Family Friendly Hiking in Zion National Park

Zion National Park with Kids #zionnationalparkDid you know that over 4 million people visit Zion National Park every year? This summer we decided to join the masses and see what all the fuss is about. Part of a larger loop, Zion National Park was our second stop, which included stops in Nevada, Utah and Arizona, over the course of two weeks.

Zion National Park with Kids #zionnationalpark

Located in Springdale, Utah, Zion is a very manageable 2.5 or 3-hour drive from Las Vegas (our first stop). We arrived in the mid-afternoon and there was plenty of daylight left, so we went straight to the Park.

Zion National Park with Kids #zionnationalpark
We completed two “hikes” this was taken on the Riverside Walk.

There are many walks and hikes of varying lengths and difficulties. We chose “hikes” that would suit everyone in our group, which was made up of all ages and fitness levels. Strenuous or more challenging hikes weren’t ever on our agenda, however with temperatures soaring into the hundreds even the easiest hikes can feel challenging.

Zion National Park with Kids #zionnationalpark
Along the Lower Emerald Pools walk.

During our visit we completed two hikes, both of which were paved and felt more like walks, and both would be suitable for all ages, The River Walk, which leads to The Narrows, and the Lower Emerald Pools Walk. During our visit we saw wild turkeys and their babies, countless squirrels, and many deer.

The Riverside Walk (Shuttle Stop 9)

Zion National Park with Kids #zionnationalpark

The Riverside walk is an easy 2.2-mile paved path, which follows alongside the Virgin River. This is also the access point for one of the Park’s most popular hikes, The Narrows, a strenuous 8+ hour, 9.4 mile hike through the river.

Zion National Park with Kids #zionnationalpark
This is where the Riverside Walk ends and The Narrows hike begins.

The Riverside walk was perfect compromise for our group! We saw wildlife, hanging gardens, and cooled off by dipping our feet in the river. We felt like we got a small taste of the Park and even saw the famous Narrows!

The Lower Emerald Pools Trail (Shuttle stop 5)

Zion National Park Utah
Much of the Lower Emerald Pools trail is without shade.

The Emerald Pools Trail consists of three parts. Parts two and three are more strenuous, with a moderate rating, while part one The Lower Emerald Pool Trail is listed as easy, making it a perfect choice for our second walk in the Park.

Zion National Park with Kids #zionnationalpark
Standing under the waterfall was a welcome reward!

The 1.2-mile trail is paved and leads to a waterfall, which is a very rewarding end to this 1-hour walk with a slight elevation and limited shade.

Once you reach the waterfall you can continue on and complete the entire Emerald Pools trail, or like us, you can turn around and head back. Keep in mind there are some very steep drop offs. If you look carefully at the photos below you can spot some tiny people up on the ledge, which is located just above the waterfall where we ended our walk!

With temperatures well over 100 degrees, not everyone in our group wanted to participate, so we dropped them at the Zion Lodge, a lovely place to take a break and relax. If you’re looking for a souvenir there is a lovely gift shop inside as well. You know I stopped there!

Navigating within Zion:

Zion National Park with Kids #zionnationalparkIt’s important to note that vehicles aren’t allowed within Zion National Park. The Park Service operates a free shuttle bus, which takes visitors throughout the Park, stopping at 9 different designated stops starting at the Visitor Center and ending at stop 9 The Temple of Sinawava. The ride takes about 40 minutes from start to finish, and its not only incredibly scenic, but informative as well. Shuttles come about every 10 minutes*.

Zion National Park with Kids #zionnationalpark
Waiting for the shuttle outside our hotel The Desert Pearl Inn.

As I mentioned above, 4 million people visit Zion every year, so you can imagine that at times the park will be very crowded. Because the shuttles are the only way into the park consider arriving on the earlier side, or at off times to keep your wait times down.

For example, our wait time in the late afternoon was nonexistent, but on our second day we attempted to ride during a peak time, and we were met with an hour + line, just to get on board. After all that waiting we still had to contend with multiple shuttle stops, a long hot ride and 108-degree temperatures. An earlier start might have saved us as much as two hours!

Practical Information:

Zion National Park with Kids #zionnationalparkZion is an oasis in the desert, but it is still a desert. Bring water everywhere. I really can’t stress this enough. It’s important to bring enough water for everyone in your group. Temperatures can and do reach well over 100 degrees.


