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4 Day Zion National Park Travel Itinerary with Kids – 2024 Guide

    I love mountains… and let me tell you, Zion has MOUNTAINS! They are huge and majestic and approaching the park’s south entrance, you can see them looming behind a bunch of other peaks. Zion National Park gets a lot of hype and has a reputation for being crazy busy, but there is a good reason, because it is stunning!

    Where to Stay in Zion National Park

    There are so many options of where to stay in Zion National Park! You can stay in a bed and breakfast, a lodge, an Airstream RV, a converted silo, a yurt, or even a covered wagon! And the entire area has beautiful mountain views, so you don’t even have to be inside Zion National Park to enjoy the scenery!

    Staying inside Zion National Park

    We try to stay inside the national parks when we can, because it can often save you a lot of time and give you a head start on your day. Zion National Park has 1 lodge and 2 campgrounds inside the main portion of the park, so you’ll need to book early to grab a reservation.

    One big perk to staying at Zion Lodge is that you’re already in the middle of the park and you can more easily access the trails and viewpoints in that area of the park. If you have ebikes and you stay at Zion Lodge, you’re all set for an amazing trip! Another big perk for both the lodge and the campgrounds is that you’ll have a free parking spot for your vehicle inside the park. Lodge guests can access the park shuttle at stop #5 while campground guests will have to wait in line at the Visitor Center with most of the visitors who have managed to find parking inside the park.

    Note that showers and laundry are not available for campers inside the park. (Showers can be purchased just outside the entrance at Zion Outfitters and laundry is a little farther away but still on the Springdale shuttle line at Zion Park Laundry.)

    Staying Outside of Zion National Park

    Right outside of Zion National Park is the town of Springdale, which offers a variety of lodging and hotel options within walking distance of the park. A little farther out, you’ll find another large grouping of accommodations like glamping tents, an Airstream camp, and yurts. Beyond that are the towns of La Verkin and Hurricane among others, all under an hour from the park. We have 3 recommendations for those who would like to stay outside of the park for their Zion family vacation.

    First, if you plan to stay outside of Springdale, know that you’ll have to drive into the park very early every morning to get a parking spot. If you plan to pay for parking in Springdale, you can save a little bit by parking near one of the higher number shuttle stops to pay the ‘standard’ rate instead of the ‘premium’ parking rate. Staying farther away from Zion might be a great choice for you if you plan to enjoy the park 1-2 days during your Zion family vacation and spend the rest of your Utah travel itinerary on other surrounding activities.

    On the other hand, if you plan to spend most of your Zion travel itinerary inside the park, here are my other two recommendations. One option is to stay within walking distance of the pedestrian park entrance bridge, probably in the first mile (or the first 4 shuttle stops). Staying here will allow you to walk or bike into the park fairly easily and not need to move your car around much. Keep in mind that it might be hard to get on the shuttle at one of these close stops anytime in the morning. Most buses will be already full as they approach the park entrance. So if you stay close, plan on walking.

    My final recommendation might seem counterintuitive at first. And that is to stay in the #6-9 shuttle bus stop area. Here’s where you’ll find familiar hotels like Springhill Suites, Hampton Inn, and Holiday Inn Express. Enjoy free hot breakfast, an outdoor pool, and you could even use reward points to book your room! And when it’s time to get on the bus in the morning, you’ll have a much easier time getting a seat, because all buses will be empty at stop #9. (However, your bus might get stuck in some traffic early in the morning when there’s a long line of cars trying to enter the park.)

    Best Time to Visit Zion National Park

    Zion National Park is a popular tourist destination year round, but summer is definitely one of the busiest times to visit. Of course, it’s also the hottest season in the park, so guests will need to carry lots of water. Mid-July to early September is also the park’s monsoon season, when heavy thunderstorms can cause flash floods in the canyon. Visiting during this time of the year means checking the weather forecast before heading out on certain hikes. Rangers may also close certain areas when flash floods are likely.

    Visiting Zion in the Spring usually means cooler temperatures than the summer, which can be a welcome relief to hikers. However, if you were hoping to hike the Narrows, it is often closed throughout the spring because of snow melt. The water levels and flow rate are monitored and the Narrows are closed to all hikers when the water is over 150 CFS.

    Visiting Zion in the fall is a great happy medium. Cooler temperatures and lower crowds than the summer, and a much better chance of hiking the Narrows than the spring.

    Zion Shuttle Bus System and Parking

    Most of the year you’ll need to use the shuttle system in Zion. Zion National Park shuttles run in 2 different lines. One line covers 3 miles of the gateway town of Springdale in 9 stops, bringing guests to the park entrance. The other runs inside the park, moving visitors from the Visitor Center (stop #1) to the Narrows (stop #9).

