Grand Canyon National Park is almost like two entirely different parks: The North Rim and the South Rim. The two rims cannot be easily visited in one trip except by driving four hours and a long way out of the way. When you see the canyon, you’ll know why! This post discusses the South Rim only.
The first thing to know about the Grand Canyon is that it can be deadly. We’re not trying to scare you away, but two visitors died from falls the week before we went (April 2019). Both were casual visitors and not extreme climbers or anything. Further, the number of people we saw foolishly perched on the edge of the canyon to take a selfie was sobering. It seems some people will do anything for a picture. Please be safe and wise as you take children to the Grand Canyon!
The second thing to know is that there are some wonderful hikes in the Grand Canyon, even if you have little ones with you. Please see our list of Grand Canyon Kid Hikes to determine which hike is right for your family. Be prepared while hiking, though. Summers are scorching hot and there is little shade in the canyon. Carry lots of water, use hats and sunscreen, and take it slow on the climbs up the canyon’s walls.
Unlike some National Parks, there is a lot of lodging right in the park. We had no trouble finding a room right on the South Rim. There are five lodges including: Bright Angel, El Tovar, Kachina, Thunderbird, and Maswik. We stayed in the Kachina Lodge and loved being close to the rim of the canyon. Grand Canyon National Park also has several different camping areas. The real problem is parking. In fact, if you find a place to park your car in the park, don’t move it! Use the shuttle system, which will take you almost anywhere you want to go.
There are certain areas of the park that are only accessible by shuttle. Hermit Road does not allow personal vehicle traffic most of the year. This means if you want to see the viewpoints along the road running west and the lodge at the end of it, you must hop on the shuttle. It stops at every overlook on the way out. A new shuttle will be along every 15 minutes, which is about the right amount of time to take a few photos at every overlook. In the busy season, shuttles are full, so expect to wait at times. The Red Line connects to the Blue Line at the transfer station near Bright Angel Trailhead.
There is also a Village shuttle (Blue). This shuttle covers the area around the lodges, Visitor Centers, and market in the center of the park. The shuttles’ routes are easy to read and interpret. The drivers are personable and interesting. More than one told stories and jokes as we moved about the park. We used the blue shuttle a lot as we moved from our lodge to different Visitor Centers and several trailheads along the South Rim.
There is an Orange shuttle that covers the east end of the park. This part of the park is mostly accessible by personal vehicle, except for the Yaki Point Road, which has the trailhead for our favorite hike, Ooh-Aah Point on the Kaibab Trail. If you want to avoid parking woes, use the Orange Shuttle.
Desert View Drive
We also recommend visiting the less popular east end of the park. There were not many visitors out at the Desert View Tower, but we really enjoyed this area. There is a large stone tower with an observation deck. You can climb three stories up the tower and look out windows over the canyon. This was one of our favorite parts of the South Rim, and it wasn’t nearly as busy as the Village area. There are also overlooks along the way from the Village out to Desert View Tower, and a stop at the Tusayan Museum and Ruins.
There are two Visitor Centers at Grand Canyon National Park South Rim. We recommend watching the movie at the main Visitor Center. It was very informative with beautiful images. You can also ask questions, but prepared for lines to talk to a ranger.
One of the best viewpoints is right behind this Visitor Center called Mather Point. There are amazing panoramic views and great picture stops. This is a definite must-see stop at Grand Canyon.
Tips for Families
Enjoy your time on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. There is plenty to do for families. The canyon itself is indescribable. You have to experience it for yourself!
- For more info about Grand Canyon, visit the National Park website.
- We used Dirt in My Shoes itinerary to help us plan our time in the Grand Canyon. We love her posts, and her itineraries. She does an amazing job of laying everything out and including lots of details. If you want an easy vacation all planned, check out her itineraries.