learn how your body reacts to desert conditions. This includes
leaning the warning signals of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
The Grand Canyon is unique in that within a few hours your concerns
can shift from the possibility of heat stroke to the possibility
of hypothermia. Even experienced Grand Canyon hikers get into trouble,
as this story illustrates.
fluid intake. Dehydration is a Grand Canyon hiker's biggest
threat. Dehydration-related maladies are the most common factors
leading to hiker death or disability in the canyon.
You must learn how to manage fluid intake so you stay hydrated.
If hiking in the peak of the summer swelter, your body may require
more than one gallon of water each hour. At about 8 pounds per gallon,
the distance you can hike is quickly limited by the amount of water
you can carry. Water sources in the Grand Canyon are few and far
So, What's the Best
Time of Year to Hike the Grand Canyon?
- DO: Hike below the rim during
the Canyon's Temperate Months (October
- DON'T hike to the Inner Gorge
during the Danger Months. Stay near the
If possible, plan to hike the Grand Canyon during October, November,
and April, when weather is about as close to ideal as you can get
in the Canyon. Temperatures on the rim and within the inner gorge
are moderate. Precipitation is minimal.
Canyon's Temperate Months
Blue indicates a month
in which the average minimum temperature is 30 deg F or
less. Green indicates
a month in which average monthly precipitation is 2 inches
Inner Gorge temperatures in December through March
are also very pleasant. Yet, be aware that snow
and ice are likely near the rim November through February.
Snow can obscure the trail. Ice can make hiking very treacherous.
Pack instep crampons if you hike during these months.
Hiking from the warm inner gorge to the cool rim is a fine recipe
for hypothermia. Make sure you stay hydrated, eat frequently, and
adjust your clothing frequently when climbing out. Be especially
vigilant when you stop for a break. Sweat soaked clothing can yield
rapid chill and possible hypothermia.