Arizona in Winter

The colder season in Arizona brings snow (in some areas) and cooler weather in others. The areas that have snow bring large crowds for winter sports.

Winter in Arizona is a refreshing break from the sizzling summer months, especially in December and January. During this season, the state offers a pleasant climate, making it a fantastic time for you to explore and enjoy.

Not only does the weather become more tolerable, but hotel rates are often more affordable.

This article offers tips and information on the top destinations to visit in Arizona during the winter season for

  • Crowds
  • Weather
  • What to Wear / Outfits
  • Things to Do

We cover every region of Arizona you might visit in the winter! More later!

All of these links open in a new tab. They are incredibly useful for your Arizona trip.

Winter Overview

From December to February, which marks the winter season, average high temperatures in Arizona differ based on the region. In warmer places like Phoenix and Tucson, you can expect temperatures to hover around the mid-60s°F (approximately 18°C).

In contrast, cooler areas like Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon experience temperatures in the mid-40s°F (around 7°C).

Arizona boasts numerous attractions that are especially delightful to visit during the winter months:

  • The Grand Canyon: One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, the Grand Canyon offers breathtaking views, especially with a light dusting of snow in the winter.
  • Sedona: Known for its vibrant red rocks and spiritual vortexes, Sedona’s beauty is enhanced in winter, providing serene landscapes.
  • Phoenix: As the state capital, Phoenix has a mix of cultural attractions, shopping districts, and outdoor activities to enjoy in the milder winter climate.
  • Tucson: This city showcases Arizona’s rich history with its preserved Spanish colonial architecture and numerous museums.

So, if you’re considering a winter trip, Arizona might just be the perfect destination for you. Enjoy the natural wonders, cultural experiences, and pleasant weather all in one place!

Antelope Canyon | Special

Antelope Canyon, with its mesmerizing spiraled sandstone walls and ethereal beauty, is a must-visit destination at any time of the year. However, winter offers a unique and enchanting experience.

Important: You can’t visit Antelope Canyon on your own. You can only see its beauty on a guided tour:

Check out all Antelope Canyon Tours here

Light Beams

In the summer months, the sun’s position creates those iconic beams of light that filter down into the narrow canyons, illuminating the walls in a magical dance of light and shadow.

The light beams are not visible in the winter, as they ‘return’ in mid-March. However, the softer light provides a different kind of beauty. The walls glow with a muted warmth, and the play of light and shadow offers a tranquil, serene atmosphere, making photography a dream.

Crowds

One of the significant advantages of visiting Antelope Canyon in the winter months is the reduction in crowds. Summer can be bustling, with tourists flocking in large numbers.

However, in December and January, the canyon is more peaceful, allowing for a more personal and intimate experience. You’ll have ample time and space to appreciate the canyon’s beauty without feeling rushed.

Just keep in mind that Upper Antelope Canyon has no more real off-season these days, except for January (we had a super quiet time during a mid-January visit).

Weather

The weather in Antelope Canyon during winter is cooler and more bearable than the scorching summer months. Average high temperatures range around the mid-50s°F (approximately 12°C).

While snow is rare, there’s a possibility of light rain or even occasional snow showers, adding a mystical touch to the already enchanting scenery.

What to Wear

Given the cooler temperatures, it’s essential to dress appropriately for a comfortable experience:

  • Layers: Start with a thermal base layer and add sweaters or fleece jackets on top. This way, you can add or remove layers as needed.
  • Outerwear: A medium-weight jacket or coat should suffice. If rain or snow is in the forecast, consider a waterproof jacket.
  • Footwear: Wear closed, comfortable shoes with a good grip. The ground can be slippery, especially if there’s any moisture.
  • Accessories: Don’t forget a hat, gloves, and a scarf to keep warm, especially in the early morning or late afternoon when temperatures can drop.

 

Flagstaff | Grand Canyon (Mogollon Rim Country)

Crowds

Flagstaff in winter tends to be more crowded than Spring/fall. With the large availability of snow, winter sports enthusiasts head here from December through February. You can still find decently priced accommodations as not everyone wants to fight the winter weather.

