Thinking of hitting the Grand Canyon with toddler in tow? Jack was 13 months when we visited the park, right on the cusp of the baby-to-toddler transition. We were working on the whole walking thing, but hiking the trails obviously wasn’t in the cards for him.
That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing for us, though! It meant we could still tackle any trails we wanted, as long as they could accommodate a sturdy all-terrain stroller, or were easy enough that we could use his baby hiking carrier.
So, we packed the sippy cups and hit the switchbacks! And, y’all… the trip was nothing short of awesome. Besides taking along some extra gear and planning time for extra stops, we still did and saw everything we wanted. Don’t think you can’t do the Grand Canyon with baby – it’s completely possible (even if you’re only mildly adventurous!).
Don’t wanna read all the deets of our trip? (That’s cool, we’re not all that exciting anyway…) Use the handy Table of Contents to jump to your preferred section!
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Grand Canyon with Toddler: Our South Rim Visit
We drove the canyon, we hiked the canyon, we flew the canyon! In 2.5 days, we covered all that the south rim offers, east of the main entrance (more on that in a minute). We took in great views, toured native ruins, saw wildlife up-close, and hiked 3 sweet little trails.
I should note here that we had several constraints that required our visit to be as easy as possible. We stopped at the park in the midst of a cross-country move, with a car filled with valuables, an attached trailer that was hauling our recently-restored classic car, and a baby who was pretty antsy after 3 weeks on the road.
With all we were juggling, I wanted a trip that was as easy and stress-free as possible. So, I booked a place in Tusayan for the convenience of having lodging, food, and the south rim entrance, all at our fingertips. I also chose Grand Canyon south rim hikes and activities that required minimal driving to get to.
I did want to see the highlights, but didn’t want to squeeze so much into our day that we couldn’t relax and really soak it all in. I also didn’t want to be crowded out by hordes of people, a potentially tall order since we went at the start of the busy season in May.
Thankfully, a quick search of the Grand Canyon NPS website gave me the most valuable piece of information for our trip – over 90% of park visitors turn left when they go through the Grand Canyon south rim entrance, and head straight to the visitor center. So, we did what the other 10% of visitors do – we turned right! In fact, we spent our entire trip at points east of the main visitor center (and didn’t feel like we missed a thing):
That alone was our biggest victory in avoiding the crowds, and it gave us a much more intimate park experience than we would’ve had otherwise.
I then stumbled on this article from Lonely Planet that gave a couple great recommendations for Grand Canyon south rim activities, mainly crowd-free hikes, east of the visitor center. It greatly narrowed down our trail options, which was a good thing (I can’t have too many choices, y’all… I get easily overwhelmed!). So, here’s what we ended up doing:
Desert View Watchtower
Hike 1: Tusayan Ruins and Museum
Hike 2: Trail to Shoshone Point
Hike 3: South Kaibab Trail to Ooh Aah Point
Visitor Center & Mathers Point
We spread this out over 2 days and 3 nights, and our trip was a huge success! Read on for details of each stop, our tips for visiting Grand Canyon with baby, what gear we recommend, and an itinerary you can copy…
South Rim Lodging: Red Feather Lodge
On arrival, we checked into our suite. To keep things simple due to our unique travel circumstances, we opted out of camping or choosing more novel accommodations in favor of staying in Tusayan. We chose the hotel section of Red Feather Lodge (they have a motel, too). Not only was I pleasantly surprised, but I can’t recommend it enough!
The parking lot was large and spacious, making it so easy to get our trailer parked and unhooked. We had a huge suite, with plenty of room to safely store our carload of valuables while we explored the park. With the separate living area and king bed in the bedroom, it felt much more like a home than a hotel room and made our stay super comfy.
Most importantly, it was great for Jack. There was plenty of space to set up his pack and play in the living area, so we could have a bit of separation at night (wink, wink). The lodge was close enough to the trails and sights we wanted to visit that we could return for a midday rest, if Jack needed, and still get back to the park with plenty of daylight left to continue our adventure. I loved Red Feather. All-in-all, a great homebase (the pics don’t do it justice in the least, but you get the idea).
Or, compare rates among other Tusayan hotels here:
Grand Canyon South Rim Tours with Kids: Helicopters, Baby!
