Grand Canyon with Kids- Plan the Perfect Trip

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by Kristin Young | Updated On: September 18, 2020

Grand Canyon with Kids

There are so many fun things to do at the Grand Canyon with kids that it’s an absolute must stop on your next southwest family vacation.

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SOUTH RIM GRAND CANYON WITH KIDS

With all of the easily accessible activities and services, the South Rim is really the best spot to take the kids to the Grand Canyon.  

Kids getting Grand Canyon Passport Stamp

GET YOUR STAMP

If you haven’t heard about the Junior Ranger Passport, you’re missing out!  Before your next trip, get one of these books with interesting stories, great illustrations, and pages to collect stamps at all of the National Parks and Monuments.

BUY ONE HERE

Stamping their passport book was by far my kids’ favorite activity at every national park.  We LOVE these books!!

Kids Junior Ranger Program at the Grand Canyon

JUNIOR RANGER PROGRAM

At the Visitor’s Center, kids(ages 4+) can get a Junior Ranger booklet to fill out with drawings and observations along the way.  When complete, they return it and get a Junior Ranger Badge.

Such a fun way to keep the kids interested, involved, and learning!

Kids at Train Depot watching Grand Canyon Railway Train Arrive

GRAND CANYON RAILWAY TRAIN DEPOT

If your kids are like mine, they will LOVE watching the Grand Canyon Railway Train come into the Depot.

It arrives at 11:45 a.m.(additional arrival at 12:45 a.m. for high volume dates) at the Grand Canyon Depot, and departs again at 3:30 p.m.(and 4:30 p.m. when there is a second train.  

If you want to actually ride the train, it’s a 2 hour 15 minute trip each way from Williams, AZ.  Check pricing and availability HERE.

Stroller and Bike Rental at Grand Canyon

STROLLER AND BIKE RENTALS

Renting a bike is a great way to get out and explore the area.  Adult cruiser bikes, kids bikes, and even pull behind trailers for the little ones are available for rent.  Check prices and Book HERE.

Didn’t want to lug the stroller on the plane?  They also have our favorite stroller(the Citi Mini) for rent by the hour or day, and prices are quite reasonable.

People waiting for mule rides at the grand canyon

GRAND CANYON MULE RIDES

When you think of the Grand Canyon, mule trips are one of the first activities that come to mind.  Rides start at 8:00 a.m. in peak season, and 9:00 a.m. in off season.

There are height, weight, and age restrictions for kids, but generally by 10 years old, kids can ride a Mule into the canyon(with an adult).  For complete details, visit the NPS website HERE.

Our guys are still too young, but we are already planning an overnight mule trip once they get a bit older.  It looks like one of the most peaceful, beautiful, and exciting ways to experience the Grand Canyon.

Helicopters in the Grand Canyon

HELICOPTER RIDES

If a mule ride is the first thing that comes to mind, a helicopter tour is second.  Seeing the Grand Canyon from the air, and possibly touching down inside the canyon, is a cool experience- as long as you don’t mind shelling out quite a bit of cash to do it.  Prices usually start around $200 per person.

CHECK PRICES HERE
Yavapai Observation Station & Geology Museum

YAVAPAI OBSERVATION STATION

A bit further from busy Mather Point, Yavapai Point and Geology Museum is a great spot to check out the view and learn about the geology of the Grand Canyon.

Trail of Time at the Grand Canyon

TRAIL OF TIME

Running between the Yavapai Observation Station and Grand Canyon Village, this easy, flat hike is perfect for people who love the outdoors, but want to learn a bit along the way.  Each station along the hike shows a different bit of information about how the canyon formed through time, including rock samples and viewing tubes.

Desert view Watchtower at the Grand Canyon

DESERT VIEW WATCHTOWER

Located about a half hour drive east of the Visitor Center area, the Desert View Watchtower sits near the eastern edge of the canyon.  The kids loved climbing to the top of the tower, and checking out the native artifacts inside.

During peak season, there are cultural demonstrations like native beaders and silversmiths.  Click HERE for the most recent schedule

My favorite part:  the view looking east.  The canyon ends with plains stretching out for miles leaving a totally different, but equally amazing landscape.

GRAND CANYON IMAX

Located in Tusayan, just outside the park(this is quite confusing, as it says it’s located in the Visitor Center.  It’s actually the Visitor Center in TUSAYAN), the IMAX is a fun way to get to see parts of the canyon that you can’t see without a rafting trip or helicopter ride.  Check current showings HERE.  

What kid- or adult for that matter- doesn’t love an IMAX.

BEST HIKES AT THE GRAND CANYON WITH KIDS

kids walking on Rim Trail at Grand Canyon

RIM TRAIL

Duration:  10 minutes- 4 hours (stretches along the rim- choose your length)

Difficulty:  Easy- paved flat trail along the rim

RIM TRAIL MAP PDF
Mom on son hiking Bright Angel Trail at the Grand Canyon

BRIGHT ANGEL TRAIL

To Mile-and-a-Half Rest House

Duration:  2-4 hours round trip

Difficulty:  Moderate- dirt path into the canyon

BRIGHT ANGEL TRAIL MAP PDF
Ooh Aah Point on the South Kaibab Trail at the Grand Canyon

SOUTH KAIBAB TRAIL

To Ooh Aah Point

Duration:  1-2 hours round trip

Difficulty:  Moderate- dirt path into the canyon

SOUTH KAIBAB TRAIL MAP PDF

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

Grand Canyon

WHEN TO GO

Like everywhere, you must weigh the pros and cons.  