    Not all of the Zion shuttle stops were open during our visit because of trail closures and construction. Some stops are only serviced when the buses are traveling down canyon (AKA back to the Visitor Center). Take a good look at your shuttle map when you arrive, making note of these things as well as the time that Zion shuttles stop running during the day. We were surprised how early in the evening the Zion shuttle stopped moving visitors into the canyon and focused on only bringing them back to the Visitor Center. And if you miss the last bus, you’ll have a long way to walk!

    The Zion park shuttles are very busy and it’s common to have long lines waiting at the shuttle stops, especially the Visitor Center. If you do ride the Zion shuttle, you’ll want to enter the park early and plan lots of extra time to wait in Zion National Park shuttle lines. As the bus makes its way along the route from stops 1-9 and from 9-1, it will fill up, so trying to get on towards the end of the route going either direction could be difficult. We saw a couple of very packed buses when we stopped by the museum at stop 2 and the people waiting had trouble getting on to return to the Visitor Center. Every time we drove by the Visitor Center, we would check out the line waiting to get on the Zion shuttle. It always seemed to be more than a full bus worth of people. And a couple times I even described it as a Disney World line!

    The silver lining to the shuttle though is the opportunity to bike through the canyon with limited other traffic on the road. We’ll talk a lot more about biking Zion National Park in just a minute.

    Parking in Zion National Park is very limited, so you’ll need to arrive early to get a free parking spot inside the park. Late visitors will be directed to pay for parking in the gateway town of Springdale. During our spring visit, Zion’s parking lots were starting to fill up before 8:30 and there was a significant line at the park entrance by 8:30. (This line also temporarily halted the Springdale shuttle progress, because they were stuck in the line as well.) The town of Springdale has a lot of parking, but if you’re parked all the way at the end, you might have to walk a bit before you reach shuttle stop #9 on the Springdale line.

    The fact that Zion parking fills so quickly does have a silver lining though! It means that if you’re driving through the park doing the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel scenic drive or if you’re staying inside the park, you won’t have to wait in an extremely long line at the park entrance, because a large percentage of the park’s daily visitors are entering through the pedestrian park entrance and the vehicle entrance line won’t get too out of control during peak hours.

    And as we mentioned above, in addition to the Zion shuttle bus system INSIDE the park, there’s a Springdale shuttle bus just outside it. After exiting the park via the pedestrian walking bridge, you can hop on the Springdale shuttle next to Zion Outfitters. The shuttle system covers the first 3 miles of Springdale in a total of 9 stops. Guests with accommodations in the first 3 miles, visitors who drive and park in Springdale, and those who want to exit the park and explore the town for a bit can all take advantage of the Springdale shuttle system.

    Tips for Visiting Zion National Park

    Plan ahead for reservations. Campsites, hotels, and hiking permits are all hot commodities in Zion National Park. Know when your reservation window opens and be ready to book then.

    Follow Zion National Park on Instagram @zionnps. The park rangers running this account are witty, so they’ll make you laugh while teaching you about the park and prepping you for your trip.

    Arrive early. I mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. If you drive into Springdale at 9:30, you’ll either find yourself in a long line at the park entrance or have to park your vehicle in Springdale. After one of these delays, you’ll get yourself to the Visitor Center’s shuttle stop, where you’ll have to wait for multiple shuttles to arrive before you get on one. Not arriving early puts you at a significant disadvantage in Zion, so it’s worth the early wakeup.

    Gauge the busyness of the park on your first day. I’d recommend entering the park before 8 am on your first day to be sure you get a parking spot. As the day unfolds, you’ll get an idea of how the Zion shuttles are keeping up with the flow of people in the park. If you’re visiting in the fall or happen to hit on a lower crowd week, you can always adjust your plan for the next day. But if the park is busier than you expected, you won’t find yourself frustrated on the first day of your Zion family vacation.

    Whether you drive into the park or enter through the pedestrian bridge entrance, you’ll need to pay entrance fees or show your annual pass to gain entry to the park. And don’t forget to take your pass or receipt with you if you exit the park and plan to re-enter. It’s so easy and convenient to pop over to Springdale, that it’s easy to forget!

    Have a good food plan. The only restaurant inside Zion National Park is at Zion Lodge, which might not be an easy spot to access during your park day. We highly recommend bringing in a picnic lunch and having dinner at one of the many Springdale restaurants. Pack lots of snacks and carry lots of water while hiking.

    Biking in Zion has become a very popular and convenient way to get around. Several companies in Spingdale rent ebikes, which makes it much easy and convenient to get around the park on your own schedule. We highly recommend using ebikes to get to popular hiking trailheads. Keep in mind that you’ll need to pull over and let the shuttle pass you if you’re biking on park roads.

