National parks aren’t just for experienced hikers or rugged backpackers. Our country’s federally protected lands allow visitors of all ages to enjoy the natural beauty our nation has to offer. But if you want to see the park up-close-and-personal, hiking is always a great choice. Luckily the park has plenty of trails that are suitable for all ages to enjoy together. Keep reading to learn a few.
1. Pa’rus Trail
This 3.5-mile trail won’t take experienced hikers long to tackle. But it’s a great longer hike for families with kids as well. Keep in mind that the trail will take little legs a while to walk. Factor in extra time for frequent stops and detours as well. You’ll find the Pa’rus trailhead just past the South Campground. From there, this out-and-back trail will guide you along the winding Virgin River.
Stop at the many overlooks to take photos and enjoy the view of the river below. During the spring and into the early summer months, you’ll be treated to vibrant wildflowers lining the trail. Mule deer are also a common sight along the trail during the early morning hours and at dusk.
Pa’rus Trail is flat and paved. This makes it a popular choice for those with strollers and wheelchairs. The trail is also the only one in all of Zion National Park that allows bikes and pets. If you know that your kids won’t be able to make the 3.5-mile hike on foot, this is a great trail to bring bikes with training wheels, small wagons, or strollers along. That way when little feet get tired, you won’t have to turn back or carry anyone to the car.
Much of this trail is out in the open with very little shade. During the heat of the summer, this trail might be too much for young children or older adults. You can still enjoy it, but aim to get to the trail early in the morning or hike it just before dusk. If you opt for the latter, be sure to leave yourself enough time to finish the trail before dark.
2. Weeping Rock Trail
Just because a hike is short doesn’t mean that it has to be short on fun. Weeping Rock Trail is just .4-miles in length. It’s paved from start to finish and flat enough that it’s handicap accessible, making it ideal for hikers of all ages and capabilities. The trail is a bit steep in some areas, so keep in mind that strollers and wheelchairs may take some effort to push. It’s also a perfect spot to start introducing your little nature lovers to the joys of hiking.
The trail’s namesake is an alcove under a large sandstone cliff. A platform built underneath of the alcove allows you to see the formation up-close-and-personal. During the summer months, plants grow over the edge of the cliff, giving the alcove the feeling of a secret, secluded garden.
When you’re done on the viewing platform, head down the steps to the cool water of the Weeping Rock stream below.
3. Riverside Walk (Gateway to The Narrows)
The hike through The Narrows is far from kid-friendly. Besides being more than 16-miles in length, you’ll wade through water than can be knee-deep or deeper at times, scale rocks, and pass through some of the most remote areas of the park.
Luckily, your little hikers can still experience the famous slot canyon on this much easier trail. At 2.2-miles roundtrip, Riverside Walk takes you to the entrance of the slot canyon. You can wander the mouth of the canyon, dip your toes in the river, and take some stunning photographs of your adventurous family.
4. Canyon Overlook Trail
When the summer and holiday crowds descend on popular trails like Weeping Rock or Pa’rus, the last thing you might want to do on a hot day is share the trail with hoards of people. Luckily, this hidden gem is rarely busy.
To get to the trail, take a drive through the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel. If you haven’t seen the famous tunnel yet, this is a destination all of its own. At 1.1-miles in length, the tunnel made history when it opened in 1930 as the longest of its kind in the U.S.
On the other side of the tunnel you’ll find this easy out-and-back trail. You’ll even be able to catch a glimpse of Pine Creek Slot Canyon far below you.
Tips for Hiking in Zion with Kids
Any of the trails on this list are perfect for taking on with hikers young and old. But that doesn’t mean that every hike will be a breeze. Kids, just like adults, will get hot, tired, and sometimes even bored. That usually happens about half-way through a hike.
Always pack more water than you expect to use and remind everyone in your group to keep drinking regularly. Small snacks that are easy to eat on the go are a good choice as well. These can tide over little tummies until lunch or help curb boredom. Have a plan to keep kids occupied during the less exciting moments. Sing songs, play “I Spy,” or challenge your kids to look for wildlife and plants along the way.
Hiking, especially in a spot as beautiful as Zion National Park, is a great way to start instilling a love of the outdoors in your kids from a young age. And with a little planning and the right trail, you can start teaching your little hikers at any age!