Family Guide to Zion National Park: Top Attractions and Insider Tips

Family Guide to Zion National Park: Top Attractions and Insider Tips

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In a world filled with busy work schedules and routine school jaunts, getting away with the family is one of the best ways to bond. The wild outdoors is a brilliant way to do so. From roasting marshmallows over a campfire, spotting a bear from a safe distance, or watching a sunset paint the sky with vibrant colors, these shared experiences become stories that families will recount fondly for years. The breathtaking Zion National Park is one of the best escapes for exceptional family memories.

Nestled in the heart of the rugged desert landscape of southwestern Utah, Zion National Park is a testament to the power of nature’s sculpting hand. With its towering red rock cliffs, lush canyons, and diverse wildlife, Zion offers a truly captivating experience for visitors of all ages, making it an ideal destination for a family adventure.

Planning a family trip, regardless of the destination, can often lead to stress. Zion National Park in Utah is certainly no exception to this. Luckily, we have compiled a detailed guide to help you plan your trip.

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When is the best time to visit Zion National Park?

Zion experiences its peak season during summer. This season also brings the highest temperatures, averaging between 95 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Given that most individuals have extended time off work and school is out for kids, this becomes the most popular period for visiting Zion.

If you want to avoid crowds, the best time for a Zion National Park trip is late autumn or winter. These seasons have smaller groups and cooler weather, allowing for a more comfortable experience. Also, you can drive along Zion Canyon Road in your vehicle as the number of visitors dwindles. With fewer people within the park, trails are less congested, parking becomes less of a struggle, and access to park amenities improves.

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What to do in Zion National Park?

The cost of visiting Zion National Park varies depending on your mode of transport and whether you intend to make multiple visits within a year. The most-preferred choice for most visitors is the Weekly Pass, as no daily passes are offered.

If you bring your vehicle into the park, the fee for a Weekly Pass is $35 for a car with 15 or fewer occupants. If you opt for the Zion Canyon Shuttle, you’ll pay a per-person charge of $20 for those aged 16 and above. Children aged 15 or under can enter at no cost.

Also, there are no extra fees for bringing your e-bike into the park. Both pass options grant you seven consecutive days of access to Zion National Park, encompassing the Zion Canyon and Kolob Canyon regions. Payment for these passes is made directly at the park entrance booth and can’t be bought beforehand.

An annual pass is available for those interested in an extended access option at $70. However, if you plan to visit multiple U.S. national parks, the more economical choice is the America the Blue Pass at $80. This annual pass also grants admission to 2000 federal recreation centers nationwide. Without further ado, here are some of the most kids-friendly things to do at Zion National Park;

Hike the Lower Emerald Pool trail

The Lower Emerald Pools trail is a gentle path suitable for individuals of all ages. Spanning 0.6 miles, the course starts opposite Zion Lodge, meandering into a picturesque canyon leading to a serene grotto. Water gracefully cascades over the rock formations above, feeding into tranquil pools.

Most of the trail is paved, a convenient feature for families with strollers. However, the course is quite popular during the peak season, so expect to share the path with many travelers. Access to this trail is facilitated via the Zion Lodge shuttle stop.

Explore Zion on bikes

One of the most enthralling ways to see Zion is by taking an E-bike. Zion Outfitters offers rental services for E-bikes, standard adult bikes, and children’s bikes. Rental packages also include helmets. Exploring Zion Canyon on an E-bike is secure due to the limited presence of vehicles on the roads. Also, if your group becomes weary of pedaling, you can load the bikes onto the shuttles at any of the stops.

Getting to the trails for hiking is a breeze as well. Bike racks are conveniently placed at the shuttle stops, marking the starting points of the trailheads. As an added measure, locks are supplied with E-bike rentals. Please Note: E-bike rentals are only available to individuals aged 14 and above.

Visit Zion Human History Museum

The Zion Human History Museum showcases the rich human heritage of Zion, spanning from the era of Native Americans and the pioneers who settled here to the park’s initial founding days. The museum offers a 22-minute video on Zion National Park. This video is an excellent educational resource for children to fulfill the Zion Junior Ranger badge requirements.

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Tube the Virgin River

Floating down the Virgin River on tubes is a revered pastime in Springdale, especially from May to July. You can either rent tubes from Zion Outfitter or use your own. Zion Outfitters does not provide tube rentals for children under 12. It’s crucial to prioritize water safety, particularly when kids are involved. Only engage in this activity if your kids are proficient swimmers, as there are minor rapids and chances of flipping.

Small Tip: Wear closed-toed shoes while tubing. The river is shallow.

Go horseback riding

Experience Zion just as the pioneers once did – from the back of a horse! Choose from one-hour horseback rides that trace the path of the Virgin River to the Court of the Patriarchs. These horseback tours also welcome kids as young as seven. For those a bit older (aged 10 and above), a three-hour tour ascends 500 feet, treating you to splendid vistas of the park’s southern expanse.

Visit the Zion Canyon Theatre

The Zion Canyon Theatre is between the Springdale bus route’s final stop and the park’s entrance along State Highway 9. The theater features a colossal 6-story screen, Utah’s largest screen. We highly recommend watching captivating 3D movies or thrilling blockbusters while here.

For an enriching and educational experience for the kids, the theater also offers regular screenings of a documentary titled “Treasure of Gods.” It explores the canyon’s history and myths, making it a perfect choice for an insightful outing with the kids.

Become a junior ranger

The motto of a Zion Junior Ranger is “Explore. Protect. Learn.” The program allows kids and adults to explore Zion National Park and the wonders of the natural world. You will get a designated booklet to help you on your adventure. As families traverse the park, young adventurers and their folks will unravel clues and unearth novelties, making this a captivating way to learn about the canyon and beyond.

Where to stay in Zion National Park

Most visitors to Zion National Park opt to either camp within the park or lodge in Springdale, at the park’s outskirts. A free shuttle service is available, making stops at various hotels within the town.

Camp at the Watchman Campground

The Watchman Campground is the most popular within Zion National Park. It offers tent and RV sites, well-maintained restroom facilities, and modern flush toilets. Located close to the visitor center and the charming Springdale, the campground is a wonderful stay for adventurous families.

Family-friendly hotels

Zion Lodge is the designated accommodation option within the park, offering hotel rooms and cozy cabins. Also, you can access an assortment of gifts at its gift shop for souvenirs.

The Castle Dome Café within the lodge is a cafeteria-style counter where one can indulge in various delicacies, including burgers, sandwiches, hot dogs, pizza, and salads.

In Springdale, there are several family-friendly lodging options. These include; Cable Mountain Lodge, Cliffrose Springdale, and La Quinta Inn & Suites.

Visiting Zion National Park with kids is an unforgettable and enriching experience. The park’s breathtaking natural beauty, diverse landscapes, and engaging activities offer a perfect setting for adventure and education. From awe-inspiring hikes along picturesque trails and thrilling encounters with wildlife to the mesmerizing grandeur of towering red rock formations, every moment spent in Zion National Park is an opportunity to create lasting memories.

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