Seeing the Grand Canyon with kids makes for an adventuresome family vacation. Visiting the Grand Canyon is about much more than just looking at the landscape. From participating in ranger programs to going on a family bicycle ride, there are dozens of activities that kids of all ages will enjoy.
Any family visit should start at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center near Mather Point. Stroller and wheelchair rentals are available and the café is a good place to grab a quick breakfast or lunch. It is also an ideal spot to pick up a Junior Ranger booklet and start earning badges. Keep reading to learn more about the best kid and youth activities in Grand Canyon National Park.
Grand Canyon Junior Ranger Program
Grand Canyon park rangers offer a variety of ranger-led walks, talks and other programs throughout the year. One of these is the free Junior Ranger Program. Children ages four and older can pick up a Grand Canyon Junior Ranger booklet at any visitor center and complete activities to earn a certificate and badge. Note that the program is not just for kids—parents can also become certified Junior Rangers!
The kids ranger program schedule varies by the season and location, so check with the visitor center or website for current events. Ranger activity programs are available year-round at Phantom Ranch, Indian Garden and the South Rim. North Rim Junior Ranger Programs are only available in the summer. Some examples of junior activities include:
- Ranger-guided walks along the Rim Trail.
- A fossil discovery walk.
- Critter Chat, an educational program about Grand Canyon wildlife.
- Canyon Tales storytelling time.
- History walk.
- Geology talk or walk at the Yavapai Geology Museum.
- California condor talk.
- Evening Ranger Rendezvous at the Mather Amphitheater.
- “Ask a Park Ranger” discussion groups.
Junior Ranger Badges
Naturally, the best part of participating in the Junior Ranger Program is enjoying all of the fun activities. But if your child completes four activities for their age group, he or she can bring their completed booklet back to any Grand Canyon visitor center and receive a Junior Ranger badge and certificate.
If you have time to visit the South Rim and the North Rim, you can receive Junior Ranger badges at each location. In addition, kids who hike or ride a mule to Phantom Ranch Grand Canyon can earn a special Phantom Ranch badge, certificate and patch. Simply pick up the Phantom Ranch Junior Ranger booklet from the ranger station, canteen or campground and follow the instructions. Note that kids must be nine years old and 57” tall for most mule rides. They should also not be afraid of heights or large animals.
Hiking the Grand Canyon with Kids
The best place for hiking the Grand Canyon with kids is along the 13-mile Rim Trail because it is easy on little legs. It is paved and mostly flat, making it suitable for strollers. There are many shuttle bus stops along the trail, so you can explore different sections of it without having to walk long distances with your children.
Another trail that families attempt is the Bright Angel Trail. It is not recommended for families with small children, as portions of it are steep and exposed. Although the entire trail is 10 miles long, many adventurous families choose to only hike the first mile and a half. There is a rest house at that marker, with toilets and fresh water. Families can turn around at that point and hike back up to the rim.
If you and your children are physically fit and up for a six-mile challenge, continue on to the three-mile rest house. Going that far on the Bright Angel Trail means facing a 2,000 foot elevation change, which can be difficult on the way back up. Keep in mind that temperatures can fluctuate and get hotter the deeper you go into the Canyon.
Additionally, every Grand Canyon hike with kids can be as long or as short as they can handle. You could spend just five minutes wandering along a trail, or a few hours. Remember that coming back up takes a bit longer than going down, especially if your kids tire easily. It is especially important to pace yourselves in the summertime, when everyone is at higher risk of heat exhaustion and dehydration.
Other Grand Canyon Activities for Kids and Youth
During the summer months, stop by the Hopi House and catch a show by a traditional Navajo dance troupe. The Grand Canyon Visitor Center should have information about additional shows, performances and other kid-friendly educational activities happening that day. Be sure to walk through the Yavapai Geology Museum near the visitor center for exhibits that teach about the Canyon’s geological history.
Nothing can beat seeing the Grand Canyon with kids while you zoom across the sky. If you have the budget and the time, older kids will love taking a helicopter tour over the canyon. Daredevils may enjoy ziplining or going on a gentle rafting trip along the Colorado River. Check with river tour companies to learn about rafting trips suitable for families.
Another great way to make memories with the family is to bike around the Canyon. Bike rentals are available at Bright Angel Bicycles and Café. Bicycles are permitted on all roads unless otherwise posted. Bikes are not allowed on trails except for the Bridle and Arizona trails.
Traveling to the Grand Canyon with your kids is perhaps the most fun when you climb aboard the Grand Canyon Railway in Williams, AZ. The train offers six classes of service, from a basic Pullman car to a luxury parlor experience with free snacks. Live singing and other entertainment keeps kids amused on the two-hour ride, and the journey may even include a fake train robbery.