I am a huge fan of the National Parks. As a matter of fact my goal is to visit every single National Park with my children. The Grand Canyon is gorgeous and the North Rim is uncrowded which really adds to my personal enjoyment. The problem- I have a pretty big fear of falling and pretty much anything worth doing at the Grand Canyon involves standing near the edge of a cliff!
I visited the North Rim with my 8-year-old twins who are experienced hikers and really couldn't relax while I was there. I read my kids the riot act and was quite graphic with them about how if they got too close to the edge and fell, they would be dead so they really did do a great job of placating my neuroses and staying away from the edge but it was incredibly nerve wracking watching other people stand on the edge in order to get good pictures. People would climb on tiny slivers of rock or hang half of the body over railings without any regard for their safety. I was so freaked out. I really don't want to see other people die! Luckily, nobody plunged to their death while I was watching but I think they may have taken a couple years off my life! I don't think I could have visited the Grand Canyon with young children. If you do, please keep a very close watch on them.
The Junior Ranger Program at the North Rim is different from the South Rim so definitely have your kids participate. In order to get their badge the kids need to attend a ranger program. I recommend the Condor Talk. It was very interesting and the ranger did a good job of getting the kids involved. Plus it is on the patio of the Grand Canyon Lodge which has such incredible views. Definitely take the time to enjoy a drink on the patio. You can grab a drink from the saloon and just bring out back. It is THE place to be at sunset.
The other reason why I give North Rim four stars instead of five is because there isn't a ton to do with kids since hiking to the bottom of the canyon is pretty unrealistic. We hiked the Bright Angel Trail and Point Imperial. Both offer great (and differing) views of the canyon but really, there are only so many hikes you can do at the top edge of the canyon before you start craving something different. The mule ride would have been fun to do but since our trip was last minute, we didn't have the chance to reserve a trip. On the way out of the park, we did see a couple bison which was a nice treat. I had no idea they even had bison at the Grand Canyon. It certain added to All-American majesty of the place.
Bottom line: Don't get me wrong. The Grand Canyon is beautiful and worthy of a visit. It just isn't my favorite National Park for families. My fear of falling definitely influences my opinion of the place. I do really want to go back when my kids are teenagers and raft the Grand Canyon. I will feel much safer down at the bottom.
We stayed 2 nights at the North Rim campground (see separate review) while on our 5 week road trip this summer. We had been to the South Rim 7 years ago and decided that it was definitely worth visiting again. We had never visited the North Rim so thought that we would do that as well.
We hiked part of the Rim Trasept trail that goes from the campground to the lodge. It was absolutely beautiful. It was right on the rim and we only passed one other family on our hike. We visited the lodge which is something that should not be missed. The views from the back porch are breathtaking. We attended several Ranger programs while we were here: 2 at the lodge and one at the campground. They were fun and informative programs.
My kids also participated in the Junior Ranger program. There is a different booklet for the North Rim and a different patch so the kids were able to earn a different patch here then on the South Rim. That is important for patch collectors :). They also had a Brighty program which was for kids 3 and under. It is named in honor of a famous donkey. The Brighty activity was a few stamps on a page and the kids could earn a Brighty button. My 21 month old was thrilled.
We did several of the scenic drives and trails. I would recommend not missing a thing. This was so relaxing and fun and I highly recommend a visit to the North Rim. Our only regret was that we didn't plan to stay longer.
When planning our cross-country road trip, I knew that the Grand Canyon was a "must see", but where should we visit- the North Rim or the South Rim? I had visited the South Rim as a young adult years ago and found it to be beautiful and breathtaking- but it was very crowded even in late September, so I knew that during the summer months the crowds would really be super large. So we decided to make our Grand Canyon adventure on the North Rim- and I was so glad that we did!
There are all kinds of thing for families to do all visiting the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. #1-the hiking trails. We started by hiking the Bright Angel Trail offering tremendous views, but it can be a little challenging for someone who is afraid of heights, and I would not recommend it for young children. If you stay on the trail itself, it's a little less scary. But I noticed that most of the tourists are also scrambling over the rocks to get unique views of the canyon. (And my kids though this would be cool to do too- much to my dismay!) My family and I also hiked part of the rim Transept Trail which runs between the Grand Canyon Campground in the Grand Canyon Lodge.
Also not to be missed is lunch at the Grand Canyon Lodge dining room located right in the lobby of the Lodge. The dining room offers tremendous of the canyon, and we felt that the lunch prices were pretty reasonable, and the food was good (see separate review).
You can sign up to take a mule ride either into the canyon (1/2 day) or along the rim. You can do this in advance online or you can do this by signing up at the mule trip desk located in the lobby of the Lodge. My family had signed up for one hour rim ride, but sadly the weather was not in our favor, and a big rainstorm with hail ended up canceling our ride.
A scenic drive up to Cape Royal and Imperial Point is also fantastic thing to do. From Cape Royal you'll have views all the way down to the Colorado River- the original "architect" of the Grand Canyon.
Another thing to do with families is to attend the Grand Canyon Cookout experience at the campground (see separate review).
Accommodations are limited within the park to either the Grand Canyon Lodge which is really a collection of cabins nestled around the main lodge building, or the North Rim campground which offers inexpensive RV and tent sites located right on the rim. We elected to camp- and it was a fantastic experience!
My family loved our day at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. I can understand why Teddy Roosevelt once said that the "Grand Canyon is a sighte that every American should see".