Zion National Park has enough to see and do to keep travelers busy for days, even weeks but not everyone has that much time to spend so I invited a recent new friend Jen to share her 24 hour itinerary in Zion. If you are planning a quick trip to Zion with your family, this itinerary is sure to help you pack in the perfect amount of adventure, fun, and relaxation......next to a crackling fire. Read below for Jen's tips and itinerary for spending 24 hours in Zion.
Zion is breathtaking! Living on the east coast, the landscape in Zion is unique and unfamiliar. It was an incredible opportunity for our family to explore and connect with nature. We loved climbing, playing in the Virgin River, and hiking to the Emerald Pools. For the kids, Zion was almost unexpected! From the moment we arrived the kids were in awe of the red rocks towering above them! They loved the opportunity to scale rocks, spotting squirrels and bighorn sheep in the park, going to the ranger talks, and earning park badges as part of the junior ranger program.
WHERE WE STAYED
March 29-30th we stayed at the Springhill Suites in Springdale for our 2-day visit in Zion National Park. The hotel is new and beautifully decorated in earth tones. It is also conveniently located 5 minutes from the entrance to Zion. It was the perfect spot for our family of six. The room we stayed in had 2 queen size beds and a pullout sofa and spectacular mountain views. The hotel has a pool, hot tub and fire pit for guests to enjoy. The stay also includes breakfast with lots of choices. The staff at the hotel were both friendly and helpful. We loved this hotel and would not hesitate to stay here again. The only negative (if any) is that it is not in the national park which would offer a unique and different experience.
When we arrived in Zion, the first thing we did was visit the visitors center. The kids wanted to get their National Park Passport books stamped and purchase a park sticker for their books. We then spoke to a park ranger about possible hikes for our visit. We were using the travel book, Adventuring with Kids: Utah's Big Five National Parks. This book was an awesome resource. Our plan was to hike the Watchman, Emerald Pools, Riverside Walk, and Canyon Overlook during our 2-day visit.
After talking with the ranger, we set out on the Watchman. Unfortunately, we had not allocated enough time and were unable to complete the entire hike as we were meeting Arika with Zion Adventure Photog that night at 6:00 for pictures. However, it was a great hike to begin our visit to Zion. We started the hike around 4:30 which was a great time of day because much of the hike was unshaded. The kids loved seeing a lizard, lots of wildflowers, a rock in the shape of a recliner, mule deer, and beautiful vistas with every turn.
After this hike, we met Arika and hopped on the park shuttle to the Court of the Patriarchs shuttle stop. This was a gorgeous setting for pictures just before sunset. Arika was amazing to work with and allowed all of us to be ourselves. She captured so many great pictures of all of us. It was a fun addition to our trip and definitely one of the best decisions we made. After pictures, we headed to the little town of Springdale for dinner. We decided on Oscars. It was a great decision as the food and service were top notch! The restaurant had a cool vibe, the prices were very reasonable, and the food was delicious! We enjoyed chips and salsa, ribs, and burritos.
After dinner, we headed back to our hotel and decided to head over to the fire pit. Sitting around the fire pit while enjoying a glass of wine was the perfect end to the day. It gave us an opportunity to interact with other travelers and share park experiences. We really enjoyed chatting with other travelers about their adventures and what they had planned while visiting Zion and for the rest of their journey.
For breakfast, we ate at the hotel. There were so many great choices - eggs, waffles, fresh fruit, yogurt, oatmeal, cereal, and pastries. There was definitely something for everyone at this breakfast. It was a good choice because it was convenient and allowed us to quickly get our day started.
We got to the park early and started our day with the Emerald Pools hike. On this hike we encountered misting waterfalls, lower and upper pools, and views of Zion Canyon. The kids really enjoyed getting wet hiking under the waterfalls, the narrow sections of the trail, entering the box canyon, and scaling rocks at the upper emerald pool. This hike was lots of fun for the whole family.
After we finished this hike we stopped at the Zion Lodge and ate a picnic lunch on the lawn. It was a beautiful day and gave the kids an opportunity to rest before our next hike.
After lunch we took the shuttle to the Riverside Walk. This trail winded along the Virgin River. This hike was very crowded and mostly a flat, paved walkway that was much less exciting for the kids. We did see some hanging gardens and rock squirrels, but it felt almost commercialized. At the trail end, is the widening of the Virgin River and beginning of the Narrows hike. We would have loved to explore the Narrows, but due to the ages of our children decided this was probably not the best idea. There were several families river hiking with young children, but this hike was listed as strenuous and not recommended for children. In hindsight, we would not have gone on the Riverside hike as it was crowded, less interesting walking on pavement, and not worth tiring out the kids.
After this hike, we planned to hike Overlook Canyon which we had heard had some awesome views. Unfortunately, our 12-year-old daughter got the stomach virus and forced us to skip this hike. This ended our 2nd day in Zion. We decided to have an early dinner at Cafe Soleil in Springdale before getting on the road. Cafe Soleil had delicious wraps, paninis and outdoor seating. This was another great spot! After dinner we got on our way to Bryce Canyon, the next stop on our 12 day adventure.
WHAT WE WOULD HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY
Zion is a beautiful park with so much to see and do. In hindsight, I wish we had stayed 2 nights and planned a 3rd day in Zion National Park. It would have been nice to have more time to explore Springdale and take more hikes in Zion National park. I was disappointed we did not have time to complete the Watchman or explore the Canyon Overlook Trail. Zion is definitely a place I would love to come back to someday.
e shopped at I think a fleece, a good pair of hiking shoes, a day pack with lunch, water bottle, comfortable clothes, bathing suit, sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, a good pair of moisture-wicking hiking socks, and dressing in layers are all important. We shopped REI, Columbia, and North Face before our trip. One thing we didn't have on this trip were hydration backpacks. Looking back I would have invested in a couple if we were to do a trip like this again. We traveled during spring break in early April and the weather was absolutely perfect. I am so glad we were not hiking with 4 kids in the summer heat.
PLANNING AND TRAVEL TIPS
We read two different travel books to help us plan our trip to the Utah National Parks and the Grand Canyon. It was really helpful to be familiar with the parks, the trails, and all of the available park programs before we arrived. Also, the National Park websites were helpful with up to date information. We rented a minivan which was the perfect choice for travel with kids. I ordered lots of travel activities to keep the kids entertained on the long drives. The kids played the game, Rubberneckers, AutoBingo, the License Plate game, the Rubiks cube, and of course, had their electronics packed. I had prizes from the dollar bins in Target to keep them interested in the road trip games we played.
This was absolutely one of our all-time favorite family trips! Exploring and playing in the outdoors with our kids was an incredible experience and brought us closer together as a family. Honestly, I can't wait to do it again!
MEET THE SMITH FAMILY
My husband, Andrew and I have four kids - two girls and two boys. Our children are 13, 12, 9 and 6 years old. Andy and I love to travel and made a loop around Utah hitting many of the national parks 23 years ago. We camped, hiked, and spent a lot of time interacting with nature. This was one of our favorite trips, one we knew we would someday repeat with our children. With the ages of our children, we felt now was the time for our family to adventure out west.