    Because Zion is surrounded by tall mountains, some areas of the canyon will get shaded very early in the evening. This can be a wonderful thing on hot days. For example, in the early evening, the Emerald Pools hike and the Riverwalk trail are almost completely shaded. (In fact, the Riverwalk trail spends a lot of the day in the shade!) But one downside of this is that some areas may start to get dark much earlier than you’d otherwise expect. If you go hiking in the evening, take a headlamp or flashlight in case you have to hike out in the dark.

    Flash floods are a big safety concern in Zion. Be aware of the weather forecast. Check daily for park ranger updates on the weather and flash flood concerns. Hiking in washes and narrow canyons is not safe when there is rain in the forecast or during times of heavy snowmelt.

    Kolob Canyon is a much less visited area of the park with a separate park entrance. Kolob Canyon is about an hour drive from Springdale.

    Oversized vehicles traveling through the Zion-Mount Carmel tunnel require a permit and fee and must drive through during certain hours, because the opposing tunnel traffic will have to be stopped for them to drive through. If you don’t have an oversize vehicle, this is something to be aware of, because it happens frequently throughout the day as motorhomes, tour buses, and trailers make their way in and out of the park. Your travel time along this scenic drive could be delayed.

    How to See Wildlife in Zion National Park

    We saw a lot of mule deer, squirrels, and chipmunks on our trip. The deer wandered through the campground as if they were tame and some very brave chipmunks tried to scavenge our backpack for lunch so you’ll want to keep a close eye on any food you have out.

    We attended a ranger talk on the California Condor, a very large buzzard that is critically endangered in the area. Unfortunately, we were not able to spot one either here or during our time in Grand Canyon.

    Top 10 Must Do Activities in Zion National Park

    1. Get up high to overlook the canyon – Canyon Overlook Trail and Angel’s Landing are two of the best ways to do this. Driving in from the east side of the park through the tunnel will also give you some of this perspective, but there aren’t any pullouts very high up. The Watchman Trail also offers beautiful mountain views, but it’s at the front of the park, so the views are a bit different.

    2. Check out the Narrows. If you don’t want to hike part of this famous trail, you can just do the Riverwalk trail and enjoy the view of the river.

    3. Bike or walk the Pa’rus Trail. You’ll cross the river several times and enjoy some beautiful views of the canyon.

    4. Drive through the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel to the east entrance. You’ll get some gorgeous views of the canyon and it’s the only way to access the east side of the park since the Zion National Park shuttle doesn’t go over there.

    5. Explore Springdale. There’s a lot within walking distance of the park visitor center! And since there are very few services available inside the park, you’ll likely find yourself in Springdale for something. See a few of our recommendations below.

    6. Check out the Visitor Center and Human History Museum. You’ll find a large 3D map of the park at each location, which is a favorite of mine. It’s a great way to get a sense of scale for the park.

    7. Go for a hike. Zion is a hiker’s paradise! We recommend doing a hike every day of your visit if you are able! We’ll share some short and family friendly hikes below.

    8. Ride a bike. With limited parking and crowded shuttles, Zion is the perfect place to get around via bike. There are multiple rental companies in town if you need to rent ebikes.

    9. Visit Kolob Canyon. The northwest portion of Zion known as Kolob Canyon is accessible by a separate park entrance along Interstate 15. On this side of the park you’ll find a 5 mile scenic drive, a couple of hikes, and a completely different perspective of the mountains.

    10. Try something huckleberry or prickly pear. If these aren’t common flavors where you live, get some huckleberry ice cream or a prickly pear lemonade while in Springdale.

    Things to do in Zion National Park

    Visitor Center

    Naturally, every Zion travel itinerary should start at the Visitor Center. In addition to indoor and outdoor exhibits, you’ll want to stop by the ranger desk to see posted park updates and ask any questions you might have. The visitor center is the best place to get information about trail closures or other recent changes in the park. In addition to Zion’s visitor center, you might also enjoy the Zion Human History Museum and park film.

    Scenic Drives

    The main road of Zion is only accessible by shuttle bus (and bikes) most of the year, but it still counts as a scenic drive you need to experience in some way! Many visitors will want to travel all the way to stop #9 in order to hike the Narrows or just walk the Riverwalk Trail to the Virgin River. Be sure to enjoy the scenic views along the way. You’ll get a really nice view of Angel’s Landing as you travel to stop #9.

    The other scenic road in Zion is open to vehicles and that zigzags up the canyon and goes through the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel to the east park entrance. You’ll find a few hikes and viewpoints like Checkerboard Mesa on this side of the park. Oversized vehicles should take note of my tip above about the fee they’ll have to pay to drive through.

