Ooops... apparently it snows in Flagstaff

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OKAY total fail here. I picked a trip and wound up choosing roundtrip GA - Flagstaff in late December. I was so excited, spoke with a lady on the phone who helped get me and the kids into two separate roomettes next to eachother. Booked the hotel, and then went to call the car rental company to see if she'd pick us up from the hotel, and that's when she said "If the roads are in good condition, yes."

OH NO!! What have I done?? LOL

I thought I had done all my research top to bottom, completely thorough, how did I miss the fact that Flagstaff AZ gets snow and enough snow to hinder our possible trip to the Grand Canyon? It's too late now regardless, hotel is non refundable, and we're only staying 2 nights anyway. One way or another I want to be able to get to the Canyon though, but I suppose if we have to hunker in a hotel it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.

Has anyone been to Flagstaff in late December (20th-22nd to be specific) that can give advice about the weather?
 

TinCan782

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The Flagstaff elevation is nearly 7,000 feet. Yes, they do get snow!
"Average Annual Snowfall: 108.8 inches (276.35 cm)"
 

Bob Dylan

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OKAY total fail here. I picked a trip and wound up choosing roundtrip GA - Flagstaff in late December. I was so excited, spoke with a lady on the phone who helped get me and the kids into two separate roomettes next to eachother. Booked the hotel, and then went to call the car rental company to see if she'd pick us up from the hotel, and that's when she said "If the roads are in good condition, yes."

OH NO!! What have I done?? LOL

I thought I had done all my research top to bottom, completely thorough, how did I miss the fact that Flagstaff AZ gets snow and enough snow to hinder our possible trip to the Grand Canyon? It's too late now regardless, hotel is non refundable, and we're only staying 2 nights anyway. One way or another I want to be able to get to the Canyon though, but I suppose if we have to hunker in a hotel it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.

Has anyone been to Flagstaff in late December (20th-22nd to be specific) that can give advice about the weather?
Nice trip! You'll love it!😎
You should still be able to get to the Canyon unless a Rare Blizzard hits Flagstaff.

And Google up the Grand Canyon Railroad, it's worth a ride even if it is slow and sort of pricey for the Short trip but it's Memory book stuff.

One of our Members ( Greatcats) lives in Flagstaff( he's currently in NY/ NJ where he grew up and worked on Public Transit), is a Volunteer Park Ranger in the area and loves to help visitors.

You might want to PM him for info.
 

PVD

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My first trip to the Grand Canyon many years ago, on a trip with my parents, the tour bus had to stop and raise his tag axle to get better traction. I have pictures of my father and I throwing snowballs at each other while we were waiting.
 

oregon pioneer

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I live in an area that gets that much snow (4800' in eastern Oregon). Most of ours falls from November through February. I record all our precipitation, so I just looked. During that period last winter, we got an inch here, two inches there, a little rain on another day. It's like a lottery, though. If it snows big time (maybe a one in twenty chance), it would be a good idea to have appropriate clothes so you can go out and play in the snow, wherever you land. Come to think of it, you'll need those clothes to visit the rim in winter, anyway. I have heard the Grand Canyon is absolutely spectacular in the snow!

Here's what to bring, to dress for winter:
  • Hiking boots, with the warmest socks you can fit in them (wool is best, poly or acrylic next, avoid cotton)
  • Longjohns or leggings, and a pair of pants loose enough to fit over them
  • Your warmest sweater
  • A warm coat that will fit over the sweater
  • Gloves or mittens, a hat, and a scarf
  • (let me know if you want any pictures)
You can probably find what you don't have at your local thrift store, or borrow it. Being warm and comfy walking around is more important than being pretty. You and your kids will have a blast!

One last note: the West has been in a drought for years now, so it's more likely to be bare ground and merely chilly weather than it is to be a blizzard. But people who live in the mountains know how to drive in snow. Nothing short of a blizzard will keep them off the road.

Let us know how the trip turns out! I hope you can take a photo or two just to post on here!
 

