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A Complete Guide To Planning A Trip To Zion National Park With Kids

by The Mom Trotter

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Photo by Zion Adventure Photog

Is your family planning a trip to Utah soon?  If you want to create some amazing, adventurous memories, you need to explore all that Utah has to offer, including the gorgeous 5 national Parks that are located within the state. 

First and foremost, we highly recommend a trip to Zion National Park with kids to give your family an adventure they will never forget.

About Zion National Park

Zion may not be the most well known, or often visited national park, but once you experience it, you will wonder why.  A trip to Zion National Park with Kids, you will see is a great lesson in geology and history.

Photo by Zion Adventure Photog

History of Zion National Park

Zion National Park was originally called Mukuntuweap National Monument, which was established in 1909 by President Howard Taft. In 1919, it was renamed to Zion National Park in 1919.

The park service feared that the original name, Mukuntuweap National Monument, would be difficult for visitors to pronounce.  The assumption was that if the name was too hard to pronounce, visitors would be less likely to come. 

Zion Canyon has been home to humans for at least 8,000 years, and was settled by Mormon Farmers in 1847. Additionally, the area was first explored by Europeans 1776.

Photo by Zion Adventure Photog

Fun Facts About Zion National Park

The first visitor to arrive at the park by vehicle was back in 1917.

Zion National Park is home to ancient rock art that was created by the Anasazi people 800 to 1,500 years ago.  Unfortunately there has been vandalism in the past, so most of the rock art is no longer available to the public. 

At the 2002 Olympics, the Olympic Torch made its way through the park on its way to Salt Lake City.

There were several paintings of Zion Canyon by artist Frederick Dellenbaugh on display at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. 

In recent years, there has been an average of 5 million visitors to the park each year, which is a substantial jump from the 3700 visitors that came to the park in 1920. 

What You Can Expect to See in Zion National Park

Zion National Park covers almost 150,000 acres. The highest elevation point inside of Zion National Park is at Kolob Canyon.  The peak is 8726 feet and the lowest elevation at the park is at Coal Pits Wash at 3666 feet. 

The park’s main attraction is Zion Canyon which is 15 miles long and 800 meters deep.

The park is home to almost 300 bird species, including the endangered California Condor. You will also find 79 different mammal species (including mule deer, cougars, and coyotes), 32 species of reptiles and 8 fish species. 

Additionally, Zion National Park has the richest plant diversity in the entire state of Utah with almost 800 native plant species.

There is also a natural underground spring located in the park. This water from the spring makes its way up through the rock surfaces over a time period of 1000 years.

Best Time To Visit Zion National Park 

Zion National Park is open 7 days per week, 24 hours per day. 

The weather at Zion National Park is incredibly diverse.  You can expect mid to late summertime temperatures to soar over 100 degrees, while wintertime temps can be uncomfortably cold.

Because of these temperatures, it’s best to avoid planning your trip to Zion National Park during these months. While spring does have more moderate weather, the water levels are higher, flood warnings are high and some of the hikes are off limits for safety.

The ideal time to visit Zion National Park is during the autumn months. Temperatures hover between 60 and 90 degrees and low water levels mean that hikes are available. Plus, the autumn colors in Zion National Park are stunning. 

In order to protect the native plants, reduce traffic and parking issues and bring back more tranquility to the Park, the Zion Shuttle System was created.

While private vehicles are allowed on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive some months, Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is closed to traffic February through November. If you have objections to riding the shuttle, you might consider scheduling your trip for the winter months.

The shuttle runs from March through November, so if you plan to ride the shuttle while at the park, you need to keep that schedule in mind when planning your trip. These shuttle buses arrive every 7-10 minutes so you will never have to wait too long for the next trip. 

How Did We Get To Zion National Park 

We drove an RV from to Zion National Park from Los Angeles. We made a stop in Nevada where we spent the night and visited Valley of Fire State Park first before heading to Utah.

Photo by Zion Adventure Photog

Traveling with kids and looking for tips, then make sure to click the links below and read more:

Where Did We Stay In Zion National Park With Kids

We stayed at Zion River RV Resort in Virgin, UT which is one of the best RV parks just about 20 minutes away from the entrance to Zion National Park.

This RV resort offers so many amenities such as; camper cabins, 2 bedroom suits, RV parking, dog areas, a playground for kids, a laundromat, social hall, shuttle bus to and from Zion National Park, a swimming pool and spa and so much more.

When we stayed the night there, the kids were excited to wake up to SNOW! They saw some other kids building a snow man and joined them for photos.

Other Places To Stay In Zion National Park With Kids 

If you are looking for the best places to stay in Zion National Park with kids, there is just one lodging option available as well as several campgrounds.

