5 Day Winter Itinerary ; Visiting Southern Utah with Kids
Growing up in the Hurricane Valley, I have fond memories of jumping out of bed, running barefoot to the window and peeking out in wonder at the blanket of snow covering my backyard, but that was rare.
I spent the majority of my winter days as a kid in Southern Utah, running around without even a coat! When I moved to Logan, Utah, for school and later Salt Lake City for ten years, I came to understand what winter was all about.....brrrrrrr!
Even though I love the snow, my love for snow is tainted a bit by the fact that I do not like the cold.....haha! I am a Southern Utah native, after all.
HIRE A PHOTOGRAPHER IN ZION/SOUTHERN UTAH - CLICK TO LEARN MORE
Southern Utah is known for its mild winter temps and unlimited hiking and outdoor activities. It is one of the best places to ditch the puffy coat and replace it with hiking boots and a backpack.
WHAT IS THE WEATHER LIKE IN THE WINTER IN SOUTHERN UTAH
Winters in Southern Utah are very mild. It generally snows 2-3 times a year, but the snow doesn't stick around for long. Often temperatures barely drop below 30 degrees, and when it does, the sun is usually still shining. The graph below will give you an idea of the average temperatures in St. George in the winter months.
****information from Google
The Weather in Zion does tend to get a little colder, so make sure to plan for a range of temperatures and keep an eye on the weather forecast before you visit so you can be prepared for cold spells and possible storms.
***Big Firepit at The Ardella Cottage in La Verkin
WHERE TO STAY IN SOUTHERN UTAH IN THE WINTER WITH KIDS
For this itinerary, I recommend staying in St George/Washington or the Hurricane Valley. Wherever you stay, it needs to have a jacuzzi for those chilly winter nights.....am I right?!?
ARDELLA COTTAGE - This stunning historic home in La Verkin, Ut, is just 30 minutes from Zion National Park and 30 minutes from Snow Canyon State Park. It is filled with all the luxury, comfort, and all the charm you could possibly want for your Southern Utah getaway.
This home is the perfect winter retreat for a big family. It has a jacuzzi, cozy nooks, and a big firepit.
THE ADVENIER - The Advenier is the perfect setting for thrilling outdoor adventure meets small-town hospitality and charm. The Advenier, Autograph Collection, is St George's first and only full-service luxury boutique hotel.
The Advenier is centered in the Historic Arts District and minutes from great restaurants and things to do in the heart of downtown. A short walk takes you to the Children's Museum, and the rooftop jacuzzi is the perfect spot to hang out on a winter evening after a day of adventure!
ARCADIA RESORT - This vacation home resort in Saint George is perfect for big families and is filled with tons of fun activities for kids. Looking at their website, I have not doubt that this is one of the best places to stay in Southern Utah with kids.
Their lazy river and slide may not be open in the winter, but they do have a heated pool and jacuzzi year-round.....um yes please!
WINTER HIKING TIPS FOR ZION
If you are intimidated by winter hiking, don't be. The snow doesn't stick around long in Zion. Other than muddy conditions on some trails, you will find the hiking about the same as the other seasons in Zion, it will just be a little colder, which is great for hiking.....right!?!
Before your trip, purchase a pair of Yaktrax for everyone in the family and take them with you in your backpack as you hike, just in case you come across slippery trails.
Keep an insulated thermos of hot water in your car and hot chocolate or tea for post-hike warm-up.
Bring extra warm clothes if things get wet and you want to do multiple hikes.
As it gets closer to spring, there's a lot of water and red mud on the trail that kids love to play in. Bring a towel for clean up before getting back in the car.
Make sure to add an extra plastic bag in the back of the car for muddy boots.
Bring a bigger backpack than you normally would so that you can pack extra warm weather gear in case it is colder than you were expecting. If you have a kiddo who won't wear a hat, make sure you have a jacket or sweatshirt with a hood for when the wind whips up and they admit they are cold.
Stay hydrated. It is easy to forget to drink water when you are cold so make it a priority to stop often and drink.
Pay attention to the weather forecast so that you will know the kind of conditions you will be hiking in, and you can plan accordingly.
HOW TO PACK FOR VISITING SOUTHERN UTAH IN THE WINTER WITH KIDS
It's all about layers when dressing for winter in Southern Utah. Mornings and evenings are chilly, but during the day, if the sun is shining, it will warm up, and you will probably want to shed some layers.
Bring puffy jackets, beanies, and gloves for the mornings and evenings or a possible storm bringing cooler temps. In the mid-day, when it's nice and sunny, be ready to strip down to a long sleeve t-shirt or sweatshirt.
Here are some items that are similar to what we have used and loved in the past. I just purchased these boots from LLbean! I'll come back and let you know how they are after I have worn them for a bit.