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Has anyone been to Flagstaff in late December (20th-22nd to be specific) that can give advice about the weather?
Historically Flagstaff used to receive one big snow storm before xmas but in my experience mountain weather cannot be reliably predicted or scheduled around.

how did I miss the fact that Flagstaff AZ gets snow
never been anywhere but Florida & Georgia
Looks like you answered your own question. πŸ˜„
 
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pennyk

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Has anyone been to Flagstaff in late December (20th-22nd to be specific) that can give advice about the weather?
My first and only trip to the Grand Canyon was Spring Break 1974. A friend and I drove my tiny Datsun from Gainesville, FL (final destination Las Vegas then California). I saw my first real snow at the Grand Canyon and it was magnificent. However, driving from there on icy roads in a light car unprepared for snow and ice was a harrowing experience.
 

flitcraft

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I saw my first real snow at the Grand Canyon and it was magnificent. However, driving from there on icy roads in a light car unprepared for snow and ice was a harrowing experience.
Penny is right about that--be sure to rent an SUV type car, not an econobox! Our first visit to the Grand Canyon was on a long road trip between New Orleans and Seattle in February, relocating back to Seattle. We were driving a Dodge Dart, which had minimal if any traction, as I recall. Still, the Grand Canyon is awesome, and it was our two year old daughter's first experience with snow, which made her exclaim, "Cold sand!" since her only experience of anything remotely like snow was the sand on the beach at Pensacola!
 

fdaley

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We took a family trip to the Grand Canyon in December 2012 and were surprised to discover that it was colder there than it had been at home in upstate New York. So even if there isn't much snow, you'll want warm coats, hats, gloves and maybe scarves. As we had come from the Northeast, we just had to dig these out of our suitcases, but we had to acquire some for the family members who drove over from California to meet us. I remember daytime temps in the 30s and sub-freezing at night. There was maybe an inch of snow, not enough to close roads but enough to require good footwear for hiking around.
 

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Penny is right about that--be sure to rent an SUV type car, not an econobox!
By the time winter roads are unsafe for modern sedans with front wheel drive and winter tires they're also unsafe for SUV's. What is needed is an alert driver with the right skills for driving in slush, snow, and ice.
 
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Caro

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We stayed at Flagstaff and then the Grand Canyon in mid December. There was snow, enough to make the views stunning but not enough to cause problems with our hired SUV. The real plus is that virtually no one else was there - incredibly we had the south rim to ourselves save for one other couple, and you can drive roads which are closed in summer. We then toured around Monument Valley, back to the north rim (roads closed by snow but the motel owner offered us a guided trip to the rim in brilliant sunshine) on to Bryce Canyon (the hoodoos beautiful, all capped with snow though many of the trails were impassable) then Zion. Only downside was that the hotels were partly closed and the food at the Canyon dreadful but that was a small price to pay for one of the most magical trips I have ever had. So hire a suitable vehicle, take warm clothes, good boots, packed lunches and enjoy!
 

caravanman

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I don't keep up with the latest Amtrak cancellation / alteration rules, but I seem to think folk can change their train bookings at the moment without any penalty cost?
Just thinking it might be an option to postpone your trip if you don't fancy the winter outlook. I get that you have paid non refundable hotel charges, but even so? You might plead to alter the hotel booking anyway, no harm in asking. They might be more amenable to a change rather than a cancellation...
 
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anumberone

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A trip to the Grand Canyon is a must for a lot of folk, but its a look over the edge, get back in the car and head back to Williams for most. A trip to Sedona may be A option if snow is a problem and its also enjoyable.
 

MARC Rider

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Penny is right about that--be sure to rent an SUV type car, not an econobox!
Just make sure the SUV you rent has 4-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. I made that mistake once on one of my ski trips. Got stuck at the bottom of a driveway, took about 4 people and a lot of rock salt to get me out. Now I call the rental office the night before to make sure the SUV I'm getting has 4 wheel drive.

I've rarely needed it otherwise, even when driving in the winter in Maine and New Hampshire, but there are occasions when it's helpful. At the very least, the heavier vehicle feels more stable.
 

