Photo courtesy National Park Service Explorer John Wesley Powell traveled The Grand Canyon's Colorado River.

Family Vacations in Arizona: The Grand Canyon

Millions of years of erosion caused by wind and water have carved and sculpted the Grand Canyon, truly one of the world's most dramatic natural wonders. At 227 miles long and 18 miles across at its widest point, this breathtaking abyss plunges more than a mile from rim to river bottom at its deepest point.

The Colorado River flows along the bottom of the canyon, but because of the canyon's depth, the river is visible only from certain viewpoints above. Families can book a rafting trip on the Colorado for one or more days, and it's an unforgettable way to explore the canyon.

The North and South rims are 215 miles apart by car, so if your time is limited, it's best to visit just one. The South Rim area attracts roughly 90 percent of the park's visitors, largely because the views are thought to be better and it has the majority of the park's accommodations and restaurants.

Not far from the South Rim Visitor Center is Hopi Point, the gathering spot for a famous view of the sunset. Early birds who awake before dawn can catch an awe-inspiring view of a Southwest sunrise over the canyon. You'll have the place practically to yourselves.

Stroll along the paved South Rim Trail (an easy walk, even with a stroller) or exercise your legs on the steep switchbacks of Bright Angel Trail to get a real view of the landscape. Kids love the donkey and mule rides down into the Canyon, but children must meet a minimum height requirement to be permitted to ride. Many families take aerial tours for the ultimate bird's-eye view of the canyon.

Numerous horse rentals are available, and there are dozens of shops and small arcades, in Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim. You'll also find several small museums highlighting Native American culture and local flora and fauna. An IMAX theater offers a virtual tour of the Grand Canyon and is packed with information about the park.

Visitors seeking tranquility should head to the less-visited North Rim. It has lodge accommodations, hiking trails, camping, and somewhat limited services. The rim is usually buried in snow during winter, but in summer, it's the first choice of serious hikers and outdoorsy people hoping to get away from the crowds.

Mule rides are also available at the North Rim, and families with kids over the age of seven should look into the half-day tours down the rim to Uncle Jim's Point or the easy-going five-mile Widforss Trail.

Grand Canyon Information

Address: US Rte. 180 and AZ-64, Grand Canyon, AZ

Telephone: 928/638-7888

Hours of Operation: Dawn - Dusk

Admission: $25 per vehicle or $12 per person

Read the next page to learn about Canyon de Chelly National Monument.

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Arizona State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Arizona, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.