For the Grand Canyon – crowds are the lowest during the winter season here. In January/February, you can expect to see minimal amounts of people due to snow. Hotel rates will be lower this season.

Weather

Flagstaff, Arizona winter weather provides temperatures of 64°F to 47°F. There is a good amount of snow that piles up during these months. There have been years where 100 inches of snow have dropped.

In the nighttime, temperatures can dip into the teens, so prepare for very cold evenings.

The Grand Canyon stays in the 58°F to 65°F range during December through February. There tends to be a higher percentage of precipitation during this time. This is not surprising as often, there will be snow in the North Rim area.

What To Wear

Bring your winter gear when visiting Flagstaff. You’ll need a winter coat, boots, sweaters, scarves, gloves, and thick pants. This is especially true if you plan to do any outdoor activities.

If you’re visiting the Grand Canyon, you’ll still want to bring warmer clothing options. Thick sweaters, jeans or thicker pants, boots, and jackets should keep you warm during the day. In the evening, you should plan to need an extra layer when the temperatures drop.

Things To Do / Great Time To

Flagstaff winters offer the best time to hit the slopes. There’s a reason so many snow-loving people head here in the colder months.

Winter is the best time to hike the South Rim at the Grand Canyon. There are fewer crowds during this time so you can enjoy the area more fully.

Grand Canyon: Winter sunsets in the Grand Canyon are unrivaled. You can see swirls of purple, pink, and orange over the canyon walls. Avoid the North Rim as it is often closed in wintertime due to snow.

Did you grow up watching The Polar Express? Get in the holiday spirit by riding The Polar Express Train from Williams, Arizona, through the Grand Canyon. Visits with Santa, candies and hot chocolate are provided during this event that lasts through the end of December.

Flagstaff: As mentioned above, the winter season is the time for winter sports here. Grab your snowboard or skis and head to the slopes. Be careful as it can get quite icy in the winter.

If you’re staying in Flagstaff through New Year’s Eve, you will want to check out the Great Pinecone Drop. It’s similar to the ball drop in New York, with a Flagstaff twist. It has been celebrated since 1999 and includes a firework display afterward.

Phoenix | Tucson | Saguaro National Park (Central/Southern Deserts)

Crowds

Winter in Phoenix, Arizona, Tucson, and Saguaro National Park brings with it the highest level of crowds all year, specifically for December/January. The sunny weather and the lack of snow make this an excellent spot for those avoiding the surrounding colder areas.

Winter in Phoenix also brings high golf rates. All three locations will have high accommodation rates if you visit during this season. If you’re looking for a warmer area in the winter – head to these spots.

Weather

Phoenix winters provide temperatures of 68°F to 72°F. Tucson temperatures stay between 66°F and 70°F, very similar to the weather in Phoenix during this season.

Saguaro National Park also has similar temperatures, though a few degrees cooler. The temperature range for this area will be between 65°F and 69°F.

There is a small amount of rain that typically occurs each month in Tucson and Phoenix. Otherwise, the temperatures are very pleasant during the day. Phoenix is one of the best Arizona vacation spots in winter.

In the nighttime, temperatures can dip into the 40s and even high 30s in some areas, so prepare for chillier evenings.

What To Wear

Since the weather in Phoenix, Tucson, and Saguaro National Park is so agreeable in winter, you can get away with wearing short sleeve shirts and shorts during the day. With the temperatures dropping so much in the night, make sure you bring thicker sweatpants and jackets/hoodies to keep you warm.

Depending on your chosen activity, you can wear sandals (during the day), sneakers, or hiking boots. Or, if you choose to go golfing, grab your best pair of golf shoes.

Things to Do / Great Time To

Winter in Phoenix is the best time to get to know the locals. Most local people in the area have been staying in the cool air conditioning for the hotter months. December through February allows for them to leave their homes and spend time outdoors.

