Family guide to the Grand Canyon

Aug 28, 2011 at 7:40 p.m. ET

The natural wonder of the Grand Canyon is a family must-see, at least once! Peer over its edge or hike down to its floor – either way, the Grand Canyon is sure to leave your family inspired.

Grand Canyon

Stretching 277 miles and spanning up to 18 miles across, the Grand Canyon's significance goes beyond its size. It's here that you can appreciate the power of erosion of over 2 billion years as you view rocky gorges with layers of strata, each signifying a different point in time. Experience history with ruins and artifacts left by Pueblo communities and desert cultures that once inhabited or passed through the Grand Canyon.

get there

A family trip to the Grand Canyon means time in the car. The train trip from Williams to the South Rim provides a diversion for young kids and is a great option for day visitors and families intent on exploring the Grand Canyon on foot.

while there

A free shuttle bus operates four South Rim routes. The North Rim hiker shuttle makes the run from the Grand Canyon Lodge to the North Kaibab trailhead twice early each morning for a nominal fee. The Trans Canyon Shuttle provides a daily rim-to-rim shuttle service, roughly 4-1/2 hours, for a fee from mid-May to mid-October. Families with older children considering Toroweap/Tuweep should know that hiking is the only way to get around.

mule rides

The famous mule rides are offered on both the North and South Rims. The minimum age varies on North Rim trips. Day and overnight South Rim mule rides have a maximum weight (200 lbs or 91 kg fully dressed) and minimum height (4 feet 7 inches or 140 cm) requirement as well as variety of the other restrictions (fluent in English, good physical condition, no fear of heights or large animals, and pregnant women are not allowed).

when to go

Hiking in the canyon is best in the spring (March/April) and fall (October/November) whereas summer (June-September) is the best time to hike on the rim. If you're considering a summer excursion, know that the daytime temperature along the Colorado River can reach 120 degrees F -- but expect snow on the South Rim in winter and on the North Rim throughout most of the year. Bottom line, be prepared for sudden changes in the weather at anytime.

>> Take a hike! Visit the Grand Canyon

hours of operation

The South Rim, Toroweap and Grand Canyon West are open year-'round. North Rim facilities and visitor services are open from mid-May to mid-October only. Weather permitting, the North Rim is open for day use only from mid-October to mid-May. Opening hours for of the West Rim Entrance and Skywalk are seasonal.


Entrance to the North and South Rim areas of the park is charged per vehicle unless you are traveling on foot, bike or motorcycle in when the fee is per person but Toroweap entrance is free of charge. The West Rim attraction is an attraction so the cost is based on the activity package you choose. The newly opened Skywalk is usually not included in the price of the attraction.

With so much to do and to see, it's easy to see why the Grand Canyon National Park -- a World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World -- is quickly becoming a top family travel destination once again.

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