Zion National Park is my happy place. My parents were raised in southern Utah and and at least once a year during a trip to visit grandparents, my dad would load all the kids and cousins into our old van and take us for a day in Zion. I have continued the tradition with my family. We visit Zion National Park as a family nearly every year.
Favorite Family Hikes
For as many times as I have visited Zion National Park, I still haven’t seen it all. But, I do have a few favorite short hikes and activities in Zion Canyon – the most visited section of the park – that we do nearly every time we go.
1. The Visitor Center is your first stop. The shuttle starts here and it’s a good place to let the kids run around while you top off your water bottles, make sure everyone has stopped at the bathroom and get an idea of what you would like to do for the day. This is also the place to get Junior Ranger information for the kids.
2. You can either get on the shuttle here or take the Pa’rus Trail to Canyon Junction. This trail is under two miles one-way and is wide, paved, and flat. It is a nice nature walk and is good for bikes. I enjoy it, but I wouldn’t call it a top priority.
3. The next stop of note is the Zion Lodge. This is a great stop when you are ready for lunch. There is a large lawn for picnics. There is also a snack bar and a restaurant. We have packed our lunch in and ordered from the snack bar on different trips. Packing your own food is smart, but if you are already packing diapers, wipes, extra clothing, water, snacks and a baby in your backpack, there’s no shame in buying lunch.
4. Across from the lodge is the Emerald Pools trail head. There are three pools. The trail to the lower pool is .6 mile one-way and is paved. You could take a stroller to the lower pool but no further. The Middle Pool is a short but rugged hike up and is the least interesting of the three pools. The Upper Pool is .3 miles beyond that and it is a rugged uphill hike, but most school-age kids should be able to do it without much trouble. The Upper Pool is surrounded by sheer red rock cliffs and during some of the year, a waterfall pours into it. It is shady and spectacular. My daughter has been here twice and has managed to step or fall into the water both times, so plan accordingly.
5. A couple of shuttle stops down is my favorite childhood hike, Weeping Rock. It is .5 mile round-trip, mostly uphill going there and downhill back. It is paved and stroller friendly except for a short flight of steps at the end. There is a place you could park the stroller instead of carrying it up. For most of the year, water seeps through the sandstone and drips in front of the patio that has been carved out of the rock. There is also a fantastic view of the canyon from this patio. The patio is pleasantly cool in the summer and you may get dripped on. As a toddler, my daughter jumped in a puddle and splashed everyone in the vicinity with mud. The reason it is my favorite is that when my dad brought us all when we were young, he let us play in the stream at the bottom of the trail for hours.
6. The last stop on the shuttle line is the Temple of Sinewava. This wide paved trail takes you to the Virgin River and the entrance to the Narrows where you can play in the water on a warm day. If you’re interested in hiking the Narrows, read my tips for hiking the Narrows with kids. It’s one of our favorite summer hikes, but it’s important to go prepared!
Zion Canyon is the most popular section of Zion National Park. It is only six miles long, a dead end, and serviced by a narrow two-lane road. So, you’ll be required to use the complimentary shuttle that leaves from the Visitor Center between March and November each year. The shuttle is easy to use and arrives about every 10 minutes, but can be crazy crowded during peak season.
Arrive at the Visitor Center early (before 9:00 or 10:00 a.m.) if you want a parking space inside the park. If you stay or park in Springdale, there is a free town shuttle that will drop you off at the pedestrian entrance to Zion National Park. Bicycles are also a good option. All of the shuttles have bike racks.
Good to Know
Where: State Route 9 in Springdale, Utah.
When: Open year-round. Winter is the best time to avoid crowds. Spring and fall offer the best weather for hiking. Summer is great for water hikes like the Narrows. Zion Canyon is very popular and crowds are growing year-round.
How Much: $30 per vehicle for seven days
How Long: a few hours to a few days
Amenities: shuttle, camping, lodging, restaurant, snack bar, gift shops, restrooms
How else can we help?
Need a place to stay? Springdale is closest to Zion and has several good lodging options. St. George, Cedar City, Hurricane or Kanab also make a good base for a trip to Zion and other nearby attractions. Two places I really like are Zion Ponderosa Ranch and Resort on the east side of the park and Coral Springs Resort, just north of St. George. Explore these and other options at Booking.com.
Need tips for other great places near Zion National Park? Here are our tips for other great places nearby.
- Bryce Canyon National Park
- Snow Canyon State Park
- Our Utah page
- Our Utah for Families Pinterest Board