***All the yummy treats at River Rock Roasting Company in La Verkin
WHERE TO EAT IN SOUTHERN UTAH WITH KIDS
You will be in St George, Hurricane, Kanab, and Springdale for this itinerary. Here is an overview of some great places to eat for adults and kids.
Dixie Pizza Wagon
Muddy Bees Bakery
Wood Ash Rye
Zion Pizza Noodle
FIVE DAY WINTER ITINERARY - SOUTHERN UTAH WITH KIDS
So now that you know what to pack, what to expect, and where to eat it's time to get to the itinerary. I have put together five days in Southern Utah that pack a punch. These are fun days full of beautiful spots that the adults and kids will love!
Mix and match or choose a few days that work best for you. These five days are perfect for any family itching to escape the cold with swirling red rock and desert adventures.
DAY ONE - SNOW CANYON
Morning - Jenny's Canyon slot canyon hike
Run and play at the Sand Dunes
Explore the Petrified Dunes
Afternoon - Johnson's Canyon hike
Snow Canyon State Park is a hidden gem in Southern Utah, filled with great hiking, beautiful Navajo sandstone formations, ancient lava rock (basalt), and out-of-this-world views. The park is located 10 minutes north of St. George and 30 minutes from Hurricane.
Pay the $10 vehicle entrance fee at the south entrance and drive 1/4 mile to Jenny's Canyon trailhead. It will be the fist pull-out/trailhead to your right.
This .3-mile round-trip trail will take you to a towering slot canyon on your left, and an overlook to your right. The slot canyon is ideal for exploring, and kids can even do a bit of rock climbing on the canyon walls.
After your short hike, head up the road a short distance to the Sand Dunes. This giant-sized sandbox is the perfect place to let the kids run, play, and dig to their heart's content.
Once the kids have had enough fun playing in the sand, drive north to the Petrified Dunes.
The parking lot will be to your left, and a short trail will take you to incredible rolling mounds of petrified Navajo Sandstone. At the heart of Snow Canyon, the views from the top of the once-flowing mountains of sand are some of the most breathtaking in the park.
Don't worry about following a trail. Just climb, explore and enjoy the beauty until everyone is ready to head back to the car.
Later in the day, head back to Snow Canyon and hike Johnson's Canyon trail. Parking is just outside the park entrance at a dirt parking lot. This popular trail is 2 miles round trip, easy and family-friendly.
Hikers may see remnants of a historical pipe once used to transport water from Snow Spring to agricultural areas in Ivins. After steady rains, a 200' waterfall often flows at the end of the canyon creating a large pool.
DAY TWO - RED ROCK ADVENTURES
Morning - Pioneer Park + Red Hills Desert Garden
Downtown Children's Museum
Afternoon - Hike Red Reef Trail
Evening - Explore Sand Hollow
Pioneer Park and Red Hills Desert Garden are fun ways to spend the morning. This red rock playground set above St. George is perfect for exploring, climbing, hiking, and enjoying all that makes Southern Utah so special.
Pioneer Park is a 52-acre park featuring Dixie Rock, views of the city, hiking, BBQs & a covered pavilion. The park is chocked full of sandstone cliffs, rocks to climb, little canyons, and caverns to explore.
Red Hills Desert Garden, situated next to Pioneer Park, is Utah's first interactive desert garden showcasing water-efficient landscapes, endangered species, and prehistoric tracks in one central location. This 5-acre preserve has more than 5,000 desert plants, a stream, a replica slot canyon & dinosaur tracks.
After exploring the garden, head over to The St. George Children's Museum, located in the heart of downtown. The Museum encourages guests to play and explore throughout their twelve exhibit rooms.
The rooms are designed to encourage interaction between children and adults. Minds, both young and old, will discover a world of imagination as they play and interact with the exhibits.
It is the Museum's goal to offer and provide educational opportunities for all children and adults to learn and create memories.
Later in the afternoon head over to Red Reef Trail. This trail is a fan favorite. It is a short 2.5 mile round trip hike with minimal elevation gain, lots of cool spots for playing and exploring along the trail, and the rock climbing rope area near the end makes the hike feel truly adventurous. A seasonal waterfall runs in the spring but not usually in the winter.
If you choose to climb the rocks to the upper section with a small child on your back, we recommend using a soft carrier. This will keep your center of gravity more even.
This trail doesn't see snow very often so if you do get lucky and catch Red Reef with a little bit of snow, count yourself lucky! Click here to read more about hiking Red Reef Trail.
If you have more energy after hiking Red Reef, head to Sand Hollow State Park to play along the water and climb the red rocks. This lake is a super fun area for kids to play and explore. It is peaceful and quiet in the winter, not so much in the summer...haha!
