11 Awesome Zion Hikes with Kids!

by | Mar 17, 2020 | Blog, USA, Utah

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With its incredible rock formations and soaring sandstone cliffs, there are some fantastic kid friendly hikes in Zion National Park. From an easy stroll along the Virgin River on the Riverside Walk Trail to the dizzy heights of Angels Landing for the older and experienced hiking kids, there are so many options for Zion hikes with kids.

For those of you planning a trip, we wanted to share our experience of hiking Zion with kids and our guide to trails so you can plan your own Zion hikes with kids.

Zion Hikes with Kids

Exploring Zion

 

Zion National Park

Located beside the tiny town of Springdale in Utah, Zion is home to the tallest sandstone cliffs in the world. The red and white cliffs soar over the Virgin River and the Zion Canyon valley floor. The finger canyons and red Navajo sandstone cut through the north west section of the park in the more remote Kolob Canyon section of the park.

 

Hiking Zion with Kids

Zion’s hikes are an equal mix of easy, moderate and challenging. Older kids may be able to complete the more strenuous hikes assuming they are experienced and competent hikers.

There are a number of trails closed in Zion at the moment due to rockfall damage and trail maintenance but there are still some great hiking options. The following trails are closed as of March 2020:

  • Lower Emerald Pools
  • Observation Point: East Rim from Weeping Rock
  • Hidden Canyon
  • Weeping Rock Trail and shuttle stop 7
Zion National Park with Kids

Zion strolls

 

Where to stay in Zion National Park with Kids

Zion has both in park accommodation and out of park options in Springdale which is adjacent to the main south entrance to the park.

Springdale

Given the shuttle system, it’s just as easy and likely less expensive to stay adjacent to the park in the small town of Springdale. Springdale has other advantages including easier access to food options and more modern lodgings.

  • Cable Mountain Lodge: great selection of family friendly rooms, excellent food and an outdoor pool overlooked by the Zion Watchman! Its location, adjacent to the Zion Visitors Center, means you can hop on the park shuttle bus and reach any of the trails within minutes. Our Zion favorite – check prices now!
  • Flanigan’s Inn: just 10 minutes walk from the Zion entrance and located on a Springdale Shuttle stop, Flanigan’s Inn is a reasonably priced option with good sized clean rooms, a pool and a hot tub – check prices now!

Click here for the best Springdale hotel prices

 

 

1 | Riverside Walk

  • Hike Length: 2.2 miles round trip
  • Hike Difficulty: the hike is rated as easy by the National Parks Service.
  • Younger kids: lots of opportunities to walk parts of the trail, may need carrier due to distance. The trail is also stroller friendly but we’d only recommend stroller use at quiet times.
  • Shuttle stop: Temple of Sinawava

The Riverside Walk is a peaceful hike along a relatively flat paved trail which runs adjacent to the Virgin River. It starts at the Temple of Sinawava, the final stop on the Zion Shuttle and the start of the trail leads up the canyon past the tall weeping walls, lush vegetation and the occasional waterfall! A dirt trail runs path runs alongside the paved trail and we spent some time deer spotting through the trees!

Zion Hikes with kids tip: there are a few spots along the trail from which it is easy to access the river. Kids will love dipping their feet in the water on a sunny day.

Zion National Park with Kids

The end of the Riverwalk Trail

 

The trail continues until it reaches the start of the Zion Narrows and it is fun to watch the Narrows hikers set off in the water. The river is flat and wide at this point so it’s possible to hike up the river a little before returning back to the Temple of Sinawava via the same trail you hiked out on.

Zion Hikes with kids tip: the Riverwalk is one of the most accessible trails in the park and, combined with the crowds making their way to the start of the Narrows, it can get extremely busy. The narrow paths can make it feel like you are being swept along in the crowds rather than enjoying a leisurely hike. Set off early in the morning if you want to avoid the bulk of the crowds. If you are hiking with an infant, it is best to use a carrier rather than a stroller at busy times.

