The Grand Canyon in all its majesty is often at the top of many travelers bucket list, so what do you do when your carefully planned, once-in- a- lifetime trip is ruined with rain? Unfortunately, rain is common and unpredictable at the canyon, with many days starting out clear, but clouding up to thunderheads by mid-morning. On the flip side, the showers are often short lived and there are plenty of activities to enjoy while you wait for the storm clouds to pass.
1. Spend an hour at the South Rim Visitors Center. Even if it is not raining or cold, this is a great first stop when visiting the Grand Canyon. A 20 minute film inside details some of the geology behind the creation of the canyon, and there are other exhibits that are interesting enough to pass a rainy hour. The Science on the Sphere Theatre is another film experience that is uniquely projected onto a rotating sphere.
~Science of the Sphere Film is an informative view of the formation of the Grand Canyon~
2. Take the Desert View Drive. Even if driving rain keeps you in your car, the views are magnificent and a few pictures can easily be taken from the number of parking lots along the trail.
3. Watch the storm come in from the Desert View Watchtower. At 70 feet tall, this National Historical Landmark has some of the best views of the canyon. The bottom floor of the tower is an excellent gift shop, while the upper floors offer indoor viewing of some of the most magnificent views of the Grand Canyon and Painted Desert.
~Desert View Watchtower Just Before a Storm~
4. Use your cell phone to access the knowledge of the park rangers. Inclement weather may keep you from enjoying an informative talk with a live park ranger, but recorded messages are available at a variety of points using a cell phone. Call 928-225-2907 and enter the stop number whenever you see the “Park Ranger Audio Tour” signs.
5. Explore the Yavapai Geology Museum. Exhibits at this museum offer answers to many questions including how old is the Grand Canyon and how did it form. Three dimensional models show the geological story of the canyon, and when it is raining, indoor viewing from the museum is ideal.
~Incoming storm clouds create dramatic highlights and shadows on the canyon floor~
6. Dine in the elegant El Tovar Restaurant (or just sit on the covered porch). For a truly special meal at the canyon, El Tovar Dining Room is the height of sophistication, fit for the many presidents who have dined here, while the nearby lounge offers a more casual ambience and fare. If it is not meal time, you can still take shelter on the expansive covered porch where the views are spectacular rain or shine.
~Looking out from inside is sometimes the best way to really see~
7. Climb aboard a shuttle bus and take a ride. Four shuttle lines provide free transportation around the canyon and transportation from one section to another. Roundtrip shuttles can take up to 90 minutes, often the perfect time to wait out a rainstorm. Just be sure to take note of which side the canyon will be located and sit on that side of the bus to get the best views.
8. See the IMAX at the National Geographic Visitors Center. This 34 minute film shows the history of the people who have inhabited and explored the canyon and how the canyon has shaped their experiences.
~Grand Canyon Train snakes through the countryside on the way to the canyon~
9. Take the Train. If the forecast is rain and snow all day long, a ride on the Grand Canyon Train departing from Williams, AZ is a good way to fill the day with fun, with an opportunity to view the canyon in inclement weather friendly ways.
10.Grab a raincoat and soak it all in anyway. How often do you get to explore the Grand Canyon? It may be only once in a lifetime, so don’t let a little unfriendly weather keep you from enjoying the majesty of this natural wonder. Best of all, sheets of rain and rolling clouds add an element of drama to an already dramatic view. If you are really lucky, you might even see a rainbow spanning the one mile expanse of the most famous canyon in the world.