    Biking Zion National Park

    There are some National Parks where I feel a bike is almost required and Zion is definitely one of them! We avoided the Zion shuttle bus system completely and took full advantage of our ebikes! You’ll find nearly a dozen ebike rental companies in town, offering 2 hour, half day, and full day rentals. Some bikes are outfitted with cushier seats and cargo baskets or tie down space. You can also rent ebikes with room for a kid to ride on the back.

    With a bike, you can travel the shuttle road on your own instead of queueing for the shuttle, which allowed us to go for hikes in the early evening when the shuttle was no longer carrying visitors up into the canyon. Bicyclists are required to pull over and stop to allow the shuttle bus to pass. The canyon drive ascends from the visitor center to the Temple of Sinawava with a few pretty steep climbs in the middle. The return trip will be mostly downhill.

    Kolob Canyon

    Take a break from the crowds with a visit to Kolob Canyon. The northwest side of the park, accessible through a separate entrance, has a short 5 mile scenic drive and a few hiking trails. Spend one day of your Zion National Park travel itinerary enjoying a hike here to enjoy a completely different area of the park.

    Explore Springdale

    You can’t always find a fun and thriving gateway town just steps from the park entrance gates, so take advantage of Springdale during your Zion National Park vacation! Ride the shuttle or walk around, enjoying the shops and restaurants. You might even find some live music! As long as you’re not trying to find a parking space, wandering Springdale can be a great way to take a break from the park or end your day after a long hike.

    A few top restaurant picks: Grab a bumbleberry (mixed berry) turnover from Bumbleberry Inn. Get your favorite iced coffee or latte at Canyon Coffee, Deep Creek Coffee Company, or FeelLove Coffee. Camp Outpost has delicious food and refreshing huckleberry or prickly pear lemonade. Two other highly recommended casual restaurants are Oscar’s Café, Bit & Spur, and MeMe’s Café.

    Zion Tours

    Just outside the park you’ll find companies offering jeep tours, ebike tours, horse riding, and guided hikes in Zion. But be sure to read carefully and ask for clarification, because some of the tours labeled Zion do not actually take place within the park and instead view the Zion mountains from other locations. These tours might still be incredible experiences, but if you were hoping to be inside the park, it might not be what you’re looking for.

    Short Hikes with Little Elevation Change

    Pa’rus Trail – This 3.5 mile roundtrip trail is paved and accessible, starting across the street from the Visitor Center (shuttle stop #1) and continuing until shuttle stop #3 with gorgeous views of Zion’s mountains. It’s a multi-use trail, allowing bicycles, but there are a lot of blind turns, so biking during busier seasons or times of day might not be as enjoyable. Educational signage and benches are scattered throughout the trail, and the pathway crosses over the Virgin River multiple times with a series of bridges.

    Grotto Trail – This 1 mile trail connects the Zion Lodge to the Grotto (shuttle stops #5 and #6).

    Weeping Rock Trail – A .4 mile trail that is short but steep that leads to dripping springs. Accessed at shuttle stop #7 but closed in 2024.

    Riverside Walk – 2 miles of gentle paved trail that follows the Virgin River and ends at the Narrows Gateway. The first half mile is accessible but often sandy. A couple of sandy paths branch off from the paved trail for river access. Accessed at the Temple of Sinawava, shuttle stop #9.

    Short to Moderate Hikes with Some Elevation Change

    Timber Creek Overlook Trail – This 1 mile trail offers amazing views of the Kolob Canyons and surrounding landscape. The elevation change is marked at 100 feet, but it felt like most of the hike was slightly uphill. This trail is located in the Kolob Canyons portion of Zion National Park at the end of the 5 mile scenic drive. The trail works up the ridgeline, but stays mostly away from the cliff edge.

    Canyon Overlook Trail – This 1 mile trail is immediately on the east side of the Zion tunnel, which gives you an amazing high elevation hike without having to hike all that elevation yourself. A few sets of stairs at the beginning and some rock scrambling at the end make up most of this hike’s elevation change. This is a great family friendly hike, but there are steep drop-offs. The trailhead parking is very small but a few additional spaces are available down the road and at the bathroom. We highly recommend this hike, but you’ll want to find a parking space very early. We got there at 8:30 and it was almost too late.

    Kayenta Trail to Emerald Pools – This 2 mile trail is a change to previous Emerald Pool hikes, because an access bridge was being replaced at Zion Lodge in 2024, requiring everyone to hike out and back to Emerald Pools from the Grotto (shuttle stop #6) instead. Steep drop-offs.

    Watchman Trail – A step up from the Canyon Overlook Trail both in length and in elevation gain, this 3.3 mile hike offers a completely different perspective, because it overlooks Springdale and the front of the park. It’s also within walking distance of the campground and visitor center (shuttle stop #1), which makes it easier to access in the middle of the day. Steep drop-offs.

