It is hard to believe our “See the USA” series has reached the finale, the letter Z! I feel like we need a ticker tape parade as we have covered a ton of destinations from Hawaii to Rhode Island. This week brings us to Z, and instead of a city, we are featuring a National Park. This week Susan of Mountain Moms and Tots is showing off Zion and its spectacular scenery. If you missed last week we covered Yosemite and Xenia, Ohio the week before. I haven’t been to many National Parks, but I am impressed by the family friendly things to do in Zion!
Zion National Park has been a vacation destination for over 100 years, and for good reason. The impressive sandstone cliffs of Zion Canyon are inspiring in their beauty. But what do you do with kids in this busy national park? Here’s our top five picks for family fun in Zion.
1. Bike the Pa’rus Trail
This 1.75 mile paved bike trail follows the Virgin River in Zion Canyon. The path is shared with pedestrians and pets (the only trail on which pets are allowed in Zion National Park). We made frequent stops to swim in the Virgin River, a perfect activity for a hot summer day.
2. Hike the Riverside Walk
The Temple of Sinawava is the end of the road for the Zion Scenic Canyon Drive, but is just the beginning for a beautiful easy stroll along the Virgin River. The paved trail is accessible for wheelchairs and strollers (with a little assistance). With cottonwood trees and canyon walls for shade, it’s a great choice for Zion with kids. This is also the beginning of the famous Zion National Park Narrows hike, a hike/swim through narrow canyon walls.
3. Swim in the Virgin River
Sometimes the only way to escape the heat in Zion National Park is to jump in the river. The mighty Virgin River may not seem so mighty to look at but its consistent flow and intermittent flash floods helped form the Zion Canyon in the first place. Access the river from the Canyon Junction shuttle stop or from several points along the Pa’rus trail.
4. Visit the Nature Center
At the north end of the main campground parking area is the Zion National Park Nature Center, a great place to learn about the park’s wildlife in a kid friendly way. They offer youth programs, games and displays that discuss the wildlife and history of Zion National Park. It’s a great way to get out of the heat and do something fun with kids.
5. Drive the Zion to Mt. Carmel Highway Tunnel
This 1.1 mile long tunnel was blasted through the red sandstone in 1930 by the Citizens Conservation Corps. At the time it was the longest tunnel ever built. It’s fun to drive through even for adults, but check vehicle size restrictions. If you’re driving a motorhome expect to pay the $15 fee for a tunnel escort.
Hike the Canyon Overlook Trail This one mile out and back trail is a great hike that packs a lot into a short distance. Beautiful views, shady caves with hanging gardens, sand to dig in, steps in sandstone, even a bridge that connects two parts of the trail over a drop off. With some steep edges it’s not appropriate for young children who can’t follow directions. My 4.5 and 7 year-olds did great, but I was glad my toddler was strapped to me the whole time.
Have you been to Zion? What’s your favorite thing to do there?
Susan Strayer is the author of MountainMomandTots.com. She lives with her husband and three young kids in the mountains near Sundance, Utah. When they’re not hiking, biking, skiing and camping, Susan spends her time doing Mom stuff and reading. Summer of 2016 they traveled 7,000 miles along the US National Park to Park Highway.