After our February trip to Death Valley National Park, we were all pretty excited to go to see The Grand Canyon. As an added bonus, we were taking the scenic route via Flagstaff, AZ to visit some of our best friends, which paid unexpected dividends later.
We left Las Vegas in the late afternoon for the drive to Flagstaff, and we loved how the scenery seemed to change every 30 minutes or so as we changed elevation.
As we arrived in Flagstaff, 4 of the 5 people in the Adventure Van were worked into a fevered pitch by the sight of a Chik-Fil-A sign. It was the first chance to eat that stuff since September, and we fell off the gluten-free wagon (again) to take advantage.
The kids were excited to see old friends, but crashed pretty quickly after we got to their house. The next morning we were treated to pancakes (glad we were off the wagon) and cartoons while we got everyone prepped for the day. Flagstaff is cold in March.
We piled into our cars and headed toward the Grand Canyon. First stop, Desert View Watchtower. The only other time I’d been to the Canyon, I’d come straight from Las Vegas, so this was new to all of us. I don’t think the views are as “grand” here, so it doesn’t make the impression for first time visitors the way Mather Point does. But, while not as impressive for The Missus, the kids loved the tower, and we spent a good deal of time here.
Which brings me to a couple of things to consider regarding the downside of taking young kids to the Grand Canyon. Our kids really like to hike and experience things hands on. At the Grand Canyon, there are big crowds, and it’s sometimes tough to keep your eyes on them to make sure they are staying safe. There are also limited opportunities for them to hike, but luckily we were able to remedy this.
Our next stop was the Visitor’s Center. Again, really crowded. But we at least needed to get our passports stamped and let the kids pick out a souvenir.
Now the good part. Our friends are both biologists who work or have work for the Parks Service. Luckily, one of them spent lots of time working at the Canyon and knew just the spot to get away from the crowds and allow the kids to rampage. We took a nice mile long hike through the forest to a secluded part of the south rim. Really nice because their kids are the same ages as ours, and it gave them an opportunity to climb around on fallen trees and do lots of exploring. Plus, the quiet and uncrowded spot was nice!
Before heading back the next day we decided to check out Sunset Crater National Monument in Flagstaff. Really cool, and zero crowds! There’s an amazing lava flow to explore and a short but steep hike to the top of a crater with beautiful views. It was the perfect stop to stretch our legs a little to prepare for the drive back to southern Nevada.