Suzanne and Patrick met in college. After five years of traveling the country and the world for Patrick, with the Army, they had the golden opportunity to choose the best place for them to raise their growing family, Sun Valley, Idaho. Fast forward years later, and they are still there happily raising their three adventurous kiddos, Braden, Elise and Will. They like to do everything with their kids, and as they have gotten older, their family bucket list keeps on expanding and getting even better with more adventures.
"A few years ago, we were on a National Park kick and wanted to visit as many National Parks that we could drive to, so we loaded up our suburban and planned an All-American road trip for spring break.
Within the first day of arriving at Zion, we were hooked by the majestic beauty, the adventures, and the ease of the park! We did the Narrows and couldn't believe that a place like that actually existed. That was inspiring for my whole family. We still talk about it! So, for the past three years, whenever we plan our spring break trip, the kids always beg to go back to Zion and each time that we go, there is always something new and exciting that we discover. It's amazing how peaceful and connected we all feel when we are there." - Suzanne
DATES OF ADVENTURE
March 20th thru March 22nd 2017
AGES OF KIDS
9, 10, & 12
WHERE TO STAY
We usually stay at the Hampton Inn in Springdale, but this time we stayed at Zion Lodge inside the park and loved it (book early!). We felt like we were at a summer camp for the whole family. We could eat breakfast on our little balcony and stare at the magnificent mountains, then quickly walk over to a hiking trail. I felt like we went back in time, in a good way.
I would try to get a room on the second floor so you could open up your balcony door at night. It would also be quieter!
When we first got to Zion, we checked in and orientated ourself on the area and formulated our plan for the next couple of days. I love to also check out every visitor center, so we did that too! Our main goal for Zion was to hike the Narrows (a family favorite!), but we discovered that it was closed due to high water, so we had to come up with another plan. We heard that the Subway was amazing, so that became Plan B. We went to the visitor center to get our permit, but were told that they Subway waters were becoming too high and many grown-ups couldn't access it. Time to think of Plan C--quickly. I did a quick search using very spotty cell service and found Red Desert Adventure and booked our canyoneering/repelling trip for the next day.
We went to Jack's Sports Grille for dinner. We have been there before, so since we had hungry kids and were on a time crunch, we ate there again. A good variety of food for families---salads, hamburgers, etc. After dinner, we did an adventure shoot with Zion Adventure Photog along the Pa'Rus trail! After the photos, we drove into Springdale and had wonderful ice cream at Hoodoos Ice Cream Parlor. We had huge waffle cones that were delicious!! Since the sun was setting, we were thankful that we brought our jackets with us!
We are kind of lame when it comes to breakfast and always eat in our hotel rooms. We hit up the grocery store and stock up on fruit, yogurt, bars, pb and j sandwiches, etc. The hotel room didn't have a fridge, so thankfully we had our cooler with us.
We are morning people, so we were up early and were able to eat breakfast on our balcony while watching a couple of deer munch on the grass in front of us. Priceless! We then walked to Angel's Landing (1/2 mile walk from our hotel room). Our plan was just to walk as far as we felt comfortable since we heard that Angel's Landing isn't recommended for children. Since we were up earlier, the trail was fairly empty and due construction of the trail, we found that it was a fairly easy hike. Before we knew it, we were within 1/2 mile of the end, which also was the scariest section. Again, we took it nice and slow and went only as far as we felt comfortable as a family. By now, the crowds were starting to pick up, so we sure were grateful that we got up early. We stopped to fuel up at the ledge and hang out. A volunteer park ranger was giving a fascinating presentation on the California Condors in the park, so that was fun for us to listen to. The gentlemen does the presentation a couple of times of week, so we were glad that we were able to catch his talk. On our hike down, the crowds really picked up and it was almost a line going up to the top. The early bird catches the worm. :)
For lunch, we walked back to Zion Lodge and had lunch at their outdoor cafe. The boys and Patrick had cheeseburgers, I had their black bean burger (recommend it!), and Elise had pizza. We also had fresh fruit (apples and oranges) and yummy soft serve ice cream. We ate lunch on the big grassy lawn, and people watched while chatting about our hike.
