Places to Find Snow in the Southwest
Lots of RVers spend their winters in the Southwest because it certainly wouldn’t snow there. Or would it?
When we think of the Southwest, visions of cactus and hot, dry landscapes come to mind. But, the area experiences weather that may surprise you.
Keep reading to find out what winter is really like in the Southwestern United States and if you can actually find snow there.
Let’s take a look!
What States Are Part of the Southwest?
Well, it depends on who you ask!
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service identifies Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas as Southwestern states.
On Wikipedia, the Southwest includes Arizona, New Mexico, and adjacent portions of California, Colorado, Nevada, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah.
However, everyone agrees that Arizona and New Mexico are the heart of the Southwest.
Does It Snow in the Southwest?
Although the area is arid and often favored by snowbirds because of its mild winters and clear blue skies, there’s plenty of snow in the Southwest. You just need to know where to look.
5 Great Places to Find Snow in the Southwest
Now that we have established that there’s snow in the Southwest, let’s find it!
Taos, New Mexico
Located in the north-central region of New Mexico in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Taos has an elevation of 6,969 feet and is home to Taos Ski Valley. The average annual snowfall here is 300 inches, and the summit elevation is 12,481 feet.
Although there’s plenty of skiing in the area, outdoor enthusiasts can also enjoy a snowy hike to Rio Grande Gorge or sledding past the Edelweiss Lodge & Spa. Snowmobiling with Big Al at Taos Ski Valley Wilderness Adventures is an excellent adventure too.
Visitors interested in learning about Native American traditions and customs should stop by Taos Pueblo. This Native American community, located at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, offers cultural tours and encourages visitors to observe sacred festivals.
Know Before You Go: Unfortunately, the Taos Pueblo is currently closed due to COVID restrictions. But keep it on your radar so you can visit when it reopens.
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Sitting at 8,000 feet, Bryce Canyon offers gorgeous days filled with clear blue skies and crisp white snow in the winter. Aside from typical activities such as snowshoeing and winter hiking, the park has two winter events. These are the Bryce Canyon Winter Festival and the Christmas Bird Count.
The Winter Festival includes kayaking demos, photo workshops, crafts for kids, snowshoe tours, dancing, pottery making, and archery biathlon.
The National Audubon Society administers the annual Christmas Bird Count, which is the longest-running Citizen Science survey globally. Volunteers hike within the park to identify and count birds. The data gathered shows how birds’ ranges shift and change over the years.
Pro Tip: After exploring Bryce Canyon, check out these Utah National Parks (Ranked Best To Worst).
Ready for alpine winters and a ski resort in Arizona? Let’s check out the Arizona Snowbowl located on the San Francisco Peaks, two hours north of Phoenix. This Southwest ski resort sits at 11,500 feet, averages 260 inches of snow each season, and has 700 acres of skiable land.
The Arizona Snowbowl is strictly for skiing; they do not permit sledding or playing in the snow.
If you’d rather skip the slopes, Flagstaff has quite a few fun winter events. For example, Arizona Beer Week recognizes the city’s nine craft breweries. And the I Heart Pluto Festival is an annual celebration of Pluto’s discovery by astronomers at the Lowell Observatory.
Pro Tip: After getting your fill of snow in Flagstaff, warm up by trying these 9 Best Things To Do in Flagstaff, Arizona.
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
The vibrant oranges, deep reds, and rich greens of the Grand Canyon are heightened by the bright white snow that falls during the winter months. During that time, visitors have the opportunity to explore the Grand Canyon without crowds.
Although the North Rim is closed (except for hikers), Grand Canyon Village is open and provides a great place to eat, learn, and shop. Hikers can explore the snow-covered trails, including the Bright Angel Trail and the Rim Trail. Renowned viewpoints, such as Mather Point, Yavapai Point, and Grand View Point, are open to visitors by foot, car, or bus.
Pro Tip: Check bus availability before going because weather or COVID restrictions might disrupt bus routes and schedules.
Mount Lemmon, Tucson, Arizona
Tucson is most famous for the giant saguaro cacti in the Sonoran Desert. On the other hand, it’s a fantastic place to experience a southwestern winter wonderland.
Thirty miles to the north is Mount Lemmon, with a top elevation of over 9,000 feet, and the village of Ski Valley. Here visitors can shred through 20 ski runs, including 8 Black Diamonds.
Hikers will be pleased with the available trails of various elevations and difficulty levels. The lower mountain trails are best during the winter, but all are open year-round unless otherwise noted by local authorities.
If you’re interested in more relaxing activities, explore the neighboring Summerhaven community to build snowmen(women) and eat fudge.
When Does It Snow in the Southwest?
Snowfall in the Southwest typically occurs between early December through the end of March. However, just because you visit Flagstaff in January doesn’t mean you’ll see snow.
Each place has some months that are snowier than others.
The snowiest days in Flagstaff happen in late November, but Mount Lemmon gets the most snow in mid-January. Both the Arizona Snowbowl and Taos get the heaviest snowfall in late February.
How Often Does it Snow in the Southwest?
The frequency of snow in the Southwest varies from state to state and from elevation to elevation. For example, in Flagstaff it snows frequently and heavily during the winter months, enough to average 100 inches each season.
In Taos, it snows an average of 17 days in one winter.
You Really Can Find Snow in the Southwest
Well, there you have it. The Southwest can let you have winter your way, mild when you want it and snowy when you need it. Ski, hike, sled, and enjoy the desert all in the Southwest.
Where have you found snow in the Southwest?
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