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Best Things to do in Zion with kids

On a recent road trip through the southwest, we fell in love with Zion National Park. While we haven’t written about it yet, we are thrilled to have Susan of Mountain Moms and Tots showing off the Zion area of southern Utah and its spectacular rock formations. I have been able to visit some fantastic National Parks around the world, but the Utah parks always impress me! I love learning about all of the family-friendly things to do in Zion with kids.

What to Do in Zion with Kids-Kids Are a Trip

Best Things to Do in Zion National Park with Kids

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. It’s a beautiful stop on an Utah road trip with kids, but what do you do with kids in this busy national park? These are some of our favorite things to do in Zion National Park with kids.

1. Zion Canyon Visitor Center and the Zion Nature Center

When we visit a national park, one of our first stops is always the visitors center. There are two of these in Zion, the first one is at the south entrance to the park and the other one is on the west side of the park, known as Kolob Canyon Visitors Center.

These are great places to learn about the best family hikes, tours led by park rangers, park activities, restrooms, and more. They are the perfect place to begin your exploration of Zion National Park and you might want to grab a little souvenir from the gift shop.

family-friendly-things-to-do-in-zion-nature-center-kids-are-a-trip

At the north end of the main campground parking lot 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.

2. Bike the Pa’rus Trail with kids

If you’ve brought your bikes, we recommend taking them on the Pa’rus Trail. This 1.75 mile paved bike trail follows the Virgin River in Zion Canyon. This cycling trail in Zion 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.

family-friendly-things-to-do-in-zion-bike-kids-are-a-trip

3. Family-friendly hikes in Zion National Park

The Temple of Sinawava is the end of the road for the Zion Scenic Canyon Drive but is just the beginning of an easy riverside walk 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 one of the best hikes in Zion for kids. 

This is also the start of the Narrows hike, a hike/swim through narrow canyon walls. It is possible to hike The Narrows with kids. If you’re trying this hike with kids, we recommend getting some gear from a local outfitter before setting out on your adventure.

Hiking in Zion National park with kids
Hiking is different in winter, but equally rewarding

Other kid-friendly hikes in Zion include the Canyon Overlook Trail, Taylor Creek, Emerald Pools, and the Grotto Trail.

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The Emerald Pools Trail is actually made up of three different hikes, one to the Lower Emerald Pool, another to the Middle Emerald Pool, and one to the Upper Emerald Pool. It’s a fairly short hike to the lower pools at just over a mile round trip.

From here, the popular trail increases in difficulty, but it’s worth it to see the waterfalls and sheer cliff faces. *Note the water levels will affect the pools and waterfalls.

Families traveling with older children and teens might consider hiking Angel’s Landing. The Angels Landing hike is 2.4 miles one way and can take 3-6 hours to complete. Note: this is one of the most strenuous hikes in the park, and you will need a permit to make the climb.

4. Swimming in Zion National Park with kids

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. 

family-friendly-things-to-do-in-zion-play-in-the-water-kids-are-a-trip

Access the river from the Canyon Junction shuttle stop or from several points along the Pa’rus trail. Swimming in Zion is also possible in the Pine Creek Waterfall located in Pine Creek Canyon. Families with older kids might also enjoy tubing on the Virgin River. Several companies offer tube rentals in Zion.

5. Drive the Zion-Mount Carmel 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.

Driving through Zion NP
This drive is beautiful any time of year!

Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is the main road through the park. From March through the end of November, the only vehicle allowed is the park’s shuttle bus. When this is not available, the road is open to private vehicles.

One shuttle service runs from the town of Springdale to the park entrance. The Zion Canyon park shuttle runs from the visitor center along the scenic drive with stops at Emerald Pools, West Rim Trail, the Temple of Sinawava, and Zion Lodge.

6. Hike the Canyon Overlook Trail with Kids

Bonus: This kid friendly hike in Zion is one mile out and back, and it 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. 

Zion National Park with kids

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 hiking with a toddler in Zion can be difficult, so I’m glad mine was strapped to me the whole time.

When is the best time to visit Zion National Park?

From May to September, temperatures in Zion may be between 85 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re visiting during the summer months, be sure to bring plenty of water bottles. We also recommend long-sleeved shirts with sun protection, sunscreen, and hats that cover the back of the neck. Be sure to use bug spray to keep away the mosquitos.

We visited Zion in mid-March and were quite surprised that it snowed on us. This made for muddy conditions and it was quite chilly. Probably the best time of year to explore Zion are the months of April, October, and November.

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Where to stay in Zion with kids

There are plenty of places for camping in Zion, but if your family needs a bit more than the basics, consider glamping. We had a lovely stay at Zion Wildflower Resort where we stayed in a covered wagon. 

Glamping near Zion National Park
Who wouldn’t want to try glamping in a covered wagon?

There was plenty of room for 6, a king and four bunk beds. Bathrooms were a minute away and they were very clean and warm (it was winter). The property also has canvas tents and small houses and there’s a community play ground, games, and fire pit to enjoy in the evenings. 

If you are looking for centrally located hotels, Springdale is the closest town to Zion National Park. Best Western Plushas great views and comfortable rooms. SpringHill Suites is also comfortable with a great view of Zion’s red rocks as well. The main lodging for the park can be found at Zion Lodge, but you will have to book early to ensure a room.

About the author: 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. 

Looking for other places to visit in Utah? Don’t miss Best Things to do in St. George, Utah with kids and Capitol Reef with kids.

Travel Tips
Book Your Flights
You can find discounted fares using sites like Momondo or Skyscanner. If you want to keep an eye on discount fares, we suggest signing up for Scott’s Cheap Flights, a daily newsletter with flight sales around the world.

If you travel frequently, consider investing in a Priority Pass for airport lounge access. It’s nice to have a space where you can relax before your flight.

Book Your Accommodation

We regularly use Hotels.com and Expedia.com to find lodging when we travel. It’s a great way to compare vacation rentals, hotels, and resorts.

If your family knows they want to stay in a vacation rental, we recommend looking at VRBO and Plum Guide.

Book Your Transportation

For rental car agencies, try Rentalcars.com. We tend to use Hertz simply for the quality of service.

Book Your Tours and Travel Photos

We regularly used companies like Viator and GetYourGuide to book tours when we travel. Both have great communication and a large variety of activities that work for all ages.

If you’re visiting a city with multiple attractions, be sure to check out a discount pass, such as CityPASS or Go City. Tiqets is another place to purchase tickets for attractions.

Context Travel is another option and they offer more educational based activities. The former teacher in me loves their tours.

One of our favorite things to do annually is take photos with Flytographer. They have photographers around the world and we’ve used them on four separate occasions. This is our favorite travel souvenir.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

With the state of travel these days, it’s important to have some type of travel insurance to cover any unforeseen accidents, illnesses, threat or cancellations. We always travel with insurance and would recommend SquareMouth, Travelex, or Medjet as good options. And if you want to compare different insurance options, use Travel Insurance Master to find the best policy for your group.