30 Fun Things to Do in Zion National Park with Kids

Zion National Park - Family walking the Narrows with young children

Zion National Park is the perfect kid-friendly destination in southern Utah. Kids can hike, bike, camp, swim, tube down the river, and even try their luck at canyoneering and rock climbing.

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We last visited Zion National Park with our kids in 2022 when they were 5 and 7. Our kids loved the fun hikes, water to play in, and were in awe of the cliffs and canyon walls that embrace Zion Canyon.

Read More: Best Baby Carrier for Air Travel: A Comprehensive Guide

When is the Best Time to Visit Zion National Park?

Zion National Park is the busiest during the summer (May through September). This is when the weather is the best, however the weather comes with congestion and crowds! It is arguably the best time of year to visit Zion.

We visited in the the spring. The park was quiet and we never had to wait for a shuttle bus seat! The weather was OK with lots of sun and temperatures in the 50s and 60s.

Fall is another great season to visit. The fall colors are stunning when contrasted with the soaring sandstone cliffs. Like in the Spring, the crowds will all but disappear and you will want to dress in layers.

Getting Around Zion National Park with Kids

Zion National Park with kids - walking along the Virgin River

The main area of Zion National Park follows Zion Canyon. It is about 10 miles from the Visitors Center to farthest most point, the Narrows. Cars are prohibited past the parking lot starting in March and ending in November.

You will need to think about your transportation options both for traversing the canyon AND for arrival at the entrance to Zion National Park, especially during the busier summer season.

Springdale Shuttle

Parking is a challenge in Zion during the busy season. Unless you arrive at the Visitor Center before 8AM, chances are you will not find a spot.

Luckly, the Springdale Shuttle is there to transport visitors staying in Springdale to and from the gates of Zion National Park. There are nine stops on the Springdale to Zion shuttle rout, starting at the Majestic View Lodge.

If you are staying close to the Zion Canyon Gates, be ready to see full shuttle busses pass you by. It is often best to just walk from Springdale to the entrance.

Zion National Park Shuttle

The Zion National Park Shuttle System runs daily from March through November. It transports guests from the entrance/Visitor Center to nine stops spread throughout the park.

Our kids loved the experience of riding the shuttle and admiring the new world around them.

Walking and Biking

You can also walk and bike. While cars are not allowed inside of the park during the busy season, bikes are! In addition to walking from Springfield to the park, you can also bike. And if you miss the last shuttle down the canyon, you’ll be walking anyways!

Family Friendly Hikes in Zion National Park

Zion National Park with kids - Hiking the Narrows

When people think of Zion, they think of two things: majestic sandstone cliffs and hiking. Below is a sampling of the great hiking available in Zion Naitonal Park for kids.

Some of these hikes are perfect for toddlers. Others might require longer legs and a bit more stamina. All are accessible to even a novice hiker.

If you are looking for more hiking options or more details on the hikes below, then check out our post on the 16 Best Short Hikes in Zion National Park for families with young children.

Riverside Walk Trail | 2.5 miles | 1.5 hours | Easy

Riverside walk is an iconic short hike in Zion National Park. It follows a paved trail from the last stop on the Zion Canyon Shuttle (Stop #9, Temple of Sinawava) to the start of The Narrows, another excellent hike for the whole family.

This easy trail is a great introduction to the canyon AND gives you a chance to see The Narrows in person before committing to it.

The Narrows | Variable | Up to 8 hours | Difficult

The Narrows is the quintissential Zion Hike. Google Hikes in Zion National Park and you’ll see The Narrows and Angels Landing fighting for the top prize. And there’s a good reason for that. It is a once in a lifetime experience!

While the Narrows isn’t necessarily easy, it is a great hike and you can make it as long or as short as you need. If the water is warm, just walk up the river a bit with your kids and let them play and splash to their hearts desire.

While young kids will surely have a great time, the full experience is probably best reseved for older kids.

Pa’rus Trail | 3.5 miles | 2 hours | Easy

Pa’Rus Trail, which directly translates to ‘rushing water’, is a short and easy hike along a paved trail following Virgin River. It is handicap accessible, although wheelchairs may need some assistance, and is the only trail in Zion National Park that allows both pets and bicycles.

The trail extends from the South Campground to Canyon Junction. You’ll find beautiful views of Zion National Park and plenty of flora and fauna on this short hike.

Grotto Trail | 1 mile | 30 minutes | Easy

Grotto Trail is a short hike that connects Zion Lodge (shuttle stop #5) with The Grotto (shuttle stop #6). It follows the Virgin River and is a wonderful place to see wildlife. Zion Lodge is an excellent place for lunch, so we’d recommend starting at shuttle stop #6 and hiking down to Zion Lodge.

