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A trip to the Grand Canyon with kids is sure to be an unforgettable experience for the whole family. More than a mile deep and 18 miles wide, it’s hard to grasp the sheer vastness of this mammoth canyon until you’re actually standing on its rim.
Although the canyon itself is enormous, you can easily cover the visitor’s areas in the park in just a couple of days. Kids and adults alike will love going on hikes, learning about the geologic history of the canyon, and of course, taking in the spectacular views.
We visited the Grand Canyon with our 5, 3, and 1-year-old boys and had an amazing experience. Our kids were very impressed with the hugeness of the canyon and had a great time experiencing all the activities in the park, especially riding the shuttles and earning their junior ranger badges.
Read on for everything you need to now for an awesome visit to the Grand Canyon with kids!
And for a perfect two-day Grand Canyon itinerary, see this post!
Tips for Visiting the Grand Canyon With Kids
South Rim vs North Rim
If you’ve never been to the Grand Canyon before, you might be wondering which rim is best to visit. When visiting the Grand Canyon with kids, especially if it’s your first time, you’ll probably want to visit the South Rim. The South Rim is more accessible and has more family-friendly features than the North Rim.
The South Rim has dozens of easily accessible viewpoints, paved paths along the rim, a variety of tours and activities, and a broader selection of stores, restaurants, and lodging. From this rim, it’s also easier to get a feel for the vastness and grandeur of the canyon. The north rim is more remote and it’s harder to get a look at those stunning views.
In this article, we’ll be focusing on the features of the South Rim.
When is the best time to visit the Grand Canyon with kids?
The best times to visit the Grand Canyon are the shoulder months of March through May and September through November.
During those times, the temperatures are mild and you can avoid the crowds. You won’t find yourself waiting in long lines for the shuttles or following a huge pack of people along the trails.
We visited the Grand Canyon at the end of October and felt that it was the perfect time to go. The weather was just starting to get a little crisp, but not frigid, making it the perfect temperature to do some hiking. And it didn’t feel crowded at all while we were there.
How long should I spend at the Grand Canyon with kids?
Unlike some other national parks where you could spend a week there and still not experience everything, a day or two is plenty of time to allocate for visiting the Grand Canyon. This is especially true if you aren’t planning on doing any of the longer hikes.
The area accessible to visitors is relatively small and the main activity is taking in the views of the Grand Canyon, which doesn’t take long.
Plan on spending one or two days at the Grand Canyon and if you have more time, hit some of the other kid-friendly attractions nearby (see the bottom of this post for ideas).
How do I get around at Grand Canyon National Park?
One important point to know about visiting the Grand Canyon is that you can’t necessarily drive everywhere you want to go.
From March to November, certain roads are closed to private vehicles and can only be accessed by shuttle (the most notable ones being Hermit Road, and the road to Yaki Point).
We actually found the shuttle to be a very convenient way to get around. Shuttles run every 10 to 15 minutes, so it’s easy to hop off at a viewpoint, take a look around, and be on the very next shuttle.
We never had to wait in line for the shuttle or had a shuttle too full to accommodate us, but that could be a very different experience during the peak season.
Riding the shuttle was one of our boys’ very favorite parts of visiting the Grand Canyon. Go figure.
When visiting the Grand Canyon, safety is a very important consideration. Every year, 250 hikers need to be rescued from the Grand Canyon and around 12 people die.
Given the extreme depths of the Grand Canyon, falling is a very real concern. While the lookouts have railings, typically the trails and paths along the edge of the canyon do not.
Having my little kids loose anywhere near the edge of the canyon rim was enough to make my mama heart start pounding, so we kept our kids either strapped in the stroller or holding tightly onto our hands. If you are visiting with young kids, I HIGHLY recommend bringing a stroller or a carrier to keep them contained and safe.
And be careful when taking pictures. I can’t tell you how many stupid things we saw people doing just to get that perfect shot. Don’t be that person, especially when you’re visiting with your kids.
The other big safety concern is the extreme temperatures. If you’re visiting in the summer, the temperatures can get very hot. This can be especially dangerous if you’re planning on hiking into the canyon. Know that the temperature at the bottom of the canyon is typically 20 to 30 degrees warmer than at the rim. Be sure to bring sun protection, salty snacks, and plenty of water on hikes. And in the winter, the temperatures can get quite frigid, so pack warm clothes if you’re planning on visiting in the colder months.
