A visit to the Grand Canyon

by Jan
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This natural wonder of the world is a once-in-a lifetime experience.  It’s no surprise that a visit to the Grand Canyon was high on our itinerary for our US Road Trip.

The Grand Canyon is an absolutely 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 see and do and the practical information you need, such as advice on accommodation and getting to the Grand Canyon.

This great guide to the Grand Canyon will help you prepare for your trip and ensure you make the most of your days at the Grand Canyon.

What is the Grand Canyon?

Grand Canyon Vista

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. We went to the South Rim, which is the most popular side to visit and a great place to take kids.

What can you do on a visit to the Grand Canyon with kids?

Cycle the rim

Cycling at the Grand Canyon, Arizona

One way to get away from the crowds is to take a bike ride round the rim.  We hired bikes from Bright Angel Bicycles  who fitted us up with bikes and helmets.

They then shuttled us to the start of the Hermit Road Tour, at Hopi Point for the start of our 3-mile ride.

For more information on cycling at the Grand Canyon, read our post:

Cycling at the Grand Canyon

Ride a mule

If you are feeling even more adventurous, you could take a 3-hour mule ride with the Canyon Vistas.

Grand Canyon Mules

Pop into the Visitor Centre

It’s worth stopping at the Grand Canyon Visitor Centre when you arrive.  Here you can collect a map, see the introductory film and try out the interactive cultural exhibits from the area.

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 and only shows in the summer.

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.

Join the Junior Ranger Scheme

You can enrol your children in the Grand Canyon Junior Ranger scheme for free at the Visitor Centre,  The kids will be given a free Ranger book, giving information on the nature and history of the canyon. There is advice on how to preserve and protect national parks and activities to do and things to spot.

Children are expected to attend at least one ranger-led programme. Remember to get the book signed before you leave, as the children will get a ranger badge for participating.

Children can take part in the programme in other national parks, such as Point Lobos or Point Reyes.

Grand Canyon Junior Ranger Badge

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.

Take a trip to Hermit’s Rest

Boys at Hermit 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 is as 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.

For more information on all the amazing animals we saw on our California road trip, read our post:-

Amazing animals in California

Watch the sunset

Sunset Grand Canyon Hopi Point

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.

Practicalities

Getting to the Grand Canyon

We drove out from Las Vegas, stopping for a visit to the Hoover Dam. Its about 281 miles to the Grand Canyon and took about 5 hours. We took highway 93 south from Las Vegas to Interstate 40 east to Highway 64.

Alternatively, you could take the train for the 65 miles from Williams, Arizona on the Grand Canyon Railway. This takes  about 2 hrs and 15 minutes.

Or you could take a helicopter flight out from Vegas.  This way you can enjoy an aerial view of the Canyon as well as of the Hoover Dam on the way out.

Accommodation at the Grand Canyon

visitgrandcanyon-ri-yavapai-lodge-east-exterior

We stayed at the Yavapi Lodge East in the park, which we booked through Expedia. These cabin-style lodgings are fairly basic, but very functional and are in a prime location.

Getting about at the Grand Canyon

We didn’t need to 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.

Eating

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.

Thank you for reading

We hope you enjoyed this post on a visit to the Grand Canyon.  It really is an awesome place.  If you have any questions or tips of your own, please comment below.

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CHIMPTRIPS - A Visit to the Grand Canyon

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