Hiking With Kids in the Summer

A parent emailed to ask:

What is the youngest age that you suggest for a son to walk the Angel Trail? Our son, who is 12 and in good shape, is planning to hike with us this summer. Is this OK?

As a father of an 11 and a 14 year old, I wouldn’t hesitate to take either down the Bright Angel trail. However, I’d never take them on such a hike in the summer. A nice cool season day hike would be down the Bright Angel to Indian Garden and possibly plateau point. If visiting the canyon in summer with my kids, I’d stick to the rim trail.

Ken has some additional reactions:

This is a tough one. Summer is a poor time to be on these trails for anyone - most of the search and rescue operations happen in the summer. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke (which can result in permanent disability) are common problems in the summer.

My impression is that children are more prone to dehydration and more likely to have heat related problems.

Still, people do it - but I’d be uncomfortable recommending it. But, hiking the Grand Canyon in the summer is like sunbathing in an oven — it can really take all the fun out of the trip.

You would be much better advised to do day hikes - in the SK to Cedar Ridge - maybe little beyond.

In the Bright Angel to Plateau point (in early and well on the way back out before 11AM. But never into the inner gorge where temps reach 110 degrees F +. And NEVER attempt a rim-to-river-to-rim in the same day.

Hope this is of some assistance in helping you to make plans.

17 Responses to “Hiking With Kids in the Summer”

  1. Kelly Says:

    We plan to spend a day hiking to Phantom Ranch in early April. Two children ages 11 and 13. Spend two nights and then hike back out (Bright Angle).

    We would appreciate comments/suggestions to ensure this is a fun trip for all.


  2. Ken Says:

    Kelly -

    Rob should really answer this question. If he doesn’t by the weekend - please resubmit as a ’suggestion’ at:


    One thing I’d suggest is to try and find somewhere that your family can walk the full distance you’ll be doing on Bright Angel in one day.

    Bright Angel is just over 9 miles. So 5 miles out and 5 miles back would be a good idea.

    Watching your kids during and after that will give you some indication of how they’ll handle the trail.

    If 10 miles on flat ground is a piece of cake…that doesn’t prove they’ll do okay. But if it’s a problem - the Canyon will be a lot worse.


  3. Rob Says:

    Kelly -

    I applaud your plan to spend two nights at Phantom Ranch before hiking out. You and your kids will appreciate the recovery time, and the time you’ll have to explore the area around Phantom.

    As to ensuring the hike is fun for all: Start early on your descent and return days. That way you can take your time to break as needed and enjoy the scenery. To add an educational component, you might pick up a copy of the phamplet titled something to the effect of ‘geology of the Bright Angel Trail.’ The features identified in the phamplet could also be used to provide motivation, if needed.

    Keeping everyone well hydrated is also important. Everyone should be drinking often, even when they don’t feel thirsty.

    Hope this helps. This should be a great experience for you and your kids!

  4. Kelly Says:

    Thank you both for the good advice.

  5. Mike Says:

    About three years ago my wife and I took our kids, 13, 10 and 8 years old, down to Phantom Ranch and back in early August. They did fine but we had been doing 4 - 5 mile hikes at noon in 95 degree 90% humidity several times a week for a month to prep for it. We took lots of water and each kid had a camelback and small knapsack. They wore white and had desert hats with neck flaps. We made sure they drank constantly ( sipping from the camel backs) and ate. We started around 7am - I recommend even earlier at that time of year. We ended up not getting to the bottom until around 2pm. We had reservations for dinner which the kids loved. We camped there and the next day hiked to Indian Gardens and on the third day hiked out. I have a good deal of outdoor experience and my wife is a pediatrician, so we felt comfortable with our ability to prevent or handle problems. But conditions at that time of year can be life threatening if you are not prepared.

  6. RobK Says:

    Mike - Thanks for sharing your family’s experience!

  7. Maria Says:

    How about in the winter?

    We would like to stay at Phantom Ranch in December with our 2 kids, ages 9.5 and 12. I had wanted to reserve 2 nights, but was only able to get one. Any suggestions for what it is like at that time of year? Is it possible to spend one night camping outside?

  8. RobK Says:

    Hi Maria -

    Winter is beautiful in the Grand Canyon. In some ways, winter hiking in the canyon with kids is safer than summer. The risk of heat induced injury is much lower; hydration is easier.

    A downside of winter hiking in the canyon is that snow and ice on the trail is a distinct possibility. Instep crampons, or other traction aids are strongly recommended when hiking the canyon in winter.

    What is the canyon like in December? Check our weather page for average temperatures and days of precipitation.

    Camping below the rim in winter is definitely a possibility. Again, check the weather page for inner canyon temperature data.

    Hope this helps,



  9. Dave Says:

    We just completed a South Kaibab - Phantom - Bright Angel loop with our kids at the end of March. One day down, two nights at the ranch, and one day up. Our daughter is 7 and son is 10, and they had no problems at all. It was cloudy and cool for the hike up, but light rain the whole way after Indian Garden and the trail got messy. Still, much better than heat.

    For the hike up I set my watch to beep every 20 minutes to signal break time. This gave the kids something to look forward to and kept me from getting too intense. My son eventually didn’t want to stop and went ahead after the three-mile resthouse, meeting us at the top. It was nice going up the Bright Angel Trail because we headed straight to the restaurant where the kids ordered *anything they wanted*. What a treat.

    The kids had a great time playing at the beach on our day off.

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