A visit to the Grand Canyon seems to be on most family “Don’t Miss” lists…. and with good reason- the Grand Canyon is truly one of the most incredible sites that you’ll ever gaze upon. We had the chance to visit the Grand Canyon North Rim last summer during our 4-week road trip to the Western United States, and as we approached I wondered if my kids would find it any less thrilling because we had already experienced so many incredible things during this trip…. but as we stepped out onto the terrace of the Grand Canyon Lodge and caught our first glimpse of the canyon rim… our breath was quite literally taken away. No matter what else you’ve seen or done, the Grand Canyon never fails to amaze.
There are two main ways to visit the Grand Canyon- the more popular (and more easily accessible) South Rim, and the more remote, less crowded North Rim. Most families visiting the Grand Canyon will come via Flagstaff, Arizona and will spend their time sightseeing on the South Rim. There are several hotels and campgrounds located within the National Park, and there are far more amenities in terms of ranger-led talks, mule rides, a railway, and even helicopter and airplane tours. But for a more unique experience with your kids, I highly recommend that you consider visiting the Grand Canyon via the North Rim. The drive down to the Grand Canyon North Rim from St. George, Utah was lovely- we went through beautiful forested areas that felt peaceful, quiet, and remote in spite of the fact that we visited during the high tourist season month of July.
There are several main hiking trails that depart from the North Rim area, the most popular being the Bright Angel trail- which offers an incredible view of the canyon. The hike is not long or particularly steep- so it can accommodate most any abilities. But I will tell you right now…. the Bright Angel trail, while a simple 1/2-mile round trip hike, it is NOT for someone who is afraid of heights, and certainly NOT for a Mom whose kids don’t share that fear and desire to scramble over all of the rocks off the trail RIGHT ON THE EDGE along with the other tourists!
I got about 3/4 of the way out to the point and decided it would be best for me to turn around with the younger kids, because I couldn’t stand watching my older kids get so close to the sheer drop-offs along with their Dad, and I knew that nobody was enjoying their hike with me hissing through my teeth at them to “be careful”, and “you’re too close to the edge”.
I had to trust my husband to handle it, while I took the 4 younger ones back up to the Grand Canyon Lodge to enjoy the views (safely) from a bench well off the edge of the rim!
I mean…. look at all of these people scrambling up on this pile of rocks that is literally right on the very edge? And yes- that’s my two older boys right up there with them! (My palms get all sweaty even looking at these pictures today!)
The Grand Canyon Lodge and Campground
The Grand Canyon Lodge is a magnificent structure that has 2 beautiful outdoor porches with fireplaces on either side of the lodge that overlook the rim. You can just sit there and drink in the vistas. There is a restaurant right off of the lobby where you can have lunch or dinner and be surrounded by views of the canyon while you enjoy a meal. While they offered a lunch buffet we decided to go ahead and order from the regular lunch menu- the prices were reasonable and the food was delicious.
The Grand Canyon Lodge has a collection of cabins adjacent to the main lodge building. Each of the cabins had a nice-sized front porch with rocking chairs that you can sit in and enjoy the view of the canyon. On this trip our family opted to stay in the adjacent campground to save a little money- but on our next trip I would definitely love to check out the cabins!
We reserved a tent site at the North Rim Campground for a very reasonable rate ($25/night), and we specifically requested a site with a rim view (#14). (Of course the kids wanted to get a little too close to for my comfort!) In the evening we enjoyed dinner and a show at the Grand Canyon Cookout Experience- which is a buffet dinner and a show right at the campground. I was worried that my kids might find the show to be a little too “cheesy” but they actually really enjoyed it. The performers were great- they started singing as soon as everyone had gotten through the buffet line, and the show included country songs, story telling, and even a joke or two. My kids are still singing some of their songs (especially the once called “Bad Jokes”!).
Canyon Trail Rides is the outfitter proved by the National Park Service to offer mule rides into the Grand Canyon. If your children are 10 years and older, you can sign up to take the 1/2 day trip down into the canyon and it is an experience that you just shouldn’t pass up! ($80/person). If your children are 7 years and older, you can still take a mule ride along the rim- you won’t actually go down into the canyon, but you will enjoy some views of it while on the mule.
We drove up to Cape Royal where the views were amazing! We were up high enough that we could see the Colorado River which is the architect of the Grand Canyon. Since there were storms in the area, the lookout points were actually charged with electricity! My husband touched a handrail and received a shock! Then when he went to hold my daughter’s hand, the two of them could feel the electricity passing between them!
And if you look at our pictures…. a lot of us have our hair literally standing on end- so we knew we shouldn’t stay at the lookout point long, because the storms were getting closer and we didn’t want to be up there and exposed during a lightning storm.
Above All… Just GO!
I always lean towards choosing a lesser populated spot at a major vacation destination. I think it’s harder to experience a place when you are fighting for elbow room at a lookout point, which is why the Grand Canyon North Rim appealed to me. But from whichever point you approach the canyon…. just make sure that you go and take your kids!
This plaque with a quote from Teddy Roosevelt regarding the preservation of the Grand Canyon sums it up:
“Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it. What you can do is to keep it for your children, your children’s children, and for all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American… should see.”
You will remember being there for the rest of your life!
*My kids received complimentary tickets to the Grand Canyon Cookout Experience. But as always, all opinions expressed here are my own!