Barb Stout

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Gonna share a dumb Barb bunny story here. EVEN THOUGH I GREW UP IN SNOWY COLD COUNTRY, after living for a number of years in the Phoenix area, I guess I had forgotten that cold and snow exist or was brain-washed by the warm weather there. I did a lot of camping with friends in those days and we decided to go camping at the Grand Canyon (South Rim) in March. It is already hot in the Phoenix area in March, so although we did take some warm stuff to wear, we somehow just did not anticipate that it would get as cold as it did and snow up there in March. Well, that's what happened. Moreover, it was windy enough that we couldn't get a fire going to cook any food. An older couple in an RV observed our situation and invited us into their RV to use their microwave to cook our hot dogs and warm up some. Thanks be to the older RV couple.
 

Ryan

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Just make sure the SUV you rent has 4-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. I made that mistake once on one of my ski trips. Got stuck at the bottom of a driveway, took about 4 people and a lot of rock salt to get me out. Now I call the rental office the night before to make sure the SUV I'm getting has 4 wheel drive.

I've rarely needed it otherwise, even when driving in the winter in Maine and New Hampshire, but there are occasions when it's helpful. At the very least, the heavier vehicle feels more stable.
That’s going to be not very helpful to someone from the south that hasn’t the first clue in how to drive in the snow.
 

dwebarts

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That’s going to be not very helpful to someone from the south that hasn’t the first clue in how to drive in the snow.
This.

I've seen any number of people in SUVs that clearly have never driven in snow. I grew up in Michigan and took my driver's test in a wet sloppy snow mini-squall (having a Canadian mother helped with being allowed to do so). I managed for years with no snow tires at all. I drive more carefully in the snow in southern locales (Santa Fe has more skilled snow drivers than ABQ does I quickly learned) due to spending so much time paying attention to which drivers around me should have stayed off the roads. I'm happy to take DC Metro trains since people around here are from everywhere and skilled winter drivers are in the minority.

The most important thing about driving in snow for a newbie is not to let the size of the vehicle give you too much confidence. Driving faster because you have 4WD doesn't mean you won't be sitting in a ditch or embankment while a Honda Fit whose driver knows how to drive in snow passes you by.

Back on topic, trips to the Grand Canyon are great and you can only go to the more crowded South Rim in December.

The North Rim is closed from December through April and the surrounding weeks are for day-use only. This should give you a sense of winter in Northern Arizona. The North Rim is the higher altitude to be sure, but not so so high that the opening dates aren't primarily due to the lower number of visitors, leading to poorer road conditions.
 

me_little_me

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We went in March, one year. Snow on I-40 east of Flagstaff. Left RV at train station and took the train to GC. Had a wonderful time with two nights there but snow on the ground. Got back to Williams with no snow but temperature was 4 degrees. RV door lock frozen with ice. Had to use matches and lighter to heat key to get it in. Turned on heat in RV and had a wonderful stay overnight at nearby campground. That was in late '80s.
 
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You guys are awesome! All of this advice is super helpful. I should've added that it does snow where I live in Northern GA but I'm sure it's nothing like what something at 7,000 feet can get. Main problem here is black ice, and my current vehicle is not snow friendly so I usually just stay home, lol. We'll keep our Flagstaff plans and enjoy the train trip cross country but if the roads are bad enough that Enterprise won't come get us, then we will just have to bum it around the hotel for a couple of nights. Thank you all!
 

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It sounds like you have the right attitude for your trip. Flagstaff has a fleet of snow clearing equipment and the downtown area is walkable with appropriate clothing and footwear. I would expect a 90% chance of passable roads with the other 10% representing a blizzard that is able to overwhelm winter maintenance.
 

F900ElCapitan

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I don’t think this was mentioned, but also remember that Flagstaff is beautiful in the winter! My wife and I spent a day just walking around town last February and absolutely loved it. There is plenty to see and do, including a marvelous observatory if it’s open to the public. So don’t worry too much about being stuck in town and not getting to see the Grand Canyon. It’s still VERY pretty!!
 
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