Best Time to Visit Arizona

By Jodi Thornton O'Connell

In sync with Arizona: The most awesome times to see the state

Best Time to Visit Arizona

Each year more than 42 billion people flock to the Grand Canyon State to experience its rugged beauty ranging from low deserts to alpine ski zones – and its own version of West Coast beaches. Although most out-of-state visitors come to Arizona to visit the low deserts in winter, elevations in the state ranging from 70 feet to 12,633 feet above sea level offer a variety of best times to visit based on regional climates. Find the lowest prices throughout the state during the shoulder seasons of March to May and September through November, or tweak your timing based specifically on the region you plan to visit.

Where the cactus is in bloom: Central and southern deserts

  • Best time to visit: Late January through early May 
  • Secondary: September through November
  • Peak tourist season: January through March
  • Off/cheap season: May through November

By mid-to-late January, Arizona's brief winter rainy season has passed, and Phoenix and the state's central deserts come alive with a vibrant palette of desert wildflowers set against a background of green grass. Expect to encounter the highest rates at hotels and golf courses and the worst city traffic in Phoenix and Tucson as you compete with other tourists during snowbird season. Get out and hike the desert foothills during 60- to 80-degree days. By May, things heat up, and you'll see 100 degrees early in the month. As the mercury climbs, hotel prices drop. Enjoy nightly rates less than $100 during summer months and relax at the pool or hotel water park.

Arizona mountain high: Mogollon Rim country

  • Best time to visit: Year-round. Find best values and least crowds in September and November.
  • Peak tourist season: July and August
  • Secondary: Winter ski season
  • Off/cheap season: Shoulder seasons

From the Grand Canyon to Flagstaff and on to the White Mountains on the state's eastern edge, there's a case to be made for each of the four seasons being the best time to visit Mogollon Rim country. Like most of the state, you'll find reasonable accommodations during late spring and autumn when you can savor yellow aspen foliage or mountain meadows ablaze with wild sunflowers. You'll battle the largest crowds and pay premium prices during summer when vacationers head to the Grand Canyon and Phoenicians drive north to escape the brutal heat. While temperatures exceed 110 in the deserts, you'll enjoy days in the mid-80s up on the rim.

Somewhere in the middle: North Central Arizona

  • Best time to visit: November 
  • Peak tourist season: July and August
  • Off/cheap season: September through November

Sedona is the most popular spot to visit in central Arizona, and you'll find it at its busiest and most expensive from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Here's a secret: Early November is the best time to visit. With kids in school and people gearing up for winter holidays, Sedona tourist traffic is at its lightest, and you'll enjoy the best prices of the year. The weather's usually perfect. Days in the mid-60s are ideal for exploring one of the city's many trails through the famous red rocks or for sunning yourself alongside Oak Creek. Best of all, the city's notorious traffic, which has you inching your way into town along one-lane roads on summer weekends, is nearly nonexistent.

Hit the beach: Arizona's West Coast

  • Best time to visit: After Labor Day through early November
  • Peak tourist season: March through July
  • Off/cheap season: Autumn 

No, it's not a joke: Arizona really has a west coast and it's filled with days at the beach, campouts and water recreation. Lake Havasu, Bullhead City and Yuma are three of the West Coast's most popular destinations. The Colorado River and its lakes are the main draw, so even when temperatures hit 120, water-loving visitors find it's the opportune time to water ski, jet ski, cliff dive and take part in any other sport where you might get wet. Street traffic isn't the only congestion, however. The river and lakes are packed with boat traffic, but the crowds diminish significantly after Labor Day. Summer monsoons are over, and the days are still plenty hot. Expect 100-degree days during September and high 70s by November.

About the Author

Indulging her passion for vacation vagary through the written word on a full-time basis since 2010, travel funster Jodi Thornton-O'Connell guides readers to the unexpected, quirky, and awe-inspiring.