Zion Hikes with Kids

 

 

2 | The Narrows (accessible at the end of the Riverside Walk trail)

Zion National Park with kids tip: this refers to the Bottom Up Narrows Day Hike. The Top Down Thru Hike requires a permit.

  • Hike Length: up to 9.4 mile out and back trail depending on how far you go
  • Hike Difficulty: the hike is classified as strenuous by the National Parks Service.
  • Younger kids: the start of the Narrows has river bank access and shallow crossings and is manageable with younger kids who will love playing in the water. Further upstream, the route follows a rock filled river and, for us, the risk of slipping with a kid on our back meant we ruled the rest of the trail out.
  • Shuttle stop: Temple of Sinawava

One of Zion’s best hikes, the Narrows follows the Virgin River into a narrow slot canyon. The trail passes by Mystery Falls then close to the Orderville Canyon. The next highlight is the iconic Wall Street with its narrow passageways and towering canyon walls. The furthest point on the Bottom Up hike is Big Springs where hikers turn around and make their way back to the Riverside Walk.

Mystery Falls, a ½ mile hike, is a beautiful introduction to the Narrows and a great option for those hiking with young kids.

For older kids and younger kids who are walking, the rangers will be able to suggest at what weight a kid could manage the current river flow. Remember it is an out and back so plan ahead with where you want to turn around: Mystery Falls is 1.5 miles from the shuttle stop, Wall Street is 2.5 miles and Big Springs is 4.7 miles out and back.

Always make sure to check in with the rangers for conditions on the trail as flash floods present a huge danger on the Narrows trail.

Zion National Park with kids: depending on the time of year, you may need some specialist gear to hike the Narrows – lots of visitors rent sticks, boots and socks and wet gear from the Zion Adventure Company. Summer is a great time of year for hiking the Narrows with kids when the water levels are lower and the temperatures warmer.

Zion Hikes with Kids

Getting started at the Narrows

 

 

3 | Pa’rus Trail

  • Hike Length: 3.5 miles round trip although can be made shorter by starting at the shuttle stops 2 or 3
  • Hike Difficulty: the hike is rated as easy by the National Parks Service.
  • Younger kids: lots of opportunities to walk parts of the trail, may need carrier due to distance
  • Shuttle Stop: the trail starts at the Zion Canyon Visitor Center but you can shorten it by starting at shuttle to Stop 2 or 3.

The Pa’rus trail is a paved trail from the South Campground to Canyon Junction. It runs along the Virgin River, crossing bridges and passing through wide meadows and wildflowers. You can even cool off in the river along the way.

The trail is flat and easy with great views from its vantage point on the floor of the Zion Canyon. It showcases some of Zion’s best landmarks including the Watchman and the Towers of the Virgin.

Zion Hikes with kids tip: the Pa’rus trail is the only dog friendly hike in Zion. It’s also great for biking and running.

 

4 | Canyon Overlook Trail

  • Zion Hikes with kids tip: we only recommend this trail for younger kids if they are in a hiking backpack or older kids who will follow instructions.
  • Hike Length: 1 mile round trip
  • Hike Difficulty: the trail is classed as moderate by the National Parks Service. This is due to the huge drop offs (most are fenced) and the uneven trail surface.
  • Younger kids: we used a carrier for our toddler and highly recommend using one for younger kids. The path is uneven and the huge drop offs mean care needs to be taken at all times.
  • Shuttle Stop: Accessible via car on the Zion Mount Carmel Scenic Highway. Parking can be difficult to come by.

There is some elevation gain at the start of the trail as it is accessed via steps from the highway. Most of the trail follows a sandstone wall overlooking the Pine Creek Narrows and the trail flattens out after the initial climb.

There are some obstacles along the way! You will need to climb over some tree roots and boulders along the trail. Although most of the exposed parts are fenced off there are huge drops offs that are not protected. We noticed this was the case at some points on the trail and after reaching the main viewpoint. Take extreme care with kids and ensure they are in backpacks or hold their hand for safety.

The view at the end of the trail is incredible making this one of our favorite hikes in Zion!