Believe it or not, Grand Canyon helicopter tours are baby-friendly!!! After pulling into town at about 3:30pm, checking-in and unloading the car, we decided to make the most of our first evening. We wanted an activity that would give us the best possible introduction to the park, but was quick enough that we could squeeze it in before dinner. A helicopter tour fit the bill.
Our thirty-minute, birds-eye overview of the canyon was INCREDIBLE. It’s truly awe-inspiring, imagining that the little river you see all the way at the bottom of the mile-deep canyon MADE. ALL. THAT. Best part, Jack got to come along and ride on our laps! Getting to bring him on the helo ride made it even more of a treat (though, it looks like he couldn’t’ve cared less!).
While there are tons of tours and things to do in Grand Canyon south rim, there are not tons of baby-specific activities (think horseback riding, guided mule tours, etc). So, with no age limit, a helicopter tour is definitely one of the most family-friendly things to the in the Grand Canyon with kids. If you have the means for a splurge, I highly recommend taking the fam on a tour!
Baby-Friendly Grand Canyon South Rim Hikes
When I say baby-friendly, I’m really talking stroller-friendly… yes, there are (unpaved) trails you can take a stroller on!
Even given the constraints of our short visit, we wanted more than just quick views and selfies at the overlooks. We didn’t want to just see the Grand Canyon, we wanted to experience it. Preferably via some nice hikes. That were tot-friendly. And crowd-free. In the busy month of May.
Sound impossible? Surprisingly, it wasn’t! We did some lesser-known – and therefore less crowded – short hikes that were perfect for folks with young kids. Truth be told, almost any trail is doable with a baby carrier. But if carrying your kid up and down steep switchbacks isn’t your thing, there are still several flat and relatively easy trails that can be done with a good all-terrain stroller.
We chose to tackle 3 hikes during our visit. The two stroller friendly ones were pretty easy, and the third was a bit more strenuous (and not even a little stroller friendly – it required our kid carrier):
Trail through Tusayan Ruins
The trail here winds through the ruins of an old Pueblo settlement. It’s narrow and slightly uneven in spots, but stroller-friendly and very short. At only several hundred feet, short enough that I’d probably classify it as more of a “walk” than a hike. If you feel like ditching the stroller, this is the place to do it – it’s a great starter hike for toddlers and young kids!
There’s no Canyon view here, but the absence of an overlook means it’s relatively crowd-free (we were there with only 2 other families when we visited). So, if you choose to let kids walk it, you can do so without worrying about them getting hurt or lost. But they still need to be strictly watched, because the ruins beckon to be climbed – which is (obviously) a no-no!
If you have older kids, too, they’ll enjoy seeing the old living quarters and ceremonial areas, and learning about the settlement at the on-site museum. It houses artifacts that were unearthed at the ruins almost a hundred years ago. It’s a neat spot for the whole family – unique, educational, and just plain cool to see.
Trail to Shoshone Point
In my opinion, the trail to Shoshone point is one of the best Grand Canyon hikes with kids. If your visit only leaves time for 1 hike, DO THIS ONE.
The 1.5 mile roundtrip trail to Shoshone Point is extra wide and completely flat – not only is it stroller friendly, I’d say it’s completely ADA accessible. I even remarked that my adventurous, yet no-longer-mobile grandmother could use her motorized chair, which made this trail extra special to me.
It’s a shaded, forested hike, safe enough that I would’ve felt comfortable cutting Jack loose on it for a while before reaching the canyon rim, had he been able to walk better.
The trail isn’t marked by a parking area or any signage, so very few people stop for it. That means you can escape the crowds for a while and truly enjoy an intimate canyon experience as a family. Our hike was virtually all our own. We crossed paths with only three couples on our way in, and 2 families on our way out!
And when we arrived at the quietest and most peaceful overlook of the day, we were stoked to also discover the BEST views of the day!
There’s a large open area at the overlook with picnic tables, a pavilion and bathrooms. It’s a great place to stop for lunch and explore the forest a little (just stay between the kids and the rim!). I highly recommend this trail for folks who prefer strollering their children, or with young kids eager to try hiking on their own. It’s incredibly family-friendly.
South Kaibab Trail to Ooh Aah Point
The South Kaibab trail actually goes all the way to the canyon floor! We weren’t about to attempt that, with or without a toddler (we’re in shape… ish… but still!), so we took the trail down to Ooh Aah Point.
At 1.8 miles roundtrip, this is a much shorter alternative to the entire South Kaibab trail. Though it’s well-maintained and features steps in many areas, it’s steep and uneven and required our kid carrier. Not gonna lie, it was strenuous! But short enough that we weren’t too worse for wear at the end.
