The Junior Ranger Program: A Fun Two-Day Itinerary for Visiting Grand Canyon National Park with Kids

On our vacation to Sedona, we knew that visiting The Grand Canyon South Rim was an absolute must, but having never been there before I was a little bit intimidated.  We were able to pack in so much during our two-day visit to The Grand Canyon.  On this same trip to Arizona, Zac also earned Junior Ranger Badges at Tuzigoot National Monument and Montezuma Castle.

When visiting The Grand Canyon National Park with kids, taking part in the Junior Ranger Program is one of the best ways to draw them into the experience.  

Having a plan in place can be helpful and knowing what to bring to The Grand Canyon when traveling with kids can make it a little less overwhelming!

Where to Stay When Visiting The Grand Canyon with Kids

There are several lodging options right in South Rim of the Grand Canyon including The Grand Hotel, Kachina Lodge, Bright Angel Lodge & Cabins, El Tovar Hotel, Phantom Ranch, Maswik Lodge and Thunderbird Lodge as well as camping facilities of course, throughout the park.

Grand Canyon Bright Angel Trail 1
If you look closely you’ll see the Bright Angel Trail – you may remember this from a certain Brady Bunch episode.

When we visit again in 2020 with the entire family, we will be staying right within the South Rim at one of the locations above (likely the Bright Angel Lodge) but this time around with just the three of us, we opted to stay just a few miles outside of the Grand Canyon South Entrance at the Best Western Premier Grand Canyon Squire.

This hotel was perfect for us, reasonably priced, clean and full of things to do. The hotel features an arcade and game room,a small bowling alley, two restaurants, a cafe, indoor pool, spa and a gift shop. Breakfast is also available.

You can even purchase $13 boxed lunches to take with you if you’re spending the day at The Grand Canyon!

Two Day Itinerary – Day One:

The Junior Ranger Program at The Grand Canyon National Park

We wanted our 7 year old to glean as much as possible from his first trip to The Grand Canyon so we knew that as soon as we arrived at the South Rim Visitors Center in Grand Canyone Village we needed to ask the friendly park ranger for a Junior Ranger booklet so he could begin working toward earning his Junior Ranger Badge.

Grand Canyon Jr Ranger Badge
Reciting the Junior Ranger Motto before being presented with his Grand Canyon National Park Junior Ranger Badge

The Junior Ranger program is a great way for kids to have fun and learn at the same time. They’ll attend a program led by a real park ranger (or in our case watch a 30 minute informational movie) receive a free activity booklet at the Visitor Center with age-appropriate tasks, and get a badge upon completion.

One thing I love about the National Park Rangers is that they’re so incredibly helpful and friendly and take what they do seriously and their love for their jobs truly shows.

Zac received his Junior Ranger Activity Book and we headed to theater within the visitors center to watch an IMAX movie and get our bearings and learn a bit more about what we would encounter that day.

Working in the Grand Canyon Junior Ranger Program Booklet
Working diligently on the Grand Canyon Junior Ranger Program Booklet

After the short film he was on his way to learn everything he could; we began our journey just a few steps outside of the visitors center at Mathers Point and walked the entire two mile stretch to Verkamp’s Visitor Center.

The hike was filled with obviously stunning views, rich history and ecology and Zac was able to complete his Junior Ranger duties and ultimately receive his badge at Verkamp’s.

Grand Canyon Trail of Time  Zoroaster Granite
Zac on the Trail of Time, an interpretive walking timeline trail that focuses on Grand Canyon vistas and rocks.

The Trail of Time

The Trail of Time is an interpretive walking timeline trail that focuses on Grand Canyon vistas and rocks to guide visitors to ponder, explore, and understand the magnitude of geologic time and the stories encoded by Grand Canyon rock layers and landscapes. 

You can pick up a shttle buses will take you to either end of the Trail of Time, at Yavapai Point and its geology museum or at Verkamps Visitor Center.  The start of the Trail of Time is at Yavapai Geology Museum, a half hour walk from Mather Point and the Canyon View Visitor Center. 

We enjoyed walking along the path, stopping to look out of stationary binoculars and learning more about the geology of The Grand Canyon.  

Between Yavapai Geology Museum and Grand Canyon Village (2.1 km or 1.3 miles), walk (west), backwards in time and experience Grand Canyon’s entire geologic history.

Getting around the Grand Canyon Trail Map Grand Canyon
Getting Around the Grand Canyon – South Rim Trail Map

This  paved one hour walking path offers gorgeous views of the Grand Canyon and allows you to actually see geologic space and time.

When all was said and done after a long day of exploring, we quickly realized how extremely exhausted we all were so we hopped on back on the “blue line” toward the parking area at the Grand Canyon Village Visitor’s Center.

Two-Day Itinerary – Day Two:

Shuttle Bus to Hermit’s Rest

After our first night at The Grand Canyon, we checked in to Best Western Grand Canyon Squire, got settled and then went down to grab some burgers and drinks at the pub.

The next morning, after packing some snacks we headed back up to The Grand Canyon, this time driving a bit further up to the Village Route Transfer and got on the “red line” and took that all the way to Hermit’s Rest.

Grand Canyon Hermit's Rest Trail 1
Breathtaking view of Hermit’s Rest Trailhead Picnic Area at Grand Canyon South Rim

We took a half day to explore this area of The Grand Canyon before heading back to our timeshare resort in Sedona.

There are several stops along the way and the shuttle bus, which runs on a 10 minute schedule will take you to each of them; you can hop off and on as much as you like. 

The Hermit Trail hiking trail extends out to the Colorado River, beginning about a quarter mile from the shuttle bus stop at Hermit’s Rest.  We hiked the short 1/4 mile to walk to entrance area of the trail where we sat and ate our lunch at a picnic table in the clearing.

After lunch we walked back to the bus stop area to ride to the parking lot at Village Route Transfer, grabbed a quick lunch at Wendy’s and headed back to Sedona to get ready for our nighttime adventure with an Evening Sky Tour!

Have you visited The Grand Canyon? Do your kids take part in Junior Ranger Programs across the country?

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