We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Family Trip to Grand Canyon

Which Flagstaff hotels are on sale?
mm/dd/yyyy mm/dd/yyyy
See hotels
Houston, Texas
posts: 18
Family Trip to Grand Canyon

We are planning a long road trip to see the GC. We are coming from Houston and plan to stop along the way. Our children are 9, 14, 17. Question #1: is how long does it take to see the Grand Canyon? I know we could spend days, but I want to know what's the shortest amount of time you can spend and really feel like you saw and experienced it. Also, there are so many "tours" around for this. Are they worth the money? Keep in mind the ages of my kids. We plan to spend 1 night in Flagstaff and then maybe a night at one of the lodges at the Canyon, or just return the same day.

Question #2: I am a very light sleeper and am concerned with the train and other noises in Flagstaff. We are considering the Fairfield Inn and was wondering it is too close to the railroad?

Thanks for your help. Any other ideas or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Grand Canyon...
posts: 1,510
1. Re: Family Trip to Grand Canyon

You can get a good taste of it with a day, but 2 days means you'll have a chance at seeing a great sunrise and a sunset.

From Flagstaff you can make a nice circle tour and include a couple of extras along the way. Here's a route you can do in either direction:

From Flag, take US hwy 89 north. On the east side of the hwy will be the entrance to Sunset Crater & Wupatki Nat'l Monument's loop drive. Sunset Crater will be first, it is a sampling of the volcanic activity that has occured in Arizona. Then the road loops thru Wupatki - a set of ancient ruins that includes a ball court like you'd normally find in Mexico and further south. You'll exit back onto 89, further north than where you entered it. The terrain along the roadside is painted desert.

Go past the turn off for AZ hwy 63 to the Cameron Trading Post for some souvenir and native arts & crafts shopping, and have lunch. They make a great Navajo taco - not quite Texas style chili on it, but very tasty, and huge portions. Then go back to 64 and head on to the east entrance to the park. You'll be at Desert View (on Desert View Drive) - and you'll have a fantastic first view of the canyon. Be sure and climb the Watchtower. They'll be plenty of view points to stop at along the way as you continue west to the village area. Lipan pt is one of my favorites, especially for a sunset.

At the end of that drive you'll turn right onto S Entrance Rd. Mather Pt will be the next viewing spot, and it's the parking area for the visitor center across the road. You'll have picked up the park guide when you paid your entrance fee at the east gate, which lists the current ranger programs at that time. Some are at the visitor center, where there is also a bookstore. Then as you continue into the village area the next viewpoint is Yavapai pt. If you will be spending the night in the park you'd continue heading west, if you're staying outside of the south entrance in Tusayan, depending on time of day you might want to head back south (a left turn out of Mather pt) to your hotel by then, or continue into the park.

Again, considering time of day or how many nights you're staying, you can either go ahead to the west rim and depending on time of year, either drive it (dec thru feb) or take the shuttle (the rest of the year). But it would be a very long day if you're doing it all in just one. If you're staying, take in the evening ranger program instead, and save the west rim out to Hermit's Rest for the next day.

When you're ready to leave the park, you'll leave through the south entrance, so that you aren't backtracking over the way you came to the park. About 30 miles south is Valle, which has Bedrock City/Flintstone village which your youngest might enjoy, and the Planes of Fame aircraft museum, which might interest everyone.

You'll be at a fork in the road there. US hwy 180 is the left fork. It's a narrow, winding mountain road that will take you back to Flagstaff. It's scenic, but not a good choice for winter or bad weather driving. Also not a good choice if getting stuck behind an RV going 30 mph, and no place to pass would drive you crazy.

Continuing straight south from Valle is a straighter, flatter road. Better for bad weather driving, and many more chances to pass those RV's. When you reach the junction to i-40, head east back to Flag and on your way home. One stop on the way toward flag is the Grand Canyon Deer Farm, which the kids might like to visit.