While I totally recommend this hike for families who can carry their kiddos, I don’t recommend it for young kids walking on their own (tweens and older would probably be just fine, though). The trail is narrow with dozens of switchbacks, winds along steep cliffs, and has a ~700-foot elevation change in just .9 miles… it’s only for the sure-footed.
Views into the canyon from Ooh Aah are WOW, but there are equally impressive views looking back up. You get a more close-up look at the changing rock layers when you venture over the canyon rim. Some of the detail is truly beautiful.
Note that there’s not a lot of room to explore at the point, as the overlook is just a small area off the side of the trail. There’s also no barrier, so if you let the kiddos out of their carriers here, hold ‘em tight! Even so, I think this is a great trail for folks who can carry their babes and toddlers, or for people with older kids who can tackle the hike on their own.
Visitor Centers – Desert View and Mathers Point
Though I wouldn’t really qualify them as hikes, these are two other place I should mention. The visitor centers we went to, the one at Desert View (east rim) and the main visitor center at Mathers point (south rim), are two other areas that are paved and stroller-friendly.
Desert View is slightly less crowded, being smaller and at the easternmost point of the park. Don’t get me wrong, there were still a lot of people at this visitor center (but it was nothing compared to Mathers Point).
It’s no wonder Mathers was chosen as the spot to house the main visitors center. The more than 180° panoramic view took our breath away. But so did the huge crowds. Every inch of the paved walkways that extend along the canyon rim was occupied by someone (don’t be fooled by the crowdless photos, I was just able to get some good angles that looked crowd-free… what can I say, I got skillz!).
That said, I love that the park has these great stroller- and ADA-accessible paths (at both visitor centers), so the canyon views can be enjoyed by everyone…
Okay, moving on! Here’s how to prep for your family’s visit:
Tips for Visiting the Grand Canyon with Kids (of All Ages!)
Take the Right Gear
Baby/Toddler Hiking Carrier
I cannot say enough good things about kiddie hiking carriers! Our Osprey carrier alone made this trip possible. If you have kids too young to tackle the trails with you, or you’re doing a trail that isn’t stroller-friendly, a kid carrier is a must to still be able to get some good hiking in. We wouldn’t have been able to do the South Kaibab trail without it.
Even at places like the visitors’ center, which was completely stroller-friendly, we opted to carry Jack. It was ridiculously crowded, so much so that we thought it’d be easier than navigating a stroller through the crowds.
If you don’t want, or are unable, to carry your toddler on the trail, there are still hiking options. The Tusayan Ruins and the Shoshone Point trail are absolutely stroller-friendly.
Umbrella strollers may be a bit too flimsy, but a sturdy all-terrain stroller is definitely good enough. With its thick rubber wheels, our BOB stroller has navigated Jack around more parks than we can count!
Hat, Sunscreen, Water Bottles
All these go without saying, but I’ll say them anyway! We went in May, when days were hot and evenings were cooler. Being outside most of the day, we put Jack in light clothing to keep him cool. For sun protection, we put him in a bucket hat and slathered him in sunscreen. Jack wore these cute Carter’s reversible hats with Babyganics zinc-based sunscreen.
Water, water, for everyone! Jack could drink out of straws by then, so it was easy to keep him hydrated by simply holding a straw bottle up to his carrier. We used (and still use) Thermos Fogo bottles for him because they keep milk cool all day, and Thermos Intak bottles for us because they’re virtually indestructible (I have the buttery-est of butter fingers, and drop things constantly).
Travel High Chair
A bit of a tangent from the hiking-specific gear, I know, but hear me out. A portable high chair isn’t just a good Grand Canyon item, I recommend it for ANY trip. It’s one of our hotel room must-haves. We have a foldable Guzzie+Guss hanging highchair that folds up so flat, it can be thrown in a suitcase.
It hangs from dining tables, desks, counter tops, or whatever is available, and it makes feeding so easy. This trip was no different – we attached it to the kitchen bar at the Red Feather Lodge!
Prepare Well for Hikes
Another thing that goes without saying, but still. Prepare well – even for shorter hikes, which is what we opted for since we were toting a toddler. Take more water, snacks, milk and baby food than you think you’ll need.
