Niagara Falls: When is the best time to visit?

Beautiful weather where the biggest cloud was seemingly the one caused by Horseshoe Falls
When is the best time to visit Niagara Falls?

I'd imagine it really depends on what you're looking for, but I'm pretty sure that most people want to see the falls flow impressively under good weather.

We visited the falls on two separate trips so far. Our first visit was in late May 2007 where we were met with blue skies, humidity, and the threat of pop-up thunderstorms from all the tropical humidity. Then, six years later, we visited in early October where we were met with beautiful blue skies (almost cloud free) and we were relatively comfortable as it was said to be unseasonably warm during our visit.

So based on this limited sample size along with what we had read about in the literature, we were able to make the following generalizations concerning the seasonal cycles at the falls.

If you're looking for blue skies and rainbows with high to above average flow, then I'd say between May through October would be the time period most likely to have that combination. After all, with the higher likelihood of decent weather, that's when you're most likely going to see the sun and its rays refracted in the persistent mist from Niagara Falls to produce rainbows.

Niagara Falls during the mid-afternoon in late May/early June 2007Niagara Falls during the mid-afternoon in late May/early June 2007

The same view of Niagara Falls in October 2013The same view of Niagara Falls in October 2013

However, we can attest to the drawback to at least the Summer months of June, July, and August when the heat and humidity during those months made it uncomfortably muggy and sticky as well as prone to the thermal convection that would produce pop-up afternoon thunderstorms. I've read that the reason for this weather pattern is that in the Summer they tend to get tropical warmth from the Caribbean way to the south. Temperatures are said to range from highs of 90 degrees F (32 degrees C) to lows of 50 degrees F (9 degrees C) combined with high humidity. Summer is also the most popular time for visitation so expect crowds at this time (we know from firsthand experience) as well as peak prices.

Niagara Falls during the mid-afternoon in late May/early June 2007Niagara Falls during the mid-afternoon in late May/early June 2007

The same view of Niagara Falls in October 2013 with less mistThe same view of Niagara Falls in October 2013 with more mist than in late May/early June 2007; a counterintuitive observation since you'd expect more water over the falls during Spring and early Summer

The shoulder months of April/May in the Spring and October/November in the Autumn were definitely prone to variable weather. We can attest to this variability as we happened to get pretty lucky during our October visit. That was because we were getting unusually sunny weather for several days in a row before a big storm was coming our way. The sunny weather we were getting followed what was said to be the first major post-Summer storm of 2013. Luckily for us, we were in Montreal by the time the first storm hit, and we were back to sunny skies before the next storm hit when we were in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada a couple days after our Niagara Falls visit.

In any case, we definitely noticed that the air was crisper (i.e. less humid) and so when the skies were beautiful, the experience itself was pleasant and photogenic. One look at our photos from 2013 (taken in October) versus our photos from 2007 (taken in late May/early June) and you can see how much hazier our 2007 photos were compared to our 2013 photos. Again, I attribute that to humidity and our luck with the weather. However, I could totally envision much colder weather that could easily dip into the 30s and 40s, and snow would not be out of the question under more extreme weather.

We haven't visited Niagara Falls during the Winter time, but we can imagine it would be very picturesque and romantic. We had seen postcards of some snow juxtaposed with the falls. Of course there's an ever greater degree of variability in the weather during the Winter, which is why it's off-peak. Plus, Winters at the falls tend to be very cold as they get Arctic air from Canada. The falls has even had a history of freezing over in the coldest winter days (at least according to a Science Channel show I saw one day while channel surfing). In that particular cold snap, the river of ice destroyed the Honeymoon Bridge that once spanned the river above the falls. Temperatures are said to range from highs of 60 degrees F (16 degrees C) to lows of -10 degrees F (-23 degrees C).

Even with all that is said here, the falls are certainly spectacular all year-round because the falls flow reliably and consistently year round thanks to some degree of regulation by hydroelectric schemes further upstream. In fact, our October 2013 visit seemed to exhibit greater waterflow (as evidenced by the larger mist cloud from Horseshoe Falls) compared to our May/June 2007 visit where the mist cloud was far smaller), which seemed to suggest rather counterintuitively that Autumn could have more flow than early Summer (of course you also have to factor in precipitation totals for a given year in addition to seasonal variations).

So the bottom line is that you really can't go wrong in terms of how the waterfall would perform no matter what time of the year you show up. The rest of the randomness of your experience pretty much comes down to the weather, which is pretty much the luck of the draw no matter how you try to time your trip.

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