October in the Grand Canyon
Learn all about what it means to visit Grand Canyon National Park in October
October, the true beginning of autumn in the Grand Canyon, sees cooler temperatures and even possibly snow at the rims begin to appear. Amazingly, it can still be 100 degrees Fahrenheit at the bottom of the Canyon in early October, or it can be 60. Crowds at the rims are thinner, but the backcountry (hiking, backpacking, and rafting) is at its prime time because it’s the best month for those activities. Reservations at the rims are easier to get, but permits and Phantom Ranch reservations in the Canyon are extremely competitive.
Benefits of Visiting in October
October is one of the best times to visit Grand Canyon because the weather is nearly perfect and the crowds are beginning to subside. Temperatures inside the Canyon are becoming perfect for hiking and backpacking while still being warm enough to avoid most ice and snow on the trails. This gives you the opportunity to hike in the canyon without the need for expertise in either summer or winter hiking. This opens up the canyon to many more backpackers and hikers compared to the months with more extreme weather. This park is truly stunning and well worth exploring off the beaten path and October is a great month to do just that.
Another obvious benefit of October is that the summer crowds have begun to subside on both rims. The South Rim will have less traffic, more reasonable accommodation rates, and more accommodations available for a last-minute booking in October than it did in September. While you won’t find the park nearly empty as you might in winter, the crowds have certainly lessened on the rims. The North Rim is still open in October, which is a huge benefit for visitors wanting to see the full scale of the park. This area is much more remote compared to the touristy South Rim and boasts amazing hiking, stunning views, and excellent wildlife viewing opportunities. While the roads to the North Rim technically close on the first heavy snow after October 15, this usually doesn’t happen until early November. Hiking rim to rim is amazing in October as the weather is nicer, the trails aren’t yet icy, and the crowds have subsided.
October is also a great time for white water rafting in the canyon as Canyon temperatures can still break 100 on some days. For the majority of the days, however, the canyon is not broiling hot but still warm enough to enjoy being soaked in the frigid Colorado River. October is also a relatively dry month, so you probably won’t have problems with monsoons getting in the way of your rafting adventures. Temperatures on the rims, while they may begin to cool, are still relatively pleasant and great for sightseeing, bicycling, walking the overlooks, helicopter tours, and many other activities.
Wildlife viewing is another great activity in October as it is rutting season. Elk that can be found on both rims and bison that can be found exclusively on the North Rim are in mating season during this time called the rut, and bulls of both species can be seen head butting and scuffling for the right to mate. The bull elk also let out their loud, characteristic bugle that can range from a high whistle to a low, huffing sound. Many of the other animals are also about, some of them gathering food for winter. Many squirrels, chipmunks, and other small mammals in the park are active during this time before the first snow hits and they retreat into hibernation. Of course, fewer crowds means fewer people to scare animals away, so you have a better chance of seeing some of the more elusive species like bobcats, javelinas, and ringtails.
Drawbacks of Visiting in October
The main drawback to visiting Grand Canyon in October is that the rims are getting too cold at night for comfortable camping, especially in mid to late October. While you still can camp, you will need to be prepared for freezing temperatures and to keep yourself and your stuff warm. This will involve winter gear and lots of foresight into small things, such as how you are going to keep your water from freezing overnight. While most of the trails remain clear in October, especially once you start heading into the canyon, rain that falls during the warmer part of the day can freeze overnight causing early, icy conditions. This makes camping less of a good option, making for a more expensive vacation having to stay in the lodges. In addition, the visitors who would’ve camped in the summer will now be staying in the lodge as well and might take away some of that lovely fall accommodation availability.
Another drawback to October is that backpacking permits and Phantom Ranch reservations are extremely competitive. Those wanting to hike and backpack in the canyon are well aware that October is one of the best times to do so and thus book up reservations quickly. You might also find yourself having to hike further in the canyon than you thought to find a campsite yourself. This is one of the great reasons to go on a backpacking trip with a guiding company that will take care of permits and reservations for the group so you don’t have to.
While the roads to the North Rim do not typically close until the first big snow in November, the Grand Canyon Lodge on the North Rim does close on October 15. This leaves you with the options of camping in the cold weather on the rim (the North Rim is typically a little colder than the South Rim due to an extra thousand feet in elevation) or hiking down into the canyon where it’s warmer. And while it is unlikely that the North Rim will close before the end of October, you do take the chance that an early snowstorm might ruin your trip if you plan to camp on the North Rim in October.
