The Ultimate Quick Guide to Hiking Zion with Kids
Zion National Park has a great assortment of trails that are perfect for the whole family. Whether you are planing to spend a day or a week exploring Zion, this guide will help you figure out what hikes to put at the top of your list if you have kiddos in tow.
Trails in the main canyon
These are all trails that you will get to via the shuttle bus from March-November. If you are visiting during the short time of year that the shuttle is not going, you will be able to drive into the canyon, but please be aware that there is very limited parking.
This hike is a great hike to do first on your list and first thing in the morning. You will take the shuttle all the way through the park (45 mins) and get a wonderful scenic view of the canyon. At the very last stop, Temple of Sinawava, you will get off. The hike is about 2 miles round trip with very little uphill and a nice paved trail. There is also a trail that goes right along the river. It isn't paved and is usually less crowded. I recommend doing this on the way there or the way back since it gives you a different view. The end of this hike is the start of The Narrows.
This isn't really a hike, but it is a great place to play along the river and do some exploring. It is the Big Bend shuttle stop and is second to the last stop on the shuttle. Lots of times you will see wild turkeys running around. There is a trail that you can follow along the river. You can follow this trail all the way to the Weeping Rock shuttle stop.....or even further. A great thing to do if you are tired of crowds.
This is a fun and very quick hike (only 1/4th mile round trip). The trail is quite steep, but given its length, it is still very doable with kids. Once you get to the end of the hike, there are hanging gardens that are continually moist due to constant water flow from the canyons above. You also get some pretty amazing views. Don't forget to check out the little stream at the bottom of the trailhead.
One of the most popular hikes in the park. I recommend doing this one late in the day or first thing in the morning to beat the crowds. It is right across from the Zion Lodge. It is 2 1/2 miles round trip, and there is a decent amount of incline.....especially to get to the Upper Emerald Pool. If you just want to go to the Lower Emerald Pools with the kids, it is still totally worth it. I recommend doing the Kayenta trail on your way back out for different views. This will take you to The Grotto stop that is just one stop up from The Lodge. BTW you can't swim in any of the pools so no need to plan for water play.
SAND BENCH LOOP TRAIL
This trail is advertised as a horse trail but the way I like to do this hike you are only on horse trail for less than 1/2 mile. This is a great hike to get away from the crowds! You get off on the Court of the Patriarchs stop (stop # 3) and cross the street to the river. You will walk past a horse stable and a watershed and then you will come to a bridge. You should do some exploring around here even if you don't do the hike. For the hike, you will cross the bridge and go to your right. The trail is sandy, so it is a little hard to walk in. You will pass an area where there are wood posts for horses to be tied up. As long as you don't take any paths going to the right and always go to the left, you will loop back around to the bridge where you started. I have never come across any other people on this hike!!!
Trails on the East side of Zion
These are all trails that you will drive to. The east side of Zion tends to be a little less crowded and also a little cooler.
I love this hike so much! The views at the end are insane, and it is only 1 1/2 miles round trip. There is very little incline on this hike. The trail can be a little rocky at points but nothing too crazy. At the overlook area, you have to make sure to keep your kiddos close because there are lots of sheer drop-offs. I recommend doing this one at sunset for sure!!!!
Clear Creek does not have an actual starting point or end point. As you drive along Route 9 on the upper east side of Zion, you will see the dry creek bed down below. There are pull-offs all along the drive. Pick a spot to pull off and go exploring. The best spots to pull over will start about 1/4 mile east of the Canyon Overlook parking lot. Once you make your way down into the dry stream bed, this is a hike that you can make as short or as long as you would like.
This is not an official trail, so it is a great option for getting away from crowds. The start of this trail is .9 miles east of the smaller tunnel. You will see two portable outhouses, and this is where you will park. The trail starts on the upper side of the parking area. Travel down into the dry creek bed, go to your left and through a tunnel going under Route 9. Follow the wash all the way up the canyon for beautiful sandstone and interesting pothole formations. You can make this hike as long or as short as you would like. Hiking shoes with good traction are needed. There is very little shade along this trail so do not attempt in the heat of the day.
These are all trails in the lower section of Zion, but they are accessible without needing to use the Shuttle.
LOWER PINE CREEK FALLS
This hike isn't advertised by the park, so chances of having some solitude are good if you go first thing in the morning or later in the day. This hike is 3/4 miles round trip, but you will have to do some tricky rock scrambling to get to the waterfall at the end. This makes it a little less kid-friendly, but it is doable. If you are more comfortable with easier trails, you should skip this one. The parking area for this hike is right before the bridge that takes you up to the Carmel Tunnel. The trail starts right by the parking area. You will take it all the way back. Make sure to be very selective about which side of the creek you scramble up the rocks. There is always an easier way to go so if it seems too hard, try the other side.
THE PA'RUS TRAIL
This trail is more of a stroll. It is a beautiful paved trail that starts at the visitor center, goes past the south campground and along the Virgin River. It is a great trail for a leisurely evening stroll with the kiddos. We love making frequent stops and playing along in the river. The bridges on this trail are my favorite. Go as far as you want and then turn around and head back. You could also go to the Natural History Museum and take the shuttle back to the visitor center.
THE WATCHMAN TRAIL
This trail has very little shade, and a decent elevation gain so don't try it in the middle of the day in the summer heat. It is 3 miles round trip and has beautiful views of the Watchman mountain at the top. To get there, you will start at the visitor center and head towards the south campground. Walk along the east side of the Virgin River. The trail will veer away from the river and past some employee housing. The trailhead will be just past the housing.