In July of 2015 we set out on a grand vacation through the southwest. We traveled for 21 days and over 6,000 miles, visiting 5 states and 9 National Parks. We explored new places and met up with old friends. Overall, it was an incredible journey and everyone learned so much. You can view all posts about our wild west adventure here. I’m dividing my information about the Grand Canyon into 2 seperate posts so that I can include a little extra information. You can read my second post about Grand Canyon here.
Destination: Grand Canyon National Park
Date of Visit: July 2015
Kids: Cole (age 8) & Kiley (age 5)
Length of Stay: 3 Days
For the next leg on our trip, we left Mesa Verde and headed towards Grand Canyon. Cole had requested a stop at Four Corners and since it was on our route I was happy to make that happen for him. The kids had a great time playing in all 4 states and it was a nice way to break up what was our longest drive so far this trip.
I want to take a second to talk about the Four Corners area since many people will come across it driving to or from the Grand Canyon. The only reason we decided to stop here was because my kids had read about it in a guide book and really wanted to visit. Four Corners monument resides within the Navajo Nation, it is $5 per person to enter (under 6 are free) and they only take cash. There are no gas stations, grocery stores or other amenities within 30 miles of the landmark. The bathrooms were pit toilets (although it did look like they were adding some additional ones). I’m glad we stopped because it was important to the kids, but there really isn’t much to see or do there other than the actual cement landmark. It’s not some place I’d go out of my way to visit, and we probably won’t make it a point to go back next time we’re out west.
We entered Grand Canyon from the east and our first stop was at the Desert View Watchtower. The view was spectacular (of course) and the kids loved climbing all the way to the top of the tower. After looking around we checked in to our hotel. We decided to stay inside the park at the historic El Tovar lodge. We loved it there and we literally stepped out our door and were right at the rim of the canyon.
Staying at El Tovar was a splurge for us, but we were impressed by how big the rooms were even though the hotel is very old. Getting to see the stars over the canyon as we walked back from dinner and being the first ones out in the morning was worth it. The kids loved the games they had at the hotel for guests to play. Jr. RangerLand was our favorite but we also enjoyed National Park Monopoly.
Highlights: The Desert View Watchtower was really fun to climb and both kids enjoyed it. This area of Grand Canyon was less crowded than what we would later encounter along the South Rim so I’m glad this was our first experience in the park. There is also a small grocery store near the Watchtower so it was nice to stop and stock up on some snacks. We loved staying at El Tovar. Worth every penny, if you ask me.
What We Would Change: Ok, I might get hate mail for saying this, but Grand Canyon was our least favorite park on our trip out west. It was the most crowded and had the largest number of tourists and trash on the ground. I’m glad we went and saw it but I really don’t feel the need to ever go back.
Recommended Reading: I highly recommend the Foder’s guide to National Parks of the West, we used it when planning our trip and it was a great resource. I liked that there were plenty of suggestions to exploring the parks with kids. I also recommend the two games we played at the hotel, Jr. RangerLand and National Parks Monopoly.