Zion National Park is the perfect destination for visitors young and old. But that doesn’t mean that every activity is kid-friendly. Before you plan to hit some of the park’s most popular trails like Angel’s Landing or The Narrows, think twice. Not only are many of the park’s top trails too long for little legs, but they can also be incredibly dangerous for inexperienced hikers.
Luckily, there are plenty of other ways to enjoy Zion as a family. Keep reading to learn the best things to do with kids in the park.
One of the most popular hikes in all of Zion is also a great family-friendly destination. Emerald Pools is actually separated into two parts; the upper and lower pools. While the hike to the Upper Emerald Pools may be too difficult for young children, the Lower Emerald Pools are at the end of a just .6-mile trail.
These beautiful pools were once a popular spot for splashing and swimming. However, park officials have taken action to protect the landscape and the natural vegetation. Fences now keep people out of the water, though they won’t keep you and your little ones from enjoying the beauty of this area.
Older children will be able to tackle the extra .3-mile hike to the Upper Emerald Pools. While that may not seem like a long distance, it is uphill and hot. However, the views are well worth the climb, making it a good excursion for families looking for a bit longer hike. To get to either trail, you’ll want to catch the Zion Shuttle and hop off at the Zion Lodge. Luckily, when you’re done with these hikes, you can then take on this next family-friendly activity.
Eat Lunch and Relax at Zion Lodge
Packing in a lunch to enjoy on a trail is a great family activity. But if you’re looking for something a bit different, plan a visit to Zion Lodge at lunchtime. You can dine at the restaurant, or just visit the snack bar for a quick meal. There are plenty of large, shady trees where you can enjoy your lunch picnic-style.
Zion National Park may feature plenty of desert scenery, but at the Lodge, you’ll find greenspace as well. This area is perfect for tossing frisbees, playing paddleball, or even starting a touch-football game with your entire family. After a morning of hiking, this is a good way to burn off a bit more energy before heading back to your vacation rental to relax.
Take a Dip at Temple of Sinawava
The heat of Zion in the middle of the summer can be overwhelming for adults, let alone children. Even if your kids are used to the soaring temperatures and spending hours hiking, they likely won’t complain about a chance to cool off.
At Temple of Sinawava, little and big feet alike can wade in the cool, clear water. If you’re wearing wicking clothing, take a dip and spend some time splashing about. If you have older children who are confident swimmers, there are even a few spots where the water gets deeper and they can truly swim.
Of course, this popular swimming spot is only safe when the water is at a normal level or lower. Snowmelt and rain can cause water levels to rise well into the summer months. Stay clear of flood waters, even if the water appears to be flowing slowly.
Enjoy the Shade and Cool Air at Weeping Rock
Another popular spot for families looking to cool off in the heat of the summer is Weeping Rock. Located on an easy, family-friendly hike that’s just a half-mile round trip, Weeping Rock is a cliff that curves out over the trail. Walk up a few steps and you’ll be under the shade of the rock, where the air is cooler. Water drips from the cliff above, dropping the temperature a bit more.
While they won’t be able to swim like they can at Temple of Sinawava, there is a small creek below the cliff that children will enjoy splashing and playing in.
Earn Junior Ranger Badges at the Visitor Center
A highlight of many families’ visit to Zion is a stop at the Visitors Center to earn a Junior Ranger badge. The Junior Ranger program is a national park program designed to teach children about each national park, monument, or historic site.
Kids will get to complete a variety of activities while in the park. After completing these activities, they can return to the Visitor Center and report back to a park ranger. The ranger will then name them honorary Junior Rangers and present them with a badge. These badges are different at each national park, making them an excellent souvenir to collect as you visit natural areas across the country.
Spot Wildlife and Flora
A great way to keep kids entertained while on longer trails and to teach them about the park is to purchase or print your own wildlife guide. Before or during your trip, teach your little ones about the creatures that call the park home. You can also educate them on the local flora.
Then, while you’re hiking, be on the lookout for plants and animals, and encourage your kids to identify them. It’s like nature’s very own scavenger hunt and it’s certain to stave off those endless repetitions of “are we there yet?”
Choosing the Best Things to do With Kids in Zion
While any of the activities on this list can be a great way to spend a day or an afternoon as a family, you know your family best. Older children or those who hike regularly might be ready to take on some of Zion’s other trails. Some families will easily be able to complete several of these activities in the afternoon, while others may find that just one short hike is more than enough each day.
The best way to plan a trip to Zion with your family is to consider your own unique needs and abilities, and choose activities that will challenge your little ones without overdoing it.