The Grand Canyon is an amazing canyon 277 river miles long and up to 18 miles wide, and a mile deep! The Colorado River flows through the canyon. Living in Arizona, I have been to the Grand Canyon a handful of times. Mostly driving, and once I took the Grand Canyon Railway out of Williams on Thanksgiving for a visit. Not unlike our other National Parks, the views can seem surreal. I am always amazed to run into Arizona residents who have not been yet! It is about 229 miles north of Phoenix, or a little under a 4 hour drive. One would drive the I-17 north to I-40 west, then AZ 64 north to the park. It is also a little under 5 hours from Las Vegas.
You have a few choices of areas to visit if you are limited on time. There is the South Rim and the North Rim. The South Rim is open all year, and the North Rim is closed for winter. Check the National Park Site for when the North Rim opens. Despite being in Arizona, it does get cold and snows up there! Here are some pictures of the Grand Canyon from a plane on my way to Portland this last January.
The Village (where I usually start out at in the South Rim) sits at an elevation of about 7,000 feet. The elevation of the North Rim is about 8,000 feet. The Grand Canyon is a National Park, and you will need to pay the fee to enter but I always get a National Park Pass to take advantage of more parks each year. Note: if you have a 4th grader, they get a free annual park pass thanks to the Every Kid in a Park program. There are more free park pass programs, browse through them at the National Park Pass hyperlink above.
There is a lot of wild life walking around the park. Not as much as Yellowstone, but it is great to see especially for kids. There are lots of mule deer and elk!
At the Grand Canyon, there are many things to do in addition to hiking. There is lodging (El Tovar is a hotel that opened in 1905), camping, hiking (need permits for back-country) restaurants, cultural demonstrations, paved and dirt hiking paths, and shuttles to get you to various points. At the village at the South Rim, there are many things to do especially for kids.
The Hopi House is a must. The Hopi House was open in 1905 as well. It was designed by Mary Colter, who was one of the first American architects to appreciate the beauty of Native American design. The Hopi House is a National Historic Landmark where you can buy authentic Native American arts and crafts.
Outside the Hopi House, there are at times cultural demonstrations. The Grand Canyon has a rich Native American culture, such as the Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe. The Havasupai tribe has been living in and around the Grand Canyon’s South Rim for the past 800 years. While Arizona is not home to the most Native American Indian Tribes, total reservation land does cover more than 25% of the state. Arizona has the second largest American Indian population in the entire U.S.
Here is a Hoop Dancer outside the Hopi House at the South Rim.
And another Native American performing a traditional dance.
Now on to hiking. There are many options for day and overnight hikes, I will save talking about hikes to the bottom for another post. As far as day hikes, the Rim Trail is the best, most accessible trail to take kids, wheel chairs, and strollers. This is a nice paved trail that starts at the South Kaibab trail head and ends at Hermits Rest. Along this path, there are many educational interpretive features. The 1.3 mile portion of trail called the “Trail of Time” notes ages markers, as well as samples of each rock layer.
While this is a kid friendly trail, you will occasionally question that, once you realize one could (and they do) get too close to the edge and fall. It would take purposefully walking where you should not be though, which happens when people are attempting to get those “special” photos.
This total trail length is 13 miles with about a 200 foot elevation change. Almost all is wheel chair accessible. If you have been reading my posts, you know my thoughts on water! Even though this looks easy, you need to take water! Water filling stations can be found at the South Kaibab and Bright Angel trail heads, Verkamp’s and Desert View Visitor Centers, geology museum, Hermits Rest and the Village (with bathrooms!). There is nothing in between. It is dry out, and while you might not be sweating or feel sweaty, you will lose water through evaporation and breathing.
Don’t worry about the trail being 13 miles long! You can catch a shuttle at many places along the way to get yourself back or to another spot easily. Weather can change too. We started out sunny and ended with a rain storm on this day!
There are a lot of hiking trails down to the bottom, and they are amazing! This was a good picture down, and it isn’t even close the bottom. There is a lot to explore in the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon is a travel destination for many vacationers from Europe and Asia. You will hear many languages spoken here. It is awesome that so many people from around the world would travel across the ocean to see the beauty of our national parks.