Grand Canyon Rim to Rim with kids: Exploring the South Rim
Our 4,750 mile road trip route for our Utah National Parks and Grand Canyon Adventure is detailed here if you’d like to see our full itinerary.
We Made It!
Our three day Grand Canyon Rim to Rim with kids backpacking hike was complete and we were exhausted but also really happy as we hoisted up our packs and headed over to the Grand Canyon Shuttle to catch a ride to Yavapai Lodge where we had booked a room for two nights. However, Dave’s adventure was only half way finished as he would be hiking rim to rim back to the North Rim early the next morning. His plan was to wake up at 4 AM and catch the 4:30 hiker express shuttle to the South Kaibab Trail Head to hike to Phantom Ranch. He would take a short break at the Phantom Ranch canteen and then hike up the North Kaibab Trail where our car was parked. Since we had planned to be hiking out of the canyon this way we already had a reservation at the Jacob Lake Inn so he would check in there to rest before driving to get us the next morning. He is a hiking beast! I know I was too tired to even think of attempting it.
After checking in to the lodge and dropping off our gear in the room, we walked over to the Yavapai Lodge Cafe inside the hotel. Set up like a cafeteria, the prices were reasonable and we were able to each pick whatever we wanted. We filled up on pizza, burgers and salads and Dave and I were happy to each buy a beer to go with our food. No other beer has ever tasted as good! Once full, we walked to the Market Plaza grocery located across the parking lot to grab breakfast for Dave to eat the next morning before his hike and snacks to eat during it. We also bought fruit, laundry detergent, toiletries and foot lotion for our tired feet plus ointment for the burn like rash that had developed on the back of Maya and Garrett’s poor legs due to the sun and heat. We walked back to the hotel and took turns taking showers. We were absolutely filthy with trail dust so the shower was especially wonderful. This enhanced appreciation for everyday things is one of the very best side effect of hiking! We settled into bed and fell asleep pretty quickly.
I woke up with Dave early the next morning ( at 4 AM!) to get him on his way. We filled a small pack for him with water, Gatorade powder, a first aid kit and snacks to take for his hike. I was worried for him as he set off in the dark to catch the early morning shuttle to the trail but he was confident and excited. Kissing him goodbye I made him promise to call me from Phantom Ranch since I would be worried until I heard from him.
Eventually I fell back asleep and woke up a couple of hours later from Dave calling from Phantom Ranch. He was tired but having a great time. Because there is no cell service in the canyon, we wouldn’t be able to hear from him until he reached the North Rim. We all got on the phone and wished him good luck. After eating fruit and coffeecake for breakfast, we walked the half mile over to the laundry to clean our dingy clothes and Lord did they need it! Once the clothes were finished drying we had the whole day to explore the South Rim.
The South Rim has a very convenient Shuttle Service which allowed us to get anywhere. Good thing, since our car was on the North Rim! Our first stop was the Visitor Center which is beautiful! Ecologically designed, the building uses less energy and even without air conditioning was pleasant and cool. We spent an hour or so watching the park video, looking at the topographical map and exploring the exhibits. Maybe I was just emotional from the excitement of the previous day but I teared up watching the park video which may be the best I’ve ever seen at a National Park.
Grand Canyon Visitor Center
From the Visitor Center we took our time as we walked about 2.5 miles of the Rim Trail to the Bright Angel Lodge. The trail is flat and paved throughout and several people were out walking. The South Rim views of the canyon on the bright sunny day were awe-inspiring. When we reached the lodge we decided to eat lunch at the Bright Angel Restaurant and all enjoyed our meals. The South Rim has a completely different feel than the North Rim and I am glad we got to experience both. First of all there are many more people on the South Rim which can be a bad thing but the extra people allowed for increased services like a grocery store, various restaurant choices and a shuttle. I honestly like them both equally but the two rims feel almost like two totally different parks.
After eating, we stopped at the lodge gift shop for souvenirs. At most destinations, the only souvenirs I buy is a bumper sticker for the car and a magnet for the fridge. I made an exception for the Grand Canyon since the kids all really wanted T-shirts so they each picked one from the large selection. I also purchased a book, Canyon Crossing, which had several true accounts of Grand Canyon adventures for Dave. I highly recommend Canyon Crossing if you are thinking about hiking the Grand Canyon as it will surely inspire you!
There was a Native American presentation at the Hopi House that we really enjoyed and spent some time watching before walking back to the hotel. It was late afternoon by this time and we finally heard from Dave. He had made it to the North Rim. Amazing! We were all so proud of him. He was staying the night on the North Rim at Jacob Lake Inn so he could get some rest and would drive to come pick us up early the next morning. We ate a light dinner at the Yavapai Cafeteria and went to bed early since we were still a little tired from the day before.
The next morning we woke up early and packed up before walking to the Canyon Marketplace for breakfast. There is a small counter there which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner that has great food and we ate outside the store at a picnic table. We were just finishing up when we saw our car drive by so we ran back to the lodge where Dave had arrived. We all were so happy to see him and we crowded around him wanting to hear all about his hike.
Eventually, after hearing all about Dave’s hike the day before, we were ready to leave the Grand Canyon so we loaded up the car and drove off making a final stop at Desert View Watchtower before leaving the park. While we were excited to be heading to Bryce Canyon, we were nostalgic about leaving as it had been an amazing trip for all of us. Hiking the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim with kids was a trip we will never forget. We definitely all plan to go back someday.