    Sand Bench Trail – This 4 mile trail requires hiking through deep sand to see views of the Patriarch peaks. Also used for commercial horse tours for most of the year. Accessed at shuttle stop #4.

    Lower, Middle, and Upper Emerald Pools – Take 2-3 miles of trail to one or more of these weeping rock trails. We hiked to Lower Emerald Pools and found it to be a little underwhelming as the water level was very low and the pool did not have the emerald color at this time of the year. If you’re at all invested in what the pools look like at the end of this year, I’d recommend checking All Trails before doing the hike to see what other recent hikers have reported. That said, you’re walking along the cliff edge, so the views of Zion Canyon and the Virgin River below are quite pretty. Accessed at shuttle stop #6 in 2024, previously at stop #5.

    Taylor Creek Trail – This 5 mile trail has a 450 elevation change and follows the creek to Double Arch Alcove, passing two homestead cabins on the way. This trail is accessed from Kolob Canyon.

    Zion has a lot of opportunities for hiking and it can be hard to choose which trails are best for families who want to enjoy the amazing canyon views and do more than just the gentle paved walks. We’d recommend starting your Zion family vacation with the Riverside Walk, the Canyon Overlook Trail, and Timber Creek Overlook Trail, moving on to Watchman Trail if your family is ready for additional elevation.

    Longer and Strenuous Hikes

    Scout Lookout – Hike the first couple miles of West Rim Trail to this overlook for a total distance of 4.2 miles and about 1000 feet of elevation change. Very steep drop-offs. Not recommended for young children or anyone with a fear of heights.

    Angel’s Landing – Add another mile onto your Scout Lookout hike along a narrow ridgeline with chain handholds. This is not a kid friendly hike, but something that many serious hikers will enjoy. I have no interest in being that high off the ground on a narrow ledge, so I happily sent Ryan to do this hike on his own one morning. Permits are required, so you can try for the lottery months ahead of time or the day before. Very steep drop-offs. Not recommended for young children or anyone with a fear of heights.

    The Narrows – Hiking the Narrows means starting with the Riverside Walk. For this unique hike, you’ll walk, wade, and maybe even swim through the Virgin River, moving upstream at the beginning of the hike. Mystery Falls is a good stopping point for families who just want a taste of the Narrows with a 3 mile round trip hike. Other visitors might want to hike through Wall Street to Floating Rock for a total of 7.5 miles. You can hike all the way to Big Spring (9.4 miles total) without a permit. Hiking this direction is known as Bottom-Up. Hiking Top-Down is a more challenging (usually overnight) hike with a required permit, taking the entire 16 miles of the Narrows as a 1 way hike with a shuttle ride at the end.

    Hiking the Narrows in the winter or spring will require a wetsuit or drysuit because of low water temperatures. Neoprene socks, hiking poles, and a fully waterproof backpack are all highly recommended for all seasons. High water levels in the spring will often cause the Narrows hike to be closed. There is a risk of flash flooding in the canyon at any time of the year, especially with summer thunderstorms. Early fall is the ideal time to hike, with lower crowds, warmer water temperatures, and lower risks for monsoons. The park will post that day’s flash flooding probability at the trailhead and visitor center.

    We knew that the Narrows would likely be closed during our visit, as it is usually closed all spring due to snowmelt and very fast moving water, but we felt that our 4 and 7 year old kids were a bit young for this hike. We look forward to hiking the Narrows sometime on a future Zion family vacation.

    What To Do Near Zion National Park

    Usually when you’re visiting a national park, you’re in a remote area, but not here! This is such a fun area of Utah! Here are a handful of fun activities and places you might enjoy adding to your Zion National Park travel itinerary.

    La Verkin and Hurricane

    Fort Zion – Kids will enjoy this gift shop and western themed photo spot on the road to Springdale. (25 minutes away)

    River Rock Roasting Company – Pick up a coffee or a sandwich and enjoy the canyon views. (30 minutes away)

    Matt’s Off-Road Recovery – If you’re a fan of this recovery YouTube channel, stop by during normal business hours to see if their shop is open. They weren’t busy the day we visited, so we were able to go inside and take pictures with some of the vehicles. (40 minutes away)

    Sand Hollow State Park – Book a sand dune side by side tour or rent a kayak. If you don’t have 4 wheel drive, be careful about parking on the side of the road especially in summer months when the sand is warm and not as hard packed. Cars that get stuck in sand here keep Matt’s Offroad Recovery very busy! (50 minutes away)

    Island Swing – Located at Quail Creek State Park, this inflatable water playground is a great choice for a hot summer day. (50 minutes away)

    Red Reef Trailhead – This trail can offer families with young kids a similar hike to the Narrows with less water. (1 hour away)

    St. George

    All these areas are about an hour away from the Springdale Zion park entrance but are not too far from each other.