The best time to enjoy the weather for Phoenix, Tucson, and Saguaro Forest National Park is in the wintertime.

Phoenix: Since the weather is so pleasant in the wintertime, you can enjoy the outdoors during this season. Grab your golf clubs and hit the green or go swimming. Either are excellent options.

Desert Botanical Garden hosts the annual Devour Culinary Classic in February. James Beard Award-winning chefs and local cooks and brewers join this event to provide the ultimate foodie experience.

Zoolights runs each year through January 7. This family-friendly activity offers sightings of animals during the evening with pretty lights strung around the zoo. It is put on each year at the Phoenix Zoo.

Tucson: Tucson promotes many seasonal activities in the winter months. The Sonoran Desert in Tucson is a great place to visit in winter. In December, lights are placed around the garden and can be viewed at night.

Head to the Jazz Festival in January for music from orchestras, soloists, and groups. This event lasts from January 14 to January 23 and allows you to enjoy all different types of jazz music.

The Tucson Gem and Mineral Show in February is a highly anticipated event. Over 80 exhibits are featuring different gemstones and minerals. This event is a great way to learn about gems and minerals more in-depth and support organizations for mineral and earth sciences.

Saguaro National Park: Hiking is the main activity performed at Saguaro National Park in the winter. December is the best winter month for this as you’ll beat the hot summer heat.

Other available activities include scheduled sunset hikes and moonrise hikes. These are unforgettable experiences that offer incredible views.

Join the Cooking With Prickly Pear event in December to gain tips and tricks on cooking with this cactus flower. You’ll even learn how to collect prickly pears yourself.

Sedona | Petrified Forest National Park (North/Central Arizona)

Crowds

Winter in Sedona and Petrified Forest National Park offers the fewest crowds year-round. This also means that hotel rates are low and affordable.

Crowds are especially low in January/February for Petrified Forest. With the snow and chilly temperatures, it’s not surprising that this spot clears out in the winter months.

Weather

Sedona, Arizona winter temperatures fall in the 60°F to 64°F range. Petrified Forest National Park sees lower temperatures between 49°F to 55°F during the daytime.

Sedona offers perfect daytime weather for outdoor activities during the winter with minimal. Both Sedona and Petrified Forest Park see snow in the winter months. It tends to be a light amount, so it is not enough for snow sports.

Read our complete guide about visiting Sedona in December (Winter), our tips for Sedona in January (with local insights), and our Sedona in February guide.

What To Wear

Since temperatures are warmer in Sedona, you will want to wear long-sleeve shirts (blouses even for nicer events), lighter pants are okay like cargo or cotton, and hiking boots. Evenings can get chilly so bring a thick sweater, a scarf, and tights or long johns to layer under your pants.

Petrified Forest requires a bit more layers in order to stay at an ideal temperature. During the day, you can get away with a light sweater or a light to medium jacket, thicker pants like jeans, and boots.

Evenings can get very cold – bring a thick jacket or coat and a scarf. It will help you stay warm through the night.

Things To Do/Great Time To

Winter in Sedona and Petrified Forest National Park is the best time to avoid crowds and score low hotel rates.

Sedona: Sedona is noted as a romantic spot to visit during the winter months. The snow on the red rocks creates a pretty contrast. During the day, go for a hike. In the chilly evenings, cuddle up near a fire with your significant other.

Winter in Sedona means many holiday-related events and festivals. Grab your family and ride on the Canyon Christmas Train. Or, check out the strung-up lights and search for carolers.

If you plan on traveling here after the holidays, you can stop by the VegFest. Learn about and try the different vegetarian and vegan fare. This festival runs annually in January.

Petrified Forest National Park: Winter is the perfect time to bird-watch. Multiple birds can be found here in the winter, including Burrowing Owls, Sparrows, and Dark-Eyed Juncos. This is a great spot to bring your family and learn about the area. Keep an eye out for any other wildlife that may appear.

Geocaching is available in the park throughout the full year. You can also tour different trails during the winter months. Be prepared to wear multiple layers, so you don’t get chilly.

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