Top stops for families in Zion National Park

Posted By Allison on Apr 16, 2012

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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.

Top stops for families in Zion National Park | | Utah | Mighty 5 | findyourpark | summer vacation ideas | spring break | family travel

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.

Top stops for families at Zion National Park in Utah | | spring break | summer vacation | family vacation |

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. 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 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!

Tips for hiking the Zion Narrows with kids | | Zion National Park | Utah | summer vacation | Southwest | family vacation

Shuttle tips

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. Click the button to check rates and availability on TripAdvisor.

Need hiking boots or other outdoor gear? Find boots, clothing and gear for the whole family at Sierra Trading Post or

Need tips for other great places near Zion National Park? Here are our tips for other great places nearby.

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Hi there! I am the founder of Tips for Family Trips. I am a married mom of two children, ages 10 and 12, living near Salt Lake City, Utah. We took our first child on a two-week road trip when she was four weeks old and we have been traveling as a family ever since. We love to get out of the house to see and do fun things, both far away and in our own neighborhood.


    • Do you know of a local place that rents baby/toddler gear? We’d like to rent a pack and play, high chair, and backpack for hauling around our 2 year old, but haven’t found anything yet. When went to Grand Teton, there was a place that rented everything, just wondering if there’s anything similar around Zion.

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  1. Zion is definitely my favorite National Park. It has stuff for all skill types. Perfect for families who are looking to get outside more to some of the most technical canyons out there.

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  2. We love Zion as well! Though I was more frightened than ever in my life at Angel’s Landing on the cables…that hike was so scary to me!

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  3. Great tips!! You are so lucky to live so close to so many amazing national parks!

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  4. It’s really nice to know that there are quite a few areas that can be used as a base for your trip to Zion. Plus, I wouldn’t mind driving through the park with a car. It means that we wouldn’t have to worry about making shuttle times. Plus, a car would make transporting the essentials a lot easier!

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    • Hi Maggie! You never need to worry about making shuttle times. It comes by every few minutes all day long. You can use your own car anywhere in the park except Zion Canyon. Visit in winter to drive your own car in the canyon too.

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  5. Hello, I would like to thank you for your post. Great insight and information. I will be arriving here in the second week of June, with a my family. I have two girls,..3 and 1. I would like to take them to, “The narrows”, for a day hike. I know that I may not be able to go all the way in, we will be carrying them in hiking backpacks. This way they dont have to worry about the water. But could you suggest naything for our kids age groups? Just want to allow my family to experience the most at such a young age. Thank you for any and all suggestions.

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    • Honestly, I think that hiking in the Narrows will be ambitious in early June with children in backpacks. The water will be higher, faster and colder than later in the summer. I suggest that you wear boots with excellent support and traction, and keep your expectations reasonable. Keep close track of the weather forecast and check with a ranger that day to make sure you know the conditions before you go in.

      That said, the first mile of the hike to the Narrows (Temple of Sinewava) is very family friendly, and you could let young children walk it on their own at their own pace. It is flat, wide and paved and we have frequently seen squirrels, deer and insects (like caterpillars) up close along the trail. At the end of the trail and at many places in the Narrows, you’ll find rocks and sand where young children can play and explore near the water. Good luck, and have fun!

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  6. This is really helpful information! One question – do you know if there is anywhere to store a stroller? We would like to use the stroller for the Pa’rus Trail and end up at Canyon Junction, but don’t want to have to backtrack to the car at the visitor center to put it away. Thank you!

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    • There isn’t really a good place to store a stroller at the end of the Pa’rus Trail. The trail passes through the campground and ends where the highway and the road to Zion Canyon fork. It’s not as busy an area for foot traffic as other parts of the canyon, so you could perhaps leave it near the trail, but it won’t be secure. One other possibility… The museum is across the street, about halfway down the trail and a ranger there might let you leave it there.

      You may want to use the stroller in other parts of the park. The Riverside Walk at the end of the shuttle line is stroller friendly. The first parts of Emerald Pool and Weeping Rock hikes are paved. The trick will be getting the stroller onto the shuttle if it is crowded. You will need to fold it.

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  7. Hi Allison, this is Sharath. I am planning to visit Zions park. I have a 2 yr old toddler. I am concerned if there are any trecking points and long walks which may be difficult with kid. Please provide your experience on this. Thnak you

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    • Hi Sharath! You could walk or take a stroller on most of the trails in this post. Most are fairly short and paved. The only one that you might want to skip is the trail to the upper two Emerald Pools. The hike isn’t long, but the last bit is rugged.

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