Things to Do in October
October is especially great for backcountry activities – hiking, backpacking, and rafting. It’s the last month of the year that you can raft the Colorado River on a guided trip. While the temperatures are cooler than they were in the summer months, inside the canyon it can still be quite warm, sometimes reaching into the triple digits. This makes getting soaked in the Colorado refreshing despite it typically being a mere 52°F. October is often much drier than late summer and early fall, making monsoons less of an issue for white water rafters. Flash floods caused by the monsoon season can create more treacherous rapids and cause delays, so October is a great way to avoid them.
Backpacking is also great this time of year due to the moderate temperatures throughout the park. The Rim to Rim hike is at its peak popularity but many other more remote trails are also very popular at this time. An adventure into the west canyon on Hermit Loop or a trek along Kanab Creek are both great options. It’s important to keep an eye on the forecast and make sure you’re physically able to complete the trails that you have in mind. Even rim-to-rim hiking is very strenuous as the park is at elevation and over a mile deep. You may be facing very warm temperatures at the bottom of the canyon along with rather cold temperatures on the rims if you arrive at night.
If you don’t think you want to do a backpacking trip, day hikes are great options in October as well. The corridor trails of Bright Angel, South Kaibab, and North Kaibab are great options as they have waypoints and overlooks where you can turn around if you feel like it. There are also some great hikes up on the rims without descending into the canyon, many of which take you along the ledge and let you see many stunning overlooks.
At the rims all tours are excellent in October – helicopter, airplane, bicycle, van tours, day hike tours, guided backpacking trips, etc. Hermits Rest Scenic Drive is still closed to private vehicles, but you can walk, bike, or take the shuttle bus (which will be considerably less busy than was in the summer) to see the overlooks and vistas on this fantastic drive. Make sure to take a look at Hermits Rest when you get to the end, a re-creation of an old mining cabin that now holds a snack shop.
Wildlife viewing is also fantastic on the rims in October. While some of the reptiles may have gone into hibernation for the colder months, many of the other animals will still be out and about. The rutting season for elk on both the North and South Rim and for bison on the North Rim makes for fantastic viewing opportunities as the meals of both species can be seen fighting for the right to mate. Fewer crowds mean fewer people to scare animals away, so you might get a glimpse of some of the more elusive animals in the park such as bobcats, bighorn sheep, ringtails, or a spotted skunk.
If you’re looking for indoor activities to wait out the cold or for a more relaxing day, there is plenty to keep you and the kids busy. The park boasts a few museums, many people think the best of which is the Yavapai Geology Museum which has excellent exhibits about the prehistoric and modern fossils you can find in the park. The Kolb Studio and photo gallery are also worth a visit as are the visitor centers on both rims. The 22-minute visitor center film is a great way to learn more about the park from the warmth of a heated building. A trip on the Grand Canyon Railway that runs from Williams to the canyon is also a great way to wait out some of the weather and may include a visit from old western outlaws. This train ride is especially great for kids as it is designed to look like a train from the late 1800s when tourism in the canyon look very different than it does today. You can have dinner at El Tovar or explore the South Rim Village, both of which are fantastic in October.
THINGS to see in october
October is a great time for sightseeing in the park as the temperatures remain pleasant and the weather is unlikely to obscure viewpoints. Rest assured even if you come in October– the month famed for hiking and backpacking in the park– you won’t be bored if sightseeing is the main item on your agenda. While there is a plethora of things to see in the park, what you want to do will depend on your interests. Below, we’ve created a short list of some of the must-see sights in the Grand Canyon in October, but make sure to do your own research to see what specifically piques your interest in the park.
Hermit’s Rest: Designed by the famous park architect Mary Colter, this reconstruction of an old miner’s cabin is a must-see in October. Lying at the end of Hermit’s Rest Scenic Drive, this cabin used to be the last civilization tourists saw before descending into the canyon via the trail beyond the road. Now it houses a snack stand and gift shop.
Desert View Watchtower: Located near the eastern entrance of the park, this watchtower is also a work of Mary Colter. Seeming to rise out of the very canyon wall itself, visitors coming in through the east entrance can climb the tower for their first views of the canyon and the Colorado River.
The Abyss: This overlook is on Hermit’s Rest Scenic Drive and is not to be missed if you are walking, biking, or taking the shuttle bus. While most of the overlooks draw your eye out to the extensive canyon network beyond, this lookout draws your eye down to the sheer cliff over 3000 ft tall that plummets to the canyon floor.
