On our recent 16 day camping trip around Utah, Arizona and Colorado we visited Grand Canyon. It was my first time visiting the National Parks and Monuments and everything exceeded my expectations, including Grand Canyon. We traveled with some good family friends and camped at every location in our travel trailer.
I wrote about our stay at Grand Canyon for Mom It Forward July 25, the first of three articles about the trip. The article has information about what we did and other things you can do at Grand Canyon if you are planning a trip.
At Grand Canyon we were able to spend two nights in the Mather Campground inside the park. It doesn’t have hook-ups, but the campground is wooded and most of the sites had a generous amount of space. It is a large campground, but doesn’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), and also in Tusayan just outside the park.
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 and allows 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 Grand Canyon never walk below the rim. It gives you great views and a taste of what hiking the canyon is 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. It 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. They 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 it 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 it would be worth at least taking the ride.
Grand Canyon is a must-see destination for both the new-comer 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, but plan to come back when the boys are older when we can hike more.