This natural wonder of the world is a once-in-a lifetime experience. So, it’s really no surprise that a visit to the Grand Canyon was high on our itinerary for our US Road Trip.
The Grand Canyon is a spectacular place, offering breath-taking views and amazing wildlife and nature and certainly didn’t disappoint. This travel guide will give you all the information you need to plan your own trip to the Grand Canyon. Discover the best things to do and practical information, such as advice on accommodation and getting to the Grand Canyon.
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What is the Grand Canyon?
The Grand Canyon was formed in the rocks over billions of years. It is in Arizona and is 277 miles long and up to 18 miles wide. In parts, it is over a mile deep.
The Colorado River snakes its way along the valley and has been responsible for eroding the sides for millions of years. In 1919, the Grand Canyon became a national park.
Millions of visitors go to the Grand Canyon each year. You can visit either the North Rim or the South Rim. We chose the South Rim, which is the most popular side and a great place to take kids.
What can you do on a visit to the Grand Canyon with kids?
Watch a movie
The film in the Visitor Centre “Grand Canyon: A Journey of Wonder” shows every half hour. It takes 20 minutes and gives visitors a full view of the park.
There is also an IMAX theatre in the Tusayan area (purple route) where you can watch “the Hidden Secrets”. This is a great way to find out about the history of the Canyon and its inhabitants. The film lasts 34 minutes, but only shows in the summer.
Take a hike
The Grand Canyon offers a variety of trails to choose from, all with spectacular views of the Canyon.
The most family-friendly hike at the Grand Canyon is probably the Trail of Time . This interpretive trail shows the time line of the history through rocks and exhibits. These help kids to gain an understanding of how the rock was formed.
This timeline trail is 2.8 miles long. Each metre represents a million years of the Canyon’s geological history. It starts at the Yavapai Point and is paved, so is fairly accessible for all.
Join the Junior Ranger Scheme
You can enrol your children in the Grand Canyon Junior Ranger programme for free at the Visitor Centre Rangers will give the kids an activity book, with information on the nature and history of the canyon.
The book includes practical activities for children to do whilst on their visit, such as wildlife to look out for. It also provides advice on how to preserve and protect national parks.
Children are expected to attend at least one ranger-led programme whilst at the Grand Canyon. Remember to get the book signed before you leave, as the children will get a ranger badge for participating.
Cycle the rim
If you want to escape the crowds at the Grand Canyon, take a bike ride round the rim. We hired bikes from Bright Angel Bicycles who fitted us with bikes and helmets.
Then, they shuttled us to the start of the Hermit Road Tour, at Hopi Point for the start of our 3-mile ride. This was a fantastic trip, as our guide stopped frequently for questions and photos.
Go on a guided walk
There is a full daily schedule of guided walks of different lengths with rangers and demonstrations and specialist talks about the Canyon.
Families can sign up for the walks at the visitor centre. These learning excursions will help you discover more about the geology, fossils, nature and inhabitants of the Canyon.
There are also specialist Grand Canyon talks in the evening, which will vary throughout the seasons.
Take a trip to Hermit’s Rest
We took a bike to get to Hermit’s Rest. However, you could go on the shuttle bus and take in the views along the way. Hermit’s Rest was built in 1914 to look like an old miner’s cabin.
You can take The Hermit Trail from here or just stop and visit the snack bar and souvenir shop.
Enjoy the nature
The Grand Canyon is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including mountain lions, coyotes, foxes and deer. In addition, there’s a variety of birds, reptiles and rodents. We were lucky enough to spot some chipmunks on the rocks, a deer and some hawks.
We didn’t see the Californian condor who now live happily at the Canyon. The USFWS re-introduced these magnificent birds to the area, in an effort to save this endangered species.
Watch the sunset
Hopi Point is one of the best options for watching the sunset at the Grand Canyon. From here, you get a clear view in both directions. We took a bus out and waited along the rim.
This provides a great photo opportunity and really was a memorable moment for the family.
For early risers, the Rim Trail at Yavapi is a great place to see the sun rise at the Grand Canyon.
Getting to the Grand Canyon
We drove out from Las Vegas, stopping for a visit to the Hoover Dam. It’s about 281 miles to the Grand Canyon and took approximately 5 hours. We took highway 93 south from Las Vegas to Interstate 40 east to Highway 64.
There are also many tour options from Las Vegas. Here are a few that have great reviews.
Alternatively, you could take the train for the 65 miles from Williams, Arizona on the Grand Canyon Railway. This takes about 2 hrs 15 minutes.
Or you could take a helicopter flight out from Vegas. This way you’ll enjoy an aerial view of the Canyon as well as the Hoover Dam on the way out.
Accommodation at the Grand Canyon
Getting about at the Grand Canyon
We didn’t use our car at all during our visit to the Grand Canyon. There are free shuttle buses which run around the Park. There are 3 different routes, which are all colour-coded and easy to use.
There are a number of eating options at the Park. By the Yavapai Lodge is the Yavapai Lodge Restaurant which is open all day. Or you could try the Yavapai Tavern located in the same building.
There are also several restaurants along the rim and a general store where you can buy groceries.
PIN FOR LATER: A visit to the Grand Canyon