Phantom Ranch: If you are planning to visit the bottom of the canyon, whether, on a mule-assisted trip or hiking, you have to visit Phantom Ranch. Once again a design by Mary Colter, the ranch is made up of cabins nestled amongst the trees that change with the seasons and near Bright Angel Creek. It is the perfect place to rest in the middle of the day during a rim-to-rim hike or to stay the night on a backpacking trip.
HIking in October
October is the best month of the year for hiking and backpacking the Grand Canyon. Temperatures are cooling and the monsoons of the summer have subsided. Although October weather temperatures are similar to what they are in May, late spring brings with it the possibility of leftover snow and ice from the winter. In October, visitors are less likely to get an early snowstorm or ice covering the trails. This makes not the Corridor trails (South Kaibab, North Kaibab, Bright Angel) and more remote areas of the park accessible for day hikes. Hermit, Grandview, and Tanner trails– all options for day hikers in October– are rarely accessible outside of on a backpacking trip at other times of the year. This is mostly due to inclement weather. These trails are a great way to see the more remote parts of the canyon without having backpacking experience or equipment and can allow you to escape any crowds on the rim or on the more popular trails.
October is also fantastic for the famous rim-to-rim trail. This trip can be done as a backpacking trip or a very, very long day hike (24 miles, depending on which trail you take). The weather in October is ideal for either one, but expect temperatures to get hot in the canyon during the middle of the day. The National Park Service does not recommend hiking from the rim to the river and back in one day. Another benefit of day hiking is that it does not require permits like backpacking in the canyon does. Many people who hike in the canyon know that October is the best time of the year to go, so backpacking permits can be very competitive and difficult to get. Day hiking, however, doesn’t require a permit so you won’t have to worry about planning your trip months in advance in order to be able to hike.
If you’re looking to stay within the corridor, Bright Angel and South Kaibab trails are both great options. Bright Angel Trail has some shade, water every 1.5 miles, and the famous plateau point that gives you a stunning overlook. This point also serves as a waypoint for day hikers to turn around and return to the rim. South Kaibab is a little sunnier, so if the weather happens to be chilly, you might prefer to be on this trail. It is also 2 miles shorter than Bright Angel but does not have a plateau point or Havasupai Garden halfway down.
The weather can vary greatly in the park in October, so you’ll want to keep an eye on the forecast to see when it’s best to start your hike. Temperatures in the canyon can reach triple digits but the South Rim village can be anywhere from a high of 80°F to 60°F. If it’s going to be hot you’ll want to start your hike fairly early in the morning so that you can be off the trail by the heat of the day or, if you’re doing a longer hike, rest for an hour or two during mid-day when the heat is at its peak. If it’s cooler during the day, start mid-morning, and ensure that you’ll be off the trail before the sun sets. You will have about 12 hours of sunlight in October, and temperatures begin to drop sharply after dark.
While day hiking in the canyon in October is about the safest month you can get, there are still some dangers that hikers should be aware of. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are still risks in the canyon in mid-day and hypothermia can pose danger if hikers are on the trail into the night. The park has also seen an increase in water poisoning, or water intoxication, which is caused by a visitor drinking too much water without eating enough. This will create a sodium imbalance in your cells which can be life-threatening. Make sure you’re eating salty snacks along with drinking water while you’re hiking. Going on a guided hike, even for just a day, is a great way to make sure you have all the safety information and an expert guide to show you around the canyon.
backpacking in october
If October is a great time of year for day hiking, it is an even better time of year for backpacking trips. Without having to deal with the extreme weather of summer or winter in the canyon, October is prime time to get into the backcountry and experience parts of the canyon that you can only access by walking. The Grand Canyon is immense and has many side canyons and offshoots that make trails abundant and interesting. You have the flexibility to do anything from an extended weekend or going a week or longer in the backcountry and enjoying it either way. If you’re looking to stay on the side of an extended weekend, consider doing a rim-to-rim hike in 2 or 3 days. You can make your trip a loop by traveling down Bright Angel and back up Kaibab and riding the hikers shuttle back to your car. You can also do a thru-hike from the South Rim to the North Rim and have a friend pick you up or leave an extra car on the other side of the canyon to drive back. If you want to make sure you have access to showers and heat, then stay at Phantom Ranch, the only national park lodging below the rim. There is a plethora of options for longer hikes in the canyon, many of which are offered by guiding companies. You can check out what guided trips are offered to see if you want to take a guided tour or look at some sample itineraries for your own trip. Hermit Loop and Grandview Trek are both very popular options and allow you to see parts of the canyon that are not as popular or crowded.
