The Grand Canyon-South Rim
We had wanted to go to the Grand Canyon since we had come to Arizona, but the thought of a HUGE hole with three little kids sort of made us nervous.
Actually, it made us incredibly nervous.
After many people had told us their stories of going to the “BIG HOLE” and seeing that there were no fences to keep you from falling in, we decided not to go for a very long time. But, after my sickness, I decided we really needed to get out of the valley for once and for all.
Of course, we were a little sidelined by the government shut down and then a sick child. But, the government shut down does not actually cause the Grand Canyon to close. The state of Arizona takes over the running of the Grand Canyon when the federal government is not running it. In fact, although the federal government reopened the day we went, we ended up getting into the Grand Canyon for free. Yay for us! Also, there is a program that fourth graders ALSO can get into the National Parks for free!
But anyhow, back to actually going to the Grand Canyon. What you need to know-The North Rim is closed during the winter. The South Rim is mostly open during the winter, but there are areas that may be closed during the winter due to snow. This is just the National Park. Much of the land is part of Native American land, and is not part of the National Park. So, if you want access to the Grand Canyon, there are different places you can pay but it is generally more expensive than the National Park. The views you get are breathtaking and the culture and experience is amazing however.
We took the route more traveled.
The Grand Canyon Visitor Center
Of Course, because of the Government shut down, this was shut down. So, it wasn’t so inviting. This Visitor center was actually a few miles from the gate where we would have paid to enter the park. It was a pretty large Visitor center area where there would have been many shops. At the visitor center were also restrooms, a ton of maps and guides that didn’t make sense (more on that later), a bike rental shop, a small restaurant that was open and shuttle buses. A huge parking lot was available for parking as well.
We received two maps for the Grand Canyon. One was a large map that was for the entire Grand Canyon, which as you may guess, is grand. The other was considered a “pocket map” of the South Rim Services guide.
The pocket map had a lot of things listed to do, but because of the government shut down just the basics were open (i.e. you could see the big hole and use the bathroom).
At The Grand Canyon South Rim, there were tons of lodges, studios, ampitheaters, museums and more. However, we were doing a down and back in one. We decided we really wanted to focus on seeing the canyon itself so we would focus on just that.
We found Mather Point after much trial and error by really following other lost souls around the Visitors center. There was only one small sign that pointed towards it.
Mather Point Sign
I don’t know if there was just a small sign because of the shutdown or because it is not usually well signed.
The Google Map gives you a better idea on how to get to the the Mather Point than the pocket map the National Park Service gives you. There is either a paved trail that you can take from the Visitor Center or you can cut through the Shuttle Bus Parking lot. Shuttle Buses also can take you to the other points of interest throughout the parks.
About Stephen Mather
Not all of the Rim Trail had fence around it, so make sure you have a good hold on your litle ones. The portion we walked on was paved, so it was fine for wheelchairs and strollers. However, once you get closer to the canyon there are stairs. You can still get a nice view of the canyon without going down the stairs.
The day we went was not very busy, a you can tell. I expect that this area could get very, very busy! You can see the nice fences all around! Very sturdy fences!
A Great look at the snow and trees facing north in the Grand Canyon. I’m so glad we went at this time of year. Everyone was telling me how beautiful it was, and it truly was. How do the trees grow like this?
The beautiful look towards the north and south and all over the canyon and all the beautiful colors. It is further than you can expect. We saw some people hiking down and realized how small they actually were! The colors and changes were truly impressive.
I was very happy we went when we did. The parking lot is huge, but I expect that at certain times of year the Grand Canyon gets extremely busy and full. The South Rim is very popular, especially Mather Point since its location is so close to the visitor center. However, if you have a little one that you are afraid that will get too close to the edge, this is a perfect place to go. Not all the walkways are fenced, so make sure they do not run too far ahead. Strollers can cause a back up as there isn’t really a lot of place to park it right near the actual “Mather Point”, so I recommend a carrier if possible. The parking lot is ginormous, so that will most likely be your furthest walk.
Your trip to the Grand Canyon from Surprise is about 3 and a half hours with no traffic, but 1-17 often backs right past Anthem. Close to Grand Canyon (South Ridge) is Tusayan, which had a few restaurants, gas stations, fast food and hotels. Flagstaff or Williams are your next options for food and fuel, so plan your trip accordingly! I always bring snacks!
I definitely want to go back up to the Grand Canyon and check out all the museums again, but I think it will be when the kids are older and not a down and back trip. It took the wind out of my hubby and I! We were lucky that the weather and traffic agreed with us.
The Grand Canyon South Rim
Rt 64 Arizona