Sunday, March 25, 2018

From Phoenix to the Grand Canyon South Rim with Kids


Our seven day vacation in Phoenix, Arizona had several priorities: visit the Grand Canyon and find family-friendly hikes. We enjoyed temperatures of 20-30 Celsius in the month of March and also the cheap gas prices compared to BC. Here are the main things that we did and what I thought about them:

Visiting the Grand Canyon with Kids


Sedona:
Our first day in the car was on the way to Williams (one hour from the Grand Canyon) with the bulk of the day to be taken up by Sedona. This was a long day in the car but one of our favourites. 


Sedona, about 2.5 hours from Phoenix, was gorgeous and well worth the visit. Had we known its beauty, we would have planned for more time there. We did come back again after the Grand Canyon because it was just breath-taking. We stopped in at the Visitor Centre to get our hiking maps (always recommend that) and decided to do Cathedral Rock which did not disappoint. Our kids range from ages 5-11 and were able to do the hike. It was short but challenging and there are heights involved–you’ve been warned. Prepare for all weather. We wore layers and sunscreen and experienced sun and even snow at the top! Parking here is $5 and the parking lost fills up quickly–try to arrive early.

Sedona with kids

Sedona with kids

Sedona with kids

Sedona with kids

Sedona with kids
Gary took the boys out to this photographic point with strict instrucitons to hold their hands!

Sedona with kids



The hike that we did the following day was at Chapel Rock. We first climbed into the Chapel which is a unique experience and then did Chapel Trail. The trailhead was difficult to find and is located halfway up the hill in one of the parking lots. Parking here is free but limited and meant for those visiting the Chapel. Again, come prepared with water as it gets hot, hot, hot! We could definitely do more hiking in this area so please let me know if you have something to add for this area. 

Sedona with kids

Sedona with kids

Sedona with kids


Williams:
We stayed in Williams because it would be close to the Grand Canyon and had affordable hotel rates. The Days Inn was perfect for our family as it has a pool and included breakfast. We did a quick tour of the town which is on Route 66 and very unique. We opted to do Bearizona which is a drive through and walk through zoo in two separate sections. The kids LOVED seeing the bison, wolves and all of the bears in trees. It was $70 USD for our family of five but the kids did really enjoy it.



Bearizona drive through zoo

Bearizona drive through zoo

Bearizona drive through zoo

Bearizona drive through zoo

Bearizona drive through zoo


The Grand Canyon’s South Rim:
You park at the visitor centre and can walk or take shuttles to any point you wish. We took a free shuttle (comes every 15 minutes) to South Kaibab Trail as we wanted to do the one hour hike to Ooh Aah Point. Unfortunately upon arrival we understood why everyone had hiking poles and crampons. The trails were icy and we did not feel comfortable climbing down into the canyon. We took a shuttle bus closer to the Visitor Centre and decided to walk for about three kilometres along the paved (and safe) South Rim Trail. Mather Point was beautiful and the kids enjoyed the Yavapai Geology Museum, too. Note that there are very few railings so if you have kids that like to wander off of the trail, keep a hand on them. The price to get into the park is $30 USD and we had forgotten our National park pass we bought when we did Yellowstone this past summer which was too bad.

Visiting the Grand Canyon with Kids

Visiting the Grand Canyon with Kids

Visiting the Grand Canyon with Kids

Visiting the Grand Canyon with Kids

Visiting the Grand Canyon with Kids

Visiting the Grand Canyon with Kids



Sun City/Phoenix Area:
We had a home base here and therefore planned some day trips from this point. The hikes and activities that we did were the following:

a.       White Tank Mountain. Visit the Nature Center there (also a library and wifi!). The cost to get into the park is $7. We opted to do the Waterfall Hike as it was simple and a good distance at about an hour total. There are many lizards sunning on the rocks and at the end the dried up waterfall was fun for the kids to climb. It was also very cool inside the waterfall area! There are covered picnic tables and even playgrounds in this park.



b.      Lake Pleasant Regional Park. The cost to enter this park is $6. It’s very easy to access if you follow the 99 North. Again, visit the Discovery Center first to get your bearings and see the fish and snakes. From there you can do the Roadrunner Trail (1.3km) which is easy and follows the shores of the lake. It’s a welcome change from the dry dry hikes that we had been doing. Then we hopped in our car and drove to the opposite end to hike a portion of the Pipeline Trail which is a moderate hike. We decided to just go to the floating bridge as it was getting warmer out. Along the way we saw the wild burros near the water and then we saw a Diamondback Rattlesnake. It was our first one in the wild and slightly terrifying. It was about one foot away when I heard it’s rattle so we just kept going along the path with a slight detour to provide more space.






c.     Camelback Mountain. This was a bit of a drive as it’s on the other side of Phoenix. We left at 8 AM and arrived around 9 AM and there were cars lined up and down the street. You definitely want to arrive there early. To get to the trailhead you need to take 64th off of Camelback Road. There are no public bathrooms and come prepared with ample water. This Cholla Trail is a hard hike  and rated a double black diamond. Our five and nine-year-old made it to the 25th marker which is the saddle area before it really starts to climb (2/3's up). It was hot and they were done. Our 11-year-old made it to the top where he saw giant lizards but he is also fearless in regards to heights. You can get a great view of the city pretty quickly up there so don’t feel pressure to get to the top. 



d.      NBA game. Okay, so this isn’t a hike but it was great for the boys to get out and see a game! They watched the Phoenix Suns play the Detroit Pistons. Afterward kids under the age of 14 can shoot from the free throw line which was a major highlight.




e.      Swimming and mini golf. One strange thing to note is that public pools are not open until May. There are the membership recreation centres in Sun City but you need to be a guest of someone to get in. We have a friend who allowed us to be his guest and we could swim as a family (only certain centers allow children). We then used the day pass ($20) to go play mini golf at the Bell Center but that is for kids over the age of six. The Recreation Centers also have libraries which we walked to each day. The kids loved the books, colouring, air conditioning and we appreciated the WiFi.




Overall what was the highlight? For us, a family from the north west, we loved Sedona. It was gorgeous, friendly, had so many hikes and the town is colourful and unique. 

I would love to hear your feedback on Arizona if you’ve been. What did you enjoy? The golfing? Shopping? Heat?

Love,
Louise


Are you visiting the Phoenix, Arizona area? Thinking of taking a trip up to Sedona and the Grand Canyon? These are the family-friendly hikes and experiences we had over one week.


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