This short hike also connects to other routes, such as the Lower Emerald Pools Trail and Kayenta Trail. There are restrooms at both Zion Lodge and The Grotto.

Weeping Rock Trail | 0.4 miles | 30 minutes | Easy

Weeping Rock Trail is short (shortest hike in the whole park) but steep! The highlight is unique views of the Great White Throne from behind the dripping water of the small waterfall.

This hike is mostly paved and is surrounded by lush, hanging gardens that are continually moist due to water flow from the canyons above. There is a hikers bridge that provides access to the stream below, which is a fun stop if you brought your kids.

Watchman Trail | 3.3 miles | 2 hours | Moderate

This is the only hike on the list that starts from stop #1, the Zion Canyon Visitor Center. That being said, it is one of the less utilized trails in the main canyon and great if you are looking to escape the crowds.

The beginning of this short hike is rather bland, but don’t worry, it gets better. The trail starts along the Virgin River and then veers into the mountains, where the hiking becomes more challenging. You will see trail signs for The Watchman Trail right by the bus drop off zone.

Canyon Overlook Trail | 1 mile | 1 hour | Moderate

This is a wonderful hike, but if you are visiting during the summer months, parking will be a nightmare. The hike provides wonderful views of Pine Creek Canyon and Lower Zion Canyon via Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.

Unlike the hikes above, it is not accessible via the Shuttle Bus. You’ll have to hop in your car and drive to the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel (which is worth doing anyway). The very small parking lot is located near the east entrance of the tunnel, which means you have to drive throug the entire tunnel.

Lower Emerald Pool Trail | 2.2 miles | 1.5 hour | Moderate

Lower Emerald Pool Trail is a short hike that takes you up to one of two unique natural pools in Zion National Park. It parallels Middle Emerald Pool Trail, so if you hike one, you do not need to hike the other. You can also take the Kayenta trail instead and arrive at the same place.

Many hikers are satisfied with the waterfalls at the lower pool, however if you are looking to extend your hike, continue on and hike the short Upper Emerald Pool Trail.

Middle Emerald Pool Trail | 2.2 miles | 1.5 hour | Moderate

Middle Emerald Pool Trail is a short hike in Zion National Park that is very similar to Lower Emerald Pool Trail above. It too takes you to Lower Emerald Pools, Middle Emerald Pools, and provides access to the upper pool via the Upper Emerald Pools Trail.

You can use Kayenta Trail, Lower Emerald Pool Trail, and Middle Emerald Pool Trail interchangeably. They are all the same difficulty level and same length.

Upper Emerald Pool Trail | 0.8 miles | 30 minutes | Moderate

The Upper Emerald Pool Trail is a very short hike that continues from the end of either Kayenta Trail, Lower Emerald Pool Trail, or Middle Emerald Pool Trail. In total, the hike is 3.0 miles from trailhead to trailhead.

Upper Emeral Pool Trail takes you to Upper Emerald Pool, which sits at the base of a huge cliff. It is a great spot to relax and enjoy the spray from the waterfall. Swimming is prohibited.

Swim, Play, or Go Tubing in the Virgin River

The Virgin River winds through the entirety of Zion Canyon. There are ample opportunities for kids to play in the water or swim. The best spots are along Riverside Walk Trail and where the Narrows hike begins.

Also, Tubing Zion offers river tubing trips for ages 4 and up on the Virgin River outside of Zion National Park. This is a great way to avoid the crowds and heat during summer.

Complete the Zion Junior Ranger Program

Our kids love the National Park System’s Junior Ranger Program. Zion National Park offers both ranger-led and self-guided programs for kids four and older.

Just pick up a booklet at the Visitor Center or download one here to get started. There are a number of fun activities that kids can complete at their own pace. The Park Rangers will validate competion and give your child a badge.

Visit Zion’s Amazing Educational Centers

Views of Zion Canyon from the Zion Shuttle Bus

Zion Canyon Visitor Center

The Zion Canyon Visitor Center hosts outdoor exhibits, the Zion Canyon Wilderness Desk, and a fun bookstore with plenty of kid-friendly items. You can also pickup the Shuttle here or hike Watchman Trail, Pa”rus Trail, and Archeaology Trail.

Zion Human History Museum

The Zion Human History Museum showcases the rich human history of the place now known as Zion National Park and the effect water has had on the place and its inhabitants. Exhibits include topsics such as geology, plants, animals, survival, and community.

Zion Nature Center & Children’s Museum

Zion Nature Center is located next to the South Campground. It hosts a number of exhibits on everything from plants and animals to insects and geology. They are al geared twoards kids.

Kids can dress up as a park ranger, go on a scavenger hunt, learn about dinosours, and more. There are daily ranger-led programs. They are 30-45 minutes long and designed for children ages 4 to 12.

