Travel: Visiting the South Rim of the Grand Canyon
My family recently went on a 16-day camping trip around Utah, Arizona, and Colorado. We traveled with another family and camped in our travel trailer at each location. During this trip, I was able to visit the National Parks and Monuments for the first time. Everything exceeded my expectations, including the Grand Canyon.
Tips for Visiting the Grand Canyon
At the Grand Canyon, we were able to spend two nights in the Mather Campground inside the park. Even though the campground didn't hook-ups, the campground was wooded and most of the sites had a generous amount of space.
While the campground was large, the campground didn't have many sites for larger trailers or RVs. If you plan to stay there, it is advised to make reservations early and pay close attention to the site details as they will outline what size limitations exist. Campers have been turned away after reserving sites that are too small for their vehicles. If you don’t want to camp, there are several lodges within the park, including the El Tovar Hotel (the original building at Grand Canyon). If you want to stay just outside of the park, there are places in Tusayan.
Shuttles run throughout the South Rim area, including down to Tusayan. The free shuttles are a relaxing way to get around after a long day of hiking. Using a shuttle also will allow you to enjoy the view from multiple areas.
Since we had young children, we didn’t go on extended hikes, but there are many to choose from depending upon your ability level and time allocated. I would definitely recommend at least doing the beginning of the Bright Angel Trail (0.4 mile, which we did), since most people who visit the Grand Canyon never walk below the rim. This trail gives you great views and a taste of what hiking the canyon is really like. There are some petroglyphs that you can see from the trail after the first tunnel, so be sure to stop in at the Verkamp Visitor Center to get the location to look. The trail also gives you a very real sense of how steep and deep the canyon walls can be in certain locations. This perspective will help you appreciate how “grand” the scale really is.
There are many hikes along the rim as well. I wanted to do the Trail of Time between the Verkamp Visitor Center and Yavapai Point (1.3 mile), but it was too hot. We did do the walk between Yavapai Point and Grand Canyon Visitor Center (0.7 mile), which was a nice easy walk with many vistas. When you enter the park, be sure to get The Guide newspaper, which has information on ranger talks, special programs, and hikes.
Junior Ranger Program
All of the National Parks offer children the opportunity to become Junior Rangers. Children are required to complete some worksheets and attend a ranger talk. Once completed, the Ranger will ask them questions about what they learned and then swear them into the program. My boys completed the program in half a day. It was a great way to learn more about where we were.
On the east side entrance of Desert View, there is the Watchtower that is worth a stop. It is a beautiful tower built in the 1930s in Pueblo style architecture. Along Desert View Drive there are many great viewpoints that afford diverse vistas of the canyon.
At Yavapai Point, there is a Geology Museum along with a 270 degree view of the canyon. This is one of the great spots to see the sunrise.
We didn’t take the Hermits Rest Shuttle to see the viewpoints outside of the main village due to lack of time. If you have the time, then it would be worth at least taking the ride.
The Grand Canyon is a must-see destination for both the newcomer and those who have visited before. They have made many improvements to the infrastructure in recent years and it was a joy to visit. We were able to see much of the park in a little over a day. We plan to come back when the boys are older when we can hike more.
What are some of your favorite National Parks?
Sarah DeNike is the mom to two boys, a mompreneur, an aspiring author, a technology geek, and passionate blogger. Since her oldest child was born in 2005, she has been a stay-at-home mom and in 2009 she started her blog The Will to See, that chronicles her experiences including raising children with vision and GI issues, becoming a mompreneur, and learning how to write a book. She also writes for ShePosts and Girl Power Hour.