    Pioneer Park & Red Hills Desert Garden – Go for a hike, tour a pioneer rock cabin, take a photo with Dixie Rock, and walk through a cultivated desert garden.

    St. George Dinosaur Discovery Center – When a farmer started flattening some of his land, he discovered dinosaur tracks preserved in the layers of rock. This was a very cool stop for both us and our kids. And if you’re visiting here with younger kids, check out Fossil Falls Park on the way. This playground has a very large slide which is fun for both kids and grownups, but might not be ideal for toddlers and pre-schoolers.

    Red Cliffs National Conservation Area – Check out AllTrails to find a fun hike in this area.

    Town Square Park – A splash pad, a carousel, and a giant guitar made of recycled materials… what more could you want in a fun downtown square?

    St. George Children’s Museum – Next to Town Square Park and a great place to head on a very hot or a very rainy day.

    Thunder Junction All Abilities Park – Ride the train and enjoy this amazing dinosaur themed all abilities playground and splash pad.

    Iceberg Drive Inn – Enjoy a thick milkshake, but be sure to look at the sizes when you order! Their kids size is what I would consider a small and their mini is quite large! We bought a kids and a mini so we could try 2 flavors and had trouble finishing them between the 4 of us!

    Paletas Gourmet Creamsicles – Add dips, toppings, and drizzles to your ice cream pop to make the perfect summer treat.

    Snow Canyon State Park

    About an hour from the Springdale Zion park entrance.

    Snow Canyon Lava Tubes – Take a hike through the beautiful red sandstone of Snow Canyon to see lava tubes and other lava rock formations.

    Jenny’s Canyon – Another hike in Snow Canyon State Park, Jenny’s Canyon is an easy half mile hike through a slot canyon.

    Tuacahn Amphitheatre – Located just outside the state park, this outdoor amphitheatre has a gorgeous red rock backdrop for their productions.

    Other Areas

    Kolob Reservoir – A great place to go for a paddle. (1 hour away)

    Northgate Peaks Trail – This moderate hike starts at the Wildcat Canyon Trailhead with a steep scramble at the top. (45 minutes away)

    Belly of the Dragon – About 20 minutes out the east park entrance, take a short walk through a fun cave-like tunnel under the road.

    Moqui Sand Caves – About 30 minutes out the east park entrance, walk through the Moqui Cave Museum of Ancient History and then wander through nearby sand caves.

    Note that these last few items are timed from the east park entrance. In order to access these from the town of Springdale or the lodge or campgrounds in Zion, you will need to drive all the way through the park.

    What to Bring to Zion National Park:

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    Food supplies – I usually insist on bringing all the food and supplies we expect to need when we visit a national park, but Zion is actually one of the least remote we’ve been to! There’s a full sized grocery store 30 minutes away and a Walmart not much farther than that. Plus you’ll find tons of restaurants in Springdale, so you’ll have plenty of choices for dinner after a fun day in Zion. However, there is not much food available INSIDE Zion National Park, with the Zion Lodge offering a sit down restaurant and a small snack bar. But remember, you can’t drive directly to Zion Lodge unless you’re staying there. So you’ll want to plan ahead and pack a lunch.

    Water bottles – Water refill stations are available at shuttle stops 1, 2, 5, 6, and 9 as well as the Kolob Canyons Visitor Center. You’ll want to carry plenty of water when you’re not close to one of those stops. We carry insulated metal Yeti and Camelbak water bottles as well as a Platypus water bladder while hiking to refill our water bottles. Our boys wear this kids hydration backpack. We also saw many bikers and hikers wearing hydration backpacks as well.

    Ebikes – If you don’t have your own ebike, you can very easily rent them from one of the many companies in town, but if you plan to use them multiple days or for additional national park trips (like maybe in Glacier), maybe it’s time to buy your own. Our ebikes are foldable for smaller storage and one of the more affordable options.

    Hats and sunscreen – Don’t be like me and forget to put on sunscreen for your bike ride! Pack a nice hiking hat with a strap to shade you from the hot sun. We did a lot of our adventuring in the evening when there was a lot of shade, but I’d recommend long sleeve hiking shirts (or this women’s one) for morning or mid-day hiking.

    Water-resistant hiking shoes – Ryan wore these men’s hiking boots or his trail runners every day. If we were biking, I wore sneakers, but I wore my women’s hiking boots for our bigger hike days. Our kids like these affordable kids’ hiking sandals.