Best things to do in the Grand Canyon with kids
Visit the scenic viewpoints
The main thing to do at the Grand Canyon is to marvel at the magnificent views. Luckily, there are lots of places to take in the sight of the canyon from all different angles.
Before our visit, I thought I might get sick of visiting viewpoint after viewpoint, but I have to say that I didn’t feel that way while we were there. And we visited a lot of viewpoints.
The Grand Canyon is so vast and varied, each viewpoint offers something unique to marvel at.
Go on a hike
Hikes at the Grand Canyon range from advanced-skill needed to a quick stroll on a paved path. When you’re visiting with kids, make sure to choose a hike that matches the abilities of your children.
And unlike many hikes where the way back is easier than the way there, if you’re hiking into the Grand Canyon know that you will be facing a much more challenging return trip. They say to plan that the return trip will take you at least twice as long as your descent.
Best Kid-Friendly Hikes at the Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon Rim Trail is a 13-mile path along the rim of the canyon. There are shuttle stops along the way, so you can easily pick and choose which sections of the path you want to hike and which parts you’d rather just enjoy the view from the shuttle window. The shortest stretch between shuttle points is .3 miles and the longest is 1.8 miles.
This is a great easy trail for hiking with kids of all ages because it is relatively level and it has incredible scenic views. Large portions of the Rim Trail are paved, meaning you can use a stroller for certain segments of this hike.
Most of the trail is right along the edge of the canyon with no railings, so if you have very young kids I would recommend bringing a carrier or stroller to strap them into or planning on keeping a very close eye on them.
One of our favorite stretches of the Rim Trail to walk was from the Village Route Transfer to Trailhead Overlook. This .7 mile stretch of trail is paved and has truly spectacular views of the canyon the entire hike. It’s also level and easy to navigate for kids or strollers.
Kaibab Trail to Ooh Aah Point
The Kaibab Trail is a 6.5-mile hike down to the bottom of the canyon and back again. The first viewpoint that you reach is Ooh Aah Point, .9 miles into the hike. From this viewpoint, you have a spectacular view of the canyon.
Reaching the viewpoint requires a 682-foot descent along steep switchbacks. The path is well maintained and fairly wide, so there is little risk of falling. But there is no railing, so keep a close eye on young children and plan to have a comfortable carrier if you’re hiking with a baby or toddler.
Getting down is less challenging than getting back up, so plan at least twice as long for your climb back out of the canyon.
To get to the hike, take the Orange Route shuttle to the South Kaibab Trailhead. There is a place to fill water bottles and restrooms at the trailhead, so be sure to fill up your water bottles before you head out.
Bright Angel Trail
The most popular trail at the Grand Canyon, Bright Angel Trail is another path descending down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
There are several options for turn around points if you are hiking with kids. One of the best options for a hike with young kids is to turn back about half a mile into the hike, after the first switchback. After that point, the trail gets much steeper. This gives you a feel for hiking into the canyon without being too strenuous or dangerous for children.
Remember that however long it takes you to go down, it will likely take you at least twice that long to get back out.
Take the Desert View Drive
Desert View Drive is the only scenic drive in the park. Along the route, you can find multiple viewpoints with breathtaking views of the east side of the Grand Canyon. These views offer open views of the canyon and the Colorado River below.
Unlike most of the other roads on the South Rim, you can actually drive this road with your own private vehicle all year long, which makes these viewpoints some of the easiest in the park to visit.
At the end of the drive, you can see the Desert View Watchtower, a round 70-foot tower perched on the rim of the canyon.
Catch a sunrise or sunset
Seeing the sun light up the rainbow hues of the canyon walls at sunrise or sunset is a sight that you will never forget. Find just the right spot to get a front-row seat to nature’s show!
Here are the ideal viewpoints from which to checkout sunrise and sunset, according to the park rangers while we were there.