Because October is such a fantastic month to backpack the canyon, make sure to plan your trip months in advance and understand the lottery system for getting permits. Backpacking permits are difficult to secure in October as it’s very competitive with so many people wanting to hike. This is one of the biggest benefits of going with a guiding company, which will secure permits for the entire group so that you don’t have to. While the rims are becoming quieter, you can expect to see lots of faces (for the backcountry anyway) on the trails and campsites that you might not have all to yourself. Of course, the NPS limits the number of permits that they give out and this controls the number of people in the backcountry. All the dangers that come with day hiking also come with backpacking so make sure to read the section above if you are interested in this activity. The canyon is at about 7,000 ft of elevation and the trails can be brutal and steep. Backpackers need to be sure that they can handle the trail that they chose. Talk to a ranger before setting out to see what the trail conditions are and if the trail is suitable to your experience level.
Weather in October
If you’ve ever been to the Grand Canyon before, you know how much the weather can vary as the park is very extensive and the canyon is over a mile deep. As we’ve said before, the rims of the canyon are mountainous, alpine environments with weather similar to what you might find in Sequoia National Park or Yosemite. The average high at the South Rim in October is 65 degrees Fahrenheit, and the average low is 33 degrees Fahrenheit (high of 18 degrees Celsius, low 1 degrees Celsius.) But inside the canyon is a desert environment, similar to what you might find in Death Valley or Joshua Tree National Park. At Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Canyon, the average high temperature in October is 83 degrees Fahrenheit, and the low of 58 degrees Fahrenheit (28H/14L degrees Celsius.) October is about the best you will do in the entire year for finding a time when both areas of the park are moderate. The rims are getting chillier and moving towards winter, but snow storms are uncommon in October. Inside the canyon, the heat has begun to subside but it is still pleasant for hiking and even white water rafting. The average number of days of rain in October is 3. Visitors should keep in mind that these numbers are just averages and that the park can experience much warmer or colder temperatures than this.
Visitors in October are coming during one of the loveliest times of the year. The weather is cool enough on the rim to wear a jacket, the fireplace at the lodge is lit in the evenings and the heat in the canyon has subsided enough to make hiking longer distances pleasant. Guests should be aware of the risks of heat stroke and heat exhaustion in the canyon, especially as the temperatures on the rim are so much cooler. Inexperienced hikers are often fooled into thinking canyon hiking will be easy and not require very much water based on the initial downhill hiking and the cool temperatures on the rim. It gets warmer with every step you take further into the canyon and if you are not prepared with plenty of water, heat exhaustion can come upon you even if the absolute temperature is not that hot. It takes most visitors about twice as long to hike up out of the canyon as it did to hike down, so make sure you have enough time before dark and you have enough water and snacks for you to be comfortable on your hike. While a snowstorm is not likely in October, it is still a possibility, and visitors coming to the rims– especially the North Rim– should be aware of this. The road to the North Rim closes after the first big storm after October 15. While this doesn’t usually happen until early November, guests can find their trip ruined if they planned to camp on the North Rim after October 15 only for an early snowstorm to come in. Make sure you always check the forecast and current conditions before you set out and ask a ranger about the conditions of the trails if you get a chance. The weather in October is much less likely to get in your way than earlier in the season, but it is always best to be prepared for the worst weather you might encounter. Make sure you take the proper precautions to make your activities safe and enjoyable.
Wildlife in october
October is a great time to view wildlife in the Grand Canyon. While the reptiles and amphibians will be almost completely in hibernation for the colder weather, many of the other animals will be more active as the summer heat has subsided. Elk and bison will still be in the rut, during the mating season. Bulls of both species can be seen scuffling and fighting for the right to mate. The bugle of the bull elk can often be heard reverberating off the canyon walls, a sound that varies from a high whistle to a low huffing sound. It’s best to keep more distance than usual from these animals during this time of year as they can become more aggressive and territorial. Mule deer, ravens, and various species of squirrels can all be seen on the rims. The squirrels will be getting ready for hibernation and can be seen gathering nuts and food for their dens. Bears don’t live at the Grand Canyon as it gets too hot in the summer, but other predators such as coyotes, bobcats, and mountain lions call the park home. Out of the three, you’re most likely to see a coyote as they are not as shy around people, but the two feline predators are much more elusive and difficult to see.
