The magnificent Grand Canyon, carved over millions of years by the Colorado River and surrounded by deep red canyon walls, is an incredible sight to behold and we loved exploring the Grand Canyon with kids. From incredible viewpoints and hikes to soaring helicopter rides, there are lots of fun things to do at the Grand Canyon with kids.
For those of you planning a trip to the Grand Canyon with kids, we wanted to share our tips for visiting: we’ve included where to stay, our highlights from outside the park and our favorite things to do in the Grand Canyon with kids.
Where to stay a the Grand Canyon with kids
There are two options for accommodation at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon:
- Within the park: stay in the historic El Tovar Hotel or one of the four lodges in Grand Canyon Village. It is also possible to camp in one of the park’s 3 campgrounds.
- Outside the park: stay in one of the motels or rentals in the nearby town of Tusayan
In Park: Where to stay in Grand Canyon Village
Grand Canyon Village is the center hub of the South Rim and the park’s accommodation is located at the heart of all the South Rim action. The village is also well serviced by the park’s shuttle service which connects the village to the trails. Although it can be expensive, we love staying in Grand Canyon Village and waking up in the park.
Grand Canyon with kids tip: rooms and cabins at the lodges in Grand Canyon Village usually sell out months in advance. If you are set on staying in the park itself then make sure to reserve your accommodation as soon as possible.
Hotels and Lodges
- Yavapi Lodge: located a short walk from the South Rim, Yavapi Lodge is a large property and can sometimes have later availability than the other lodges due to having 358 rooms. Some families prefer Yavapi as it’s located further back from the rim than the other lodges – check prices now!
- Bright Angel Lodge: we stayed at Bright Angel during our most recent visit to the Grand Canyon and had a fantastic stay. The lodge offers rooms and cabins and is located on the rim at the top of the Bright Angel trailhead. Bright Angel is often one of the cheapest options within the park – check prices now!
- El Tovar Hotel: the South Rim’s premium accommodation option, the elegant El Tovar is a National Historic Landmark with 78 unique rooms and a fine dining restaurant. – check prices now!
- Kachina Lodge: for those seeking regular style hotel rooms Kachina is a good option with clean and comfortable rooms. The lodge sits directly on the rim of the canyon and the views are incredible – check prices now!
- Thunderbird Lodge: situated between Bright Angel and Kachina Lodge, Thunderbird Lodge is also located directly on the canyon rim and many of the rooms offer partial views of the canyon – check prices now!
- Maswik Lodge: located in a wooded area near the rim of the Canyon, Maswik Lodge has 280 rooms across 12 buildings. The lodge has more of a contemporary style and rooms accessed via outside walkways. It’s a quick shuttle ride or quarter-mile walk from the lodge to the rim – check prices now!
- Camping: there are 3 in-park camping options although only 2 are open in the winter months. Mather Campground, close to Grand Canyon Village is first come, first served in winter. Trailer Village RV, located in the Grand Canyon Village, has 111 sites, many of which are full hookups and reservations can be made 13 months in advance.
Outside the park: Where to Stay in Tusayan
- The Grand Hotel: one of the few hotels with an indoor heated pool to relax in after exploring the grand canyon. Grand Canyon Village is a short drive so you’re quite close to the park – check prices now!
- Vacation rentals: there are some great rental options in Tusayan and its surrounds. These apartments are a great option close to the south entrance and this tented camp offers a unique Grand Canyon experience – check prices now!
- Best Western Premier Squire Inn: clean, modern and only a 10 minute drive from the Tusayan entrance to the park. This Best Western is our first choice for when we stay outside the park – check prices now!
National Parks Pass America The Beautiful
If you’re planning to visit a couple of the US National Parks we highly recommend purchasing an America The Beautiful pass. The pass grants you access to over 2,000 federal recreation sites across the US, including all the National Parks. We purchased a pass before we began our trip across the US and it’s one of the best value tickets out there!
Safety at the Grand Canyon with Kids
Lots of kids visit the Grand Canyon every year and we really enjoy visiting the Grand Canyon with our kids. Some of our tips for keeping safe include:
- Keep kids within close reach: there are exposed ledges which drop off thousands of feet in to the Canyon so make sure your kids stay close and brief them on taking care where they step.
- Toddlers/Younger kids: a harness/hiking backpack is essential for toddlers and younger kids. We carried our baby in an Ergo 360 and our toddler in his Osprey Poco Plus – if you are a regular hiker the Osprey Poco Plus is a fantastic hiking backpack – check prices now!. A wrist harness, like this one, is another great option if you want something inexpensive to keep a younger kid close to you while you are the Grand Canyon.
