Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
Grand Canyon National Park (Adobe stock image)
By Nushin Huq
Between 2 Pines Magazine
The Grand Canyon holds a special place in the American psyche. It’s a must do road trip for an American family.
WHAT TO SEE
People from all over the country and all over the world come here to see the Grand Canyon. There are different ways to experience the canyon, whether it's through hikes along the rim, hiking down into the canyon floor. Visiting the North Rim or South Rim of the canyon.
WHERE TO STAY
Lodging inside the park books up quickly, especially in the summer. So book early and if you don't get a reservation, try checking back for last minute cancellations. Three companies handle reservations.
Xanterra Parks and Resorts handle reservations at Bright Angel Lodge, El Tovar Hotel, Kachina Lodge, Thunderbird Lodge and Maswik Lodge. NOTE: If you are combining your Grand Canyon trip with a trip to Zion in Utah, you can call Xanterra and you can make reservations at both parks in one phone call.
Xanterra also handles reservations for Phantom Ranch on the canyon floor.
The company accepts reservations up to 13 months in advance. So on Sept. 1, 2020, someone could make reservations up to September 30, 2021.
Delaware North handles reservations at Yavapai Lodge and Trailer Village RV Park. Reservations can be made 13 months in advance.
The only hotel on the North Rim is the Grand Canyon Lodge, which is usually available between May 15 and Oct. 15. Reservations are handled by Forever Resorts. Lodging reservations will open for the full 2021 season on September 1, 2020 at 8 am Arizona MST.
Camping at both the North and South Rim are handled by the National Park Service. For sites that are reservable, visit recreation.gov. See Grand Canyon website for more information.
WHERE TO EAT
The Grand Canyon Lodge Dining Room is a formal setting serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. It has beautiful views!
Deli in the Pines offers quick meals. The Coffee Saloon and Rough Rider Saloon sell snacks and drinks.
In the summer, the Grand Canyon Lodge also holds a daily Cookout Experience, which provides a meal and entertainment.
There are a number of locations to eat and buy groceries in the South Rim. Near the visitor center: Bright Angel Bicycle Rental and Cafe, which has a coffee bar, grab and go breakfast and lunches.
At the Canyon Village Market, there is a general store with a delicatessen.
The Mather Campground has the camper services grab and go.
Finally, each of the lodges have a sit down restaurant, casual dining facility, plus seasonal outdoor stands for snacks. See Grand Canyon website for more detailed information.
BEST HIKES FOR FAMILIES
DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE Grand Canyon trails and don't OVERESTIMATE your physically fitness. Every year, over 250 people have to be rescued (mostly due to heat exhaustion). Give yourself plenty of time (more than you think) and drink pack plenty of water (also more than you think).
The Rim Trail is a good trail for families. It's the only above rim trail and it's mostly level. The most popular trail is the Bright Angel Trail. Backpackers and Rain-to-Rim hikers love it. It's a strenuous, steep 9.6 mile trail. You can always hike just part of it, for example, taking a 3-mile roundtrip to the Resthouse. The South Kaibab Trail is most direct route to canyon floor, but it's pretty strenuous.
Bright Angel Pt. is a great family hike. It's only half a mile paved trail to a viewpoint. One of the best places to watch the sunrise, located a short drive from the visitor center, is the Point Imperial Trail. The North Kaibab Trail, a 10-mile hike, is the only trail into the canyon from the North Rim.
BEST TIPS FOR KIDS
The Grand Canyon is a popular family vacation spot, but like all parks, it's natural and wild. It's not a theme park, so make sure to keep an eye on little ones to keep them safe and pack plenty of water.
There are so many activities for your family to participate in.
Both the North and South Rim have junior ranger programs like most national parks. There is a special prize for kids that complete the entire booklet and make the trip to Phantom Ranch. Also, check the park guide for ranger interpretive program.
Take part in the Desert View Cultural Demonstration, where tribal artisans share their crafts and history.
Another popular activity is to take a river trip down the river. River Concessioners offer one or multi-day trips. There is an entire list with links on the park website.
For those that don't want to hike to the canyon floor, consider a mule trip. Xanterra arranges trips from the South Rim and the North Canyon is operated by Gran Canyon Trail Rides.
Please be aware that there are minimum age and height restrictions as well as other rules. Please visit company websites and read carefully before booking.