The best places to view the sunrise:
- Yaki Point (Kaibab/Rim Route)
- Mather Point
- Yavapai Point
- Hopi Point (Hermit Rest Route)
The best places to view the sunset:
- Lipan Point (on Desert View Drive)
- Mather Point
- Yavapai Point
- Hopi Piont (Hermit Rest Route)
Visit the Yavapai Geology Museum
From the Visitor Center, take a stroll down to Mather Point (a 15-minute walk) and then on to the Yavapai Geology Museum (another 15 minutes). The flat, paved trail is easy for children of all ages and it is stroller accessible. Along the way, enjoy spectacular views of the canyon as you walk along its rim.
The Geology Museum is perched on the edge of the canyon and the glass windows offer stunning views of the canyon while you explore the museum. Learn about the different layers of rock in the canyon and the geologic history of the area.
Our kids enjoyed looking at the rock models and having great views of the canyon from the window without mom getting nervous about them being too close to the edge.
You can catch the Orange Shuttle back to the Visitor Center when you are done.
Do some stargazing
The Grand Canyon has the designation of an International Dark Sky Park, which means that it’s an exceptional place to do some stargazing. Once it gets dark, find a place to turn off all the lights and sit back and enjoy that magnificent starry expanse.
You can find great places to see the stars along Canyon Drive or at Mather Point, just a short walk from the visitor center. Or just pull over your car wherever you are and look up. You won’t be disappointed!
This was one of our kids’ favorite things we did at the canyon. They were amazed at how many more stars you could see in the sky at the Grand Canyon than in the sky back home.
Pay a visit to Grand Canyon Village
If you want to buy some souvenirs, find someplace to eat, or learn more about the history of the area, stop by Grand Canyon Village. Grand Canyon Village sprang up around the railroad depot back in 1901 and has been an integral part of the south rim ever since.
This quaint village has gift shops, restaurants, and galleries along with the historic hotels in the park. Here you can do a self-guided walking tour to learn more about the canyon and the area. It’s also a jumping-off place for many activities in the park, including mule and horse rides, helicopter tours, and the train ride to Williams.
Ride the Grand Canyon Train
For a unique experience at the Grand Canyon, take a ride on the Grand Canyon Railway. In operation since 1901, the train takes you from Williams to the South Rim with a fun old west flare.
On the 60-minute ride, you can enjoy musicians and cowboys in character while you take in the scenery (note that this ride does not offer views of the Grand Canyon).
You can choose to stay overnight at the park or ride back the same day after spending a few hours at the Grand Canyon.
Explore the park by bike
If you’re looking for an adventurous way to explore the Grand Canyon, consider doing so by bike! At the Visitors Center, you can rent bikes for adults and children as well as bike trailers and tag-along bikes for young children to ride with an adult. You can also rent strollers at this location.
Bikes are permitted on certain sections of the Rim Trail and can be transported by shuttle between stops.
To be sure that you have a bike available to use, book in advance here.
Earn a Junior Ranger badge
Whenever we visit a national park or national monument, our kids are so excited to earn their junior ranger badge! It’s such a fun program and a great way to involve kids in your visit.
When you first arrive, stop by the visitor’s center to pick up your junior ranger booklet from a park ranger. Depending on their age, there will be certain activities for your child to complete while at the park.
Once they’ve finished, they can get their junior ranger badge! When we were there, they were giving the badges to the parents when you first pick up the booklets. But in non-COVID times you return to the visitors center once you’re done to show the ranger your completed book, say the junior ranger pledge, and get your badge.
Where to stay when visiting the Grand Canyon with kids
When planning a trip to the south rim of the Grand Canyon, you can choose to stay within the park or at one of the many hotels or lodges nearby.
Where to stay in Grand Canyon National Park
Lodging within the park is available all year round and books up well in advance, especially during peak times. The lodges in the park are a great jumping-off place for an early morning hike or sunset or sunrise viewing of the canyon. Most are within walking distance from the rim.
The following lodges are located within the park in the historic district:
You can make reservations for a stay at any of these lodgings here.
You can also camp at the Desert View Campground from mid-April to mid-October. Reservations are required and can be made up to 6 months in advance here.
Where to stay outside the park
If you don’t want to stay in the park, the best option is to stay in Tusayan, a small town about a 15-minute drive from the entrance. It’s typically quite a bit cheaper to stay outside of the park and it’s a quick drive from Tusayan to any of the park’s attractions.
