Escapes

Q:

What's a good itinerary for an adventurous family in the Grand Canyon?

What's the best spring break itinerary for an adventurous family (with boys ages nine and 11) in the Grand Canyon area, with hiking and/or whitewater included? Debbie B. bler, PA

The Grand Canyon: Canyon walls that stretch forever     Photo: John Wang/Photodisc/Getty

Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon: Canyon walls that stretch forever

A:The Grand Canyon is a great spot for spring break for the whole family, especially when everyone is up for a challenge. And from the sound of it, your clan is ready for adventure. The vastness of the Grand Canyon is the perfect spot. From river rafting to rim hiking, you'll find plenty of activities that will entertain both young and old for days on end. Plan accordingly and your family will be thrilled about what's waiting around every corner of this rugged desert wonder.

Located 80 miles north of Flagstaff, the imposing walls of the Grand Canyon rise an average of 4,000 feet above the Colorado River and spans 15 miles across at the furthest point. The park is made up of 1,218,375 acres in its entirety and lies on the Colorado Plateau in northwest Arizona. Temperatures can reach 106 degrees during the peak season (May through October), but expect milder weather conditions when visiting in early spring. The park is divided into the North and South Rim, but only the South Rim is open year round. This is also the most visited area of the park, so you'll have no problem finding plenty of options for family fun.

One of the most popular ways of reaching the canyon floor is by mule. Xanterra's South Rim two-day overnight trip (928.638.9810) provides you with a hand-picked mule for a 10.5-mile ride beginning at the head of the Bright Angel Trail. You and your mule will be guided along the cliffs of the Inner Gorge, across the Colorado River on a suspension bridge, and up Bright Angel Canyon on the north side of the river to Phantom Ranch. Cabins at the ranch are furnished with bunk beds, sinks, toilets, bedding, towels, and soap with showers available. You'll even be treated to a steak dinner after your long ride. The next morning, travel 7.5 miles on the South Kaibab Trail for breathtaking vistas of the Inner Gorge and South Rim. Trips include lunch, dinner, breakfast, and lodging. Space is extremely limited, so book early. Prices for overnight trips are $991 for two, and $424 for each additional person.

Since the mule was doing all the legwork for the first part of the trip, you'll be ready for a good workout, so take the family on a hike to Havasu Falls. Many waterfall tours are guided by horse, and helicopter flightseeing is also an option, but fortunately for you (and your pocketbook), the best way to access the rushing falls during the cool spring months is by foot. First, pack plenty of snacks, bring a day's worth of water, and drive north on Route 66 to Indian Road 18. After 68 miles, Road 18 ends at Hualapai Hilltop, the trailhead to Supai Village (928.448.2731) and the falls. The hike to the village is eight miles and has some steep switchbacks over the first mile and a half, but then flattens out for the remainder of the hike. Upon reaching the village, visitors must register at the Tourism Office located adjacent to the trail. Check into your room if staying at the lodge or refuel at the village's café. Luckily, the falls aren't far from here. Navajo Falls is just 1.5 miles away and closest to the village. The rushing falls drop from 75 feet above into a vibrant blue swimming hole. Just a quarter mile further are Havasu Falls, where you'll see 100 feet of rushing water plummeting into a deep turquoise pool. If you want to see more, continue a mile further to Mooney, and four miles beyond that to Beaver Falls. The cost to enter Supai Village is a one-time fee of $35 per person, with children 12 and under receiving a 50 percent discount. A campground is located near Havasu Falls, but if you don't wish to pack camping gear with you on your trip the lodge fee is $145 per night for a family of four.

If you'd prefer a full week to explore the canyon, consider rafting the Colorado River, an excellent option that combines hiking and water adventure. Wilderness River Adventures (800.992.8022) offers multiple day packages that range from 3.5- to 16-day trips. For a week-long adventure, try the 5.5-day trip on the Upper Canyon. You'll travel 88 miles from Lee's Ferry to Phantom Ranch (the entire length of the Marble Canyon) and encounter over 20 rated rapids. Trip highlights include cascading waterfalls in Vasey's Paradise, a massive cove in Redwall Cavern, and a short hike to Ancestral Puebloan granaries. During the evenings, enjoy freshly cooked meals and camping along the riverbank beneath the stars while listening to your guides tell stories about the Grand Canyon. Boats are 18 feet in length and traditionally designed rowing rigs. Each trip has limited departure times, so booking early is best. Both motorized and oar boat trips are available. Cost for the Upper Canyon trip is $1,705 per adult and $1,440 per child for a group of four.
-Amy A. Clark

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