Are you thinking of visiting Zion National Park with your kids this year? You won’t want to miss this ultimate guide to Zion National Park with kids in 2022.
We just got back from our trip to Zion with the kids and I couldn’t wait to tell you about our awesome experience. Our family of 5 spent 5 days exploring the park, hiking, and taking in the glorious scenery.
Where to Stay when Visiting Zion National Park with Kids
If you plan to spend more than a day at the park, there are a couple of options.
Camping in Zion National Park
In the Zion campgrounds you can car camp or camp in an RV. Reservations for the campgrounds fill up months in advance, and the earliest you can book your site is 6 months prior. This is highly recommended. We reserved our campsite in December for June of the following year! Set a reminder on your calendar app if you want to plan ahead for next year.
There are 2 campgrounds: South Campground and Watchman Campground. Watchman is the nicer of the two in my opinion. If you get lucky you can snag a campsite by the river in Watchman’s A or B loop. These get taken fast, and we weren’t able to get a site near the river. We had a nice time in our site in D loop and had the same breathtaking views. I do not recommend the F loop. There you leave your car in a parking lot near the sites and walk your stuff over to your spot, and it is very crowded. Both Watchman and South campgrounds have restrooms with flush toilets and hand soap, clean drinking water and a dishwashing station but no showers.
Camping Outside of Zion
There are 2 private campgrounds near Zion. Zion Canyon Campground & RV park is not inside the park, but it is along the free shuttle route that goes from Springdale to the Zion visitor center. Here you can choose from tent or RV campsites with full sewer and electric hookups and a swimming pool. Zion River Resort RV Park & Campground is outside of the free shuttle system but does offer a paid shuttle that takes you to the park. Campsites here accommodate either tents or RVs, and a few cabins are also available to rent.
Just a few blocks from the park entrance is the first of many hotels in the town of Springdale. The lodging options outside of the park have a rustic ambiance while still providing comfortable rooms and amenities. Zion National Park is in the desert, so a hotel stay is a great way to enjoy the desert landscape while still having the option of retreating to an air conditioned room. When booking your stay, look for availability in the town of Springdale. Zion National Park Shuttles run frequently from the park to nine stops within the town of Springdale.
For the ultimate Zion experience, book a stay at the Zion Lodge. The lodge is in the very middle of the park, tucked at the foot of the majestic sandstone cliffs of Zion. The rates are a little high but reasonable, and well worth the convenience of the proximity to everything the park has to offer. Rooms or cabins will sleep from 2 to 5 people.
Not near the park shuttle system, but worth checking out, is safari-inspired Under Canvas camp. Fun onsite experiences include live music, morning yoga, nightly s’mores and more. When we drove past, Under Canvas was about 15-20 minutes from the park. It would be fun in late spring or early fall but during the summer could potentially be super hot. And since parking inside Zion is extremely limited, you would probably find yourself paying to park in Springdale and shuttling into the park.
Best hikes for kids at Zion National Park
Zion offers several hikes that are easy to trek and perfect for a family with kids. I always bring lots of snacks, sunscreen and water when hiking with kids. The last thing I want is a hangry, thirsty, sunburned crew!
Lower Emerald Pool
This paved hike is 1.2 miles round trip. A stroller or wheelchair can make it on the path, although a few gradual inclines will require some muscle to push up and over. The highlight of Lower Emerald Pool is a trickling waterfall at the turnaround point. On a hot day, the spray from the cool water is a refreshing reward for a hike well done. The trail starts and ends along the Virgin River. We motivated our kids to keep going with the promise of dipping their feet in the water after the hike.
Canyon Overlook Trail
This trail has easy slopes and nice views. It is mostly in the shade until 10 or 11 am. We enjoyed the arch-shaped inlets in the sides of the cliffs and the views of the peaks.
Another mostly paved hike, this trail parallels the Virgin River. The river is so pretty to look at and the trail is relatively flat. Hikers along this trail include those who are continuing on to the Narrows, which runs through the river. Expect to see people with wet shoes and walking sticks, but fear not- this equipment is not necessary for the Riverwalk trail.