 

Zion Hikes with Kids

Epic views from the Canyon Overlook trail

 

5 | Scout Lookout and Angels Landing

Zion Hikes with kids tip: Angels Landings is one of the most difficult hikes in Zion National Park and should only be attempted with older kids (probably at least 13) who are competent hikers and have no issues with heights. However, kids of all ages can make it as far as Scout Lookout which is ¾ of the way.

Zion Hikes with Kids The hike from Scouts Lookout to Angels landing is not for the faint of heart[/caption]

 

  • Hike Length: Scout Lookout is around 4 miles round trip and has an elevation gain of approximately 1,000 foot. Angels Landing continues for another 0.5 miles and has a further 500 foot gain.
  • Hike Difficulty: Angels Landing is classed as strenuous by the National Parks Service. I found the Scout Lookout portion a challenging hike due to the elevation gain.
  • Younger kids: we used a carrier for our toddler and highly recommend using one for younger kids as they are likely to get tired with the climb and there are some huge exposed drops. Extreme care needs to be taken with kids at all times.
  • Shuttle Stop: The Grotto

Zion Hikes with kids tip: After making it to Scout Lookout Dave continued on to Angels Landing (and loved it!) while we ventured a little further on the west rim until he returned.

 

Scout Lookout

The Scout Lookout trail covers the first portion of the Angels Landing hike and the incredible views of Zion Canyon make it a popular hike in its own right. The trail includes the iconic Walter’s Wiggles, a series of 21 switchbacks which are named after the park superintendent who constructed the switchbacks in 1926.

The first part of the hike is on the West Rim trail and it starts off relatively flat before it begins to wind up the hillside via long switchbacks. It levels out at a shaded canyon known as Refrigerator Canyon and the combination of shade and flat ground provide a good chance to catch your breath. The final stretch of the trail, Walter’s Wiggles, is quite strenuous and it left me out of breath and my thighs on fire! The views of Zion Canyon are amazing from Scout Landing.

Zion Hikes with Kids

Walters Wiggles

 

I continued along the West Rim with the kids while Dave made the final approach to Angels Landing.

Zion Hikes with Kids

Scout Lookout

 

Angels Landing

The first part, crossing the saddle, is relatively straightforward until you reach Hogsback. Hogsback is the steep, narrow section which has massive drops on either side. There are chains on this part of the trail and you really need to be comfortable with heights and exposed edges as one wrong step could be fatal. After conquering the Hogsback, the final part of the trail is known as the Landing. Hikers are rewarded with breath taking views over Angels Landing.

There were older kids in their teens on the final stretch to Angels Landing and they seemed to be confident and experienced hikers. As our kids are younger, it’s difficult for us to recommend an age that we would feel comfortable taking them on the final part of the trail.

Zion Hikes with kids tip: if you do decide to continue to Angel’s Landing we recommend starting the trail as early as possible. The Hogsback is terrifying when there are crowds and, as only one hiker can navigate the narrow ledge, the bottlenecks can last for ages. We did a sunrise hike and were surprised by the crowds as we returned to the Grotto.

Zion Hikes with Kids

The View from the top of Angels Landing

Zion Hikes with Kids

 

7 | Watchman Trail

  • Hike Length: 3.3 mile round trip, 368 foot elevation gain
  • Hike Difficulty: the hike is rated as moderate by the National Parks Service
  • Younger kids: we used a carrier for our toddler and highly recommend using one for younger kids due to some exposed drops. As always, extreme care needs to be taken with kids due to the drop offs.
  • Shuttle Stop: Zion Visitor Center

While not one of Zion’s biggest hitters, the Watchman is a relatively easy trail that rewards with amazing views over the Zion Canyon.

The trail starts close to the Visitors Center and passes by the Watchman Campground rising gradually towards the Watchman Overlook. There are some wonderful views of some of the Zion Canyon and its iconic rock formations as well as the town of Springdale.

The trail can be a bit muddy in parts, depending on the recent weather.

Zion Hikes with kids tip: there are some great spots for a lunch break with flat rocks dotted along the Watchman trail.

