Grand Canyon with Kids: What You Need to Know

From lazy days fossil-hunting along rocky trails to white-water adventures down the Colorado, the iconic family road trip to the Grand Canyon makes for memories that imprint not only into photos but into the spirit. All it takes is a little planning, and a lot of patience and flexibility. If you plan to have fun with your whole family, even little children, here are some things to consider.

Best Activities for Kids

  • Ranger Programs

Stargazing talks around the fire, activity books and kid-friendly lectures.

  • Rafting

White-water trips through the canyon, perfect for older kids and teens, and calm-water floats along the Colorado River from Glen Canyon Dam to Lees Ferry for children four and older.

  • Hiking

Scrambles through desert scrub, rambles through aspen and meadows, and overnight expeditions down to the Colorado River; Grand Canyon offers plenty of fantastic hiking opportunities for young children and teenagers alike.

  • Mule Rides

Overnight treks to the canyon bottom are offered from the South Rim; half-day rides from the North Rim give a taste of the canyon interior and follow a less precipitous trail. Children must be aged nine or over for all South Rim trips and 10/seven or over for North Rim rides below/above the rim.

Grand Canyon for Kids

Long drives, precarious canyon overlooks, crowded shuttles and stifling summer heat can be a challenge. The rewards, however, rest in the most mundane of activities – a sunset picnic at Cape Royal, a bicycle ride along the rimside Greenway Trail, hot chocolate under the stars, snuggling into an Adirondeck chair on the patio of the North Rim’s Grand Canyon Lodge. And the canyon’s geology, human history and wildlife, accessible in concrete ways at every turn, make the park the world’s largest classroom – kids learn without even trying.

While the South Rim has more sights, inner-canyon trails, museums and a broader variety of ranger-led interpretive programs designed for children, the chaos and crowds can be intimidating and exhausting. The intimacy of the North Rim attracts families looking for a quieter vacation.

In the Car

You can’t avoid long stretches in the car when you’re traveling to the Grand Canyon, particularly if you’re headed to the isolated North Rim. But with the right frame of mind and some smart packing, here’s how you can minimize backseat whining.

  • Try not to squeeze too much in. Endless hours in the car rushing from overlook to overlook, sight to sight, can result in grumpy, tired kids and frustrated parents. After a while, canyon views start to look alike.
  • Stop often and stay flexible.
  • Remember sunshades for the window, and a football, soccer ball or Frisbee – any grassy area or meadow is a potential playing field.
  • Surprise the kids with a Grand Canyon trip bag filled with canyon books, a special treat, a car-friendly toy and game.
  • Bring a journal, an enlarged Xeroxed map and colored pencils (crayons melt!) for each child. Kids can follow along on their map as you drive, drawing pictures of what they see and do, and record the trip in their journal.
  • Pack music and audiobooks, or download in advance. Unlike videos and video games, which require staring at a screen, kids can listen to stories or music and still take in the dramatic natural surrounds.

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