- Be careful when taking photos: always be mindful of where you are stepping when taking photos.
- Weather: bring lots of water, sunscreen and hats in summer as the temperatures can be very high, especially if you plan to go beneath the rim. We try and keep the afternoons free so the kids aren’t in the sun for too long. In winter, ice can make for slippy viewpoints so, again, extra care is needed.
The Best Things to do at the Grand Canyon with kids
We’ve included our favorite things to do at the Grand Canyon with kids:
1 | Check out the South Rim Viewpoints
The magnificence of the Grand Canyon is best appreciated from one of the incredible South Rim viewpoints which are dotted along the rim. The viewpoints are located in 3 areas:
- Hermit Road: between Grand Canyon Village and Hermits Rest
- Visitors Center/Kaibab: to the east of the historic Grand Canyon Village
- Desert View Drive: between the East Entrance and Grand Canyon Village
Grand Canyon with kids tip: there are two main shuttle routes servicing the Grand Canyon South Rim. The East bound orange route starts at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center and services the South Kaibab Trailhead, Yaki Point, and Pipe Creek Overlook while the west bound red route shuttle travels along Hermit Road. Private cars are prohibited year round at South Kaibab and between March to November on Hermit Road.
Some of our favorite viewpoints for visiting with kids are:
- Mohave Point: located on Hermit Road, Mohave Point has some of the best panoramic views of the canyon from the South Rim. It’s easily accessible on the red shuttle route and a nice bike ride at quiet times – we cycled the 3.3 miles from Bright Angel Lodge.
- Mather Point: Located next to the visitors center, the iconic Mather Point is one of the easiest to visit with kids! This is probably the easiest to visit as there is a parking lot close to the viewpoint.
- Desert View and Watchtower: Desert View is the first viewpoint you will come across as you enter from the East Entrance and it’s a fantastic introduction to the magnificent Grand Canyon. Our kids loved climbing the Watchtower to the Observation Deck although this has been closed since late 2020.
2 | Become a Junior Ranger
The National Park’s Junior Ranger Program is an awesome way to help immerse kids in the nature and history of the park. A junior ranger badge is awarded to kids who attend a Ranger Led Program and complete activities including drawing, poem writing and recording observations about the park.
Grand Canyon with kids tip: Junior Ranger books are available at the Grand Canyon Conservancy Store in the Visitor Center Plaza, the Yavapai Geology Museum and the Kolb Studio.
3 | Soar over the Canyon in a helicopter
There’s no doubt that the Grand Canyon is best viewed from above and a helicopter tour is one of the best ways to gaze upon its magnificence. Our kids are also obsessed with planes, trains, helicopters and boats so a helicopter ride ticks off all our bucket lists!
Helicopter tours at the South Rim depart from the Grand Canyon South Rim airport located a short drive south of the Grand Canyon South Rim Visitors Center, just outside the town of Tusayan. One of the best tours available the Spirit Helicopter Tour is provided by Maverick Tours. Helicopter tours are expensive but they are also one of the best ways to experience the Grand Canyon so can be worth the splurge- check prices now!
The helicopter tour heads north over the South Rim and takes in all of the main sights of the canyon as it climbs above the North Rim.
For those who prefer airplanes to helicopters, there are also fantastic airplane tours – check prices now!
Grand Canyon with kids tips: we did a helicopter ride from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon West Rim with Maverick Helicopters and it was an incredible experience. We will never forget soaring over the magnificent Grand Canyon.
4 | Bike the rim
If like ours, your kids love cycling then one of the best things about the South Rim is its accessibility to bikes. Visitors can hire bikes from Bright Angel Bicycles and cycle along either Hermit Road or the South Kaibab Trailhead towards Yaki Point. There is a good selection of rental options and we were able to rent a little trailer for our toddlers.
The Hermit Road Greenway is one of our favorite places for a bike ride with kids. The 2.8 mile trail between Monument Creek Vista and Hermit Rest is packed with viewpoints and it is separate from the road so there are no vehicles to contend with.
Things to do in Grand Canyon tip: if you wish to cycle the full way between Grand Canyon Village and Hermit Rest (of which only part of it is a Greenway) then it’s worth knowing how access to Hermit Road works. Hermit Road is only accessible to shuttle buses between March and November. Private vehicles are allowed between December and February.
