It is hard to believe our “See the USA” series has reached its end, 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 Zion 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 with kids!
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? Here’s our top five things to do in Zion National Park with kids.
1. Bike the Pa’rus Trail with kids
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.
2. 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 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 one of the best hikes in Zion for kids. This is also the beginning of the famous Zion Narrows hike, a hike/swim through narrow canyon walls. Other kid friendly hikes in Zion include: the Canyon Overlook Trail, Taylor Creek, Emerald Pools, and the Grotto Trail.
3. 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. 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.
4. Visit the Zion 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 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. 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.
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.