Hiking the Grand Canyon with kids
Hiking the Grand Canyon with kids may sound overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be.
The iconic National Park does not disappoint and offers stunning views of the Colorado River Valley.
It quite literally took my breath away when I first laid eyes on it. Even if you’re not a geology buff, anyone can appreciate its vast size, intense colors and millions of years’ worth of rock and sedimentary layers.
Our trip took us to the South Rim, where there are five day hike options, some easier than others. This post won’t serve as a complete guide – please visit the Grand Canyon National Park for more in-depth information. But, here are a few things you should know before you go…including a great hotel and restaurant recommendation.
Come up with a plan
So, the first important thing to know is that there is NO easy trail into or out of the Canyon – it is steep! It’s virtually impossible to hike from the top of the Grand Canyon to the bottom and back in one day. Well, maybe you could, but it is strongly discouraged. It is 12.6 km to the bottom, so a 25 km round trip. The elevation change is over 4,000 feet! The heat, the distance and the elevation change would be way too much for most to handle.
So, it’s important to make a plan and determine ahead of time how far you want to go and how much time you want to spend on the trail – is this going to be an all day event or half day? Then, you can simply hike down the Canyon to one of the resthouses and turn around to go back up.
We decided on the Bright Angel Trail, as it’s considered to be the safest and most user-friendly trail in the Grand Canyon. That being said, it’s still narrow, and often crowded, and don’t rule out the chance of meeting some mules coming down the path! If you do, step aside and let them pass (and pose for a selfie!).
So, we hiked down to the 3-Mile Resthouse and, like many, felt the temptation to keep going further. But, we decided to stick to our original plan knowing the hike back up is way tougher. We ended up spending about four hours on the trail and that was perfect for us – 6.6 miles and everyone was still smiling by the end.
Water, water, water!
There is only seasonal water available and only at certain points along the trail. We did not pass one water source on our way into or out of the Canyon, which meant we had to ensure we brought enough for the day and ration it accordingly.
Make sure everyone in your party has their own water bottle and you set out with it full to the brim (consider adding ice). Your water should be the heaviest thing in your backpack. It’s also a good idea to have an “emergency” water supply, which my husband carried in his pack, for those who aren’t so good at rationing. 😉
Snacks are important too – we brought some trail mix and granola bars and I also brought sport beans, which are a very lightweight and easy source of calories. The big joke in our family was the flat Stinger waffles I packed. We called them “emergency” waffles that we would only eat if we were really desperate. I had to laugh when, on one of our frequent rest breaks, my daughter finally gave in and asked for the “emergency waffles.” Hiking will make your kids hangry!
Keep shoes and backpacks lightweight
Comfortable footwear is essential and a good pair of sneakers will suffice. My husband and I had hiking boots, but the kids all wore sneakers and were perfectly fine. The trail is gravel and can be slippery in spots, so sneakers with good treads are important.
Also, dress in layers. We visited in March, and it’s often chilly in the Canyon in the morning, but by the afternoon you are warm and can easily peel off those extra layers. Don’t forget the sunscreen – the Arizona sun is hot!
Don’t bring any unnecessary stuff in your backpack. I learned this lesson the hard way. I ended up taking a backup pair of sneakers, which I regretted since I didn’t need them and they added extra weight to my pack. My youngest, who is 11, did not carry a backpack. We took her stuff in ours, and that seemed to keep her extremely happy for the whole 4 hours. She bounced her way up the trail, when the rest of us were dragging our butts!
Catch a sunrise or sunset – you won’t regret it
We only spent two days in the Grand Canyon, as we were on a tight driving schedule to our next destination. This was an epic road trip through Utah, Arizona and California. But, we did make time for a beautiful sunrise photo shoot. We headed to Mather Point to catch the sun coming up over the Canyon and it was stunning. Lots of people had the same great idea, and though it was hard to get up that early, we will never forget it! We got some incredible shots.
Lastly, we were really impressed with our hotel and the adjoining restaurant. We stayed at the Best Western Premier Grand Canyon Squire Inn located in Tusayan, just outside the Park boundaries. I booked it online and was a bit worried when the hotel talked about construction and spotty WIFI, but we were very impressed. It had the best WIFI of any hotel on our trip! We enjoyed a delicious steak dinner at the Coronado Room restaurant conveniently located inside the hotel and also took advantage of the great pool and hot tub.
I hope you are feeling inspired to take your kids to see the Grand Canyon. It was on my bucket list – and I’m so glad we were able to fit this into our trip. It was really great to see the kids in complete awe of Mother Nature and just spend quality time together.
As I get older, I truly appreciate my health (and my husband’s) and the ability to stay active with my kids and make these lifelong memories. They keep us young at heart.!
Of course, everything didn’t go as planned, but sometimes those are the funniest moments and make the best memories. I’m still nursing a large bruise on my lower half which happened when I tripped in the parking lot on the shoelaces of my hiking boots. So, here’s my last tip…make sure long shoelaces are double knotted!
Happy hiking my friends! Have you been to the Grand Canyon?