3 Must-Do Grand Canyon Activities in December

3 Must-Do Grand Canyon Activities in December

The pace slows down in Grand Canyon National Park in December, which makes it an ideal vacation time for families who want to explore this wonder of the world at their own speed. Pack a warm jacket and hiking boots and get ready to enjoy the crisp air and peaceful beauty of the Grand Canyon as the seasons change from fall to winter.

Check out these must-do Grand Canyon activities for your end-of-year vacation.

Getting to Grand Canyon National Park

Open year-round, the Grand Canyon’s South Rim is the best way to access the park during a December vacation.

Take in 360-Degree Views

Looking for the panoramic views of the Grand Canyon that you’ve seen in magazines or on TV? Hop in your rental car and drive to the Desert View Watchtower, perched on the edge of the Grand Canyon at the end of Desert View Drive. Built in 1932 and designed by Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter, who is often called the architect of the Southwest, the watchtower effortlessly blends into the landscape. Climb its stairs for sweeping vistas across the Grand Canyon. On a clear December day, your view can stretch for miles in every direction. See how the Colorado River curves to the north and fix your gaze on the Painted Desert, so named for its bold reds, oranges, lavenders, blues and grays.

Getting to the Desert View Watchtower: Follow the scenic Desert View Drive from the park’s south entrance about 25 miles east along the South Rim.

Desert View Watchtower There’s no shortage of scenery to gawk at from 70 feet up in the Desert View Watchtower, and there’s a visual treat inside, too: Murals depicting Hopi Tribe origin stories line the walls along the tower’s 85 winding stairs.


Hike into the Canyon

During December in the Grand Canyon, average temperatures range from 36 to 55 degrees. When temperatures drop, warm up with an unforgettable day hike from the South Rim. Three trails offer a variety of distances and destinations, so choose the hike that best suits your family. The most popular is the Bright Angel Trail, a steep descent into the canyon, with destinations and rest stops like the Indian Garden along the way. Or park in one of the lots near the visitor center and ride the park’s free shuttle bus to the South Kaibab Trailhead. From there, take the short but strenuous 3-mile round-trip hike to Cedar Ridge for stunning 360-degree views of the canyon. Another option is the Rim Trail, which follows the South Rim for 13 miles. Start from any of the trail’s viewpoints, like Hopi Point, which boasts fantastic views of the rock formations known as “temples.” Hop on and off the shuttle to explore the variety of viewpoints and end your day on the trail by catching the sunset at Mohave Point. This western-exposure spot is ideal to watch the sun shoot off its red and orange beams while it creeps down into the canyon.

Getting to the trails: From the Grand Canyon Visitor Center at the South Rim, take a Village (Blue) Route shuttle to the Hermits Rest Route Transfer station and walk to the Bright Angel Trailhead; take the Kaibab Rim (Orange) Route to the South Kaibab Trailhead stop; or start hiking right away along the Rim Trail from the visitor center parking lots

South Kaibab Trailhead Hikers can warm up on a chilly day along the strenuous, and gorgeous, South Kaibab Trail.


Take a Train Ride

All aboard! The Grand Canyon Railway, about 60 miles south of Grand Canyon Village, will take you into the heart of the park and back. On board the historic, restored, temperature-controlled rail cars, you’ll hear folklore, tunes and tales of the park’s past. As you listen and laugh, keep your eyes on what’s out the window: the Grand Canyon’s impressive deserts, prairies and pine landscapes. In December, the Railway’s Polar Express brings the classic children’s book to life on evening train rides. En route, enjoy hot chocolate, chocolate chip cookies and, of course, Santa Claus and his reindeer.

Getting to the Grand Canyon Railway Depot: From the South Rim visitor center, follow Arizona State Route 64 south to Route 66 in Williams, then follow Route 66 west to North Grand Canyon Boulevard.

Grand Canyon Railway Travel to the South Rim — and back in time to the Old West — on board the Grand Canyon Railway. Photo courtesy of Xanterra Parks & Resorts.
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About the Author

Susan B. Barnes, aka travlin’ girl, is a travel writer who enjoys exploring the national parks as much as her own Florida backyard and sharing discoveries with her readers. Follow her travels online on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.