DAY THREE - CANYONEERING ADVENTURE
Morning - Canyoneering with All Ways Adventure
Afternoon - Sand Boarding at Coral Pink Sand Dunes
Day three is an action-packed day full of adventure and is perfect for a family looking to push outside their comfort zone.
Book a half day morning family canyoneering package with All ways Adventure . The location of your canyoneering adventure will be selected with regards to starting location, season, and conditions. Age 4/5 is usually the youngest family member they will take.
All Ways Adventure has access to canyons that suit all ages, fitness levels, abilities, and desires for adventure. Nathan and his team are so great with kids, and they know exactly how to make sure that everyone has a great time, even if they are a little nervous about dangling from a rope. READ MORE ABOUT CANYONEERING HERE.
After lunch, head over to Coral Pink Sand Dunes, a stunning state park located in between Kanab and Zion that is covered in fine red sand, perfect for sandboarding.
Sandboarding is similar to snowboarding, which involves riding across or down a sand dune while standing on a board.
Rent boards from the ranger station for $25, head across the street towards the dunes, kick off your shoes, and head for the hills.
Hike up the red sandhills, jump on the sled, and fly down. Repeat over and over again. The board will go faster or slower depending on the grade of the hill and whether or not it is waxed up properly.
DAY FOUR - ZION NATIONAL PARK
Morning - Stop at the visitor center for a junior ranger handbook
Hike Riverside Walk
Picnic lunch at The Lodge
Afternoon - Hike Emerald Pools
Start your day by visiting the Zion National Park Visitor Center to get a Junior Ranger Handbook for the kids to work on throughout the day.
If you are visiting Zion during December or January, chances are the shuttles won't be running. If the shuttles are running, jump on and ride it to the last stop, Temple of Sinawava, where you will hike the Riverside Walk trail.
If the shuttles aren't running, make sure to get an extra early start so that you will find parking. Parking is very limited in the canyon.
The the 2.5-mile round trip Riverside Walk trail is mostly level and paved, making it doable for all skill levels. Shear red rock mountains and hanging gardens line the path as you walk along the Virgin River. The end of this trail is the beginning of one of Zion's most popular hikes in the summer, The Narrows.
Head over to The Lodge and eat a picnic lunch on the lawn. The large field is so fun for kids to run and play. After lunch, walk across the road to the start of the Emerald Pools trail.
This classic Zion hike is great for kids and features one of the few waterfalls on display in the park. In the winter, the waterfall section usually has ice. Be careful not to slip. Hike 1 mile round trip for the lower pool, 1.25 miles for the middle pool, and 2.5 miles round trip for the upper pool.
DAY FIVE - EAST SIDE OF ZION
Morning - Hike Canyon Overlook
Explore Clear Creek
Explore along the Pa'Rus trail
Afternoon - visit the Natural History Museum
Get Junior Ranger Badge at Visitor Center.
Canyon Overlook in Zion National Park is a family-friendly trail on the east side of Zion that features big horn sheep sightings, caves (kinda), and one of the most breathtaking views in the park. It almost feels like cheating to get views like this with such an easy hike.
The trail is mostly level, but in the very beginning, there are some short uphill switchbacks that the younger kiddos may need a bit of help with.
It is important to note that even though this is a very kid-friendly hike, there are plenty of spots along the trail and especially at the overlook, that can be dangerous.
Make sure your children stick to the trail and away from the edges. Plan to spend some time at the overlook enjoying the amazing views. Click here to read more about hiking Canyon Overlook.
After Canyon Overlook head up the road 5 miles to the Many Pools parking area for some exploring along the dry stream bed below.
Clear Creek is the main dry streambed that follows Route 9 throughout the east side of Zion. Although it may not be an actual named hike in Zion, it is excellent for some off-the-beaten-path hiking and fun.
Filled with cave-like tunnels, family-friendly slot canyons, and sandstone cliffs, you will find surprises around every corner. Click here to read more about hiking Clear Creek.
After your day of hiking, stop at the Human History Museum to learn the history of Zion, see artifacts from the native people and watch a short film about the history of Zion. There are lots of opportunities for learning that kids will find interesting. The film is one of the activities to pass off in the Junior Ranger Handbook.
Finish up the last of the Junior Ranger Handbook and then head back to the visitor center, where your child will present their completed handbook to a park ranger and take an oath to protect and care for the National Parks.
If you have a little more energy after picking up the junior ranger badges, you can walk along the beautiful Pa'Rus trail that starts right at the Visitor Center. This paved trail is so beautiful and perfect for an evening stroll. Make sure to take a few of the little paths down to the river to let the kids play in the sand and throw rocks in the river.
I hope this five-day itinerary inspires you to plan a winter getaway to Southern Utah. Don't let the cooler temps stop you from getting out with your kiddos. With mild weather and many great things to do with kids, Southern Utah is the perfect winter destination.