Bring your cell phone, tell folks where you’ll be for the day, and don’t stray from the plan unless you’re a professional (in which case, you wouldn’t be reading my guide, anyway!). Do all this both for your baby’s comfort and for your own.
Avoid the Crowds
Go East at the South Rim Entrance
We decided to explore the Grand Canyon’s south rim at points east of the park’s main entrance, after reading that 90% of visitors drive west after entering. Hoping for a more intimate experience, we headed east with the other 10%. Turned out to be a great decision!
Don’t get me wrong… there were still crowds at a lot of the overlooks. They were pretty much full. But, if those were 10% of the crowds, I didn’t even want to know what the other 90% looked like! (Just a figure of speech – we went to the main visitor center, as you know – the most-visited place at the park, and yes, it was crowded AF.)
After entering the park through the south rim entrance, head east!
Hike a Short Distance (Even if You’re Not There to Hike)
At the overlooks, walk away from the main viewing areas. Even just a short hike along the rim, or just over the rim towards the canyon below, will get you away from a majority of the crowds.
For example, at our first stop, the Desert View Watchtower, the paved area was packed with people. But just around the west side of the tower, the unpaved area was all our own. Barely a hundred steps away, we suddenly felt like we had the park to ourselves:
It was the same at the South Kaibab trailhead. While there was quite a crowd at the trailhead, the vast majority were just enjoying the view into the canyon below. Far fewer actually tackled the hike. But just a hundred steps into our hike down the canyon, we passed another viewing area that was empty except for one family (we took turns photographing each other, so we could have something other than selfies to commemorate our trip!).
Even if you’re not interested in hauling the kiddos on a big hike, just walking a short distance will be all you need to get away from the crowds and have a much more intimate park experience.
Visit Grand Canyon in Winter
While it wasn’t in the cards for us on this particular trip, this is my all-time number 1 tip for avoiding national park crowds! Whenever possible, visit popular parks in winter. One of my favorite trips was a winter visit to the Badlands and Mt. Rushmore where, during a 3-day visit, I can count on both hands – both hands! – the number of other people I encountered. We had an equally successful wintertime trip to Yosemite:
All you really need to do is dress yourself and your kids for the cold, and you’ll be set. Layers to start the day, which can be easily peeled off as the day gets warmer, or when you hike yourselves into a sweat. It’s worth the extra cold-weather gear, trust me. Park views in winter are just as beautiful as they are in the summer – sometimes even more so when they’re covered in snow! – and you’re guaranteed a more intimate experience for your family.
Don’t overstuff your itinerary. Plan light days, so you can take your time and really enjoy your experience. Also, so you have a time buffer for extended breaks for the kids – or time to return to the hotel for a midday rest, if need be. We were lucky that Jack was happy to nap in the kid carrier, so we had a lot of flexibility to stay gone and hang out at the canyon.
But instead of packing in more hiking or more driving, we used that time to explore the trails at a more leisurely pace, stay at the viewing areas longer, and enjoy picnics between hikes. It gave us the opportunity to see some cool details, and notice things we wouldn’t have otherwise seen if we were rushing from one stop to the next – we came across some gorgeous blooms, a couple lizards, and even a snake!
Stay in Tusayan
Tusayan is the main hub for Grand Canyon south rim hotels and dining. Early on, I decided I wanted an “authentic” experience, so I went full snob and dismissed Tusayan. (I do that sometimes, and then totally get served.) But, because our constraints required some extra conveniences, camping or staying at some unique cutesy-fartsy place wasn’t in the cards for us. So, I reluctantly opted for the Red Feather Lodge in Tusayan for the ease it would provide. And it was wonderful.
Or, compare rates among other Tusayan hotels here:
Tusayan is great for south rim accommodation, decent food, and convenience. Sure, camping is great, as is more out-of-the-way lodging. But I’ll unashamedly admit that I’m a lazy mom (especially after 3 weeks of road-tripping). If you’re like me, and want your Grand Canyon trip with kids to be easy, Tusayan will deliver. Here’s a snapshot of what’s available in town:
Don’t Litter… or Feed the Wildlife!
There’s one thing that can ruin a great canyon view… seeing a snack wrapper on the path. Or, worse yet… watching as someone tosses their snack wrapper on the path (yes, I saw some jackass actually do this! But someone else got the pleasure of intervening before I could).
For the love… there are trash bins everywhere. How can it be so hard to throw garbage in them?! It’s something that should go without saying, but sadly, some people just suck.
