Are you thinking about visiting the Grand Canyon with the kids? The national park is a beautiful place for vacation and will likely be one that’s never forgotten.
But planning a family trip to the Grand Canyon can feel overwhelming sometimes. Where do you stay? Which part of the Grand Canyon is best for kids? When’s the best time to go to the Grand Canyon?
I answer all these questions and more below to help you plan a fun, safe, and unforgettable trip.
Is The Grand Canyon A Good Trip For Kids?
Absolutely. The Grand Canyon is one of the top destinations in the United States, and it’s no surprise why. One of the best things about the Grand Canyon is that there’s something for everyone. It is a national park that is “out west” but not a West Coast National Park.
The park is over 1.2 million (yes, million) acres, and the canyon is 17 miles long, meaning there are almost endless activities.
We visited with the boys several years ago, and it was an unforgettable family vacation. I’d love to go back now that everyone is older – I think it would be a completely different trip!
But I think the Grand Canyon is a great family destination no matter the ages of your kids, from toddlers to teens.
North Rim vs South Rim: What Part of the Grand Canyon Is Best For Kids?
I like the North Rim more than I like the South Rim. Both have really impressive lodges, but reservations fill up quickly. This is my son and my niece getting their Junior Ranger badge at Grand Canyon North Rim.
Many people recommend the South Rim as the best part of the Grand Canyon for kids, mostly because it’s the least remote. Of course, the least remote also means the busiest, so keep that in mind.
What’s The Best Time To Visit the Grand Canyon With Kids?
The Grand Canyon can be visited year-round – or the South Rim can. The North Rim is open from mid-May until October (or whenever inclement weather starts).
Summer is obviously a very popular time to visit the Grand Canyon as it’s when kids are out on school break. However, summer is also very hot and crowded.
I recommend visiting during the shoulder season, like April/May or September/October. Winter can bring some heavy snow storms, so it’s not the best time, especially for a first visit.
How Long Should I Stay When Visiting the Grand Canyon With Kids?
This will depend on what activities you want to participate in and whether you’re just visiting the Grand Canyon or some of the other surrounding sites.
In general, one to two days in the Grand Canyon is sufficient when you’re traveling with kids. If you plan to do any major hikes, add an additional day.
Where To Stay When Visiting The Grand Canyon with Kids
We know that food and lodging can be tricky with our kids. This is another area where planning is important. I recommend that you stay in one of the small towns so that you have access to a grocery store.
Some towns you may want to consider are Williams, Flagstaff, and Page, Arizona. We used Page as our base.
Try to stay in a hotel that offers suites, small kitchenettes, or at the very least, refrigerators.
If you have a padded, insulated cooler or lunch box that you can pack at the bottom of a suitcase, pack it. You should load up each day before a road trip with drinks and snacks.
When driving from attraction to town or town to town, you can sometimes drive 50 or 100 miles without seeing a store or gas station.
Family Activities at the Grand Canyon
What are the best things to do with kids at the Grand Canyon? Here are a few ideas.
- Visit the scenic viewpoints. There are viewpoints all over the national park. If you see a bunch of cars or people taking photos, it’s likely somewhere worth stopping. Each one tends to be different so even if you’ve stopped at one, try a few others.
- Join the Junior Ranger program. This is a fun opportunity for kids to work with the park rangers and learn more about the Grand Canyon. There are also Summer Ranger programs, depending on when you’re visiting.
- Ride the Grand Canyon Railway. The Grand Canyon Railway runs from Williams, AZ to the Grand Canyon a few times a day. You can ride in restored 1920s coaches and learn about the history of the Canyon and railroad while seeing incredible scenery.
- Hike the Rim Trail. The Rim Trail is 13 miles long, so you’re probably not going to want to walk it all, but what makes this one of the best activities for families at the Grand Canyon is that the shuttle runs along this route. That means you can hop on and off as desired. Some of the shuttle stops are as little as .3 miles apart, so you can walk from one to the other, then hop on the shuttle to continue.
- Walk to Shoshone Point. Many of the hikes within the Grand Canyon aren’t kid-friendly, but Shoshone Point is accessible to almost everyone, with a mile-long dirt road leading to an incredible view and some picnic spots.
- Bike the rim. Another option for exploring the Grand Canyon is to bike along the 5-mile Greenway on the Rim Trail. If the kids are too young to bike, you can rent a Burley trailer to carry them.