Off season

Pros:  There won’t be nearly as many tourists clogging up the roads and trails.  Plus, hotel prices are usually a bit more affordable.

Cons:  The weather will be a bit chilly, and there won’t be as many services and programs available.  

Peak Season

Pros:  You will have warm weather and tons of ranger programs and shuttle options.  If you want to enjoy the North Rim, it’s only open from May-October, so Peak Season it is.  

Cons:  Everyone else will also be there blocking those views and taking the best hotel rooms and parking spaces.  

Our Pick:  As always, we love shoulder season. You’ll miss out on a few of the programs, but the weather will *generally* be nice, and there won’t be TONS of tourists around.

Person hanging feet over edge of grand canyon

SAFETY

There are railings at the major viewpoints, but most of the canyon rim is open.  HANG ON TO YOUR KIDS!

No cool stunts or crazy photo ops, please!  Instagram isn’t worth it. People do DIE every year from falling over the edge.

Dad with Backpack carrier and water bottles at the Grand Canyon

WHAT TO BRING

Sun Protection:  The sun is strong in this area, and along the canyon there isn’t much shade to be found.  Apply and bring along sunscreen, wear sunglasses, and consider a hat.

Water:  Many major trailheads will have access to water, but you’ll want to have multiple bottles to get you through each hike.  

Backpack Child Carrier:  If you have small children, they won’t last long on the hikes.  To enjoy as much as possible, make sure you bring along a backpack carrier like this one.   

Kids can rest, you can explore, and it holds snacks and water!

Good Walking Shoes:  Our boys wore closed toe sandals with openings along the sides.  Not great for hiking as rocks were constantly getting in their shoes leaving us sitting along the path every few minutes picking them out.  

Unless you are serious hikers, a good pair of tennis shoes should do the trick.   

Snacks:  Hiking takes it out of you, especially for young kids.  Make sure to have a small snack on hand like trail mix or energy bars, as food options are limited along the canyon.  

El Tovar Hotel

WHAT TO BOOK AHEAD OF TIME

Hotels:  If you want to stay IN the park, those hotels often book up A YEAR IN ADVANCE.  However, if you’re okay with a short drive, you can usually find something in Tusayan(a 10 minute drive away) with just a few months planning.  

Tours:  If you have your heart set on that helicopter or mule ride, make sure to get it booked a few months in advance.  Yes, you can often snag a spot last minute, but don’t wait if you will be devastated to miss it.

GETTING TO THE GRAND CANYON

Entrance to Grand Canyon South Rim

GRAND CANYON ENTRANCES

North Rim:  This is the place if you’re looking for a less crowded atmosphere, and enjoy the outdoors.  However, it’s elevation is 1000 feet higher than the south rim, leading to cooler temperatures and a shorter season(only open from mid May- mid October).  

West Rim:  This is the closest rim to Las Vegas and where the Skywalk is located.  But, it’s not actually part of Grand Canyon National Park, so the entrance is not included with any National Park Passes.  

East Rim:  The least visited of all the rims, the East Rim is a bit harder to get to.  But for those who enjoy a more backcountry experience, it may be worth the extra effort.  

South Rim:  This is that postcard perfect rim that most people head to on a trip to the Grand Canyon.  Yes, there will be crowds, but the area is huge, so head to one of the less visited observation points.  It’s open year round, with limited services in off season.

America the Beautiful Pass

GRAND CANYON ENTRANCE FEE

General Fee:  $35 per vehicle

It’s good for 7 days & can be purchased at all entrances.

America the Beautiful Pass:  $80 per vehicle

This annual pass is a MUST BUY in my opinion, and can be purchased at the entrances.  If you’re near the grand canyon, chances are that you will be going to at least another national park or 2.  This will save you tons! Plus, it’s good all year at all federal recreation sites with a fee.

On our 2 week trip, this saved us at least $40, plus we still have almost a year to use it.

It’s free to military, and at a discount for others.  Find all of the details HERE.

Grand Canyon South Rim Shuttle Map

SOUTH RIM PARKING AND SHUTTLES

Notice the locations that ONLY allow shuttles.  

All of the shuttles are free and do not require any tickets.  They run frequently, and you simply hop and ride. Click HERE for up to date details from the National Park Service.

We had planned to drive to Hermit’s Rest, but only shuttles are allowed on that road.

NPS Pocket Guide PDF

WHERE TO STAY AT THE GRAND CANYON SOUTH RIM

El Tovar Hotel

EL TOVAR HOTEL

If you want to stay within the park, right on the rim with drop dead gorgeous views, this is where you want to be.  However, El Tovar books up EARLY. Reservations open 13 months in advance, and are typically sold out within a month.  However, it’s always worth checking because you never know if there will be a last minute cancellation.

CHECK PRICES HERE
Pool Area at Best Western Premier Grand Canyon Squire Inn Hotel in Tusayan, AZ

BEST WESTERN PREMIER GRAND CANYON SQUIRE INN

If planning a year in advance just didn’t happen, you can stay in nearby Tusayan, just a short drive from the park entrance.  We stayed at the Best Western Premier Grand Canyon Squire Inn, and the kids loved it. They have indoor and outdoor pools, a splash pad, fitness center, and game room.  

CHECK PRICES HERE

CHECK OUT OUR GRAND CANYON VLOG!

The Grand Canyon is one of those family trips that you JUST HAVE TO TAKE.  With a ton of history and information woven into outdoor fun, I promise, it will blow you away!  

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Grand Canyon with Kids

About the Author: Kristin Young

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