After lunch, Elise and I walked across the street and checked out the horses at the stables. They are located next to a peaceful stream, and again, it was so beautiful all around us. We were the only ones there, so we took our time talking to each one of the sleepy horses.
Around 2:00, Nathan from Red Desert Adventures picked us up at the Visitor Center and took us out on our canyoneering and repelling adventure. We had about a 30-minute drive, so Nathan told us more history about Zion NP and told us more about the area. We returned to the Lodge around 6:30 pm.
Everyone recommended Oscar's for dinner. There was no wait time even though they were very busy. Patrick got the fish tacos, I had a salad, and the kids had cheeseburgers (again!). We also had chips and guacamole (very good!). The food was good for a family, and we like the variety, but it wasn't the greatest food, and next time we would like to try somewhere different. For dessert, we had the carrot cake and the lava cake which I would highly recommend!!
After dinner, we walked around and looked into some of the stores. We were pleasantly surprised that stores stayed open so late, which allowed so many tourists to walk around. It was fun to see so many families out and about at night.
We got up early again and wanted to hike to the Emerald Pools. We walked there from our hotel (another bonus point for our hotel!). For the first 45 minutes, we didn't see another person! We hiked to the upper and middle pools (lower pool was closed to do a rock slide). It was a good hike for families and provided a lot to see along the way. I would recommend that families definitely try to make it to the upper pools and to just hang out up there and soak up the beauty.
We heard that the crepes at Me Me's Cafe are wonderful, so we had to try them! Patrick and the boys got ham/cheese crepes that filled them up for long time. They loved them!! Elise got a nutella/banana crepe and never said a word until her plate was licked clean. I had the veggies omelet and it was oh so good! Our bellies were happy and full. We have eaten there for dinner before and also liked it.
TIPS FOR HIKING ZION WITH KIDS
Go as early as you can!!
Bring enough water for everyone (they have water bottle refilling stations with good tasting water at a lot of the stops)
Go to the bathroom after you get off of the bus since there aren't many places to nature pee since there are a lot of people.
Bring a lot of snacks so little tummies don't run out of gas, and so you can enjoy the day longer without having to rush back for lunch or dinner. Gummy bears provide a huge energy boost to most kids. :)
Dressing in layers in March is essential!
Patrick and I both carry Gregory backpacks. They can carry all of our water bottles (my water bottle is 48 oz, and my pack still doesn't feel heavy or full) and our snacks. We also always carry hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and band-aids. I have a bad neck, and the Gregory backpack distributes the weight so well, that I never have any neck problems. Since we leave early for our hikes, it's still chilly, so we all dress in layers and slowly take off our layers throughout the day. Sometimes we tie layers around our waists or put them in our packs. Elise and I wore our Chacos, and our feet were so comfortable---better than my hiking shoes!
We loved being together 24/7 with very limited cell service. Our only agenda for each day was to hike, explore, and be together. Patrick and I work full time (he's an insurance agent, and I'm a Kindergarten teacher), plus the kids are involved in after-school sports, so this trip allowed us all to reconnect in one of the most beautiful settings and just enjoy the stillness and the wonder of nature.
We also LOVED canyoneering and repelling---a huge highlight for all us. We went with Red Desert Adventures and had the most amazing outing. The kids all thought that venturing into the slot canyons was pretty rad and still talk about it! They now want to repel and canyoneer on every trip!!
If you are looking for a place to unwind and have some good old fashion family fun, then Zion is the place. Zion caters to every single level and age. You could be an expert rock climber or a family with young kids and still find plenty to do. The bus makes getting around so easy and so convenient. Most stops have a clean bathroom and water bottle refill station. Most paths are semi-paved, so little ones can easily walk around on them and still get a sense of the greatness of Zions. This is our third year in a row going to Zion because my kids keep begging us to go back!
Zion is an amazing place, and when you are trying to hike/explore with kids, it's not always easy to snap photos of any type. That is why we hired Zion Adventure Photog, and I honestly think it was one of the best decisions from our entire trip. The camera (my iPhone) and I could relax the rest of the trip since I knew that at least one of our adventures was well documented!
You can follow more of Suzanne and Patrick's family adventures on Instagram.