The Ultimate Grand Canyon Packing List
It’s not every day you get to see one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World—especially one as mind-bogglingly huge as the Grand Canyon. Get ready for helicopter flights, glass bridges, rugged trails (we hope you’re not scared of heights), and millions of years of natural history. Whether you’ve scored a hard-to-get overnight hiking permit (lucky you!) or just want to see the unbelievable landscape from one of the iconic viewpoints, the last thing you need to worry about is whether you’ve packed enough sunscreen or, let’s be honest, underwear. We’ve covered everything you’ll need on your trip, from weather-appropriate hiking outfits to casual-chic clothing for dinner, as well as the best bags to carry it all in. (And if you're actually pitching a tent in the Grand Canyon, we've got a guide for that, too.)
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THE PERFECT LUGGAGE
If you’re going to the Grand Canyon for a weekend trip and really commit to packing light and keeping things simple, you might get away with just a backpack with a decent capacity. The Jester bag from The North Face is the perfect size for a short minimalist trip. Bonus: It’s just the right size for taking on a day hike, too. Should your Jester floweth over, there’s a bungee system where you can stash additional gear, like a warm layer or even a pair of sandals that don’t quite fit. For anything longer than a weekend, you’ll want to bring a larger pack or traditional luggage. Much of the canyon rim has paved paths, so don’t think roller bags are off the table just because you’re going to an immense natural attraction. We’re especially fond of Travelpro’s Platinum Elite, a soft-sided carry-on bag that expands when you need more space and shrinks when you don’t. It has a removable quart-sized waterproof pocket that makes going through TSA a breeze and four wheels that roll easily in every direction. For travelers who prefer a hard-side checked bag, the Delsey Helium Aero is hard to beat. Reviewers fondly call out the bag’s durability and convenient built-in TSA lock. That it looks far more pricey than it actually is certainly doesn’t hurt.
THE THREE PAIRS OF SHOES YOU’LL NEED FOR EXPLORING THE GRAND CANYON
The Oboz Sawtooth Hiking Shoes were rated one of the best hiking shoes for women by REI thanks to their wide forefoot and narrow heel. Specifically designed for desert temperatures, the men’s Merrel Moab has received similarly glowing reviews for several years running due to their breathability. Be sure your hiking shoes aren’t of the waterproof variety, says Brian Jump, the director of multi-day tour programs at Arizona Outback Adventures, who has been guiding in the area for more than 20 years. In the Canyon, they’ll trap heat and create blisters. Men and women should without question bring a pair of durable sandals, like the lightweight Chaco sport sandals, which have earned a cult following thanks to their sturdiness, comfort, and grippy outsoles that make them wearable on several types of terrain. Don’t forget to put SPF on your feet before strapping them on. (Many a stranger have bonded over their “Chaco tans.”) Overall, both locals and tourists like to keep it pretty casual at all times. If you want to get dressed up, a simple pair of boat shoes for men or platform wedges for women are stylish but won’t make you feel out of place.
STYLE FOR THE GRAND CANYON
It’s not a fun feeling to show up at a destination only to realize you’re wearing exactly the wrong thing. So what’s right for the Grand Canyon? “Nothing fancy,” says Jump. “Even the most prestigious places to stay and eat are pretty casual.” The great outdoors is sort of the thing at the Grand Canyon, so you’ll see people in hiking clothes pretty much everywhere you go. You may see the occasional casual summer dress or nice pair of pants and you should feel free to break those out if you’d like, but for the most part, wear clothes that you can move in, sweat in, and bundle up in. With that said, we focused our picks on staying cool and comfortable in the sun. You may need additional layers in the winter, particularly on the rim, where temperatures are much cooler than in the belly of the gorge. While you can certainly get away with sandals or flip-flops, if you’re planning on walking any amount of distance, a comfortable pair of sneakers will serve you better.
Women’s Style for the Grand Canyon
Men’s Style for the Grand Canyon
FIVE FOOLPROOF OUTFITS FOR THE GRAND CANYON
1. WHAT TO WEAR ON THE HIKING TRAILS AND TO THE LOOKOUT POINTS
There is so much to see at the canyon. Day hike down South Kaibab Trail to Skeleton Point or Ooh Aah Point, send your heart racing on the Grand Canyon Skywalk at Eagle Point, or soak in views up top from the popular Mather Point or Hopi Point. No matter where you’re going, you’ll want to wear cool, comfortable clothing that protects you from the sun. Go for shirts that cover your shoulders and shorts that will keep you from sweating up a storm, but are long enough to keep chafing to a minimum. If you’re going into the canyon, bring actual hiking shoes with tread to handle the slippery dirt. And don’t forget a hat and sunglasses, or else you’ll squint your way through the best views the canyon has to offer.