And while we’re on the subject of things not to do… people should not be feeding the frikkin’ wildlife! Apparently, the many, many signs that say not to aren’t enough for some people not to.
At the visitor center, a female elk I’d seen in the trees eventually made its way to the overlook. We backed off to give her some room, but I watched as 2 parents giggled and took pictures as their daughter gave it a drink straight from her hydration pack. Okay, first of all, GROSS (and I say that as a wildlife biologist). Second, and most important, DANGEROUS (her parents should be slapped).
I didn’t intervene on this one. Yes, I snapped a pic, quickly and from a distance (it’s cropped to look closer). But a male elk was bugling in a nearby patch of trees, so we strolled Jack outta there pronto, and let park staff know so they could deal with it.
Okay, rant PSA over. Here’s how we broke up our activities to get the most of our 3(ish) days:
Kid-Friendly Grand Canyon Itinerary: 3 Days
Grand Canyon Itinerary: Day 1
Your Grand Canyon family vacation itinerary starts with an afternoon arrival on day 1. To get the best wow-factor that afternoon/evening, this is where I suggest a helicopter tour.
Papillon Helicopter Tour
It’ll be a quick, albeit expensive (~$250), 30-minute ride. But it’s The. Best. way to use your first evening at the park after a long drive/flight in. It takes 10 minutes to get to the airport from Tusayan.
We arrived at Papillon headquarters at 4:30pm, took off at 5, and landed at 5:30. After chatting with the pilot and snapping a few pics, we were out by 6pm with plenty of time to have a leisurely meal before prepping for the next day and hitting the sack.
Dinner at Big E Steakhouse and Saloon
There are about a dozen eateries to choose from in Tusayan, from fast food to buffets to full-service restaurants. Will any of them have the best food you ever ate? Nah. Will any of them be just fine and hella convenient? Yep!
Our first meal was at Big E Steakhouse and Saloon, which was recommended by our helicopter pilot. Legit stuffed wonton app, filling salads, well-cooked steaks, kid-friendly, and… wait for it… super convenient. A solid choice for our first meal.
Grand Canyon Itinerary: Day 2
Breakfast at RP’s Stage Shop
Grab a quick 30-minute breakfast at RP’s Stage Stop (show them your Red Feather Lodge room key for a discount!). It has friendly folks, good coffee, and filling breakfast sandwiches. Best part? They do boxed lunches!
So, we got a couple more sammies to take with us. They were literally huge and jam packed with all the good stuff. I highly recommend getting RP’s to pack up a lunch for you if, like me, you don’t want the added hassle of doing it on your own.
Desert View Watchtower
Enter the park through the south rim main entrance and head east (i.e. turn right). Take Desert View Drive all the way to the park’s east entrance – a 26-mile, 45 minute drive. The Desert View Watchtower is there, where you’ll find one of the visitor centers (much less crowded than the main visitors center).
Our first look at the Grand Canyon from the ground was spectacular – yours will be, too. We spent 30 minutes checking out the tower’s kiva room and various viewpoints outside. We opted out of hauling Jack up the 85 watchtower steps for a view from the top, but older kids would get a kick out of climbing up there.
If you want to get your education on, there are cultural demonstrators at Desert View that lead a variety of talks and activities – learn more about the program here.
Navajo and Lipan Overlooks
After a half hour at Desert View, head west and pull off at two overlooks, first Navajo Point and then Lipan Point, to get a couple more perspectives. Both will be equally grand (so if you want/need to skip one for the sake of time, you won’t miss too much).
Navajo Point offers a great view of the Desert View Watchtower from a distance, and spectacular views of the canyon (though no view will be unspectacular). Same goes for Lipan. The drive plus both stops will take another 30-45 minutes, depending on how long you spend taking it all in. Then, back in the car and on to the Tusayan Ruins.
Hike 1: Tusayan Ruins
Spend the next half-hour hiking (more like walking, ‘cause you certainly won’t be breaking a sweat) the remains of this small Pueblo village, including storage and living quarters, gathering spots for ceremonial rituals, and a farming site. Spend another half-hour at the small museum on site that displays archaeological artifacts excavated from the ruins almost a hundred years ago.
At just a couple hundred meters, the trail is stroller-friendly and an easy walk. It’s short enough that young kids, from toddlers on up, could even try walking this trail on their own. No need to hold the kiddos too tight, since this site isn’t along the canyon rim. Still, keep an eye out so they don’t use the ruins as their own personal jungle gym!
