Grand Canyon Rim to Rim With Kids
North Kaibab Trail to Cottonwood Campground
Total Hiking: About 7 miles
Our 4,750 mile road trip route for our Utah National Parks and Grand Canyon Adventure is here if you’d like to see our full itinerary.
The sun rose on the day we were starting our Grand Canyon Rim to Rim with kids hike and we were EXCITED! We had about 7 miles to hike into the canyon today so we weren’t in a big hurry as we packed up our camp and made sure our packs were filled and ready. Once everything was loaded, we headed to the general store for some last minute treats to take with us. The kids each bought a bottle of Gatorade and everyone picked one special candy to put in their pack pocket to eat during the day. We were feeling excited and ready as we loaded the car and headed to the North Kaibab trail head.
Down the North Kaibab Trail:
Starting our hike around 10:30, it was already pretty warm and we were grateful for the trees at the beginning of the trail. Almost right away the trail was pretty steep heading downhill with some pretty impressive switchbacks. We saw several people on this section out on day hikes and a couple of people heading back up the trail after backpacking trips. Once past the trees, the views were unbelievable and we especially enjoyed the views at Coconino Overlook. We reached our first resting point at Supai Tunnel about 1.7 miles in. Because of the heat, each of us carried one bottle of water and one bottle of Gatorade to keep the electrolytes lost to sweat replenished. I was vigilant about making sure the kids were drinking enough of each by regularly checking the amounts they had drunk. Since we were hiking the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim with kids, I was especially careful. Before our trip, I had read Over The Edge: Death in Grand Canyon, a fascinating account of all the recorded deaths in the park. This may sound morbid, but I feel better after reading about the mistakes other people have made so that I know not to make the same ones! Having read many stories of people who had gotten really sick and even died in the canyon as a result of dehydration I was extremely careful about this. Supai Tunnel has beautiful views and running water so we filled our bottles and took a short break.
Down, Down, Down we go:
We spent the next three miles marveling at the beautiful views and maneuvering through the many switchbacks. The North Kaibab Trail begins at 8000 ft. elevation and drops over a mile on the way to the canyon floor and my knees and feet could feel it. It is HARD to hike downhill. We also had to step around donkey poop in many spots and hug the trail side when a donkey caravan with passengers was heading up the trail. Garrett accidentally scared one donkey when his foot slipped and scattered some pebbles as we were waiting for a caravan to pass us on the narrow trail and the donkey took off back into the canyon with his frightened rider. The guide had to dismount and lead the donkey back up to the group. That would have scared the heck out of me and I think riding the donkeys actually looks harder than hiking the trail yourself.
The beauty inside the canyon is unreal and I took hundreds of pictures. I was really in awe of all that I was seeing! The trail itself is very well marked and I think it would be impossible to lose it. Several areas have heart stopping steep drop offs though and I was constantly feeling my adrenaline pumping worried the kids were going to trip. I couldn’t help but imagine them going over the edge and it was really scaring me. Dave and I each kept a hand on the youngest when the drop offs were especially steep and we made it through fine. Even though the kids were being cautious, I still worried since that is my job as mom!
It wasn’t long before we came to the Roaring Springs spur trail where we were going to fill our water bottles, take a break and have lunch. With many cottonwood trees around the spring, the area was a nice shady retreat from the bright canyon sun and we enjoyed our lunch break.
Attack of the Crazy Lizard:
Finished with lunch, we got back on the trail for the final 2 miles to Cottonwood. We had just passed the sign for Roaring Springs when Dave saw a cool looking collared lizard on the trail and stopped to take a picture. He went on his way followed by Garrett and Naomi. I don’t know why, but at this point the lizard decided she didn’t want the rest of us passing and ran to the middle of the trail facing Sophie, Maya and I. I didn’t think anything of it and we kept on walking when suddenly the lizard starting running at us jumping up and down and clearly pissed off. This stopped us and so I picked up a pebble to throw at it so it would run off the trail and we could pass. Um, bad move. She was REALLY pissed off now and was jumping and chasing us on the narrow trail and we weren’t able to pass. Honestly I was pretty freaked out now as Maya was terrified and kept running away on the really narrow trail with really steep drop offs. Eventually Dave came to the rescue and scared the lizard off the trail and we were able to get back to hiking. It sounds silly now since the lizard looks cute in the picture but she was plain scary because she was so aggressive!
We Arrive at Cottonwood:
Once we calmed down from all the excitement, the next two miles on the trail passed quickly with beautiful views all along the way and we arrived at Cottonwood in the middle of the afternoon. This gave us plenty of time to play in the Bright Angel Creek to cool off and rest our feet. The kids especially enjoyed playing in the very cool water.
We saw a few other people at the campground but the sites were private and separated from each other. After setting up camp and eating a dinner of macaroni and cheese with rehydrated bell peppers we were ready for bed. There were lots of desert spiny lizards around but thankfully no crazy collared lizards! We were all pretty tired when we crawled into our tents and we fell asleep pretty quickly. I remember seeing a plane flying overhead and thinking about this adventure we were on and how it was so encompassing to us but no one else was experiencing it or even knew about it. I was also thinking how the people in that plane had no idea this little family from Ohio was underneath them in the middle of the canyon having this grand adventure as they flew on by. The ground was hot when we first lay down but cooled off throughout the night in the chilly desert air. The stars were bright as we fell asleep resting up for another amazing day hiking the Grand Canyon rim to rim with kids.