Perhaps the most famous wildlife resident at Grand Canyon National Park is the California condor, sometimes called the land version of the sea-born albatross. The largest bird native to North America with a wingspan that can reach 9 1/2 feet, these scavenger birds can often be seen riding the updrafts of warmer air from the canyon. Brought back from the brink of extinction through captive breeding programs, this bird is a fantastic story of conservation and success. Although they are still endangered, the park has a small but stable population and many visitors come to see these birds soaring through the clouds. While they are often confused with vultures as they are both large, black, and scavengers, condors are much larger, have white splotches on the underside of their wings, and have a very smooth flight path whereas turkey vultures tend to wobble when they fly.
Another American Southwest staple is the javelina. Pig-like and traveling in herds, these animals are known for their very tough diet which sometimes includes cactus. They are on the more elusive side, but keep your distance from them if you see them as they can be surprisingly aggressive and strong for their relatively small size. The park is full of all sorts of animals to see, so make sure to ask a Ranger if you’re interested in seeing something specific or ask what has been caught lately on remote cameras.
Recommended Wildland trips in october
As we’ve said previously, October is the best month of the year for hiking and backpacking. While planning a trip to the Grand Canyon on your own can be fun and exciting, it can also be a headache, especially if you are planning a backpacking trip and have to navigate permits and regulations. Here at Wildland Trekking, we offer hiking tours in a variety of styles so that you don’t have to go through the hassle but still get to enjoy your trip. We offer everything from backpacking and camping tours to inn-based trips and day hikes. Whatever you chose, rest assured that you will get to take advantage of the great weather and hiking. Feel free to browse all the trips we offer in the Grand Canyon, but here are a few we especially recommend for October.
Autumn Rim-to-Rim in the Grand Canyon: If you are looking to do a rim-to-rim backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon, this is the trip for you. With October having the best weather for being on both the rims and in the canyon, this is an ideal month to do this trip. Don’t spend your time worrying about permits, much of your gear, or meals as you join us on this all-inclusive backpacking tour.
Colorado River Traverse: One of the most difficult and the most remote backpacking trips that we offer in the Grand Canyon, the Colorado River Traverse is a must-do trip for the one who wants to see the remote parts of the Grand Canyon. With five and six-day variations and a nine-guest limit, this all-inclusive trip is one you won’t ever forget with the unique red rock canyon, fantastic and up-close views of the Colorado River, and lots of side canyons and offshoots.
Grand Canyon Basecamp Tour: If you want to camp in the Grand Canyon but aren’t sure you want to trek into the backcountry, join us on the base camp trip where you can have the best of both worlds in phenomenal hiking but also showers at your cozy campground accommodations. All-inclusive with your meals, local transportation, much of your gear, and expert guide included, you won’t want to miss out on this 4-day hiking tour.
Best of North Arizona Tour: Perhaps the best way to make the most of the week in North Arizona is to see it all, and that’s exactly what you’ll do on this investment trip. Experience the South Rim, the North Rim, and Sedona on this 6-day tour where you’ll experience each of these distinct landscapes and go on hand-picked in each. With premier lodging and excellent cuisine, this all-inclusive trip is the perfect blend of outdoor activities with a touch of luxury.
Join a Guided Hiking Adventure
Grand Canyon National Park is home to some of the most unique and spectacular hiking vacations in the world. Wildland Trekking offers trips with stunning views, geologic history, and incredible hiking and backpacking for visitors who want to have an active, adventurous experience.
Guided Grand Canyon treks include permits, local transportation (excluded on certain tours), meals, gear, risk management systems, and professional guides, allowing guests to make the most of their visit to the Canyon, focus 100% on enjoying their experience, and do it all with an increased level of safety and comfort.
GRAND CANYON ADVENTURE TOURS
- GUIDED BACKPACKING ADVENTURES: these are for people interested in an authentic adventure deep in the Canyon’s wilderness.
- HORSE-ASSISTED TRIP: on this trip to the bottom of the Canyon, guests hike with light day packs and camp near the Colorado River.
- PHANTOM RANCH TOURS: this tour (limited dates) goes to the bottom of the Canyon where we sleep 1 or 2 nights in the Phantom Ranch Lodge 5 minutes from the Colorado River. Showers, A/C, heat…etc.
- ALL-INCLUSIVE HIKING PACKAGES: inn-based and camping-based hiking packages provide all-around hiking experiences of the Grand Canyon.
- DAY HIKE TOURS: maximize your day at Grand Canyon on a fully guided, award-winning hiking tour on one of the Park’s best trails.