Pa’rus Bike Trail
This 3.5 mile flat trail is great for riding bikes or ebikes along. It goes right to Zion Park shuttle stop number 3. You can either turn around here or take the shuttle back to the trailhead. Some websites say no dogs allowed on the trail, but when we were in the park this summer dogs were permitted only on this trail. Bikes and ebikes are available to rent at Zion Lodge or in Springdale.
Getting Around in Zion National Park
The many hiking trails in Zion are spread across the park. To keep car traffic low, the park offers 2 free shuttle lines. One takes travelers from the adjoining town of Springdale to the visitor center inside the park. Another shuttle line goes from the visitor center to several stops within the park. You can view the shuttle map at the NPS website. Parking is extremely limited in the park. The only parking lot in Zion National Park is at the visitor center, and this is usually at capacity pretty early in the day. Most of the available parking will be at pay lots outside the park entrance. These are all within a short walk of a shuttle stop. By parking offsite you would have to pay for the parking spot. But you wouldn’t have to pay to enter the National Park if you walked in or rode the shuttle from Springdale.
During peak seasons, most of the roads in Zion National Park are closed to public vehicles. A beautiful scenic road is accessible, and takes you through switchbacks overlooking the canyon as well as a mile-long tunnel that was built over 100 years ago.
Once you are parked or settled into a campsite, you really won’t need a car to get around Zion National Park with your kids. They will enjoy the shuttle as it crosses over bridges, weaves alongside the Virgin River, and passes deer, wild turkeys and other wildlife.
As of June 2022, face masks were not required in the shuttle buses or inside the buildings.
Beat the Heat at Zion National Park with Kids
Be prepared for high temperatures when visiting Zion National Park from mid april though late September. As of the time of this writing, there is currently a “caution” alert due to toxic cyanobacteria bloom in the Virgin River and the streams of Zion National Park. The water is not safe to drink, but it is ok to wade in and even play in as long as you keep from drinking it. Up canyon at shuttle stop 9 are some great river spots for cooling off on a hot day. The lawn in front of the Lodge has a massive tree that provides ample shade for an afternoon cool-down. During the peak heat of the day, hop in the car and take the scenic route through the historic Zion tunnel. Or go into Springdale for some shopping. Be sure and stop for ice cream at Hoodoo’s! For the able hikers, rent some gear and trek down the Narrows. A hike in the river is one refreshing way to spend a hot afternoon!
Ranger Experiences for Kids
Kids age 4 and up can pick up a self-guided Junior Ranger activity booklet from the Zion National Park Visitor Center. After completing an age-appropritate set of activities, kids earn their Junior Ranger Badge for Zion National Park! The park also has ranger-led programs daily. During the peak season, the Zion Nature Center has interactive kids programs on a range of topics. When we were there, the topic was dinosaurs and the interactive part was making a fossil!
Where to Eat when Visiting Zion with Kids
It’s best to plan ahead and bring lots of healthy snacks while for a visit to Zion National Park with kids. There is no market, store, or place to purchase supplies in Zion National Park. At the Lodge there are 2 dining options. A cafe sells to-go breakfast and lunch items and is open until 4pm during the peak season. The Lodge also has a restaurant with delicious food at prices that, I would argue, are better than the delis and restaurants in town. Markets and numerous restaurants are not far away in the town of Springdale. Just feet from the park entrance is a market, brewery, and gear rental. I highly recommend a stop at Hoodoo’s for a scoop of one of their unique ice cream flavors.
Fun Things to do with Kids Near Zion
Not far from the National Park are more fun family experiences. Fort Zion, an old-fashioned “ghost town”, boasts old west buildings themed like an old mining town. A mini petting zoo houses llamas, donkeys, and deer that you can hand-feed. The restaurant and gift shop also come highly recommended.
Quail Creek State Park is about 15 miles from Zion. The main attraction here is the lake, where you can rent paddleboards, jetskis, and other water toys. Fishing is also popular, so don’t forget your poles!