A trip to Grand Canyon!
April 5, 2011 5:26 PM   Subscribe

We (my wife, our two and a half year old and me!) are considering a five-day trip to Grand Canyon and Sedona next week. Would love to have your insights and tips for this trip ..

- We currently live in Dallas. And I have a pretty bad case of allergy (to pollen) this spring. Does any one know if it is better (or worse!) in Arizona/Grand Canyon area at this time?
- I understand that a car trip from Phoenix to Grand Canyon is prettier (and 50 miles shorter) than the one from Vegas. Unless airfare is substantially more to Phoenix (from Dallas), that's what we are thinking of doing (the car rental cost is apparently substantially higher from Phoenix anyway). Does it make sense? What’ll be the best route to take?
- We are thinking of stopping in Sedona (on the way from Phoenix) for 2-3 days. Do you have any other suggestion (i.e. a more interesting place to stop over compared to Sedona)?
- What are your recommendations for must-see/do experiences in Grand Canyon ?
-Hiking. Is there any interesting hike that a two and a half year old can navigate? Our son hates strollers and is a bit hyperactive (to put it mildly). So he is going to want to walk on any trail that we go to...
- We would very much prefer hotel rooms with kitchenettes (or at least one with a refrigerator and microwave). Do you have any recommendations for hotels in these two places (obviously, reservations on such short notice may be a challenge anyway)
- Anything else that we should keep in mind?!
posted by justlooking to Travel & Transportation around Grand Canyon, AZ (19 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I was so moved by experience at the Grand Canyon, I still remember pretty much all of it six years later. It is seriously one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.

I can't speak to the children or the driving, but for must see/do, I really enjoyed the interpretive talk/walks the rangers gave. I went to a night fire talk about the history of the Grand Canyon and a guided nature walk. I also walked down the Bright Angel Trail with a group. The hike back up is vertical and may be difficult for you, but it isn't a long thing.

Good luck and I hope you a wonderful experience.
posted by amodelcitizen at 5:46 PM on April 5, 2011

I recently posted this question about seeing the Grand Canyon. Maybe they'll be some helpful ideas in it. Have fun!
posted by Sassyfras at 5:50 PM on April 5, 2011

I just did this exact trip last 10 days ago with my wife and 5 and 6 year old daughters. I think Sedona is the right call for the other stop in addition to Grand Canyon, it's very beautiful. We did a 2-hour hike in the hills around Sedona and our kids did great (and they are not usually amenable to such things). There are ridiculous amounts of hiking options around Sedona, from flat to fairly vertical.

For eating out in Sedona, we had better luck in the Oak Creek Village area than in Sedona proper. Cafe Jose is a great mexican diner there.

Grand Canyon is as amazing as its billing, but one thing I'd say is that it doesn't take _that_ long to see it. Give it maybe 2 days and 1 night, and you're probably going to say "okay, that was truly amazing, but I think I'm done now". Your may have trouble with hotel reservations in Grand Canyon, as they fill up, so get on that one first.

Check out VRBO.com for vacation rentals in Sedona instead of hotel+kitchenette, it might fit your needs better.
posted by mcstayinskool at 5:59 PM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, it's worth approaching Grand Canyon from the East rather than from the South, because there's a few nice places to stop along the rim before you get to the main area.
posted by mcstayinskool at 6:00 PM on April 5, 2011

Best answer: I have just 2 words for you: North Rim.

I've been to both south and north, and having done north, would never do south again. Way too commercialized and busy.

North rim is a whole different experience. Whole different ecosystem. It's harder to get to, relatively speaking; it's nowhere near as commercialized. We stayed at the lodge and it was an amazing experience. Get up early and sit on the patio and watch the sun light up the canyon. Be there during a thunderstorm. Drive around the national forest trails and find views of the canyon that are very different from place to place - and in many of these spots you'll find yourself alone there.

Enjoy. It is one hell of a great experience. Just don't start hiking down into the Canyon unless you're fully prepared, well equipped, and know what you're doing. The hike back up can be seriously tough. With that said: have a great time!
posted by charris5005 at 6:24 PM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

The one suggestion I have from my 12 hours I spent on the south rim: Stay after dark if it's at all a clear day. The stars at the Grand Canon were the best I saw on my trip to the SW (from the east coast). I did hear from a ranger that it was exceptionally clear for that time of year (early July), so maybe it's that clear non-summer, but if you don't get amazing skies in the Dallas area where you are, it's worth it.
posted by skynxnex at 6:32 PM on April 5, 2011

I highly recommend Sedona. While you are there, be sure to check out Slide Rock. It is a great place for clambering around, even if it is not warm enough to get wet. Our son was about 6 when we were there and loved it.

