This is probably a strangely specific topic but one that I sort of attempted to research to no avail. I found tips for taking kids to the grand canyon but struggled to find information specific to a grand canyon trip with a toddler. So, just in case anyone else finds themselves searching for tips on taking a toddler to the grand canyon – hopefully this will prove helpful!
Let me preface with this: I was a little bit of a nervous wreck leading up to our trip. It was an extended family trip that has been on the books for quite some time. It was a trip that was once planned, then scratched due to weather and then planned again years later for my in-laws anniverary as it topped their bucket list. Don’t get me wrong, I was excited to see the Grand Canyon and it was on my bucket list as well… but I was nothing less than incredibly stressed about taking my (read: fearless) toddler.
Keeping a Toddler Safe & Secure at The Grand Canyon
If you have a super well-behaved toddler, or a toddler that has fears… fear of heights, fear of being seaprated from their parents, fears of generally annnnny kind, then you might be able to get away with holding their hand. My toddler is generally a good listener (good for a toddler, anyway…) but is easily excited and completely fearless as far as I can tell. I am quite certain she’ll be a thrillseeking adventurist one day.
I considered taking a stroller but she absolutely hates her stroller. It wouldn’t be practical to take her jogger stroller, so I’d have to take her umbrella stroller which I don’t love as much. The jogger stroller is sturdier, handles terrain better, has a tray, and just generally contains her better. Regardless, the thought of having her on the edge of a canyon on WHEELS did not relieve my stress. So, I decided that was a no go for the canyon portion of the trip, although we did bring it for the rest of the trip.
I also considered taking a leash but didn’t feel that was the best option for us. She’s pretty quick and all I could picture was her dangling over the edge, hanging by a chest harness or a piddly wrist strap, most likely secured by velcro. (Insert panic attack here.)
Ultimately, we decided it would be best to put her in the Ergo and wear her. (I hear some newer ones aren’t designed for toddlers but I’m a little out of the loop since I haven’t researched carriers since before she was born.) As a speedy, independent little thing I knew she would probably hate it but it was the only method that made me truly confident that she would be secure.
Toddlers & The Grand Canyon Skywalk
We stopped at a few places including the West end of the Grand Canyon and the South Rim. We stopped at the skywalk, which was really neat but my husband and I opted to take turns instead of carrying her out on the skywalk. She could have walked on the Skywalk but I think she would’ve wanted to be picked up. It’s a very unnatural feeling to walk on glass that high. I’m a thrillseeker but found myself a little disoriented when walking on the glass and looking down.
Most importantly, this is what toddler parents should know: if we had carried her out onto the Skywalk on one of our hips, she would’ve been right above the height of the edge of the glass side wall. I’m average height and my husband is pretty tall. The glass sidewall came up to about my lower rib cage and lower on my husband. The skywalk is plenty wide, so if you walk in the middle you don’t have to be near the edge but it was also somewhat crowded, so I was weaving around people and was someitmes close to the edge for that reason. People pay for photos and if you do that, you do stand on the edge of the skywalk. I didn’t love the idea that she would’ve been that close to the edge. If we had carried her on one of our hips on the Grand Canyon Skywalk, she would’ve been even closer to the edge than we allowed her to get outside of the Skywalk.
We still found the Skywalk tour to be worth doing as it allowed us to be shuttled to multiple view points. She was free so it didn’t cost anything to take her anyway.
Toddlers & The Grand Canyon National Park
The park charges a flat fee per car and then once you are in, everything is free aside from refreshments. That said, it wouldn’t have saved us any money if we somehow had made arrangements not to bring her (not that that was ever a consideration).
Once you get into the park, you can decide which viewpoints that you want to see and then there are various shuttles to take you to each of the Grand Canyon lookouts. We wore her religiously at the park because if we weren’t on the bus, we weren’t far from the ledge. At any given time, the bus stop was probably 20 feet from the canyon edge.
I was glad we went with the carrier option because the buses were super, super crowded. I don’t expect special treatment with a toddler but passengers often weren’t accomodating even of elderly people – until asked 5, 6, or 11 million times of the bus driver to allow them to enter the bus and take the seats nearest the front. (Pretty sad.) The only reason that I mention this is because I’m not sure how feasible it would’ve been to get on the bus with a stroller. I’m sure it is doable but we likely would’ve had to wait for a few buses to pass so that we could be the very first people on the next bus. The bus system is very convenient but we went in what we were told was an off-season and it was still very busy. We spent a lot of time waiting in line for buses. Once you get to the first lookout and you’re waiting for a bus to take you to the next lookout, the bus is already crowded. Some of the people are coming from the beginning and some are looping back around from other view points. Even if you skip a bus, it’s very unlikely that the next one won’t already be crowded.
A toddler leash probably could’ve worked, too, but I still would’ve carried her once we were off the bus or near the edge. Many of the viewpoints don’t have railings – which is nice because the view is unobstructed. Those that do wouldn’t be hard for a curious toddler to slip through. As I suspected, she didn’t love being in the carrier but she did okay. We danced and played a little, which amused her and probably several others! (Mama has no rhythm)
My Tips For Taking a Toddler To the Grand Canyon
All that said, here are my tips for taking a toddler to the Grand Canyon.
- Bring a leash or carrier if your toddler is a busybody like mine.
- If you decide to bring a stroller, know that it might be more difficult for you to use any of the available shuttles.
- Be aware that carrying a toddler on the skywalk could put them above the ledge of the skywalk sidewall. I don’t believe that strollers are allowed on the skywalk. We had to wear shoe covers, even, to ensure that it did not become scratched.
- Bring lots of water. Some places had water fountains – like the Grand Canyon national park. But even the park only had water fountains in a few places. Outside of the park, not all lookouts have water.
- Bring some snacks. You can buy snacks in a few places at the Grand Canyon National park but options are limited and food is only available in select locations within the very-big-park.
- Bring lots of sunblock. It gets hot and just about anywhere you are, the sun will be beating down on you.