Zion National Park {with kids}

As part of my Traveling Tuesday initiative for 2016, I'm starting off with documenting some of the amazing places we visited last summer during our vacation out west. In July of 2015 we set out on a grand vacation through the southwest. We traveled for 21 days and over 6,000 miles, visiting 5 states and 9 National Parks. We explored new places and met up with old friends. Overall, it was an incredible journey and everyone learned so much. You can view all posts about our wild west adventure here.

Destination: Zion National Park
Date of Visit: July 2015
Kids: Cole (age 8) & Kiley (age 5)
Length of Stay: 1 Day

Zion was the first National Park stop on our 3 week vacation last summer. We had flown into Las Vegas the day before, rented a car and spent the night in St. George, Utah. St. George was a great stop because there were lots of amenities, gas stations, restaurants and grocery stores. We bought a nice sized cooler at Target and stocked up on snacks that evening.

 We woke up early (this was easy since everyone was still on Eastern Time) and headed out for Zion National Park. The drive was about an hour from our hotel in St. George to the Zion visitor center. Zion runs a shuttle system within the park and I had read that if you aren't at the visitor center early then you won't be able to find parking and you'll have to park down in the town. This wasn't an issue for us since we were at the visitor center by 8am that day. There is no driving inside Zion, so if you're running late you will have to park in town and take the shuttle in. I highly recommend that you arrive early at Zion.

We picked up Junior Ranger books from the visitor center and jumped on the shuttle up to the Emerald Pool Trail. This trail was well paved and pretty easy for the kids. It ends at a beautiful set of waterfalls, which everyone loved. We sat and had a snack at the top of the trail before making our way back down. 

Climbing on rocks along the Emerald Pool Trail.

At the top of the Lower Emerald Pool Trail.

Florida kids think signs like this are hilarious!

After we got back down to the bottom of the trial the kids attended a Junior Ranger program and we spent some time playing in the Virgin River. There were rocks to climb on and the cool water was fun to play in. Mom Tip: Since I had read that Zion had lots of water to play in, the kids wore shoes that I didn't mind getting wet and clothes that would dry quickly.

Zion has a small cafe inside the park. The food was adequate. Not the worst I've ever had, but not the best. Since you have to leave your car and ride the shuttle I recommend planning to eat at the cafe or pack a picnic lunch. 

After a quick lunch at the Zion Cafe, inside the park, we jumped back on the shuttle and headed up to the trailhead for the Narrows. I have always wanted to hike in the Narrows and was so happy we had time to do this. This area was pretty crowded right where the Narrows Trail starts, but if you went a little further up the river the crowd thinned out. The kids absolutely loved playing and hiking in the river.

When we were all done hiking we went back down to the visitor center where the kids earned their Junior Ranger badge. 

Leaving Zion we took the tunnel road, at the suggestion of my friend Andy, and it was really fun. The road winds around the mountain and part of it goes through the side of the mountain. Our next stop would be Bryce Canyon.

Highlights: Definitely hiking the Narrows. The kids couldn't believe that you walked in the water on the trail. 

What We Would Change: If I had to do Zion over again I would plan to spend at least 2 days there. I would have loved to have hiked more of the Narrows and since we went there after lunch it was already pretty crowded. If we could only go back for 1 day, I would head to the Narrows first when it was less crowded.

Recommended Reading: I highly recommend the Foder's guide to National Parks of the West, we used it when planning our trip and it was a great resource. I liked that there were plenty of suggestions to exploring the parks with kids.

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