- Hike Bright Angel Trail. Bright Angel Trail is the best option if you want to be adventurous and do a “real” hike. It’s wider than most other paths, and there are rest spots at the 1.5 and 3-mile points. It’s an out-and-back trail, so you will likely want to turn around at one of those points anyway. Just be sure to pack lots of water and avoid doing this in the middle of the day.
- Stop by the Hopi House. The Hopi House offers a great opportunity to learn about the Indigenous people who call(ed) the Grand Canyon home. Check their dance schedule to plan your visit around one of their performances.
- Take a helicopter ride. Want to see the entire Grand Canyon without a massive hike? Consider splurging on a helicopter ride. Since it is an expensive option, I would probably only recommend this for older kids who will remember it (and aren’t stressed out by heights!).
- Enjoy the Desert View Drive. Many of the roads in the park are closed to the public, but this scenic drive is the exception. It’ll take you along the canyon with spectacular views of the Colorado River and many different viewpoints. At the end, you’ll find the Desert View Watchtower.
- Visit the Yavapai Geology Museum. The geology museum is one of the best places to allow kids to get epic views of the canyon and rocks without worrying about them falling over the edge since you’re inside glass. They also have cool rock models and lots of information on the different layers of rocks in the canyon, but truthfully, it’s worth visiting just for the views.
- Visit the Grand Canyon Village. The Grand Canyon Village has been around since 1901 and is a great place to look for souvenirs and get a bite to eat.
Tips for Visiting the Grand Canyon with Kids
Read these tips for a successful Grand Canyon trip with your kids. While there are many activities for kids, there’s is a lot of boring driving too.
- Charge your phone every chance you can. My smartphone was constantly searching for service and since service was limited, it wore down my battery much faster than at home.
- Take advantage of the Junior Ranger programs. For each National Park you visit, look online and see if they have a Junior Ranger program. Our kids loved this.
- Use refillable water bottles. Due to environmental concerns, most parks frown upon bottled water (in disposable bottles). Bring or buy a refillable one; they have plenty of ice machines and water stations to stay refilled.
- Make reservations in advance. Some of the restaurants and lodges get crowded during busy seasons. See if they recommend reservations.
- Set a spending limit on souvenirs. So many cute shops, so many cute things. Have your kids save up and develop a budget for the fun stuff.
- Choose your lodging carefully. The cabins and lodging at Grand Canyon are so cute; I want to go back and stay in one. But, there is NO LIGHT out there at night, and it can be very unsafe for wanderers or autism elopement. Make sure you research this ahead of time to prevent any tragedies.
- Plan for lots of time in the car. You will be spending quite a bit of time in the car. It’s inevitable. If your child hates the car, plan accordingly for how many miles you can reasonably cover in a day. On the way out and back, we did Denver to Page, which is 800 miles one way. I know that is my limit! We bought Kevin his own Leap Pad just for the journey so that we had two, and we loaded them up with new apps and videos.
When planning your family trip to the Grand Canyon, there are a few important safety things to keep in mind:
- Falling is a real concern. Approximately two to three people die by falling off the edge of the Grand Canyon each year. Most of these are older guys doing daredevil-type things, like trying to jump from rock to rock, or they happen on some of the more serious trails. There are railings at most viewpoints, but it’s still important to keep a close eye on your kids and keep them away from the edge. Much of the park is stroller accessible, so I highly recommend that for younger kids.
- Bring protection from the sun. This is especially true during the summer. As tempting as it may be to wear tank tops, consider covering more skin to protect it from the sun. Be sure to apply sunscreen, frequently reapply, especially on the face, and wear a hat for protection.
- Stay hydrated. The most important thing when visiting the Grand Canyon and any other national park is to stay hydrated. Bring lots of water but also salty snacks. Electrolyte drinks can also be a good idea.
Distances between Zion, Bryce and Grand Canyon
Want to extend your family trip to the Grand Canyon by visiting some other nearby parks or towns? Here’s a helpful list of driving times between the Grand Canyon and other areas.
|Est Driving Time
|Grand Canyon North Rim
|Zion National Park
|Grand Canyon South Rim
|Zion National Park
|Zion National Park
|North Rim Grand Canyon
|South Rim Canyon
|North Rim Canyon
|Zion National Park
|1 hr 45 mins
|South Rim Grand Canyon
|Best Friends Animal Sanctuary/Kanab