We got up early and made the drive from our hotel in Flagstaff to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. We surprised my parents with a bus tour of the Grand Canyon to Hermit’s Rest so, after finding parking- it can be difficult in the summer, we made our way to the Visitor Center and boarded our bus.
We booked our tour through Xanterra and they schedule all of the bus tours, mule rides, whitewater rafting, as well as hotel accommodations within the park.
Like the rest of the trip, I tried to get pictures of the kids at all of our stops. Sometimes they were silly and sometimes they were cooperative, and sometimes it was a combination of the two all in one photo!
Our tour bus was great! I love taking guided tours at National Parks because then everyone can look out the windows and see the sights instead of focusing on traffic or maps (especially since I’m usually the driver). Plus, you get all sorts of great information from the guide that you wouldn’t get if you were just driving around.
While we made a couple of quick stops on the way to Hermits Rest, once there, we were able to spend about half an hour exploring the century-old rest area.
Hermits Rest was built in 1914 as a rest area for those traveling by Harvey Cars. El Tovar, one of the hotels at the Grand Canyon, was originally a Harvey House and the cars would take tourists to the westernmost paved point of the South Rim. And clearly, the kids were VERY interested in learning all about it!
The Hermits Rest structure was designed by Mary Jane Colter and is now a National Historic Landmark. The majority of the structure was built into an earthen mound in order to blend in with the natural setting. The chimney is made out of rubblestone, and the exposed parts of the building are also rubble masonry.
The view from Hermits Rest is nothing short of spectacular.
This plaque, along with two others (Psalms 66:4 and 104:24) were placed at scenic overlooks along the South Rim in the late 1960s by the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary in Phoenix. They were removed briefly in 2003 at the request of the ACLU who argued that a National Park was not an appropriate place for religion but that decision was quickly overturned by Washington-based park officials.
I tried to take another picture of the kids and I was met with such cooperative faces!
Our bus driver’s name was Ben and upon hearing that we had a Ben in our group, he let our Ben start up the bus to leave Hermits Rest!
We continued driving along the South Rim and the kids were surprised to see all sorts of green trees and plants. I think they knew that there were pine trees at the Grand Canyon, but didn’t realize how many other species of plants thrive on the cliffs of the canyon.
Such pretty, little flowers!
The Colorado River, starting in Poudre Pass in Rocky Mountain National Park, travels 1450 miles to the Gulf of California in Mexico and carved the Grand Canyon 5-6 million years ago.
The kids were glad that Grandpa brought his binoculars on our trip and everyone took a turn using them to look at the rapids of the Colorado River as well as old settlements on the canyon floor.
More spectacular cooperation! I usually let the kids do silly pictures after they smile nicely for the group pictures. They’re much more likely to cooperate when they know that they get to do something fun afterward!
Sweet Ellie and I hung out on a ledge in the Visitor Center while everyone else watched Grand Canyon: A Journey of Wonder explaining how the Grand Canyon was formed. At almost two, she wasn’t quite ready for quietly watching an educational movie, but the rest of the crew was totally enthralled.
Learning about canyon life with Grandma. All of the Visitor Centers (there are three plus museums and studios) have hands-on displays that are great for kids of all ages.
She enjoyed exploring after leaving the Visitor Center and the wide, paved paths are great for kids and are stroller-friendly, too!
He’s on top of the world! At Mather Point, there’s a big boulder that you can sit on that gives the illusion that you’re all alone at the Grand Canyon. What you can’t see is that there are crowds of people below him since it was a busy, summer day.
Isn’t she Grand?
Chris, Nick, and Lexie braved the trails with Grandpa and hiked a little bit into the canyon. The kids were wearing flip flops so we didn’t attempt any hardcore hiking or anything, just walked down a short trail.
Of course, their cooperation was rewarded with silly photos!
It’s so cool to see the Colorado River snaking through the canyon and knowing that this whole thing was created by that one, little (ok, really it’s big) river.
I love the dead trees that dot the rim of the canyon.
Every once in a while I end up on the other side of the camera!
The canyon seems to go on forever- and rightly so, it’s 277 miles long, 18 miles wide at it’s widest point, and over a mile deep. It’s HUGE!
We always try to get a picture of the seven of us when we go somewhere new.
Our trip wouldn’t be complete without a silly family photo!
We stopped at the Desert View Watchtower, also designed by Mary Jane Colter, on our way out of the park and we arrived just in time to watch a storm roll in over the canyon.
It was so cool to watch the clouds come in over the canyon and then the rain started.
And just as quick as it started, the storm passed and you could see the canyon again.
The Desert View Watchtower was built in 1932 and has both an exterior observation deck and an observation level at the top of the tower.
The kids walked up to the top of the tower to check out the view with Grandpa!
After climbing to the top of the Watchtower, we made our way to the gift shop and then got caught in a downpour on the way to the car. We headed out of Grand Canyon National Park tired from a long day, but in complete awe of the beauty of the canyon. Once the kids are older, I’d love to bring them back and stay for a few days so that we could spend more time hiking and maybe go whitewater rafting!
Things to Remember When You Visit Grand Canyon National Park
- Drink lots of water– the altitude and lack of humidity will leave you dehydrated quickly.
- If you want to stay at a hotel in the park, book well in advance
- The lottery for Phantom Ranch lodging (at the bottom of the Grand Canyon) is currently done 14 months in advance!
- The South Rim of the canyon is open year-round but the North Rim is only open mid-May through mid-October. Make sure to check for closings if you’re headed to the North Rim.
- It’s $35 for a private vehicle to enter the park. We recommend getting the $80 America the Beautiful annual pass so that you can check out all of the National Parks in the country (there’s a free version for military, permanently disabled, and all 4th graders!)
- The Grand Canyon is popular and parking fills up quickly (often before 10am) but there are additional lots and shuttles to the Visitor Center and then a shuttle bus system that runs along the South rim so that you can check out all of the popular viewpoints.
The Grand Canyon is one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World. Have you been?? Have you been to any of the others??