“A Land to Inspire our Spirit: Grand Canyon – one of Earth’s most powerful, inspiring landscapes- overwhelms our senses. Its story tells of geologic processes played out over unimaginable time spans as a unique combination of size, color, and dazzling erosion forms: 277 river miles long, up to 18 miles wide, and a mile deep. Our responsibility as good stewards is to pass on this gift, pristine and preserved, to future generations”.
Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon is arguably one of the most amazing geological masterpieces in the world and there are endless ways to explore her spectacular beauty. As an avid hiker, the way I wanted to see and experience the canyon meant on foot however my plans had to be altered when we decided to bring our two children along.
A visit to the Grand Canyon is wonderful at any age and thankfully the National Park System thought the development of the park out with this idea in mind. Whether you are an avid hiker, a senior citizen or a family, there are endless ways you can experience the Grand Canyon.
We planned our visit for two days in October when most children are in school and tourism is busy but not overwhelming. We flew to Tucson where my parents live and spent a few days there before heading out on our road trip north. Getting to the Grand Canyon involves a bit of driving and we split our trip by spending a day in Sedona before driving the rest of the way to the Grand Canyon.
We chose the small, touristy town of Tusayan as our base which is located about a ten minute drive from the South entrance of the Grand Canyon. There is not much there except for hotels and not so great restaurants yet it is convenient and our lodging was nice. If we do it again, which I hope we do, I would choose to stay at one of the many great places in the Grand Canyon. There are plenty of little cafes and restaurants and even a nice grocery store that serves wonderful, economically priced hot food. These hotels book up a lot faster than in Tusayan so it is probably best to reserve your hotel at least six months in advance and much earlier if you are going during summer high season.
We arrived at our hotel late on Monday night with only time for dinner and winding down before our big day exploring the Canyon. Our room at the Best Western in Tusayan was quite nice and even fit a cot for my ten-year-old son. I was surprised to see so many Europeans at our hotel. Given the time of year, the tourists at the Grand Canyon were mostly adults and not the van-loads of kids like you’d expect. It was quite an international crowd which I always enjoy.
We rose Tuesday morning to chilly temperatures around 39 degrees F, had breakfast and left for the Visitor Center at the Grand Canyon. Since it wasn’t high season, we had no problem parking in the main lot and left our car there all day as the Grand Canyon has an excellent shuttle service bringing you around to the main lookouts.
We began our day with a short documentary film on the formation and history of the Grand Canyon, right at the Visitor Center. It was excellent and highly informative plus the kids loved it. We also grabbed a Junior Ranger Activity Book for the kids to fill out and complete during our time at the Grand Canyon. The Guide contains all sorts of learning activities which is an excellent way to keep young children engaged and interested in their visit.
After we watched the film on the Grand Canyon, we walked out to Mather Point right outside the Visitor Center to take in our first full view. It was stunning.
We next boarded the free shuttle service and took it west a few stops. We wanted to go all the way to Hermits Rest but knew our children will tire of being on a shuttle so instead we got off near the Bright Angel Trailhead and began walking the wide, paved rim trail.
The Rim trail is the easiest, safest way for most people to experience the canyon, and it goes for way more distance than you could possibly walk in a day. The views along the way are stunning and there are plenty of signs that educate you on the making of the Grand Canyon. It seemed like there was always a photograph waiting to happen as the sun rose over the majestic canyon, changing the colors and shadows as the day progressed.
There are a few main trails that down into the Canyon. One at Bright Angel Trailhead, another at Yaki Point, South Kaibab and Grandview Point. However, the trails are extremely steep and quite dangerous especially with children. One slip and over you go. We attempted walking a few minutes down into Bright Angel Trailhead holding on tightly to our children’s hands just so they could see what it was like. It was sensational yet we preferred to remain on top where the trail was flat and safe.
Others chose to explore (I wouldn’t recommend sitting here!)
There were plenty of informative signs that helped us learn about the Grand Canyon.
We walked for awhile and then the kids decided to fill out their Junior Ranger Guides to earn their badge.
Meanwhile I took in more of the incredible views. It was so breathtaking.
The highlight for the kids was the “Yavapai Trail of Time”. It is a short hike, a little under a mile, that walks you step by step back through time showing you the different rocks of the Grand Canyon. It was fascinating!
As the day winded down, the kids finished up their Junior Ranger Books just in time for a Ranger presentation on rocks. Once completed, they were sworn in as a Junior Ranger and got their badge.
As the sun dipped down, we captured the last bits of light over the Grand Canyon. It was quite a spectacular day.