We also thoroughly enjoyed a day trip out to Jerome, an old mining town-now artist's colony perched on the side of a mountain.
posted by SLC Mom at 6:32 PM on April 5, 2011

Best answer: Between Sedona and Flagstaff along 89A is the West Fork trail. It is one of the more beautiful hikes in northern Arizona and you shouldn't miss it if you're in the area.

I can second Slide Rock and Jerome. Check out Montezuma Castle outside of Camp Verde too if you have the time.
posted by djeo at 7:15 PM on April 5, 2011

Best answer: The North Rim is not an option, seeing as it won't be open until next month.

You can take a different route from Phoenix. Take Arizona 87 through Payson, and continue past Payson. You can either head to Sedona by taking AZ 260 west, or you can go through Flagstaff by continuing on 87 until you get to Lake Mary Rd, and turning left there. This road will take you to Flagstaff. The nice thing about going through Payson is that you will end up in beautiful pine country. It takes about another hour or so, but it's well worth it for the scenery and to escape the hell of I-17. If you drive from Vegas, you'll get to see the Hoover Dam and the new bridge, and then hundreds of miles of nothing. Phoenix is definitely the way to go.

Hiking around the canyon probably isn't going to be terribly tyke-friendly. Also, make sure you pack a cooler full of food, because while there is food out there, it's very expensive. Carry a lot of water in the car, and stay hydrated. The high desert will dry you out much faster than you think. Sunscreen is also a must.

If you decide to drive the East rim, you can continue all the way out and then back around to Flagstaff if you so wish. This also gives you the option of visiting Wupatki and Sunset Crater national monuments. Or you can just drive the viewpoints on the East and then head back to the visitor center. The drive out of the canyon to the east can take a while and there's no services until you get back into Flagstaff.

In Sedona, we've stayed at Oak Creek Terrace a couple of times and loved it. They have a variety of rooms, some with fridges and microwaves and also some with kitchenettes. Several have in-room jacuzzis. They're right on Oak Creek, and it's a beautiful area. Their rates are reasonable for the area and it's a few miles (I think four) north of town, so you're not smack in the tourist shuffle. Bonus kid points: There's a Dairy Queen across the road!

The Grand Canyon is a great experience and it will stay with you. Pictures cannot do it justice and you'll understand what it means to feel "small." I hope you and yours have a great trip!
posted by azpenguin at 9:01 PM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Never been to the Grand Canyon, but the potential shutdown of the Federal Government may affect your plans.
posted by notyou at 9:35 PM on April 5, 2011

Best answer: I was in Phoenix & Grand Canyon a week ago. It was hailing on the way to Grand Canyon, and snowing in the park itself. People were making small snowmen.

Just a heads up – bring appropriate clothes and be prepared to be disappointed by the view. This was my third trip to Grand Canyon (both previous ones in clear weather), and you certainly don't get the full impact of the park when all you see is fog.

I've driven both from Vegas and from Phoenix – it's true that the trip from Phoenix is infinitely more impressive.

The food at Grand Canyon is all horrible. I've stayed there and been to several of the restaurants (not the fancy expensive one, though), and it all tastes like they just microwaved or deep-fried something previously frozen. I do not recommend staying there at all.

As far as hiking goes, if you go to the South Rim, just follow the rim trail – it's paved, the views are breathtaking, and easy for little kids to navigate. When you get tired, take the shuttle back to where you parked your car.
posted by halogen at 11:52 PM on April 5, 2011

I live in Flagstaff, and the allergy season around here, Sedona, and the GC is from late summer to the beginning of fall. Phoenix, however, is a different story- all the mesquite and palo verde trees are currently in bloom and my family reports being miserable. But you should be good further north.

