Monsoons at the Grand Canyon

Visiting the Grand Canyon during monsoon season brings its own challenges. Be sure you know the important facts before you visit. The following info

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Visiting the Grand Canyon during monsoon season brings its own challenges. Be sure you know the important facts before you visit. The following information can be helpful.

Monsoon Storm from South Rim

Generally when people speak of monsoons it brings a mental image of the horrendous torrential rains that plague Southeastern Asia.  In Arizona we speak of monsoon rains when we have thunderstorms that produce  two or three inches of rain in an hour or a day because generally Arizona gets less than 10 inches of rainfall per year.  To receive two or three inches of moisture in less than a day causes flash flooding and water accumulating in low-lying areas.  This is well demonstrated by the massive flooding in Phoenix on September 8, 2014 when part of the I-10 freeway system was covered with water.

Arizona’s “Monsoon Season” lasts from mid-June to mid-September generally speaking. Do we get heavy rain during that entire time?  No, but the potential exists for it.  We frequently get afternoon thundershowers that are more wind and lightning than rain.  That is why we caution you to be aware of the weather when planning your vacation.

Cautions from the National Park Service

Lightning is a real threat so that is why the National Park Service cautions, “Summer storms in the southwest are often accompanied by potentially deadly lightning. Visitors walking and hiking in the park are reminded that if they can hear thunder, they should consider ending outdoor activities. If the sound of thunder follows a lightning flash within 30 seconds, seek shelter inside a building or vehicle. If this is not possible, move well away from high points such as ridges and the edge of the canyon. Do not seek shelter beneath tall trees.”

“Summer thunderstorms frequently occur during July, August, and early September with the potential for torrential rains, frequent lightning, and sudden flash floods. These thunderstorms are extremely variable in intensity and location and occur mainly between the hours of 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. Some of these storms can reach severe levels, with large hail, damaging winds, and occasionally even a tornado.”

How to Plan a Vacation That Doesn’t Get Ruined by Weather

When you plan your Grand Canyon Vacation during “Monsoon Season” what can you do to make sure your visit isn’t marred or completely ruined?  Well, because you can’t control the weather you can’t completely control how your vacation will turn out but you can plan some alternatives in case your tour is cancelled or in case you are unable to stand on the rim to get the views you want.

To begin with, if at all possible, plan for more than one day at the South Rim.  This is especially true if you plan to take a tour.  Plan for a tour on the first day you are there so you have the flexibility to reschedule your tour if it is cancelled by weather.  This doesn’t always make it so you can take the tour because tours for the next day may already be sold out, but it gives you a better chance.

Have a back-up plan for a different tour or things to do in case of inclement weather.  There are many historic buildings and museums at the South Rim that you could visit on a rainy day.  Another option would be to go to the IMAX Theater.

These suggestions are South Rim specific but at the other rims there will be alternative things to do as well.  Make sure you know what your options are and plan to have fun regardless of the weather!

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