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Grand Canyon In One Day

My dad gave me one tip for our visit to the Grand Canyon, ‘don’t bother waking up early to drive up there for sunrise. You’ll have great views all day and you won’t be in a bad mood’. He was absolutely right, in fact if we’d departed the motel before 6am, there’s a chance we would have been greeted by clouds and rain up at the top. The Grand Canyon is beautiful any time of day. My one regret is that for the second time, I didn’t get the chance to do the Bright Angel Trail. 30 years ago we didn’t attempt it as my little sister was too small.  This time, Miss Mayhem was a bit too young, although I wish we had tried!

Grand Canyon National Park operates 4 different shuttle bus routes at the South Rim.  These are really useful, especially when parking is limited.  If you are staying in Tusuyan during peak season, you may even want to leave your car there and hop on the shuttle bus up to the Grand  Canyon Visitor Centre, to avoid the stress of finding a parking spot.

Where did we stay?

Our Arizona roadtrip was all booked relatively last-minute. Which meant there were no reasonably priced rooms remaining at the Grand Canyon Village. Instead, we stayed in the village of Tusayan, a 20 minute drive away, which has plentiful lodgings and restaurants. I chose the Red Feather Lodge which was clean, comfy and decently priced. We drove up to the Grand Canyon from super Sedona, which took about 2 hours.

How to plan your time at the Grand Canyon

This is very personal, depending on your interest, time of year and crowd levels.  I could have easily spent another day/half day at the Grand Canyon, hiking the Bright Angel or doing the mule trip (Miss Mayhem was too young for this). However, our itinerary was pretty tight as we had to head off to Page on the Sunday.

We were visiting on a Saturday in October, so whilst it wasn’t school holidays, there were still plenty of people around.  After checking in to our motel in Tusayan, we popped into the Nat Geo IMAC center and bought our Grand Canyon pass. I decided against spending the $ for the movie as we could see it for ourselves just up the road.

We arrived at the South Rim Grand Canyon Visitor Centre area at 4pm but couldn’t find a place to park.  Instead, we set off on the Desert Drive which leads towards the Eastern entry point to the park. The drive gives beautiful views and there are several places to pull over and admire the view. The weather was quite cold outside so we were happy to be toasty inside the car. We eventually parked up at the Desert View and walked to the Watchtower. This is an amazing place for photos as you can get a good glance at the Colorado River.

The next day we were parked up at the Visitor Center by 8.50am. There were still some spaces left but not many. Our first port of call was the magnificent Mather Point, a large viewing platform. We then went inside the Visitor Centre and watched a short clip on the history of the Canyon.

We decided to spend the morning walking as much of the Rim Trail as we could. This is a relatively flat trail that you could easily do with a stroller, toddler etc.  It takes about 20 minutes to walk to the Yavapai Point and Geology Museum from Mather Point. This is an interesting, small museum where you can learn about how the Grand Canyon is formed.  It’s mind boggling to think how long ago the canyon was formed and how the Colorado River played a major part in forming it.

From the Geology Museum, we walked ‘The Trail Of Time’ towards the Grand Canyon Village. It took about 45 minutes, with plenty of stops along the way for photos, moaning etc.  We then had a wander around the village but decided against eating there and getting on our way to Page.

Where to eat at the Grand Canyon?

We had all our meals in Tusayan.  Dinner at Wendy’s (bleurgh). Then breakfast at RP’s Stage Stop (excellent).  Customers at he latter get a 10% discount if you are staying at the Red Feather Lodge.

Tips For The Grand Canyon

  • Check out the free daily ranger programs, including ones for children during the summer.
  • Grab a Junior Ranger guide book for the kids to get involved
  • Bring lots of water although there are several designated spots where you can refill using natural spring water.
  • Whatever the season, bring lots of layers
  • Arrive early in the day to bag a parking space.
  • Book far in advance if you want to secure lodging at the Grand Canyon Village

From My Fellow Bloggers






  • Clare (Suitcases and Sandcastles)


    Good tips, Nicola! Your dad’s advice made me laugh. I’m not normally an early morning person but I think we camped in the back of our car when we went to the Grand Canyon so that we could see it at dawn. Wish I’d had time to hike there too. Thanks for sharing on #farawayfiles

  • Lauren (Where the Wild Kids Wander)


    The Grand Canyon is on our list!! Hopefully we’ll get there soon. Thanks for sharing some good ideas. #farawayfiles

  • Corey | Fifi + Hop


    This is a trip I can’t wait to do with my girls as I haven’t been since I was 10 – and remember being blown away! It’s such an insanely beautiful and unique part of the United States – the Grand Canyon and surrounding area. Good to know about your dad’s sunrise advice! Thanks for linking up with #farawayfiles

  • Megan - Truly Madly Kids


    Your Dad wasn’t wrong about the views! Some great tips and I agree about Wendy’s food!! #farawayfiles

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