Have an awesome trip!
posted by mollywas at 12:34 AM on April 6, 2011

Sedona is spectacular. We stayed at Junipine Resort. They have small apartments with full kitchens - and some with hot tubs on the deck. Really nice!
posted by Daily Alice at 4:22 AM on April 6, 2011

I think two and a half years old is just the wrong age for this trip. They are too young to make much in the way of permanent memories, and too old to be just carried everywhere without regard to their wishes. Can you leave them with Grandma, which both of them may enjoy hugely?

Otherwise, I would think about banking the money for making the trip in a few years time, and using your free days for a more relaxing holiday closer to home -- parenting a toddler is tiring enough.
posted by Idcoytco at 9:01 AM on April 6, 2011

Best answer: We did a trip from Dallas to Phoenix to Grand Canyon and back, and we made these stops:

On the way to Phoenix we took the southern route via I-10, but we took a side trip to White Sands to sled on the sand dunes, then we went to Carlsbad Caverns to tour the caves and see the bats. Spent one night there and drove to Phoenix next day.

After a short visit with relatives in Phoenix, we drove to Williams and stayed 2 nights there. On that full day, we took the Grand Canyon Railway up to the Canyon, went on a ranger-tour for kids, hiked around a bit, and got the train back to Williams. We didn't go down into the canyon at all - just walked around the top. I wished the train schedule allowed more time there, but it didn't. The train ride included a free Coke in the old glass bottles, and they staged a cheesy train robbery. In Williams, there is a bit of touristy stuff related to the old Route 66. The community theater had a play that was an adaptation of Alice in Wonderland on Route 66. If that wasn't showing, there wouldn't have been anything else to do at night.

On the way back to Dallas, we took the northern route across I-40 and then turned south at Amarillo. We stopped at or drove through the Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert. By that time, my kids refused to get out of the car to see one more beautiful vista and they were ready to go home.
posted by CathyG at 9:05 AM on April 6, 2011

I've ridden the Grand Canyon Railway twice, and both times have hugely enjoyed it. The first time was when I was about 12 with grandparent and family, and the second was at 24 with my husband. We made it about a mile down and back up while the train was stopped and saw the condors, etc. Both times, I stayed in hotels in Williams, AZ.

The tour bus that I took during my childhood visit was boring - seemed like unreasonably large amounts of driving for only slight changes in vista. We meant to drive up again and hike it rim-to-rim before we moved from Tucson.

Near the Grand Canyon is the Planes of Fame air museum (affiliated with the Chino, CA location). It's mostly in a huge barn and has some interesting displays if you're at all into airplanes. Their claim to fame is that most of their models are flight worthy.
posted by bookdragoness at 1:03 PM on April 6, 2011

Seconding the advice about appropriate weather clothing (they're going to get 5" or so of snow over the next couple of days), watch the news on the possible federal government shutdown (so you don't get there and the park is closed entirely), and don't go to the north rim, as it won't be open. I don't think allergies should be bad, though, but if they are, it will most certainly be in Sedona and not at the Canyon itself. I'm not sure if the junipers are coming out or not, but Sedona has a way higher concentration.

Upon reading of the previous answers - I'd be very careful about taking the Lake Mary road after the snow. They don't usually plow that road thoroughly, and the shade from the trees keeps ice and snow on the road for a long time. (I have taken that road literally hundreds of times.) It's a lovely drive if you want to chance it, but I'm always super-cautious in rental cars.
posted by wending my way at 3:46 PM on April 7, 2011

Response by poster: All:
Thank you very much for your suggestions/recommendations.

Our little one fell sick the day after I posed this question and then my wife and I. We were all pretty much down through the weeks that I have kept for ourselves in between 2 jobs :( ..so obviously no Grand Canyon for us this April. But we hope to leverage your recommendations and make a trip later this year.

Thank you once again for taking the time to provide these tips/recommendations. I am very sorry that I couldn't respond to you in a timely fashion.
posted by justlooking at 9:08 PM on April 20, 2011

Response by poster: Ok, so we finally made the trip last month ...
We could spend only three and a half days in Sedona and Grand Canyon. But it was awesome!
-Jerome was really interesting.
-My son Luved Slide Rock.

If I can add one word advise for others (in addition to all the great tips that everyone here already gave me):

Try to stay in a lodge inside the national park. The lodges are almost always fully booked. But if you continue to call, you can usually find cancellations. It is an entirely different experience and will save you lots of commute time.
posted by justlooking at 7:00 PM on November 14, 2011

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