Here are some of the best places to stay just outside the park:
- Holiday Inn Express & Suites Grand Canyon
- Best Western Canyon Squire Inn
- Grand Canyon Plaza Hotel
- The Grand Hotel
During the peak season, there is also a free shuttle bus that runs between the Tusayan Hotels/Lodges and the Visitor Center every 20 minutes.
Where to eat at the Grand Canyon
There are several different options for eating, both in the park and in the town nearby.
Within the park, you can find restaurants at several of the lodges, such as the El Tovar Dining Room at the El Tovar Hotel and the Maswik Food Court in Maswik Lodge.
There’s also the Canyon Village Market General Store, where you can buy groceries.
Just outside the park in Tusayan, you can find more food options. If you’re interested in Mexican food you can try Plaza Bonita or Mexican Kitchen, for an Italian meal head to We Cook Pizza and Pasta, and if you’re craving a steak head to Tusayan Steak House.
You can also find several fast-food restaurants such as Wendy’s, McDonald’s, and Pizza Hut.
If you have someone in your group with gluten sensitivity, Plaza Bonita has lots of gluten-free options and Foodie Club offers sandwiches on gluten-free bread and several gluten-free breakfast options.
What to bring to the Grand Canyon with kids
Sun protection- There is very little shade at the Grand Canyon, so be sure to bring sunscreen, sunhats, and eye protection. Don’t be fooled if you’re going during times of colder weather, if you’re out in the sun all day you can still get burned no matter how cold it is!
Water bottle or hydration pack– Make sure to bring plenty of water when you visit the Grand Canyon, especially if you plan on doing some hiking. Temperatures can get very hot and it’s easy to get dehydrated.
A stroller or baby/toddler carrier– If you’re visiting with young kids, bring a way to contain them while you’re checking out the views near the rim. Trust me, it makes for a much less stressful trip!
Other nearby attractions
When visiting the Grand Canyon with kids, you might also want to take the time to visit some of the other awesome attractions nearby.
Located about an hour south of the Grand Canyon, Bearizona is a drive-through wildlife park featuring animals native to North America. You can drive your car through the enclosures, putting you up close and personal with the animals, including bears, wolves, bison, bighorn sheep, and more.
There’s also a walk-through part where you can see a variety of other animals (our boys’ favorite was the jaguars) and watch animal shows.
Our kids were so entertained seeing the animals wandering around our car. During our drive, we had a sheep come up and lick our side mirror, a group of bears walk directly in front of us, and a pack of wolves surround our car like they were stalking us… It was definitely a highlight of our trip for our kids.
Wupatki National Monument
Less than an hour from the Grand Canyon is Wupatki National Monument, the ruins of a multi-storied pueblo dating back to 500 AD. We found it to be a fascinating place to visit and learn more about the people that once populated that harsh terrain.
National Monuments also have junior ranger programs, so our boys enjoyed completing the booklet and receiving a junior ranger badge for their visit.
Walnut Canyon National Monument
If you’re spending any time down south, I highly recommend making a stop at Walnut Canyon, which is a little under two hours from the Grand Canyon, near Flagstaff. This National Monument is a unique opportunity to see well-preserved cliff dwellings from the Sinagua people.
It’s a one-mile round trip to see 25 cliff dwellings up close, as well as many others across the canyon.
To get to the dwellings, you have to take steep steps down the side of the cliff and then it’s a 185-foot climb to get back up. If you’re traveling with young kids, keep close track of them as there are sheer drops. Once again, I highly recommend a carrier for toddlers to keep them contained. I felt so much better once we had our 3 year old secured in a carrier.
But it truly is an incredible place to visit for anyone remotely interested in history and ancient people. Our kids loved pretending they lived on the cliffs and deciding the function of each of the rooms we saw. And it was another chance for them to earn a junior ranger badge!
Also located in Flagstaff is Lowell Observatory, one of the oldest observatories in the US.
If you have a space-loving child, they will be fascinated by some of the family programs available, including opportunities to learn about stars and constellations and see celestial objects through the telescopes.
A trip to the Grand Canyon with kids has so much to offer for the whole family! The sights cannot be beat and there are lots of fun activities that are sure to keep the kiddos entertained.
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