Destination: The Grand Canyon
This summer, my family had the good fortune to visit the Grand Canyon twice. Each trip was limited to a few hours, but we got a good sampling of various views along the South Rim, and some experience in navigating around the park.
My first word of advice about travelling to the Grand Canyon with a toddler: don’t. Baby too small to walk, sure. Child old enough to understand the concept of free fall, yes. But small person who runs while looking over her shoulder and has a shaky grasp of gravity, not so much.
The current rate, per personal vehicle, to enter the park is $25. There are additional fees for camping and such, but just to drive in with all the people you can cram into your car is twenty-five bucks. There are four parking lots at the main Visitor Center; strangely, lot 4 is the closest. I recommend driving right past lots one through three and all the people circling and head straight for lot 4. We were able to easily find spaces there, and that was the week of the Fourth of July.
Speaking of July: it was pretty hot. The climate is fairly dry, and the altitude makes it a little more tolerable, but definitely be prepared with water, hats and sunscreen, especially if you plan on going anywhere on foot.
From the Visitor Center, we took a shuttle bus transfer to the Hermits Rest route. There are hiking trails that run along the rim, but buses run every few minutes from overlook to overlook, so if you desire (or are toting a heavy baby), you can just ride the bus to the look-out point, walk to the edge, look, and then get on the next bus. At this time, private vehicles are not allowed on the rim-access roads, so your options are pretty much feet, bike, or bus.
Once you make it out to Hermits Rest, there are restrooms, souvenirs, snacks, and a cool place where you can fill up your water bottles with water pumped straight from a spring there.
I don’t really feel like a got a comprehensive understanding of the Grand Canyon; travelling with little ones really changes one’s priorities from ‘absorb cultural wonders’ to ‘don’t fall off the cliff or pass out from dehydration.’ But I highly recommend visiting at some point in your life, and re-visiting if possible. They say that the Canyon is different every day, and especially in every season, and if you have the opportunity, there are all the many different ways to experience it: hiking, biking, climbing, rafting, camping, or running. (For more on the last, see Scott Jurek’s Eat and Run. I’m not recommending you do it, but it’s interesting that some people do. Rafting is another matter. How cool would it be to paddle that section of the Colorado River? So cool. I know.)