Ignore the calendar. Follow your heart. Take some off-season road trips and make special memories, all your own.
Winter at Grand Canyon National Park’s South Rim
With summer crowds gone and trees and rocks mantled in fresh snow, the Grand Canyon’s South Rim feels like a vastly different place. A reverent place, a hushed place – it becomes the cathedral of light and shadow, color and texture, you always knew it to be.
Roads are less congested, and some, like scenic Hermit Road, are open to private vehicles during winter. Hotel rooms are more readily available and at sweet rates. But it’s the canyon that transforms. The brilliant hues of the cliffs become even more dazzling when framed by the snowpack. Because of the clear skies, visibility is highest this season. Some mountain peaks as far away as 200 miles can be seen. The low angle of the sun spotlights the formations in the clear air and turns the winter canyon into a photographer’s dreamscape.
(Please note: The Grand Canyon’s North Rim closes to visitors in the winter because of dangerous snow conditions on its roads.)
Spring Skiing in Flagstaff
Every winter, the mountains above Flagstaff are swaddled in the white stuff. With an average of 260 inches of snow, the slopes are packed with skiers and snowboarders during the holidays and all through January. But the fun doesn’t have to end so abruptly. About the time Major League Baseball’s Cactus League Spring Training gets underway and wildflowers are blooming in the desert, there’s still a deep base of snow on the San Francisco Peaks, with each new storm adding a layer of fresh powder.
In winter 2017, Arizona Snowbowl was open through early May. To make it even more enticing, the resort runs multiple specials in the later days of winter into spring. Enjoy less-crowded lifts and wide-open skiing lanes under crisp morning skies. Then hurry down the mountain and take a swim in the pool that same afternoon. Now that’s an Arizona day.
Summer Resorts in the Desert
Here’s an interesting fact. Fewer people vacation in Phoenix and Tucson in summer than in winter. So, to attract guests and promote family fun, plush desert resorts offer incredible summer deals for savvy travelers during this time of year.
Enjoy lavish accommodations, amenities and service, even luxury spas, at a fraction of the cost. And here’s the beautiful part: Thanks to the wonders of air conditioning, room temperatures can stay just as comfortable as in the winter. Get in a round of morning golf, take a dip in the pool, schedule an afternoon massage, do some shopping and then take time to marvel at a monsoon-touched sunset with a wall of clouds ablaze in hues of reds and golds. Now that’s a show the winter visitors miss.
Summer River Tubing in Yuma
The winter visitors who flee sunny Yuma in April don’t know what they’re missing. Picture this: an inflatable tube, a lazy river and a cooler full of cold beverages. What else in life do you need? Tubing down the Colorado River is a new tourism addition for Yuma, following the massive cleanup and restoration of their riverfront. Yuma River Tubing operates from April 1 through September 30. They provide tubes, coolers and a shuttle ride up the river. You just drift back downstream to your starting point.
Choose between three different routes. The 5-mile float will last about three and a half hours. The 2.5-mile and a 1-mile happy hour floats are also available. The Colorado River can be feisty in the upper canyons but the Yuma portion is gentle and languid, making for a relaxing summer day, and you can never have too many of those.
Summer Camping at Roper Lake State Park
Roper Lake in eastern Arizona is a getaway made for families. Although the heat dissuades many from camping in summer, it shouldn’t. A handful of rustic cabins sit near the water’s edge. The cabins are simple but outfitted with electricity and, importantly, air-conditioning. Beds have mattresses, but you’ll need to bring your own sleeping bag or linens. A porch swing, picnic table, cold-water sink and fire ring provide for your other relaxation needs. Restrooms and showers are a short walk away.
The 30-acre lake contains largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill and catfish. Boats are limited to small electric motors, preserving the quiet. A popular spot is the Island Day-Use Area. A thumb of land juts into the lake and makes an inviting playground with a soft lawn of grass, shade trees, picnic tables and a small slope of beach. This was seemingly designed with kids in mind. Splash in the water, play in the sand, run barefoot in the grass and picnic like there’s no tomorrow.