Be sure and visit the park's website at www.nps.gov/grca to help you plan your visit. It lists ranger programs so you can get an idea of what you might want to do here. Right now it only has the programs thru this month, and it will have the next schedule posted around March 1. Also, NPS has a website to get the kids excited about visiting the parks - http://www.nps.gov/webrangers/

If you'll be going to multiple parks and federal rec areas, you might want to get the America the Beautiful Pass, info at http://store.usgs.gov/pass

Hope this helps you get your planning started!

Sedona, AZ
Destination Expert
for Sedona, Arizona, Monument Valley
posts: 37,643
reviews: 118
2. Re: Family Trip to Grand Canyon

gcmaven gives the BEST advice about the Grand Canyon! The only thing I would add is that you could also do the same route in reverse if you want. I often recommend stopping in Tusayan at the IMAX theater to see the Grand Canyon movie there. It will give you all a sense of the history of the Grand Canyon before you get there. My guests have always felt it was a valuable addition to their Grand Canyon experience.

By all means do plan to spend a night inside the park at one of the rim lodges. Make those reservations ASAP. And then if you have some time after the GC, plan to drive down to Sedona (less than an hour from Flagstaff) and spend a couple of nights there.

Don't worry about the trains. If you make it a point to spend your days outdoors in the fresh air, you will find that we have excellent sleeping weather at night.

Tacoma, WA
posts: 9
reviews: 11
3. Re: Family Trip to Grand Canyon

What a wonderful response! My husband and I are flying in to Vegas in mid April and then driving to Laughlin, NV. We want to spend a day or so also at the GC on the way to Laughlin. Is it possible to do that without heavy mountain driving? Is it an easy drive from Vegas?

Sedona, AZ
Destination Expert
for Sedona, Arizona, Monument Valley
posts: 37,643
reviews: 118
4. Re: Family Trip to Grand Canyon


Actually Laughlin is on the way to the GCNP. You may want to look at a map and reconsider your itinerary. But, yes! Plan to spend at least a day, preferably an overnight at GCNP and then go back to Laughlin or wherever.

Tacoma, WA
posts: 9
reviews: 11
5. Re: Family Trip to Grand Canyon

Thanks for the info. My map shows the west side of the GC some distance east of Las Vegas and Laughlin is about 2 hours (90 miles) south of Las Vegas, just across the river from Bullhead city, which is about due west of Flagstaff. I'll do some further research and I really appreciate you responding. I did read elsewhere that it's 5-5.5 hours from Las Vegas to what I guess are the tourist areas north of Flagstaff. Thanks again.

Sedona, AZ
Destination Expert
for Sedona, Arizona, Monument Valley
posts: 37,643
reviews: 118
6. Re: Family Trip to Grand Canyon

Disregard the 'west side of the Grand Canyon'. You want to go to Grand Canyon National Park located slightly north and west of Flagstaff. From Laughlin or LV you will get on I-40 heading east to Williams and then go north to the park.

Williams, Arizona
posts: 3,801
reviews: 17
7. Re: Family Trip to Grand Canyon

You don't need to worry about the train noise at the Fairfield if its the one by the Wal-mart akd the I-40/I-17 interchange.


also do a search in the Flagstaff forums and I list loads of restraunts ect.

Columbus, Ohio
posts: 283
reviews: 26
8. Re: Family Trip to Grand Canyon

We stayed at the area listed above. I don't recall hearing a lot of outside noises.


West Lawn...
posts: 150
reviews: 60
9. Re: Family Trip to Grand Canyon

We stayed at the Fairfield Inn last year and really enjoyed it. Its not at all close to the railroad. Its in a very convenient location near the highways and lots of restaurants.

10. Re: Family Trip to Grand Canyon

-:- Message from TripAdvisor staff -:-

This topic has been closed to new posts due to inactivity. We hope you'll join the conversation by posting to an open topic or starting a new one.

To review the TripAdvisor Forums Posting Guidelines, please follow this link: http://www.tripadvisor.com/pages/forums_posting_guidelines.html

We remove posts that do not follow our posting guidelines, and we reserve the right to remove any post for any reason.

Removed on: 6:17 pm, August 22, 2009