Desert Pearl Inn Zion National Park with Kids #Zion
View of the pool from our room’s balcony

I admit I didn’t research accommodations in Zion, I didn’t have to! My fellow blogger, Oregon Girl around the World, suggested The Desert Pearl Inn, and we couldn’t have been more pleased! However, we weren’t the only ones happy with this choice, it was completely booked, so planning ahead is a good idea.

This is the view of the Park from the front door of our room.

The property is conveniently located within walking distance to the Park’s entrance,  but if you prefer a ride there is a separate town shuttle which stops right out front of the Inn.

The service, pool and grounds were all lovely. The room was spacious, the beds were comfortable, and even with a full kitchen two double beds and a sitting area our group of five had plenty of room to spread out.

Tips & Advice:

Zion National Park with Kids #zion

  • Check the weather and possibilty of flash flooding before you go, especially for The Narrows.
  • Bring lots of water and snacks for everyone in your group.
  • Wear appropriate clothing, hats, and shoes.
  • Heed the signs. People have died on these trails, and many more have been injured, or suffered heat related illness.
  • The Visitor Center doesn’t sell food or drinks, but there is a little grocery just outside the park gate.

Pin for later:

Zion National Park with Kids #zionnationalpark

Zion National Park with Kids #zionnationalpark

45 thoughts on “Family Friendly Hiking in Zion National Park

  1. I lived in Utah for two years but never went to Zion. Sad, I know. I definitely regret not taking advantage of it being so nearby. And I haven’t really been back to Utah since I moved away six years ago. One day I’ll go back just to visit. #FarawayFiles

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh my goodness Hilary, that heat! I can’t imagine hiking, let alone waiting in a queue in that kind of temperature. No wonder it takes eight hours to walk nine miles!! You’ve come up with some great easy walks for families here and your stunning photos always inspire me to follow in your travelling footsteps. Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles

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  3. Amazing photos, Hilary, I am speechless! I became fascinated with Nevada and its national parks as a teenager growing up in France, but I have never visited this part of the world. Now I know my kids would love to walk in your footsteps and explore those cliffs, gorges and emerald rivers. Stunning!

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    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post! It truly is a spectacular place and definitely worth a visit! This was part of a two week adventure through Nevada, Utah and Arizona, so stay tuned for more from the amazing Southwest!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh HIlary, your post about Zion brings back so many beautiful memories! This was the first National Park I visited. I remember the visit took place in April 2014. I can’t believe so much time has passed since that visit. My husband and I really want to go back. We need to take a break from international travel and start exploring our backyard. #FarawayFiles

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so happy this post made you so happy! I know what you mean about trying to explore a bit closer to home. It’s tough to decide when there is so much beauty in the world!


  5. Oh my goodness, this is spectacular. I love the way they have made clear definitions of the trails and that even the easy ones pass some wonderful scenery. It’s wonder anyone can tackle the more strenuous trails in that heat.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The trail guides were excellent and honestly a must as one couldn’t navigate without them. The Narrows is a hike in a river so that one is probably a good choice on a hot day if you’re geared up properly… 😳

      Liked by 1 person

  6. We haven’t made the Utah 5, yet and this post makes me want to get back out there even more! Utah is an incredible state. Your photos from Zion are gorgeous, and I love that you include the shuttle stops. I like the parks that don’t allow cars because it helps preserve the amazing environments that the parks protect. #TheWeeklyPostcard

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  7. Beautiful pictures! Isn’t Zion such a beautiful park!? We went only a few months ago to Angel’s Landing and The Narrows. We loved this places so much. Glad you and your family also got to enjoy the beauty of this place! #theweeklypostcard

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  8. What a beautiful trip! It’s been so long since I’ve been to Zion, I can’t even remember it. Our son was only 5 years old at the time (now he is 33!). I miss this place and your post brought back so good memories. I’d love to go back and revisit it. You took so great pictures there, I’m envious. #TheWeeklyPostcard

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  9. So happy you loved The Desert Pearl! We had a blast there as well! I absolutely loved Zion and hiking up the river in the Narrows on a HOT day was the perfect place to hang out. We all had sturdy water shoes, but other than that, no special gear to tackle walking in the river. Now we didn’t do the whole thing as we had littles along at the time. Oh Zion – what a stunner! Great post Hilary! #FarawayFiles

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Over dinner last night, I was just saying that I wanted to visit Zion one Thanksgiving (when it’s not so hot), and then I came across your post. Looks like a great visit and one that suits the adventure level of my family. While I’d love to do the Narrows, we’re probably not up to it. I’m glad there are easier hikes that are still scenic. Your photos are picture perfect with the contrast between the red crock, the blue sky, and the greenery.

    Liked by 1 person

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