Women’s Hiking Outfit for the Grand Canyon
Men’s Hiking Outfit for the Grand Canyon
2. WHAT TO WEAR AT THE CAMPGROUND
Whether you’re glamping at the Trailer Village or Camper Village RV parks, keeping it classic at the KOA Grand Canyon, or hoofing it down to Bright Angel Campground, your camping clothes should be focused on keeping you warm and dry. Desert temperatures can plummet in the evening, so we’ve put together outfits that include a warm layer, pants, and ear-warming accessories. Bonus: The shoes are easy to slip on and off, which is kind of a must at camp.
Women’s Campground Outfit for the Grand Canyon
Men’s Campground Outfit for the Grand Canyon
3. WHAT TO WEAR ON THE ZIPLINE, HELICOPTER TOUR, OR HOT AIR BALLOON RIDE
Adding extra adventure to your Grand Canyon trip? Your outfit doesn’t have to change much, but consider pants (fewer scrapes and bruises) and a watch to keep track of time. You also won’t need heavy-duty hiking shoes for most of these in-air activities.
Women’s In-Air Adventure Outfit for the Grand Canyon
Men’s In-Air Adventure Outfit for the Grand Canyon
4. WHAT TO WEAR TO GRAND CANYON VILLAGE
Grand Canyon Village is just as casual as anywhere else in the park, but if you’re tired of wearing hiking clothes all day, every day, it’s not a bad time to break out a cute summer dress or classier pair of shorts. As much of the area is paved or flat, you can also get away with sandals or a hip pair of sneakers.
Women’s Grand Canyon Village Outfit
Men’s Grand Canyon Village Outfit
5. WHAT TO WEAR TO DINNER
If you’re going to get dressed up, dinner at one of the area’s restaurants is the time to do it. Grand Canyon Plaza Hotel, Arizona Room, the restaurant at Bright Angel Lodge, and the Maswik Food Court all have completely casual dress expectations. El Tovar is considered the fanciest option in the area, and they have a gentle dress code that discourages flip flops and shorts—but you still won’t see people in black-tie attire. We recommend a comfy summer dress and nice sandals for women, and a pair of casual chic pants with a short-sleeved button up shirt for men.
Women’s Out-to-Dinner Outfit for the Grand Canyon
Men’s Out-to-Dinner Outfit for the Grand Canyon
WHAT NOT TO PACK FOR THE GRAND CANYON
Fancy clothes need not apply. Any clothing or shoe choice that isn’t breathable—think leather flats or waterproof boots—will probably cause you more pain than pleasure. Thanks to the elevation and general desert aridity, you can leave your bug spray at home.
THE *ONE THING* WTP EDITORS ALWAYS PACK FOR THE GRAND CANYON
If you’re going to the Grand Canyon, you gotta bring a bandana! Might we suggest this perfectly on-theme Western one from Pendleton. The larger-than-normal cotton kerchief will help you keep the sun off your neck (if worn bandit style) or forehead (if wrapped like a headband), or provide a bit of warmth when it’s chilly. In case the desert winds rustle up some dirt and sand, you can use it to keep your mouth covered. Plus, imagine how perfectly appropriate this will look with a light khaki trail shirt and a wide-brim outback hat. Indiana Jones would tip his fedora. —WTP Editors
THE GRAND CANYON’S WEATHER AND SEASONS
Describe the Grand Canyon’s weather in one word? Dry. Even still, rainstorms do come through and when they do they are fast and intense, and can lead to dangerous flooding in the canyons. Always check forecasts regularly and keep an eagle eye out for rain. Temperatures vary wildly throughout a single day—you might shiver in the morning chill and drip with sweat in the afternoon heat. Having several layers handy (and ideally a backpack to carry them in) will help you handle these fluctuations. Tank tops are tempting but if you go that route, you’ll need to be liberal with sunscreen and vigilant about regular touch-ups. Our recommendation: wear sleeved tops that cover your shoulders. The sun is intense, shade minimal, and sunburn unhealthy and uncomfortable. And finally, if you’re not used to hot, dry heat, you’ll also want to be careful to not overexert yourself and to drink a lot of water. (If you tend to get bored of water, try keeping a flavored drink tab like Gu or Nuun on hand to keep you sipping regularly. Also pack plenty of snacks like crackers, cheese, chips, fruit, and granola bars should you find yourself mid-trail and hungry.)
Note: This data comes from our friends at Weather.com. Please note that these numbers represent the area’s average high, average low, and average precipitation, but is a large temperature discrepancy between the top and the bottom of the Grand Canyon (the bottom is warmer). For example, in June, temperatures at the bottom of the Grand Canyon can exceed 100 degrees. We recommend using this info along with a traditional forecast as you get closer to your departure date.
- Plan for day temps between 18 and 45
- Expect 1.54 inches of precipitation
What to Wear in the Grand Canyon in January: January is very dry and chilly, so pack warm outer layers, like a down-insulated jacket, and cold-weather accessories.
