The Grand Canyon is a fantastic place for a family adventure. I was worried at first. My nature is to foresee the worst possible outcome and worry about it fanatically. So of course, I pictured my children tumbling over the edge. But thanks to my tight grip on tiny wrists we avoided that. It was in fact, one of my favorite vacations so far.
We spent a week exploring Grand Canyon National Park in November. One of the great things about the Park is once you enter, you don’t really need to leave until you are ready to go. There are plenty of affordable places to eat within the lodges and a grocery/general store to stock up on food and supplies.
You can book a room at one of the lodges, but we opted to haul our pop-up trailer and camp at Mather Campground, about a mile from the rim. The campgrounds were clean and spacious with fresh water pumps and well-lit restrooms with stalls and flush toilets. During the week when the camp grounds were quiet, lots of mule deer wandered the grounds foraging. The deer were my favorite part of the trip.
I was exploring with a five-year-old and an eight-year-old and this is what we found most enjoyable on our family adventure:
Junior Ranger Handbooks: Don’t visit a National Park without doing this with your kids. Grab a book from a ranger at any of the park information centers and help your kids complete the activities in the book. At the end, they share their books with a ranger, say the oath, and earn their National Park Junior Ranger Badge. Super cool.
Desert View Watchtower: Spiraling, narrow stairs lead to the top of a stone tower to look out over the Grand Canyon. This is the highest viewing point of the Canyon within the park. The inside is decorated with native American symbols painted on the walls. There is an outdoor viewing deck on the second floor to take in the expansive views.
On the way back, stop at the lookout points along the road, and visit the Tusayan Ruins and Museum. Here you’ll find an interpretive center with native American artifacts. Walk along the trails here to see the ruins of native American structures.
The Geology Museum: The geology museum is full of interpretive signs and displays that are interactive and fun for kids to learn about the Grand Canyon. Stick around for the Geology Glimpse ranger talk where a ranger tells you about how the Grand Canyon came to be and the different layers that make up the canyon. The ranger talks are great even for kids and they are often asked to participate in demonstrations.
Sunrise and Sunset: We watched the sunset at Mather Point and the sunrise from Pipe Creek lookout point. A fun experience to see the different light displays that nature offers with the help of the sun bringing out the colors of the canyon walls.
Hermits Rest Shuttle Bus: Hop on the free shuttle bus to Hermits Rest, an old outpost built of stone at the end of the south rim road. Get off the shuttle at various lookout points along the route to take in the different views of the canyon and the Colorado River below. Each stop has signs that talk about geology, history, and culture. The destination point, Hermits Rest, has a small snack bar and gift shop.
Hiking: I wasn’t sure how many trails would be accessible for kids but we found two that were manageable. South Kaibab trail to Ooh Aah Point is about a one mile hike down into the canyon. The terrain is rocky with lots of steps but my kids could manage it. We do hike regularly, so it might be tough for less seasoned hikers or smaller children. Keep a hold of hands though, as there are steep drops off the edge. The one mile hike back up is the hardest part and is equivalent to climbing over 70 flights of stairs. The Bright Angel Trail was our second hiking adventure. The hike is moderate until you reach the lower tunnel a little over a mile down, but it gets difficult after that. Turn around at the lower tunnel if you have kids and head back up. The terrain is smoother here than at South Kaibab with few steps, but still quite a hike back up.
Ice Cream at Bright Angel Lodge: Behind Bright Angel Lodge is a small snack bar that serves up scoops of ice cream in waffle cones. This was a great treat and one of the kids favorite parts of course!
These are just a few of the highlights from our trip. There were so many moments that we will cherish, memories that we’ll never forget. If you’re looking for a spot to plan your next family vacation I highly recommend Grand Canyon National Park.
Have you visited The Grand Canyon?