10 Tips for Visiting Zion National Park with Kids
Zion National Park has to be one of my personal favorite places to visit and the best part for families is that it is a great place to take kids. After spending many days there, I’ve decided to put together my list of 10 tips for visiting Zion National Park with kids.
1-Ask About Easy and Paved hikes: There are many great hikes that are considered low impact or are short and can be great for little legs and those of us who need to push strollers. Our three favorites are River Walk, (which is fully paved so you can take strollers the entire way), Emerald Pools (Paved for a short while up to a waterfall so you can take your stroller that far) and Weeping Rock (Great because it is paved and short but know that it is a little steep.) If you are bringing a stroller try to keep it small. We typically bring our umbrella stroller. During the busy season of the year they do not allow personal vehicles into the park and you have to ride the shuttle to the different locations. It is a big pain to get a stroller on and off the shuttle, especially if there are a lot of people riding the shuttle with you. The smaller the better. If you are planning ahead you can download the Zion Park Hiking Guide, which will give you a better description of the hikes, or the Visitor’s Center can give you that information when you arrive.
2-Junior Ranger Program: I didn’t know about the Junior Ranger program at the National Parks until my friend told me about it. All of the National Parks have a program for kids where they can complete some tasks, attend a Ranger-led activity and receive a fun gold badge. Each park has different requirements but at Zion National Park, my kids were given a fun work book that they worked on while we rode the shuttle to our hiking spots. Each National Park has a different gold badge, so we are working on collecting as many as we can from different National parks. We have along way to go!
3-Wear good shoes: This one should be obvious but I always see so many people and kids wearing flip-flops or other non-hiking sandals. In fact, I have seen people actually going barefoot and carrying their shoes on the way back down the trails because their feet couldn’t take the torture any longer. Zion National Park is a place for hiking and if you don’t want to be miserable, make sure you and your kids are wearing shoes that are designed for walking long periods of time, even if you aren’t planning on a strenuous hike. Trust me on this one.
4-Take plenty of water, sunscreen and a hat: You will want to bring in plenty of water for yourself and your kids to take on the hikes. Most of the trail heads have bathrooms and places to fill up water bottles so make sure to fill up frequently if you are running low. Also, sunscreen is a must. Yes, Zion National Park is in the mountains but it is hot during the summer months and even if you aren’t going in the summer, the elevation makes it really easy to burn. Bring plenty of sunscreen and even a hat to keep the sun off your kids faces and ask the rangers for the best time of day to hike certain trails. If you can plan it right you can get on a trail that is shady most of the time.
5-Bring Extra Clothes or Swimsuits: One of my favorite things about going to Zion National Park with kids is the little pools and waterfalls that can be found throughout the park at different times of the year. If you take the River Walk trail, it actually goes right along the river and if the water level is low, it is really fun for the kids to play in. There are also little frogs all over that are fun to catch. My boys have a great time and I always bring a change of clothes because without fail one of my boys will fall in the water in the first 2 minutes of being there. But that’s just part of the fun. You can even bring swimsuits and let them enjoy the water even more.
6-Take a Picnic: There are a lot of restaurants in Springdale, UT just outside of Zion but it is more fun and less expensive to just bring in a picnic lunch. There are picnic tables everywhere and my boys had fun chasing lizards and checking out the squirrels. We also saw a 4-point buck in the area. And I pretty much just love being out in nature so it’s way better than eating lunch at a fast food place.
7-Ice Cream!: The Zion Lodge, which is located just inside the park, has a little deli where they serve food and ice cream. We always stop in there for an ice cream cone to cool off after our hikes. There is a huge lawn out front that you can relax on and enjoy just sitting and taking in all of the beautiful mountains around you.
8-Zion-Mt Carmel Tunnel: If you have time, make sure to drive through the tunnel that is located just outside the entrance to the park. It is over a mile long! It makes me a little claustrophobic, but it is one of the best things to do with kids in Zion National Park. They love it!
9-Zion Canyon Theater: If you have extra time to kill and money to burn, check out the Zion Canyon Theater. It has a HUGE screen and they show the movie Canyon of the Gods, which is a history of the park, in 3-D. Really cool! We also watched a Dinosaur movie there the last time we went and the movies change seasonally. They also have showings of new releases in the evening. It’s a great way to relax after a long day of hiking and your kids will love it, but it is a little pricey so just be prepared.
10-Check the Weather: The weather in Southern Utah can change in a matter of seconds. You can have nice sunny skies and then a down pour of rain. If you see dark clouds moving in and you are out on a trail, it might be a good idea to either head back down or find some shelter. The storms are normally pretty short but can be intense and cause flash flooding. I actually LOVE a good desert rain storm but it wouldn’t be so fun if you are stranded out in the middle of it.
I hope these tips are helpful in planning a trip to Zion National Park with kids. We absolutely love it there! I have great memories of traveling there as a kid with my family and now we’ve taken our boys several different times and can’t wait to go back.