Good morning travelers ~ Today’s post doesn’t come from the pages of TripAdvisor or other travel forums, it comes straight from you – well sort of. Working the phones of late at GrandCanyon.com I’ve heard a common refrain from Grand Canyon travel planners: “Whaddya mean it’s still busy? It’s after Labor Day! Isn’t it supposed to be off-season?”
Yes, once upon a time, folks, peak Grand Canyon Travel Season was a mere 3 months-and-change timeframe from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Frankly I never experienced that “once upon a time.” When I began working at Grand Canyon South Rim at the El Tovar Hotel in 1987, I remember a particularly busy day in February that threw all the “old timers” for a loop. Understaffed and unprepared, they loudly lamented, “aw man, it’s starting early this year!” And that was all she wrote for this Grand Canyon travel professional. From then on, “the season” extended from President’s Day through Halloween. If it was a mild winter and the snow didn’t start to fly until December, boom, another “extension.” Or if spring decided to show up early – you guessed it, another “extension.”
So why is this happening to Grand Canyon Travel? I’m not 100% certain, but one contributing factor is the wide variance that has developed between U.S. school systems in when they observe their holidays. Spring Break no longer revolves around Easter; some schools now resume as early as mid-August instead of after Labor Day like normal people! Some school systems, such as ours in Southern Wyoming where I now reside, have a short “fall break” in mid-October when families can take advantage of a long weekend and a mini-vacay. Then factor in the schools with year-round schedules and families who homeschool and voila! Grand Canyon South Rim has now become a year-round destination.
So if you really and truly want to experience Grand Canyon travel in a more relaxed frame of mind, when you’re not jockeying for a photo with a hundred other people standing shoulder to shoulder at Mather or Hopi Point, and having to drive 2 hours to your hotel room because everything within a 100 mile radius of the park was booked 6 months before you got there, there is now only one season where that’s possible: winter. I mean dead-of-winter between mid-December and late-February. Yes, it’s cold (we’re 7,000′ above sea level); yes, we sometimes get over 12″ of snow in a single storm; but in exchange for having to pack a down jacket in your suitcase, you will get back so much in return. Peace, solitude, and the chance to see the Grand Canyon at its absolute best: walking up to the rim just after a good snowstorm, when the clouds have just cleared, but before the roads have had a chance to be plowed. A stillness pervades the air as the newly fallen snow muffles almost all sound. The beauty and serenity of the Grand Canyon, swathed in a cape of pure white, is a magical quality you can’t experience any other time of year.
Winter is just around the corner – perhaps it’s time for you to start planning your Grand Canyon travel!
’til next time – stay warm 🙂