Rustic Zion Lodge

The Rustic Zion Lodge is located roughly 3 miles past the park entrance up Zion Canyon Drive the only accommodation inside the park.

You can rent cabins, hotel rooms or suites for your stay.  There is a year round dining room, a seasonal cafe, a gift shop and more. Additionally, kids under 16 stay free! 

Click here to see prices for the Zion Lodge and read reviews

Watchman Campground

The Watchman Campground is located along the Virgin River close to the South Entrance of the park. There is just over 180 sites with electrical hookups, it is important to note that there are no generators allowed here.

Click here to see prices for Watchman Campground and read reviews

South Campground

The South Campground is  located close the Watchman Campground along the Virgin River near the South Entrance of the Park. There are no hookups at these 117 sites, but generators are allowed during specific hours of the day.

Click here to see prices for South Campground and read reviews

Fairfield Inn & Suites Virgin Zion National Park

The Fairfield Inn & Suites is fairly new and is located close to Zion National park. This hotel offers free breakfast and has a kiddie pool which is a big draw for families. It is also located close to Sand Hollow State Park and Gooseberry Mesa Trail.

Click here to see prices for Fairfield Inn & Suites and read reviews

Cam fire at Zion River Resort

Driftwood Lodge in Springdale

Just minutes from the South Entrance of the Park you will find the Driftwood Lodge in Springdale.

This highly rated hotel offers an outdoor pool, a BBQ area, a river beach and more which makes it the perfect place to stay near Zion National Park with kids. 

Click here to see prices for Driftwood Lodge and read reviews

Lava Point Campground

If your family enjoys a more primitive style of camping, the Lava Point Campground is for you!  There are only 6 sites here with no hookups and these are all on a first come first serve basis, they are free though!

Kid Friendly Hikes In Zion National Park With Kids

Zion National Park is arguably the best National Park to take your kids hiking. Zion does, of course, have plenty of challenging, expert trails that are not recommended for children.

That being said, there are a good number of kid-friendly hikes in Zion National Park.

A trip to Zion National Park with kids would not be complete without doing these kid-friendly hikes. 

Riding bikes on the Pa’rus Trail

Pa’rus Trail 

At 3.5 miles round trip, this hike is paved, easy and pleasant to stroll with children. This trail is open to leashed dogs, bikes, and is wheelchair accessible. 

Weeping Rock Trail

If you are looking for a simple stroll, the Weeping Walk Trail is perfect.  This paved trail is less than 0.4 miles long and takes you to one of Zion’s most famous landmarks, Weeping Rock.

Scenic drive, Zion National Park

Canyon Overlook Trail

Another short hike, the Canyon Overlook Trail is just 1 mile out and back, and leads to a magical overlook of Zion Canyon. 

Emerald Pools Trail

The Emerald Pools Trail is actually a network of trails that lead to the Lower, Middle and Upper Emerald Pools. You can visit any or all of these pools from these trails. In total these trails equal 1.2 to 2.5 miles.  

Riverside Walk

The Riverside Walk is a 2.2 mile, paved “hike” along the Virgin river.  This hike leads right to the mouth of Zion Canyon and its stunning views.

The kids were excited to see Wildlife at Zion National Park

Other Things To Do In Zion National Park With Kids

If you are looking for non-hiking things to do in Zion National Park with kids, it’s time to hop in the car!

While you can’t drive in Zion Canyon during most months of the year, there are some other really great scenic drives that you can take with the family. 

Mount Carmel Highway Drive

Mount Carmel Highway Drive is a 12 mile highway that is a connecting highway between the east and the south entrances of the park.

This drive takes you up and down switchbacks and through the 1+ mile long Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel, which the kids will love!

Kolob Canyons Scenic Drive

The Kolob Canyons section of Zion National Park is the side of the park that is not as well known, but equally beautiful. Located roughly 40 miles north of Zion Canyon, but well worth the drive.

The views are amazing, there are plenty of places to stop to look at the views, and there are even some hiking trails along the way.  Best part? This part of the park sees significantly fewer visitors each year so you won’t run into the same crowds. 

Tips For Visiting Zion National Park With Kids

  • Our best tips for visiting Zion National Park with kids is to choose your vacation dates wisely so that your family is comfortable and safe. 
  • Additionally, be sure to pack extra water and snacks so you have plenty of time to explore the area without the kids getting hungry and thirsty.
  • Zion National Park is one of the most beautiful national parks I’ve ever been to. Make sure to have your photos taken by Arika at Zion Adventure Photog. She captured beautiful photos of our family! PS: Let her know I sent you.
Photo by Zion Adventure Photog
Tips & Tricks For Booking An Affordable Family Vacation
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