You can do a self-guided tour of the trail and museum, or a guided tour (check here for times) if you want to hear the history of the site from an expert.
After leaving the ruins, I highly recommend hitting up the Moran overlook. We spent a good 30 minutes exploring this one. Not only is it a great view, but Jack was particularly fascinated by this one tree at the overlook. It was super cute seeing him study the needles, and marvel at a lizard on the bark, so I let him take all the time he wanted.
We joined him in taking in some of the canyon’s smaller details, like this lone cactus shooting up from a small rocky outcropping! We’re an easily amused bunch, I guess, because we couldn’t get enough pics of it, and couldn’t stop giggling about it. It looked almost defiant as it stood, straight and tall, among the rest of the scrub.
Hike 2: Trail to Shoshone Point
After Moran, head further west to reach the starting point of your next hike of the day. The trailhead for Shoshone Point isn’t marked, so most people will drive right by it. Meaning, you’ll have the 1.5-mile roundtrip walk, and expansive canyon views, virtually to yourselves.
Drive west from Moran Point for about 20 minutes, and park in the unmarked dirt lot on your left near coordinates 36.0347 and -112.0694 (if you reach Yaki Point Road, you’ve gone too far – backtrack 1.2 miles and look on your right for the dirt lot). Cross the street for the trailhead.
You’ll spend 15-45 minutes walking the ¾ mile to the canyon rim, depending on your or your kid’s pace. The wide trail will easily accommodate a stroller. It winds through a forest before reaching the canyon rim, so it’s also safe to cut the youngins loose during the hike to expend a little energy, if need be.
Picnic Lunch at Shoshone Point
Make the most of your time at Shoshone, and pull out the boxed lunches you got from RP’s that morning. There are picnic tables and a shaded pavilion in a large, open area by the rim (no barriers, though, so stay with the kids)! Enjoy your lunch against the most picturesque backdrop you will ever see at any al fresco dining experience you’ll ever have for the rest of your life (in my oh-so humble opinion).
We spent an hour here before taking a leisurely half hour stroll back to the car. All-in-all, our Shoshone stop – with lunch – took 2 hours.
Activity On Your Own
If you only have time for a Grand Canyon 2-day itinerary, this is a good time to schedule an evening helicopter tour, if you didn’t make it the night before. The first part of the day will be relatively easy, so you won’t be too exhausted to enjoy a helo tour that evening. You’ve even got time to return to the hotel to relax, shower and freshen up – or put the kids down for a nap – before heading out for the tour.
Alternatively, you can hit a few more overlooks or another quick hike.
Dinner at Plaza Bonita
Again, nothing gourmet, but pretty solid Mexican food (these guys also give a discount for Red Feather Lodge guests!). Jack gobbled up his rice and black beans, I had some chile relleno, and Steev enjoyed some enchiladas. Hardy and filling after the day. And the restaurant is cute, colorful and festive.
All-in-all, a good dining experience, and walkable from the hotel (side note: all Tusayan restaurants are walkable from all Tusayan lodging).
Grand Canyon Itinerary: Day 3
Breakfast at RP’s Stage Shop
If the breakfast and lunch plan from the day before went well (it will), do it again (we did). So, a 30-minute breakfast at RP’s, and boxed lunches to go.
Then, plan on a 30-minute drive to get to the South Kaibab trailhead.
South Kaibab Trail to Ooh Aah Point
This is a steep 1.8 mile roundtrip trail with an elevation change of ~700 feet, uneven terrain, and a ton of switchbacks. Not at all stroller friendly, so you’ll need a good kid carrier to tackle it.
Getting down to Ooh Aah Point is easy enough, but you’ll definitely feel the strain on the hike back up – especially hauling a kid on your back (it took us twice the time to hike back out as it did to hike in). But the crowd-free view was absolutely worth it.
(Note that there’s nowhere for kids to roam around at the point – as in, leave them in the carrier, or only take them out if you’re going to hold them.)
Incorporate some extra time for this one – the hike to and from Ooh Aah Point took us 3 hours. We spent one lengthy stop at the point taking in the view, snapping several pics, and recharging with water and snacks. Jack was content there, eating and drinking in his carrier, before we saddled him up for the hike out. We then took several short water breaks on the way back up.
