We recently checked off an item near the top of our family bucket list.
People will tell you the feeling you have when you first see the Grand Canyon is indescribable. We heard things like “Pictures don’t do it justice.” and “It looks like you are standing in a painting.”
Yep. All of the above.
Truly - you really can’t understand until you have been there.
John Wesley Powell, one of the most famous explorers of the land west of the 100th meridian, named this area during his 1869 expedition.
The Colorado Plateau comprises a series of tablelands (plateaus or mesas) located within an immense basin surrounded by highlands. Stream valleys that are typically narrow and widely spaced dissect the region, as do larger valleys, including the most spectacular – the Grand Canyon. ~ The National Park Service
(Before we left for our trip I read Wallace Stegner’s Beyond the 100th Meridian - I highly recommend this to prepare yourself!)
These four states provide some of the most beautiful landscapes and rich learning opportunities of any concentrated area in the United States.
Traveling the Colorado Plateau
When I was sharing pictures from our trip on Instagram, so many of my followers said - you MUST share your itinerary.
Our itinerary was simple because I didn’t have to plan a single thing.
We took a Trafalgar Tour - Colorful Trails of the Southwest. I knew we wanted to cover a lot of ground in approximately 8-10 days. I also knew that I didn’t want my husband to have to worry about a SINGLE THING - driving, deciding where to stay, what to eat, etc… After pricing some tours and then pricing our own airfare, vehicle rental, hotel prices, etc… a tour turned out to be a fabulous option.
Advantages of a tour experience:
you can truly RELAX - everything is decided for you
the itinerary keeps you MOVING - we did have some down time, but we were up and out early every morning and didn’t waste time
kids aren’t as free to complain or nag at each other because they are with other people
an EXPERT tour guide provides a wonderful educational experience - perfect for homeschoolers!
the best sights, hotels, restaurants, trails, picture spots, etc… are chosen for you
we met locals in several areas and felt we learned a lot more this way
you meet other people from all over the world and are enriched by spending a week with them
The first day we traveled from Phoenix to Scottsdale, to Sedona - and that evening found us at the Grand Canyon, staying at one of the lodges in the National Park.
We had some time to just STARE into the canyon. Truly - photos don’t do it justice.
The sun was beginning to set - which proved to be a perfect time to take pictures and watch the light and shadow play off of the rock formations. We never realized you could see so many colors of ROCK. The expansiveness of the canyon was breathtaking.
The wonders of the Grand Canyon cannot be adequately represented in symbols of speech, nor by speech itself. The resources of the graphic art are taxed beyond their powers in attempting to portray its features. Language and illustration combined must fail.
- John Wesley Powell
We heard from “Canyon Tim” while we sat overlooking the canyon. He taught us about the geology of the canyon and the many different types of rock found in the Grand Canyon. This was a spectacular science lesson!
That night, at dinner, my kids had some great conversations with the people at our table about the age of the earth. I found myself being conflicted and wondering about the actual age of our earth - and my beliefs about Creationism.
A very kind man (the age of my children’s grandparents) from Tennessee gave my daughter what I thought was the best answer - he told her not to be too concerned about the age of it all, but instead to marvel at God’s creation and do everything in her power to love and protect that creation - and to share the good news of Christ. These wonders are placed in our path by God and we them our respect and awe.
I tend to agree. It is hard to argue with good science, but then again with God all things are possible. Some things are supposed to remain a mystery to us. I appreciated that we could have this discussion - and that my kids were even thinking about this. (Please don’t leave me a comment with your opinion about this - I don’t want to debate you here - I’m just happy to have had the discussion with my children.)
A couple of resources if you want to know more:
The next morning we awoke early, ate a quick breakfast, and headed out to hike The Trail of Time. on our own. Again - more age of the canyon questions, but this time I felt like we could just take it all in and truly stand in awe at the events that had to happen over time for this incredible canyon to form.
Early morning in the Grand Canyon is so peaceful and beautiful. We saw a lot wildlife and were amazed by the lack of people on the trail.
We spent about two hours hiking, stopping for pictures, and just marveling at the beauty. Our guide had explained to us that the Grand Canyon tends to be a more passive national park - meaning people mostly LOOK at the scenery in the park. As we would come to Arches and Mesa Verde we would experience more active National Parks.
I’m sure we could have spent more time and done more activities at the Grand Canyon, but having a little less than 24 hours in the national park was perfect for us - especially because we had more to see and do in the next seven days!
Learning Resources for The Grand Canyon
There was learning before, during - and will continue to be after - our visit to the Grand Canyon.
We learned more history on our trip than we ever could in a textbook. I count each and every one of our travel days a SCHOOL DAY. This is intentional learning, and I wish every child had the opportunity to learn about America in this way!
No matter what age my children have been, I always have the following strategy for before, during, and after our trips:
adult reading for mom and dad — so we can talk with each other and the kids about the area we’re visiting
books for the kids to read while on our trip
follow up read aloud books, puzzles, coloring, etc…
National Parks games are great — they have helped us learn so much!
Beyond the Hundredth Meridian: John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the WestThe Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand CanyonNational Parks of the USAThe Ghost of the Grand Canyon (16) (Real Kids Real Places)DownriverWhere Is the Grand Canyon?G Is for Grand Canyon : An Arizona Alphabet (Alphabet Series)Grand CanyonGrand Canyon National Park Junior Notebook: Wide Ruled Adventure Notebook for Kids and Junior RangersUSAOPOLY National Parks Edition Jenga Action GameYAHTZEE: National Parks Travel Edition GameUNO Wilderness Card GameGrand Canyon Plants and Animals Coloring Book (Dover Nature Coloring Book)Hennessy Puzzles Arizona Map Jigsaw Puzzle - 1000 Piece - Map of The State of Arizona with Beautiful Illustrated Artwork Challenging Puzzle for Kids & Adults - Made in USA with Recycled Materials