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Zion National Park is one of our favorite National Parks in the United States. We share the best hikes at Zion National Park for families. Are you ready for fresh air and new family memories?
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Zion National Park
Zion National Park is located in Utah, just outside the city of Springdale. Even driving into the Zion National Park Service is a spectacular scenic drive. The beauty never ceases to amaze me and there’s so much to do!
Hiking, generally, represents the majority of what people do when they visit Zion (if they’re not just sight-seeing from the shuttle bus).
Our first trip to Zion occurred during an 8,600 mile road trip around the US. Yes, a family of four, in an SUV, for 8,600 miles. It was an adventure!
Part of that adventure included planning the trip as we went. On July 4, 2012, we literally sat in our hotel room in San Antonio, Texas trying to figure out where we would spend the next night. Roswell, New Mexico? Santa Fe?
We finally settled on Tucson, Arizona. The same thing happened on our way to Yellowstone. We had a tent site reserved, but it was supposed to rain the whole time (it didn’t), so we wanted a real shelter. The night before our arrival, we were able to book a cabin in Grand Teton National Park. Ah, serendipity. For those not familiar, this should have been impossible in July.
Back to Zion, as a result of our “plan as we go” adventure, we only planned one day for Zion National Park. BIG MISTAKE!
One day is NOT enough for Zion. As a result, we only got in a quick hike and a ride on the shuttle bus, plus a quick stop at a pull-out near the East entrance.
Even though that first trip to Zion National Park was short, we feel in love this this destination. We have been back many times since and for much longer visits.
Zion National Park Visitor Center
Before we jump into our list of the best hikes at Zion National Park, let’s talk about the Zion Visitor Center. This is the main hub of Zion National Park.
This is the first stop when visiting Zion National Park. You park in the visitor center parking lot. You will then hop on a shuttle to various spots and hikes throughout Zion.
You can enjoy some great shopping in the visitor center. For younger kids, you can also pick up a Junior Ranger program or get your passport stamped by a ranger. This was always our kids favorite thing to do at the National Parks.
Best Hikes Zion National Park
Let’s now jump into the best hikes at Zion National Park.
Angel’s Landing stands as probably the most popular of all the Zion hikes. That is why it made the best hikes at Zion National Park list. It is also one of our favorite hikes, as a family.
The trail has switchbacks up the canyon walls to a beautiful summit with a spectacular view of the canyon. Roundtrip, you will travel almost 6 miles and an elevation gain of about 1,500 feet. This will take you between 4 1/2-5 hours. You will start at the The Grotto Trailhead at Zion Canyon.
We chose to hike only to Scout Lookout, just as you get to chains and narrow trails of Angel’s Landing. The last half mile or so can be dangerous, especially if you have snow or water present. This last little section is steep and tight. It is called Walter’s Wiggles. With younger kids, it was a risk we just didn’t want to take. Safety, first!
Maybe one day, we’ll get to the top, but for now, we have no regrets. It was a great hike!
Travel Tip: Get up and going early! This tip applies to all summer Zion hikes. We arrived at the Zion headquarters building at about 7AM. This is the main location for the shuttle stop. There were 4 people waiting to get on the canyon shuttle bus. When we got back after our hike, it was a 4 hour wait to get on the bus! Be sure you arrive early for the Zion shuttle.
One of the next best hikes Zion National Park is the Zion Narrows. This hike follows the Virgin River going up stream. Even though you are at the bottom of a canyon, you will see amazing views.
To get to the start, you hike the Riverside Walk (a paved walkway) to the start of The Narrows hike. This is a more strenuous hike and you need to be more prepared, so it is more of a backpacking hike.
The Narrows features thousand foot canyon walls that are only about 20′ apart with the Virgin River carving a channel for hikers. Due to this narrow canyon and river channel, hikers do need to be aware of the potential for flash floods and pay attention to the weather and flash flood risk status.
Many hikers also prefer to get some specialized gear for this hike. Special neoprene boots and a solid wood hiking stick make up the standard “kit” for this hike. You can rent them from many shops in the area.
We just used our own hiking sticks and water shoes. As an “after-action brief,” we decided we would have hiked further up the canyon if we’d had the special equipment. The primary reason for this was that the water moves fast (the sandals I wore were not ideal for the current) and it can be cold in the canyon, even in July.
The hike can be as long or as short as you like. We opted for a fairly short hike. The Narrows provides you with a good “choose your own adventure” style of hike.
Rather than a loop hike, just like other Zion hikes, it’s an out and back and you choose how far “out” you’d like to travel.
The Emerald Pools was the short hike we did on our first trip to Zion National Park. Another one that you can choose your distance, when we went, it was closed off after a certain distance (about 3 miles in).
The day hike is more family-friendly. It is an easy hike that takes you up into the canyon (without a lot of elevation change) to the Emerald Pools. This is a series of pools called Lower Emerald Pool, Middle Emerald Pool, and Upper Emerald Pool.
Each pool gets a little more difficult in the hike. The best views are at the Upper Emerald Pool if your family is up for the extra hiking. The pools have a beautiful emerald green appearance, due to the algae in the water.
We did this hike, again, on our second trip and of all the hikes we’ve done at Zion, this one offered the most wildlife sightings. Deer, turkey, and even a tarantula!
It’s a great hiking trail for kids and you can even cool off in the Virgin River when you’re done.
We also like grabbing lunch at the Zion Lodge and sitting outside for a picnic. We saw a lot of deer just roaming while eating our lunch.
I know I said the top 3 Zion hikes, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention The Subway. The Subway exists in the “backcountry” of Zion and as such, requires a backcountry permit, as well as (usually) specialized gear and skills.
This one is definitely on my bucket list, but requires a bit more planning that we’ve done our two trips to Zion. You need to plan ahead enough to get the permits and possibly a guide with the gear and skills to get you to The Subway.
We shared the best hikes Zion National Park. If you are planning a multi-day vacation in Zion, we wanted to share a few honorable mention hikes.
This hike may be better for older kids or teens. This hike is 8 miles roundtrip and considered strenuous. There are several steep sections with potential rockfall. This hike takes you up to 6,500 feet in elevation at the top of Mount Baldy. You will also go through Echo Canyon. Just like its name, Observation Point showcases an amazing view of Zion Canyon.
If you are looking for a super easy hike then Weeping Rock trail is a great choice. The hike is only about .4 miles roundtrip. This hike has a lot of moss and ferns on the overhanging cliffs.
It is almost like hanging gardens. This causes water to trickle down. That is where it gets the name Weeping Rock.
Canyon Overlook Trail
The most photographed spot at Zion National Park is Canyon Overlook Trail. This is another easy trail. It is about 1 mile roundtrip. The elevation is much easier, too. There is only a 100 foot elevation change on this hike.
Regardless of which of the Zion hikes you choose, you won’t be disappointed. It’s a spectacular park with unmatched beauty, everywhere you look.