If you don’t think you’re up for this hike, I still recommend stopping at the trailhead! There is a viewpoint below the main overlook up at the canyon rim, if you’re willing to walk the first few hundred feet of the trail. It will be much less crowded than the overlook up top, and offer a more intimate viewing experience (maybe just remember to remove your GoPro from your cap so you don’t look like a total dork in your selfie).
Picnic Lunch at South Kaibab Trailhead
Back up at the trailhead, there’s plenty of room to hang out for 30-45 minutes and have those sammies you got in the morning. I recommend lunching on a patch of ground by the barns! There are several near the parking area where you can find mules to love on for a while. The kids will get a kick out of it.
Then, take the 15-minute drive to the main visitor center.
Grand Canyon Visitor Center and Mathers Point
Up to this point, I’ve recommended visiting areas east of the south rim entrance in order to avoid crowds. But, though the main visitor center and Mathers Point is west of the entrance, we felt like we really couldn’t leave without stopping by. We’re (mostly) glad we did.
It’s obvious why they decided to build the main visitor center there, and make this overlook accessible to people of all ages and abilities. It is admittedly BEAUTIFUL. As expected, though, it is crazy-crowded (the pic doesn’t show the half of it)!
You could make a quick stop for the views, or stay for hours. The visitor center is impressive and has dozens of displays and educational materials to get lost in. Though there’s nothing explicitly baby- or toddler-friendly, it does offer a lot of programs that are kid- and family-friendly. There are daily “Critter Chats,” Junior Ranger programs, and guided “star walks” at night. See times for Grand Canyon ranger programs here, calendar of events here, and 2019 centennial events here.
We stayed for about an hour before the crowds got to me, enjoying the overlook and watching an elk (from a safe distance) that ventured near the viewing area, then took the 20-minute drive back to Tusayan.
Activity On Your Own
This is your opportunity to enjoy the visitor center for a while longer and participate in one of their programs (their geology and critter programs typically run in the afternoon), or venture out for another short hike (they’ll have plenty of suggestions for you). We opted out because Jack was a little antsy after hours in the kid carrier, and we were spent after the hike to Ooh Aah Point! We returned to shower and pack up before dinner, so we could head out first thing the next morning.
Dinner at Yippee-ei-o! Steakhouse
A decent meal for our last night at the canyon. More steaks, obviously, and the restaurant was just… fun. With its faux cow-skin table cloths and western-style photo prop with head cutouts, I’d say the place was very “cowboy kitsch” (thanks, HGTV, for instilling in me such a keen sense of design styles)!
And that’s that! We spent the rest of the evening relaxing and packing up, and bounced first thing the next morning to continue our cross-country drive. Here’s a handy summary of our Grand Canyon road trip itinerary:
South Rim Grand Canyon Itinerary: 3 Days At-a-Glance
Our Grand Canyon trip itinerary was such a huge success, I feel like everyone taking a baby to the park should print and copy it, step-by-step! (For a Grand Canyon 2-day itinerary, take our first day’s evening helicopter tour and squeeze it into one of the other 2 days.) Here’s a visual of the stops we made, in a handy clickable, movable, zoom-able map (remember, we’re starting at the easternmost point!). Enjoy your trip!
Breakfast at RP’s Stage Stop, and boxed lunches to go – 30 minutes
Drive to Desert View – 45 minutes
Desert View Watchtower – 30 minutes (longer if you stay to see a cultural demonstrator)
Navajo and Lipan Overlooks – 30-45 minutes, including driving time
Hike 1: Tusayan Ruins and Museum – 1 hour
Hike 2: Trail to Shoshone Point (including picnic lunch at the rim) – 2 hours
Activity on Your Own – 1-2 hours (recommend helicopter tour if it didn’t happen the day before)
Dinner at Plaza Bonita
Breakfast at RP’s, and boxed lunches to go – 30 minutes
Drive to South Kaibab Trailhead – 30 minutes
Hike 3: South Kaibab Trail to Ooh Aah Point – 3 hours, including several stops to rest
Picnic Lunch (and mule-petting!) at S. Kaibab Trailhead – 30 minutes
Tour the Main Visitor Center – 1 hour, including driving time
Mathers Point Overlook – 30 minutes
Activity on Your Own – 1-2 hours (recommend a visitor center program, another hike, or rest at the hotel… the hike to Ooh Aah Point is tiring!)
Dinner at Yippee-ei-o! Steakhouse
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