- Plan for day temps between 21 and 47
- Expect 1.5 inches of precipitation
What to Wear in the Grand Canyon in February: Stay warm with a wool sweater or quilted jacket, which capture heat even when wet.
- Plan for day temps between 25 and 53
- Expect 1.73 inches of precipitation
What to Wear in the Grand Canyon in March: March starts warming up, but you’ll still need a layer during the day and heftier options at night.
- Plan for day temps between 29 and 61
- Expect 1.02 inches of precipitation
What to Wear in the Grand Canyon in April: Keep a light sweater on hand for the daytime temperatures, but have a warm hat, neck gaiter, and an even warmer sweater for evenings.
- Plan for day temps between 36 and 72
- Expect 0.5 inches of precipitation
What to Wear in the Grand Canyon in May: As temperatures warm, a super-lightweight wind jacket can cut a chill when necessary. Otherwise, keep sunscreen handy and wear wool or synthetic socks to minimize blisters.
- Plan for day temps between 43 and 82 (note that the bottom of the canyon can reach 100-plus temperatures this time of year)
- Expect 0.32 inches of precipitation
What to Wear in the Grand Canyon in June: Temperatures really start to rise in June. Block out harsh UV rays—and keep cool—with moisture-wicking long-sleeved shirts and wide-brim hats.
- Plan for day temps between 51 and 86
- Expect 1.87 inches of precipitation
What to Wear in the Grand Canyon in July: July is so hot that it’s worth breaking one of the cardinal rules of outdoor activities: you should wear cotton. The fact that it takes forever to dry actually aids in evaporative cooling in dry climates like the Grand Canyon, according to Jump.
- Plan for day temps between 50 and 82
- Expect 2.39 inches of precipitation
What to Wear in the Grand Canyon in August: More super-hot days call for hats, sunglasses, and cotton clothing.
- Plan for day temps between 43 and 76
- Expect 1.44 inches of precipitation
What to Wear in the Grand Canyon in September: As the weather starts to change, vary up your wardrobe. A hiking dress is a nice change from shorts, and zip-off pants are another versatile option.
- Plan for day temps between 33 and 65
- Expect 1.33 inches of precipitation
What to Wear in the Grand Canyon in October: As temperatures chill, start transitioning to layered clothing and versatile warming options like a buff/neck gaiter.
- Plan for day temps between 24 and 53
- Expect 1.09 inches of precipitation
What to Wear in the Grand Canyon in November: Start to get serious about winter clothing with down jackets and gloves, even if you have to de-layer a bit during the day.
- Plan for day temps between 18 and 45
- Expect 1.27 inches of precipitation
What to Wear in the Grand Canyon in December: Add a rainjacket to your December packing list—even if it doesn’t rain or snow, it can help keep you warm.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE GRAND CANYON
What is the best airport to fly into to see the Grand Canyon?
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is the most convenient option. There is also a small commercial airport in the college town of Flagstaff, about two and a half hours north. The stretch from Flagstaff Airport to the Grand Canyon makes an excellent road trip, with stops like Montezuma Castle National Monument and Walnut Canyon National Monument on the way or nearby.
Where should you stay near the Grand Canyon?
The hotels and campgrounds in the immediate vicinity of the Grand Canyon tend to fill up fast—sometimes years in advance—so book early to reserve a spot. Flagstaff makes a good secondary option. If you’re up for an adventure, Jump says his favorite thing to do is to find a durable dispersed camping option in the National Forest. These spots are first-come, first-serve, and essentially require you to drive on forest roads until you see a good spot. But before you go, make sure you’re familiar with the principles of Leave No Trace.
How safe is the Grand Canyon?
Some people are surprised to find that there aren’t exactly guardrails to protect you around the Grand Canyon. If this causes concern, or if you lack the experience necessary for some of the day or overnight hikes you’d like to do, Jump advises hiring a professional outfitter. “It’s nice to go to the professional because they can not only keep you safe, but really elevate your experience through interpretation and good food and good company,” he says.
What is the best part of the Grand Canyon to visit?
For the average visitor, you really can’t beat the rim itself. While the viewpoints are unforgettable, keep exploring if the conditions are right. “If you get a couple of miles out in between some of those viewpoints, you can get some really wonderful canyon solitude and still be in the [less-remote] front country,” says Jump. That said, it’s hard to get more iconic than the views from Hopi Point, which juts the farthest into the Canyon, or Mohave Point, which is a top-notch sunset spot. And Desert View gives you the chance to climb to the top of a watchtower for views of the Colorado River far below.
What is the best way to get to the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas?
There are tour buses that will take you to the Grand Canyon if you’d like to take group transportation. Otherwise, the 275-mile drive isn’t bad, and will give you flexibility if you decide you want to stay longer than a tour bus would offer.
- The Ultimate Camping Packing Guide
- What to Bring With You On Every Hike: 10 Essentials for a Day Hike
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