Take a Scenic Drive on Zion Mount Caramel Scenic Highway

The Zion Mount Caramel Scenic Highway leaves Springdale and heads east towards the town of Mt. Caramel. The road is full of switchbacks and sweeping views. Keep your eyese out for easonal waterfalls and be sure to stop at any of the pull-off spots for a better view or a short hike.

Kids will love the long tunnel and winding roads. If your kids are really young, you are all but guaranteed a car nap!

Rent eBikes

There are a number of outfitters in Springdale that rent ebikes, including Ebikes Zion, Zion Peddler, and Zion Outfitter. The National Park Services allows Class 1 E bikes anywhere a regular bicycle is allowed, which includes paved spaces open the the public and the front country Pa’rus Trail.

Go Horseback Riding

Horseback Riding is an excellent way to explore Zion National Park’s more remote corners. Many tours will take you by the Three Patirarchs, The Beehives, and beautiful cactus gardens.

Trips are anywhere from one to three hours long. Most are limited to kids 7 and up. Providers include:

Try Rapelling or Canyoneering

Canyoneering is a fun activety that includes climbing, rappelling, and exploring the tight corners deep in Zion Canyon. We were avid rock climbers in our pre-kid days and love canyoneering!

Below are a couple of tour operators that provide kid-freindly options:

Take a Jeep/ATV Tour

Jeep Tours are a fun way to see parts of Zion that are rarely seen by visitors. Options include private jeep tours and safari tours.

Tour operators include:

Climb the Zion Via Ferrata

It is not well-known, but Zion National Park has its own Via Ferrata like one would see in the Italian Alps. All climbs are guided by Utah Adveture Center and include harnesses and ropes. We’ve heard many people tell us that it is far safer than the exposed Angel’s Landing hike.

Go Stargazing

If you are like us, then you live near a city that makes stargazing all but impossible. Zion is far enough away from civilization that the stars come out in force.

Walk outside at night and you are likely to see the Milkey Way in its full glory. You can also book stargazing tours with operators like Stargazing Zion.

Look for Animals

This one is easy and free. Zion National Park is full of wildlife.

Kids can keep their eyes peeled for mule deer (abundant all over the park), fox, bats, bighorn sheep, and rock squirrels. Lucky viewers may see condors, collared lizards, desert tortoise, or even a ringtail cat.

Where to Stay when Visiting Zion National Park

Zion National Park for Kids - Enjoying a drink at Zion Brewery
Grabbing a bite to eat in Springfield near all the hotels

Zion National Park is conveniently located right next to the town of Springdale, which allows for a wide variety of lodging options. We stayed in St. George, another town about 30 minutes from the entrance, on our last trip. It was cheap and we coud pay with hotel points.

Lodging Options in Zion National Park for Kids

Zion National Park has two lodging options located within the park boundaries. Both are unique and keep you close to the adventure. The best part is you do not have to fight for parking at the beginning of each day!

Zion National Park Camping

Zion National Park has three campgrounds: Watchman, South, and Lava Point. Watchman and South are near the main entrance. Lava Point is about an hour away. There are spots for tents and RVs.

Zion Lodge

Zion Lodge is the only in-park hotel in Zion National Park. This is by far the most convenient lodging option. It provides direc taccess to the Shuttle Bus, has it’s own restaurant, and can arrange tours.

Lodging Options outside of Zion National Park for Kids

Springdale is full of great family-friendly hotel options. Below are a couple that are close to the park entrance and have a swimming pool.

Cliffrose Springdale, Curio Collection by Hilton

Cliffrose Springdale offers two and three bedroom suites and villas that are perfect for kids. They have a pool and hot tub and are located very clsoe to the entrance.

Flanigan’s Inn

Flanigan’s Inn also has suites and a two-bedroom house available for rent. Add to that a nice swimming pool and it is a win for families. It is more on the luxury side (i.e. expensive).

Best Western Plus Zion Canyon Inn & Suites

This is a standard Best Western with a great outdoor pool and hot tub. We love cheaper hotel options like this.

La Quinta by Wyndham at Zion Park/Springdale

La Quinta is another great kid-friendly option near Zion. We recommend siging up for Wyndham’s rewards program. It is one of the easiest programs to earn points and climb to higher statuses. Plus, they hae a bunch of budget friendly hotel options for families.

Other Parks Near Zion

Zion National Park - Kids playing in the sand dunes at Sandy Hollow State Park

While Zion National Park is amazing, it is not the only game in town. There are a number of great state and national parks in the area that are worth visiting.

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The Quill Family

We are the Quills! An ordinary family sharing our extraordinary travel experiences. 


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