Visiting the Grand Canyon with kids is more than looking at one of the world’s natural wonders. It’s an adventure and an amazing opportunity to learn about the world.
One of the grandest natural wonders in the world, Grand Canyon South Rim stretches 446 km (277 mi), reaching a width of 29 km (18 mi) and a depth of nearly 2 km (1.1 mi). We visited the South Rim only as the North Rim wasn’t open yet due to the snow in the region. The Grand Canyon North Rim is open from mid-May to the end of October depending on how much snow falls. There was snow on the ground at the South Rim when we visited in mid-April.
Nearly 2 billion years old, the canyon walls expose nearly half of earth’s lifespan, with layer after layer of rock cut by the Colorado River and its tributaries. For thousands of years, this area was home to Native Americans, who built their settlements inside many of the canyon’s caves.
Desert View Watchtower
From the Desert View Watchtower, you get a great view over the canyon, and can also buy souvenirs and camping-related products in the shop.
We also picked up an activity booklet for the boys for their next Junior Ranger badge. To complete it they had to watch a movie, the last showing of which was playing in the Grand Canyon visitor centre in 90 minutes! It was a bit of a dash to get there, but the Junior Ranger activities are really good for ages 6+ and you can collect badges when you complete each booklet.
How long do you need to see the Grand Canyon with kids?
If you are visiting the Grand Canyon with kids, a few hours is all you need to explore the South Rim unless you’re a family of serious hikers. We arrived at around 2.30 pm and left just after 6.30 pm.
Most visitors do not hike. Of the nearly 5 million people who visit the Grand Canyon each year, 90% see it from the park’s free shuttle buses or as we did – jumping out of the car at various overlooks along the South Rim.
If you are going to hike to the bottom, it takes around 4 hours to get down, and about 6 hours to get back up! I’m not sure many kids could manage that in one day, and certainly not without practice and a few family hikes under their belt!
Taking on a trail when you’re with the family can be lots of fun, but even the smallest feet need to be outfitted with boots that will minimise slips and trips without being clunky or heavy. Good kids hiking shoes can give children the confidence to cope with everything thrown at them on an off-road adventure.
Be Careful when Taking Photos at the Grand Canyon
It is really important to be watchful when visiting the Grand Canyon with kids. If travelling with young children, this may be the time to invest in a safety harness or toddler carrier, for peace of mind.
Do not take any risks to grab that selfie, either. On average two people die by falling into the Grand Canyon each year. The instances are rare — about one per every 400,000 visitors — but they usually occur when people are acting carelessly in order to capture the perfect picture or from hopping about from rock to rock.
While we were at Mather Point there were people who had climbed right out to take a photo; it really isn’t worth it! In fact, we weren’t able to stay for long at the Grand Canyon with our kids since they had just about had enough for the day, and had switched off their ears so they couldn’t hear us asking them to stay still and not climb on the barriers. Too bad – we took the kids to one of the wonders of the world and they missed it due to behaving as though they were in a playground!
A great time to visit the South Rim is at sunset as the rocks change colour, through greys and oranges to red. It’s an amazing sight and more than “just a hole in the ground”!
To visit Grand Canyon South Rim and get the most from your holiday in Grand Canyon National Park, create itinerary details personal to you using our Grand Canyon National Park road trip planning tool.