Family Adventures: Ready, Set, Grand Canyon!

The Grand Canyon National Park is a wonderful place for families; they can experience together one of nature’s most amazing accomplishments. The park includes the South Rim (open year-round) and the North Rim (open from May to October).

If you are planning a Grand Canyon trip with kids, read on: Here is a list of several kids’ activities and age requirements for each one. We’ve also included some useful planning tips.

Safety: As soon as you Google “grand canyon with kids”, the most talked about topic is safety. Know your kids’ personalities before you travel to the Grand Canyon – are they the type who will let go of your hand and run away as fast as they can? Will they try to run or jump from any place regardless of what you tell them? If you answered ‘yes’ to one or all of the above, you should probably wait a few years.

How dangerous is it, really? Well, pretty much all the viewpoints have fences, but sometimes to get there you go through a path without any fences. And some fences are very widely spaced. So if your kid decides to let go of your hand and run away, it can become dangerous. From the rim to the canyon floor, it’s an average of 6,800 feet. There are caution signs about falls, but every year there are a few deaths at the Grand Canyon because of falls, usually people who want to get too close to the edge.

Junior Ranger Program: The Junior Ranger Program is available in most National Parks across the country, for children ages 4 years and up. Pick up the Junior Ranger Program booklet at the Visitor Center, for free. The program has activities for different age groups. The park ranger will verify the activities required and completed to earn a badge.

Trails: Most of the trails in the Grand Canyon are fairly difficult, for one obvious reason: you walk down, but it takes twice as long to come back up. The high elevation makes everything harder (8,000 feet at the South Rim). They are not easy trails for little kids – not to mention the trails are narrow and not fenced. The easiest way to go down to the canyon floor is to go on the mule ride – which has a minimum height requirement (55 inches). Reservations need to be made far in advance, up to a year ahead. The easiest “trail” for small children is the Rim Trail, which is flat and mostly paved along the rim – it starts on Mather Point.

Wild Animals: Kids will love seeing elks and deer walking around the streets in the Grand Canyon Village and along the shuttle routes. Other animals you can see: crows, squirrels, coyotes and condors.

Grand Canyon Rafting: There are many options for those who want to go rafting, and for some the minimum age is only 4. Most of the same-day boat rides depart from Page, which is 3 hours away from the South Rim. For longer boat trips, age requirements vary according to the tour.

Grand Canyon Camping: Another way to visit the Grand Canyon the entire family can enjoy is camping. Campgrounds are located inside the Grand Canyon Village, which is where the hotels, restaurants and other facilities are located.

Biking: Minimum age for bike rentals is 8. You can rent a bike and a trailer to pull the kids along. You ride the bikes through the paved roads in the Grand Canyon Village or along the Rim Trail.

Viewpoints: The best and easiest way to see the Grand Canyon for those traveling with smaller children is to go from viewpoint to viewpoint by driving your own car or to take a free shuttle.

Grand Canyon Helicopter ride: There’s no minimum age for the helicopter ride; you can take a baby on your lap and s/he flies for free. The views are stunning, and the moment the helicopter flies from the top of the rim into the Grand Canyon is amazing.

Food: Restaurants, snack bars and a small market at the South Rim are located in the Grand Canyon Village. Since you will likely spend quite some time going from a viewpoint to another, it’s a good idea to bring along lots of snacks. The park offers free drinking water, and they tell everybody to bring reusable bottles to re-fill as much as they want.

Bathrooms: Not every viewpoint has a restroom, so it’s a good idea to tell the kids to use one when it’s nearby.

Grand Canyon Hotels & Lodging: You can stay in the Grand Canyon Village, but be sure to reserve far in advance. Another option is to stay in Tusayan, a small town just a few miles from the Village. There are a handful of hotels and motels.