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Make your Grand Canyon family vacation epic with these 5 tips

Heading to the Grand Canyon for an awe-inspiring family vacation? A Grand Canyon family vacation is definitely a must-do, especially if your family enjoys outdoor adventures. Located in northern Arizona, the Grand Canyon is over 270 miles long, 1 mile deep, and 18 miles wide. Scientists estimate the Grand Canyon to have formed over 6 million years ago, thanks to erosion from the Colorado River.

It’s one of the U.S.’s most popular national parks and is on many a bucket list. Planning a Grand Canyon vacation for the family can be a bit overwhelming. There’s so much to see and do, but if you’re looking for something different, rather than just checking out the views, here are five awesome activities to make your family Grand Canyon vacation memorable.

View from Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona
Image used with permission by copyright holder

1. Hop on the Grand Canyon Railway

Love trains? Take a ride on vintage train cars on the Grand Canyon Railway. The train is in Williams, Arizona, and it leaves daily to take passengers on scenic rides through the Grand Canyon and to the Historic Village in the South Rim. Passengers have time to explore the canyon, village, and exhibits for three hours before climbing back aboard the train for the return trip to Williams.

Riders can choose between the coach, Pullman, first-class, observation dome, luxury dome, and luxury parlor cars for their journey. Some trains have on-board entertainment and there just might be an old Western-style shootout before the train pulls out of the station.

The Grand Canyon Railway Hotel and RV Park are near the station in case you’d like to extend your stay. Some packages for a trip on the Grand Canyon Railway include accommodations at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel or at lodging inside the Grand Canyon National Park.

2. Bike the Rim Trail

Another way to see the stunning scenery of the Grand Canyon is by bike. The Rim Trail is a 5-mile paved route from the Grand Canyon Visitor Center to the South Kaibab Trailhead. A 10-mile round-trip ride is an ideal way to get a different perspective of the iconic Grand Canyon.

Tourists can rent bikes at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center from Bright Angel Bicycles. Rentals are available for all ages as are trailers for little ones. Ride the trail on your own or join one of the 3-hour guided bike tours. Bright Angel Bicycles also has an on-site cafe where you can grab a coffee and a bite to eat to recharge the batteries. Another option is to enjoy a picnic along the trail with the family. Picnic spots are available and you can order a picnic lunch ahead of time to take with you on the ride.

Family enjoys the view on a hike in the Grand Canyon
Image used with permission by copyright holder

3. Hike the Bright Angel Trail

If your family loves to hike, then the Bright Angel Trail is a must. The trail is a popular one for hikers of all levels and a wonderful way to see the Grand Canyon and its amazing views. Round trip, hiking the Bright Angel Trail is just over 15 miles. The trail is wide and fairly easy to navigate. Most people find the hike down a lot less strenuous than the one back up.

Bright Angel Trail begins at the South Rim and ends at the Bright Angel Suspension Bridge. The National Park Service advises hikers to avoid hitting the trail during the hottest time of the day, which is between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Be sure to wear proper hiking shoes before undertaking the trail. Sneakers aren’t the best footwear. Always pack according to the weather and bring water. A restroom and a water bottle station are listed as amenities on the National Park Service website. Hiking the Bright Angel Trail is ideal for families with older children.

Family exploring the Grand Canyon by mule
Image used with permission by copyright holder

4. See the Grand Canyon by mule

Mules and the Grand Canyon have a long history. Since mules don’t spook as easily as horses, the animal has been used for ages to move people and supplies up and down the Grand Canyon trails. The National Park Service offers year-round mule tours on the South Rim and from May 15 to October 15 on the North Rim. Tours are for ages 9 and up on the South Rim and 7 and up on the North. There’s also a 200-pound weight limit per rider.

To join a mule tour run by the National Park Service, you must book it at least 15 months in advance. For a truly adventurous outing, take a mule tour to Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon for an overnight stay. There is a rider limit of 10 for this excursion.

5. Rafting on the Colorado River

Whitewater rafting tours on the Colorado River are most certainly exciting and will give the whole family an adventure to remember from their Grand Canyon vacation. Most rafting excursions along the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon are three days and up. These outings are recommended for older children and teens. Each tour is different, but most offer rafting excursions for ages 8 and up. For a quieter ride, the National Park Service offers a one-day smooth water raft trip.

There are many exciting ways to experience a Grand Canyon family vacation. Whether you choose the rails, a whitewater rafting trip, mules, bikes, or by foot, this will certainly be a memorable trip for the entire family. Don’t delay planning though, because campsites, mules, and rafting tours book up quickly. If the Grand Canyon is on your family’s bucket list and you like adventure, now’s the time.

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Dawn Miller
Dawn Miller began her professional life as an elementary school teacher before returning to her first love, writing. In…
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