    Trekking poles – If you’re planning on any hikes with big elevation changes, trekking poles will be very helpful.

    Hiking backpack – Initially Ryan’s 44 liter hiking backpack seemed like a bigger bag than we needed to carry for day hikes, but it fit our snacks and all four of our jackets, which we usually needed to carry for half of each hike. The middle spine zipper pouch stores our water bladder really well and each of the side pockets hold a water bottle.

    Your camera – I find that a phone just can’t do justice to spectacular mountains like these.

    Binoculars – If you’re interested in looking for California Condors or you just want a better look at the people canyoneering high above you, binoculars might be very handy.

    Zion National Park with Kids:

    Read About Zion Before Your Visit:

    Good Night Zion by Adam Gamble
    Buzzy and the Red Rock Canyons by Melissa C Marsted
    Animal Habitats by Judy Press
    The Campground Kids: Zion Gold Rush by C. R. Fulton
    Scout Moore Junior Ranger on the Colorado Plateau – purchase this one from the Grand Canyon Conservancy
    National Park Mysteries: Danger in Zion National Park by Aaron Johnson
    Zion National Park Activity Book by Reese Gladstone
    A Grande Guide to Zion National Park by Sarah Del Grande
    Who Pooped on the Colorado Plateau? by Gary D Robson
    Olivia Owl Explores Utah by Chad Reinertson
    Utah & Nevada: 50 Hikes with Kids by Wendy Gorton
    National Parks: A Kid’s Guide to America’s Parks, Monuments, and Landmarks by Erin McHugh
    All Aboard! National Parks by Hailey and Kevin Meyers
    National Parks of the U.S.A. by Kate Siber

    Junior Ranger Program

    Zion has such a fun Junior Ranger book! Activities include picking up litter in the park, attending a ranger talk, learning about different ranger jobs in the park, and writing a poem about the park. If you have an older child, they’ll be required to complete a good portion of the booklet, so it might be hard to complete on a very short visit. Additional not required activities in the back include things for them to search for throughout the park.

    Zion National Park Activities Kids Will Love

    Bike the Pa’rus Trail – This paved multi-use path only has a couple of road crossings and crosses the river a view times for some beautiful scenic views.

    Learn about the park animals at a Ranger talk – At the time of our visit, Ranger talk topics were either animals or geology. And of course, my kiddos are going to pick animals every time.

    Hike the Canyon Overlook Trail – This trail was the perfect length for our kids to do without feeling tired, and they really enjoyed sitting on the big rocks overlooking Zion Canyon at the end.

    Ride the shuttle bus – My kids love to ride a shuttle bus. We didn’t ride the Zion shuttle inside the bus, but we enjoyed a little shuttle ride into Springdale to get some treats and do a little souvenir shopping.

    Water play along Riverwalk Trail – There are several beach sections adjoining the paved Riverwalk Trail, so don’t feel the pressure to walk the entire way. Find a gentle spot and let the kids put their feet in the water.

    How to Plan Your 4 Day Zion National Park Travel Itinerary

    Whether you plan 1 day, 4 days, or even longer for your Zion family vacation pretty much depends on how much hiking your family wants to do. This is a hiking park! If long hikes aren’t your thing, hopefully I shared some shorter hikes above that got you excited for your Zion National Park travel itinerary. And if not, check out our 1 day Zion travel itinerary below to enjoy the highlights of the park with your choice of paved trail walks.

    For the purposes of this itinerary, we’re going to assume that you will rent ebikes for at least one full day in our multi-day itineraries. We’ll also assume that you get into the park early enough to find a parking space and get on the shuttle without a significant time delay. Otherwise, you might find yourself arriving at your ‘morning hike’ trailhead around noon.

    1 Day Zion Travel Itinerary

    Spending just 1 day in Zion is really hitting the highlights. After arriving in the park very early (ideally before 8 am), we recommend starting the day on the shuttle enjoying the views of the canyon on the way to the Riverside Walk at stop #9. (Alternatively, this is a lovely road to ebike as well.) After enjoying the Riverside Walk, if you’d like an additional paved pathway, you can get off the shuttle at stop #3 and return to the Visitor Center on the Pa’rus Trail. Stop on a bench here and enjoy the picnic lunch you packed. Return to your car (whether inside or outside the park) and take the scenic drive through the Zion-Mount Carmel tunnel. Don’t forget to stop at the overlooks on the way. If you are just visiting Zion for today, feel free to exit the park on the east entrance and continue on your Utah road trip. If not, you can return on the same scenic drive and enjoy dinner in Springdale.

    Or, if you can, snag a reservation to stay at the Zion Lodge for your 1 day visit to Zion. That will allow you to wander the Pa’rus trail the night before and give you the ability to drive all the way to Zion Lodge (shuttle stop #5) and you’ll already be halfway into the canyon, making it easier to enjoy your morning on the Riverside Walk at the Temple of Sinawava.

