Go Guide: 3 Days, 3 Generations in the Grand Canyon
By KEEN Fan Felicia Wong
My favorite childhood memories are from the times I spent outdoors — playing in the woods of the nature preserve near my house after school, and the very special road trips that we’d take as a family, every few years, to visit a national park. As a nature lover, I’ve always felt a combination of wonder, awe, inspiration, peace, contentment, and gratitude when outdoors. To this day, I prefer to be outside as often as possible.
When reflecting on my 40th birthday, I wanted to celebrate somewhere special with my family, my brother’s family, and my parents. We collectively drove over 1,500 miles to meet up at the Grand Canyon South Rim for a long weekend, where we glamped, roasted marshmallows, hiked together, and "oohed" and "aahed" at the magnificent views.
There were ten of us – 6 adults including 2 retirees (educator, engineer) and 4 physicians, and 4 kids (ages 12, 7, 6 and 4). If we can prioritize outdoor adventure despite our lack of any special athletic or wilderness background, and an age span of nearly 7 decades, anyone can do it! In this post, I’ll share some highlights from our trip, and tips that will hopefully encourage more diversity in adventure, and multigenerational travel!
Tip 1: Prioritize one or two "must sees" or "must dos" per day.
Having planned and taken several trips with our young boys and my parents, extended family, and friends — I’ve learned that it is not worth attempting to adhere to a strict schedule when traveling with a large and diverse group. Instead, I plan for 1 or 2 “must dos” per day, with some additional “nice to see” stops/activities in case there is more time, or as backup options in case of unforeseen cancellations or closures. This way, we’re happy about whatever we’re able to see and do, rather than worrying about what we might be missing.
Day 1: Grand Canyon Visitor Center and Mather’s Point
We met up at the Grand Canyon South Rim Visitor Center where we watched two informative movies about the history and geology of the Grand Canyon, the kids picked up their junior ranger books, and we got more information about the park. We then took a short walk to Mather’s Point, where we took in our first views of the majestic canyon.
We left the park with a couple of hours of sunlight remaining, so that we could enjoy our time glamping that evening at Under Canvas Grand Canyon.
Day 2: Hermit Road Shuttle Bus Route and Viewpoints
We had breakfast at our campsite, and picked up box lunches to go. We returned to the Grand Canyon in the late morning, and rode the free park red shuttle bus route (Hermit Road). We got off at several scenic stops along the way, and enjoyed our picnic lunch at Powell Point.
We made sure to catch the return shuttle with enough time to get back to our car by 4 p.m., so that we could drive to the Shoshone Point parking lot by 4:30 p.m., and have time to hike one mile in to watch the sunset (around 6 p.m.).
Tip 2: When visiting a popular park, consider trying at least one thing off the beaten path.
Viewing the sunset at Shoshone Point was my favorite part of this trip. Hopi and Mojave points were highly recommended as beautiful spots for watching the sunset from both friends and park rangers. I had done some research on my own, and wanted something slightly off the beaten path for sunset. Unlike the other spots which were accessible by the park shuttle, Shoshone Point requires that you drive to a small parking lot, hike approximately one mile to a rocky ledge, and then hike back in the dark to your car after the sunset. We went prepared with layers, headlamps, flashlights and glowsticks to more easily see the kids. It was definitely worth the effort — we saw several elk on our hike through the forest, and the sunset and moonrise was one of the most beautiful sights I’ve seen in my life.
Day 3: Sunrise and Bright Angel Trail
Tip 3: Try to watch both the Sunrise and Sunset when you are at the Grand Canyon, but don’t make anyone who isn’t feeling it wake up for the sunrise.
Sunrise in mid October was at a reasonable time around 6:30 a.m. However, it’s recommended to be outside when it’s still dark, and the temperature that morning was close to freezing. Rather than try to wake up my boys or husband, I quietly snuck out of the room and walked to the rim from the Kachina Lodge. I strolled slowly along the rim, and appreciated the warm sun rays illuminating the canyon.
By the time I returned to our hotel, the rest of the family had woken up. We wanted to do one more hike before parting ways, and heading home to Southern California and Phoenix. We chose to hike part of the Bright Angel Trail, which starts at the village. The kids brought their completed junior ranger books to Kolb Studio where they took their oath to appreciate, respect and protect national park areas, and received their badges. Another reason why we chose this hike was because there was ice cream at the end!
Tip 4: Safe and comfortable pacing = Happy hikers of all ages/skills.
I carefully consider the age, ability, and interests of each participant when planning the pace and activities we do. I’m fortunate that everyone in my family is healthy, active, and enthusiastic, but it’s very important to prioritize safety over photos when it comes to hiking with younger ones, and take many breaks for the elders.
There are steep drops at the Grand Canyon, and there are tourists who die of accidental falls every year. We knew we would have to keep a very close eye on our children, and hold their hands throughout the hike. We never planned to hike the entire trail. Rather, we only hiked down for an hour, knowing that it would probably take twice as long to hike back up. It wasn’t about the destination, but the journey of doing this hike together as a family.
I hope you found our trip report and tips helpful! See you out there!!!