The Grand Canyon – A Grand Family Experience

Genie Davis December 19, 2011 No Comments

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It’s a big canyon, but that’s only part of what makes it so grand for families. So what does make this such a wonderful destination, other than the fact that it’s a magnificent spectacle of nature? It’s easy to drive in and out of, even from the remote North Rim. Hold onto your children’s hands, and even tiny tots will have a memorable view. No need to rough it, unless your family likes camping – there are plenty of motels and hotels both in and out of the park.

It’s a large park, and you can simply drive along the south rim and stop at the many, varied, tourist-busy view points. And that’s a truly rewarding experience in and of itself. When my son was less than three, we came to the Grand Canyon in snow. We stayed in a motel in Williams, AZ, near the Grand Canyon Deer Farm, and he was really perfectly happy just feeding the deer. But we persisted, into the park we went, and he had the snowball tossing experience of a lifetime – throwing a few soft white orbs down into “infinity and beyond,” to quote Buzz Lightyear, then a big favorite. Just a few stops made the Grand Canyon special – and easy – for both parents and children.

Grand Canyon near the Desert View Look-out

A look at the Grand Canyon near the Desert View look out point.

Tips From Our Grand Canyon Visit

We’ve spent weekends on the North Rim in a cabin, we’ve taken hikes, and seen the Canyon from all angles since then. But here’s a primer on exploring with small children and avoiding some of the crowds, even at peak Canyon season. If you arrive in the late fall or winter months, you’ll avoid a lot of the crowds to begin with, but even in summer, you can steer clear of the busiest Canyon spots. In October, with aspen trees in fall array, you’ll find relatively mild temperatures, and fewer visitors – the best of both worlds. However, that first Canyon trip with snow lining the rim – pretty spectacular, and although the roads were cleared, we had some solo time at several overlooks.

Regardless of the time of year you arrive, here’s an arrival tip. Rather than heading straight off U.S. 40, try Highway 89 North. We’ve always come in this way. This will take you to the less hectic East Entrance, and the Cameron Trading Post. The Post is a great place for some inexpensive lunch under a very cool hammered tin ceiling, in a comfortable dining spot. Our kids loved the Navajo tacos: you can have them with meat or just veggies on home made and delicious puffy fry bread. Along with lunch, you can buy souvenirs here, too, a great variety of trinkets and post cards and clothing options at reasonable prices. A few small toys will entertain between view points, and put an end to clamoring for souvenirs later. Then enter the park – and take a look at less frequented overlooks, such as the Little Colorado River Gorge before heading to the first of the major view points you’ll reach from this direction, Desert View, Grandview Point, and Moran Point.

Heading closer to the main South Rim entrance, you’ll find more and more amazing views, and larger crowds, too. If your tots can be back pack carried, or your children are a bit older, consider a short hike down the Kaibab Trail. The trail to Cedar Ridge is just three roundtrip miles, and offers a stellar view of the canyon, without being challenging.

Grand Canyon View from the South Rim

A view of the Colorado River from the South Rim - near the east entrance

Another great walk is from the access road parking lot to Shoshone Point. This is only a three quarter of a mile trail, and it’s flat and forested, leading to a lovely view point, that’s rarely crowded.

We also like taking a stroll through the natural history museum at Yavapai Point. This small museum has a lot of great information about the geology, flora and fauna of the Grand Canyon area. You can also join ranger led short hikes here, or take a guided tour through the museum, and show the kids exactly what they’re looking at in terms of the earth’s layers, and ecology.

On a recent visit, we also climbed the tower at Desert View – hold onto the kid’s hands, and they’ll be fine on the stairs – for a great look across the slightly hazy expanse of the canyon as its many beautiful colors faded at sunset. Another great spot for sunset viewing is the porch behind Bright Angel Lodge – where the kids can also get ice cream or hot chocolate.

This is also an awesome and safe spot to watch the Canyon slip into moonlit darkness, and see the stars pop out.

Bright Angel offers reasonably priced accommodations – for a National Park concessionaire any way, but the rooms are small. Convenience can’t be beat, but we’ve frequently stayed outside the park. In Williams, Flagstaff, or farther afield, in Sedona. Our favorite place to stay is back at the Cameron Trading Post. The adjoining motel features rooms that are large, clean, reasonably priced, and many come with a creek or Little Colorado River gorge view. Once the restaurant closes at night, there’s little to do – except star gaze, play a board game with your family, and tuck in early for another full day of short trails and long views at the Grand Canyon.

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Genie Davis is a multi-published fiction author, screen and TV writer, and travel writer. If it was possible, she'd like to spend every day traveling. www.geniedavis.com

Tags: , Reviews, Travel Excursions

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