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Did you know the average Grand Canyon visitor only spends 15 minutes looking at the Canyon in Northern Arizona? It is shocking to us, because the Grand Canyon National Park Service (NPS) is over a million acres of land. There is a North Rim and South Rim of the Grand Canyon. It is one of the Natural Wonders of the World. Spending just 15 minutes is not enough time to see one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
We wanted to share some of top things to do at the Grand Canyon with kids, so you can enjoy this amazing wonder!
Table of Contents
Top Things to Do at Grand Canyon with Kids
Revealing the Grand Canyon
One of the first big things to do is seeing the Grand Canyon for the 1st time. This is such a moment for the entire family. When we were on our Adventures by Disney vacation, I wondered how they would reveal the Grand Canyon. Many of the guests had never seen it, before. We’d seen it a few times and I wanted to know how they’d make it “new” for us.
I know, in the past, they used paper bags over people’s heads. That must not have worked out too well, as that’s not how they do it, now.
Turns out, they line us up, guide us to the railing (all with your head down, staring at your feet), and then have you close your eyes. On the count of 3, you all open your eyes to behold the beauty of the Grand Canyon.
Staying at Grand Canyon Thunderbird Lodge
On our most recent visit, we stayed inside the Grand Canyon National Park. Not only inside, but right on the South Rim!
The Thunderbird Lodge is one of the National Park Lodges. It was home for two nights and it was awesome. Yes, it’s a bit older and dated. Not a 5 star lodge, but certainly a 5 star location. The beds were comfortable. The coffee was good. The view was spectacular.
You were so close to restaurants, hiking trails, sunset views, desert views, shuttle buses, and so much more. The Grand Canyon truly offers a wide range of experiences. Staying on site allows you to experience all of the Grand Canyon, even for just a weekend.
Watch a Grand Canyon Sunset
The great news about a Grand Canyon sunset. You can also catch a Grand Canyon sunset, even when it’s raining! In fact, the best sunset we saw on our Adventures by Disney trip was while it was raining!
We even had a double rainbow with the sunset! It was spectacular!
Now that you know a Grand Canyon sunset is a must do, how do you get the best spot to view the sunset? During holidays and summer months, the Grand Canyon gets super busy. The main areas can be a sea of tourists. You did not spend all of your vacation money to come to a National Park to get pictures of tourists. Right?
We want to share some of our tips for finding a nice and quiet area to watch the Grand Canyon sunset with your family.
Grand Canyon Sunset Tips
You must be careful selecting a location to watch the sunset in the Grand Canyon. The rim of the canyon winds back and forth, causing a “bay” to form (think like a bay in the ocean). An indentation that takes you away from the center of the canyon and eliminates much of the landscape to reflect the sunset. You need to get as close to the edge of the canyon, as safely possible. Think of it like an “S” on it’s side. You want to be near the top “hump” of the “S,” not the bottom.
Our Adventures by Disney guides recommended two locations for us; Yavapai Point and Hopi Point. Our hotel (Thunderbird Lodge) while having a beautiful view, sits right in the center of a “bay” of the canyon, so not the best spot to view the sunset.
We went close to Yavapai Point, but should have probably been closer. In addition to seeing a great sunset, we wanted to have some time away from crowds to just relax. We ended up splitting the difference — close to the edge and Yavapai Point, but a little outside the “popular” area and best viewing locations.
You have to make the call for your own Grand Canyon sunset. As you move away from the crowds, you do so at the expense of the best sunset, possible. Judge for yourself and let us know what you thought of the compromise we made.
Insider Tip: Create another Grand Canyon memory…have a picnic! Grab a sandwich, chips, and drink to enjoy during the sunset. There are several stores through the Grand Canyon National Park. You can pick up “to go” snacks to enjoy a picnic.
Hiking Down the Canyon
There are many hikes throughout the Grand Canyon National Park. One of the top hikes is hiking into the canyon. They have extensive hikes like the “rim to rim” which takes days (going from the North and South Rims), but we prefer the shorter 1-2 hour hikes. These are perfect for the whole family.
Now even an hour hike down into the canyon can be tough for kids. Before taking your family down into a rim trail remember you have to hike back out. Going down is easier, but it is the climbing back up that is toughest. Plus, with the sun beating down; it is now for the faint of heart.
However, if your family is active; this is an amazing experience to hike down into the canyon. One little tip, start early and pack a lot of water! This will help you beat the hikers and the heat of the day.
You can watch our hike down into the Grand Canyon. Oh yes and the reward of ice cream when we completed the hike!
Junior Ranger Program
One of the best Junior Ranger programs is at the Grand Canyon National Park. Our kids loved this program! So, what is the Junior Ranger program? It is an educational program sponsored by the National Parks. You can stop by the visitor center and gift shop to pick up the Junior Ranger program. It is usually a booklet and pencil that your kids will fill out during their visit to the National Park.
The Grand Canyon National Park takes it a step further! They even have a backpack with supplies to help you complete the Junior Ranger program, including binoculars. The kids loved this Junior Ranger program.
Outside of the Grand Canyon (about 5 miles out) is Horseshoe Bend. The Colorado River creates a horse shoe shape in Glen Canyon. One our way to the Grand Canyon, we drove right by Horseshoe Bend. We decided to head back and I am so glad. This is actually one of my favorite places!
Horseshoe Bend is just amazing. There is not much to it. You hike from the parking lot to the viewing area for Horseshoe Bend. You can get some amazing pictures. I also love just sitting with the family and enjoying the view. It is spectacular!
We always love to share a few Honorable Mentions during visits to the National Parks.
South Kaibab Trail: This trail is 2.8 miles and is an out and back hike. This is a moderate hike.
Bright Angel: The Bright Angel trail is a backcountry trail (out and back). It is 18.4 miles. You hike down to the Bright Angel Campground and River Trail (at the bottom of the canyon).
Rafting the River: One of the highlights of visiting Grand Canyon is taking a Grand Canyon Tour like a rafting river trip. It is a lot of family fun!
I did have to add one more top thing to do at the Grand Canyon…be safe! Many visitors are not safe when visiting the Grand Canyon. During our hike, we ran into a family that did not bring any water with them. They had been hiking with younger kids for hours (without any water). Always pack more water than you think you will need in a backpack.
You also want to be super cautious with pictures. So many people step out near the edge to get a family picture or selfie. No picture is worth your life.
Keep a close eye on your kids and stay at least a body length away from the edge. This includes areas that you may pass other people. Do not trust other people to have the same safety guidelines as yourself. If you have to pass someone, let them pass and then you can go.
Check out some more tips to stay safe at the Grand Canyon.
You do not have to spend a lot of time at Grand Canyon National Park to really experience it. Even just a weekend or a few days will really capture the beauty and magnificence of it.
Have you been to the Grand Canyon in the United States before? If you did, what was your favorite memory?