5 | Ride the historic Grand Canyon Railway
The historic Grand Canyon Railway is an awesome way to experience the Grand Canyon if you are planning a day trip from Flagstaff, Sedona or Williams in Arizona! The railway first operated in 1901 and the carriages have been restored to take guests on a scenic journey to the South Rim. The train departs from Williams, Arizona and you can ride there and back in one day with 3 hours to explore the Grand Canyon in between.
There’s a pre-departure show, a singing cowboy and even a train robbery to contend with as you return to the days of the old Wild West during the 2 hour 15 minute train ride there and back – check prices now!
6 | The Rim Trail
The Rim Trail is a relatively flat and well-paved 13-mile trail that follows the rim of the Grand Canyon. The trail runs broadly from Yaki Point on Desert View Drive to Hermit Rest at the end of Hermit Road. It’s great for families as you can choose sections of the trail to hike and then hop on the Grand Canyon shuttle bus when the kids need a rest!
At popular times, there’s usually lots going on along the Rim trail and our kids loved watching all the action unfold. There were Ranger talks, painters and even a family of elks on one of our hikes!
We hiked various parts of the Rim Trail during our time at the Grand Canyon – one of our favorites was from Bright Angel Lodge to Maricopa Point and it was one of the highlights of our time at the Grand Canyon.
7 | Experience the Canyon from below the Rim
Descending below the rim of the Grand Canyon is a truly magical experience and there are some short hikes that can be done with kids. Keep in mind that kids will need to have the energy for the hike back up to the rim and there are steep drop-offs along the trail. We carried our kids in hiking backpacks (we used an Ergobaby 360 for our then 6-month-old and the Osprey Poco Plus for our 2 year old).
- Bright Angel: the Bright Angel trail follows a fault into the canyon via a series of steep switchbacks. There shorter hiking options – the easiest is 1.5 Mile Resthouse.
- South Kaibab: The South Kaibab Trail follows a ridgeline down into the Canyon and the views are spectacular but it’s a steeper hike up to the rim. There are lots of viewpoints along the South Kaibab Trail – our favorite short hike is the 1.8 mile trail to Ooh Aah Point but you don’t have to go the full way.
8 | Catch a magical Grand Canyon Sunrise and Sunset
Sunrise and sunset are magical times and the Grand Canyon and we try to catch both when we’re spending the night at the South Rim. We love Mohave Point for sunrise and Hopi Point for sunset. Mather Point is also a great option for both.
Grand Canyon with kids tip: the South Rim is typically open 24 hours a day all year round. Even if you’re not staying overnight it’s still possible to experience both sunrise and sunset in the park.
9 | Wildlife spotting
The South Rim is home to some incredible wildlife and our kids love spotting the special Grand Canyon residents.
Elk and mule deer are firm favorites and we’ve also seen Califonia condor, turkey buzzards and squirrels. On one occasion we spotted some Big Horn sheep along the rim trail but we’ve had a lot more success spying the Big Horn sheep when visiting Joshua Tree with our kids!
10 | Mule Ride
If you have older kids (9 or older and at least 4 foot 9) then a mule ride is a unique Grand Canyon experience. Mule rides have been synonymous with the Grand Canyon since the late 1800s when visitors first experienced this mode of transport.
It’s possible to take a mule ride to the bottom of the Canyon and spend the night at Phantom Ranch but the four mile Canyon Vista mule ride is a more gentle introduction!
11 | Yavapi Geology Museum and Visitors Center
Both the Visitors Center and the Yavapi Geology Museum are fantastic spots for learning more about the Grand Canyon.
- Grand Canyon Visitors Center: a stop at the Visitors Center theater can make for a lovely break from the trails. It showcases a 20 minute movie, Grand Canyon: A Journey of Wonder. There are also some great exhibits housed within the Visitors Center.
- Yavapi Geology Museum: as well as its panoramic views the Yavapi Geology Museum has some fantastic exhibitions explaining how the Grand Canyon was formed. The Museum also hosts Ranger Programs which aim to educate visitors about geology.
Grand Canyon with kids tip: the South Rim Visitors Center and Yavapi Geology Museum are closed until further notice.
12 | Trail of Time
The Trail of Time, where each meter walked represents 1 million years of history, is an almost 3 mile flat paved walk which begins at the Yavapi Geology Museum. It’s a fantastic visual representation of the formation of the Grand Canyon. We started at the present time and walked backward and it was fascinating to learn more about the history and development of the Canyon.