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Hiking the Grand Canyon North Rim with Kids
Fast Facts




Hiking Destinations in Grand Canyon North Rim
Family Travel Tips
Hiking the Grand Canyon North Rim with Kids

Mt. Hayden, Grand Canyon North Rim


Photo by Mike Quinn, courtesy of National Park Service

By Hit the Trail

Grand Canyon's lightly visited North Rim evokes times past when kids could explore and discover natural wonders without a schedule, a gadget, or a fear in the world. Towering pines, quaking aspens and expansive alpine meadows, not to mention spectacular views of the inner gorge, set the backdrop. Ranger talks and nature's noise provide atmosphere. Ten trails of varying length and difficulty round out the experience and make the North Rim of the Grand Canyon a hiker's paradise and an ideal destination for families wanting to stretch their legs and enjoy nature at its best. One of few such destinations in our shrinking world!

Copyright © Denise Traver. All rights reserved. Denise Traver, author of the website Hit the Trail, has led more than 500 people on backcountry tours of the Grand Canyon first as backcountry ranger and later as a field instructor for the Grand Canyon Field Institute.
Getting Started
The North Rim of the Grand Canyon has ten trails of varying length and difficulty. Both should be considered when hiking with kids. There are no loop trails on the North Rim; you will be hiking on the same trail on the way out as you did on the way in. Families hiking into the Grand Canyon take note; it takes twice as long to hike out of canyon as it takes to hike in.
The Right Trip
For families with small children, the Bright Angel Point, Cape Royal, and Cliff Springs Trails are ideal. All are 1 mile, or less, in length and offer wonderful walks through the forest to overlooks with spectacular canyon views. For families with older, active children, the 10-mile (16km) round trip Widforss Trail is an excellent choice for a full day outing with a picnic lunch. The only maintained trail that descends into the Grand Canyon from the North Rim is the North Kaibab Trail. Several spots on this trail make great destinations for a day hike. The short hike to Coconino Overlook, 1.5 miles (2.4km) round-trip, is ideal for families interested in taking a peek below the rim. Supai Tunnel, 4 miles (6.4km) round-trip, is an excellent choice for a day trip with kids. The hike to Roaring Springs is 9.4 miles (15km) round trip and takes a full day to complete. With an elevation drop of 3050 feet (930 meters), only very fit families should attempt this extremely strenuous hike. Roaring Springs is not recommended for families with young children.
Plotting your Route
North Rim facilities are open from mid-May through mid-October only. The road remains open until the first snowfall (usually mid-November). Hiking is best in May, June, late September and October. Afternoon thunderstorms are common during July, August and early September. Avoid hiking below the rim between 10am and 4pm in summer months. Begin longer day hikes before 7am. Keep in mind that it is much hotter inside the canyon than along the rim.
Travel Gear
Wear good sturdy footwear; boots or trail runners with rugged tread are your best choice for the uneven terrain. Trekking poles are invaluable for stability and help tremendously in preventing fatigue. Child carriers are highly recommended for those hiking below the rim with small children.
Packing Tips
The North Rim enjoys a mountain climate and the weather can change rapidly. Dress in layers that can easily be put on or taken off as the weather dictates. Pack a rain jacket even if it is sunny and clear when you set out. Include the following in your pack: food, water, sun protection (sunscreen, hat and sunglasses), map, whistle for each child, first aid kit, waterproof matches, pocketknife, plastic bag for trash (including toilet paper) and small spade for burying feces.
Health & Safety
All points on the North Rim are more than 8000 feet (2438 m) above sea level. Give your body a chance to acclimate to the elevation before you set out on a hike. On the trail, it is essential to carry enough food and water for everyone in your group. Depending on the length and location of your hike, carry at least 2-4 liters of water per person. The only sources of water are in the Village area and, seasonally, at the Supai Tunnel and Roaring Springs on the North Kaibab Trail. Encourage your kids to drink regularly (children dehydrate quicker than adults) and start out your day with a good hearty breakfast. Cell phone coverage is very limited on the North Rim and there is no coverage, at all, below the rim. Keep in mind that the North Rim is remote. Toilet facilities are only available in the village and at the principle overlooks; they are nonexistent along most of the trails. If your children are partial to toilets, check with park personnel for specific locations before you set out on a hike with kids.
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