We are a party of 4 adults and 2 children planning to visit Grand Canyon. Our stay is going to be at Flagstaff and will have an entire day to visit Grand Canyon and places around it. National Park services provide number of ways to explore around like guided tours, mule services etc. But I am confused which would be best way, best & must see scenic places around (the south rim or north rim or ?). Please suggest how to plan this visit around Grand canyon. We plan to head back to Phoenix the next day while visiting Sedona.
Coming from Flagstaff it's about a 1 1/2 hour drive to the South Rim (one way) via the town of Tusayan. You can forget about the Grand Canyon National Park - North Rim. That would be about 7 1/2 hours drive one-way from Flagstaff. You need to drive all the way around the canyon...
For the amount of time you have, the South Rim is the best option. You can drive to many of the viewpoints between Desert View (45 minute one-way drive east from Grand Canyon Village) to the Bright Angel Lodge towards the west. From the Bright Angel Lodge you can take a free bus shuttle to other viewpoints further west. There is a Rim Walk which would probably be a better option with kids as it is not strenuous. You can hike the rim a bit, jump on a bus to another point, then hike again... however you want to do it. Hiking down into the canyon requires you to hike back out, and depending on how far you go, that can be quite strenuous even for adults.
I have never done a mule trip, but there is an option for a 3 hour trip into the canyon. That would be a nice experience if you are able to get on a tour. It is very popular and people book that very far in advance.
There are some dining options at the lodges and at Grand Canyon Village in the park.
There are also several dining options in the town of Tusayan, just outside the park entrance. We Cook Pizza and Pasta would be a good option with the kids. There is also the Grand Canyon IMAX Theater which runs a 34 minute film throughout the day. You can fly over the Grand Canyon in a helicopter or small plane from the Grand Canyon National Park Airport (GCN). There are a couple of helicopter companies. I prefer Maverick Helicopters "Maverick has the top safety record of any tourism-based aviation company in the world".
For a day trip from Flagstaff, I would limit myself to the South rim (check out some viewpoints, walk the rim, possible 3 hour mule ride, visitor centers, ranger talks, IMAX, possible Heli flight). That is already more than enough to fill a day. You'd need to figure out what interests you most. If you attempt to add in more things that day, for example driving into the Navajo Reservation, I don't think your kids would appreciate the extra hours in the car...
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I prefer the Grand Canyon South Rim as there aren't many transportation options in the North Rim. Like Christine said, there are buses that will take you from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon. Hiking here can be tough, but I really recommend starting out on the Corridor trails (you can't miss them). If you're not planning on doing any hiking then I don't think a tour is needed, but if you are, I suggest booking one! Also, not sure if you're bringing a pet but I wasn't too sure about this when I visited. You can bring your dog, they just have to be on a leash :)