 

8 | Upper Emerald Pools (from the Grotto via the Kayenta Trail)

Zion Hikes with kids tip: the Upper Emerald pools are accessible via two trails. They can be reached in order of Lower, Middle and Upper pools via the Lower Emerald Pools Trails but this is closed to Spring 2020 at the earliest. The second route takes the Kayenta Trail from the Grotto to the Middle Pool and hikers have the option to make side hikes to the Upper and Lower Pools.

  • Hike Length: 2 mile round trip
  • Hike Difficulty: the hike is rated as moderate by the National Parks Service
  • Younger kids: we used a carrier for our toddler and highly recommend using one for younger kids due to some exposed drops. As always, extreme care needs to be taken with kids due to the drop offs.
  • Shuttle Stop: The Grotto

 

The three tiered Emerald Pools are made up of the Lower, Middle and Upper Pools which are connected via a series of trails. The Lower Emerald Pool Trail is closed to Spring 2020 and the Middle Pool Trail has been closed indefinitely for quite a while.

The trail starts with a small clim overlooking the river before entering the Emerald Pool area through the small canyon. The landscape changes with weeping rocks and small waterfalls emerging from the rocks. The Middle Pool is the closest and the most picturesque and then it is a 150 foot climb to the Upper Pool which sits at the foot of a massive cliff. You can check out the Lower Pool on the return hike before taking the Kayenta Trail back to the Grotto.

Zion Hikes with kids tip: swimming is not permitted in the pools

[caption id="attachment_208643" align="aligncenter" width="400"]Zion Hikes with Kids Upper Emerald Pool

 

 

9 | Timber Creek Overlook (Kolob Canyons)

The Kolob Canyon section of Zion, in the North West of the Park, is renowned for its finger canyons and red sandstone. It’s much less visited than the Zion Canyon section of the park but its popular with hikers who seek to escape the crowds and experience a different side of Zion National Park.

  • Hike Length: 1 mile round trip
  • Hike Difficulty: the hike is rated as moderate by the National Parks Service
  • Younger kids: the trail is rocky but easily manageable. Our two year old walked the trail.
  • Access: West end of parking lot at end of Kolob Canyons Road. Note: the buses don’t service the Kolob Canyons section of the park

The Timber Creek Overlook Trail is accessed at the end of the scenic Kolob Canyons Road.

The trail is a relatively flat, following a small ridge, and there are spectacular views of the valley and the mountain ridge.

Zion Hikes with Kids

The views from the Timber Creek Overlook trail

 

Closed trails (March 2020)

The following trails are great options for hiking at Zion National Park with kids when they reopen:

 

10 | Lower Emerald Pools Trail (closed to Spring 2020)

  • Hike Length: 1.2 miles
  • Hike Difficulty: easy
  • Younger kids: easy walk although there are drop offs where care needs to be taken. This trail is stroller friendly but it is easier to navigate the trail with a carrier or hiking backpack during busy periods.
  • Shuttle Stop: Zion Lodge

The Lower Emerald Pools are accessed via an easy hike on a paved trail. It passes behind the two waterfalls which flow from the Middle Pool and showcases some of the rock formations and hanging gardens Zion is renowned for.

Zion Hikes with kids tip: the trail is currently closed for maintenance.

 

11 | Weeping Rock Trail (closed due to 2019 landslide)

  • Hike Length: 0.4 miles
  • Hike Difficulty: easy
  • Younger kids: easy walk although there are drop offs where care needs to be taken. This trail is stroller friendly but it is easier to navigate the trail with a carrier or hiking backpack during busy periods.
  • Shuttle Stop: Weeping Rock (shuttle stop is also closed)

Despite being the shortest trail in the park, the Weeping Rock is a Zion icon. The easy trail leads to the apparently weeping alcove shaped rock surrounded by hanging gardens. A small stream runs below catching the water sprinkling from the rock.

Zion Hikes with kids tip: the trail is currently closed for maintenance.

Zion Hikes with Kids

Weeping Rock Trail in Zion National Park

Zion Hikes with Kids

The rockfall at Weeping Rock Trail

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