    2 Day Zion Travel Itinerary

    With 2 days in Zion National Park, we can take things a little more leisurely. You’ll still want to arrive very early on day 1 to minimize shuttle waits. Ride the shuttle and choose your must-do hike from the ones along the shuttle route. Spend the rest of the day at additional shuttle stops, at the museum or visitor center, and along the Pa’rus Trail. Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy dinner in Springdale.

    On day 2, drive through the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel by 8 am to score a coveted parking space near Canyon Overlook Trailhead. Enjoy this stunning hike and the views of Zion Canyon. Stop at additional overlooks along this road and then return, stopping whenever you’d like to eat your picnic lunch. Return to Springdale in the afternoon for some shopping and a delicious dinner.

    3 Day Zion Travel Itinerary

    With 3 days in Zion Canyon, we can afford to spend the mornings in the park on high-priority trails and the afternoons outside the park (while crowds are high) on other fun things in the area. On day 1, we recommend taking the shuttle to a hike between shuttle stops #3 and #6. For your 2nd day, drive the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel and do the Canyon Overlook hike like I explained above. On your 3rd day, rent ebikes in town and enjoy biking all the way to the Temple of Sinawava at shuttle stop #9. (Start biking along the Pa’rus trail instead of the road to enjoy the beautiful views along this multi-use pathway.) Pick another hike for this day, but since you’re biking, there’s less of a hurry to get to the trailhead.

    In the afternoons during your 3 day Zion family vacation, here are a few fun things we’d recommend nearby: Snow Canyon State Park to hike to lava tubes or Jenny’s Canyon. Rent a kayak and paddle Kolob Reservoir. Explore the Dinosaur Discovery Museum, run around a playground, and get a fun treat in St. George. Drive through Zion to the east entrance again and check out Belly of the Dragon and the Moqui Sand Caves. (This would pair well with Day 2 since you’re already out that way). Drive to Kolob Canyon and enjoy the 5 mile scenic drive and if you have time, hike the Timber Creek Overlook Trail.

    4 Day Zion Travel Itinerary

    For a 4 day Zion family vacation, here’s how I would tweak the 3 day itinerary: Spend the whole 4th day in Kolob Canyon, hiking Timber Creek Overlook or Taylor Creek Trail. And focus on things outside the park for your first 3 afternoons.

    What Else To Do on Your Utah Road Trip?

    What if you want to plan a 7 day Utah travel itinerary? Southern Utah and Northern Arizona are full of incredible sights and attractions! Here are a few options for your 7 day Utah family road trip:

    Bryce Canyon National Park – We’ll talk more about this in a minute, but Bryce Canyon is the obvious first add-on to a Zion family vacation. (90 minutes)

    Willis Creek Slot Canyon – A family friendly slot canyon near Bryce Canyon National Park. (2 hours, just past Bryce Canyon National Park)

    Coral Pink Sand Dunes – This Utah state park is a great area for sand boarding or sledding and ATV riding. (45 minutes)

    Grand Canyon National Park North Rim – The lesser visited side of the park, but with the same stunning views. (2.5 hours)

    Lee’s Ferry – A former homesteading site and now a popular spot for rafting tours on the Colorado River. (2 hours 15 minutes)

    Grand Canyon National Park South Rim – Visiting Grand Canyon after Zion will pair some of these smaller items as well. You’ll pass Vermillion Cliffs and Lee’s Ferry on the way. And the view coming in the east entrance to Desert View is gorgeous. (4.5 hours)

    Lake Powell – This beautiful reservoir on the Colorado River is a great family vacation destination with tons to do. Continue to Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon. (1 hour 45 minutes.)

    Horseshoe Bend – A famous overlook of the Colorado River. (2 hours)

    Antelope Canyon – Take a slot canyon tour with a Navajo guide. (2 hours)

    Water Canyon Trailhead – Closest to the Springdale Zion entrance, this family friendly hike has a very similar look to Zion without the crowds. (1 hour)

    Pairing your Zion Family Vacation with Bryce Canyon National Park

    If you have a little extra time, pairing Zion and Bryce Canyon together makes for a really fun Utah family road trip! Or you could even make it a 10 day road trip to all of Utah’s Mighty 5!

    We would recommend 4 days in Zion and 2 days in Bryce if that works for your schedule. But since we also have 1 and 2 day itineraries for both parks, you can mix and match whatever works best for you. Make sure to read through my Bryce Canyon National Park post to get lots of tips of how to enjoy that park best.

    4 Day Zion Travel Itinerary with Kids – 2024 Guide

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