A Pit Stop a Day (Day 19): Hiking in Zion Canyon

Foot path bridge to national park entrance booth.

We devoted Day 19 to morning hikes in Zion National Park and the afternoon to floating along the Virgin River behind our room at the Cliffrose Lodge.

We began our day at the visitor’s center, where we consulted the shuttle route (also found in the park newsletter) and planned our hike to the Emerald Pools on the Zion Lodge shuttle stop.

The Emerald Pools is a great hike for kids because you can adjust it to your needs/abilities. There are three pools on the trail: the lower pool is only .6 mile from the trailhead (although it does climb quite a bit), or the second pool is only 1 mile. From either of these, ambitious families can continue to the third pool (another .5 mile) or return. When we visited in July, the pools weren’t much to look at, but the dripping water from the overhangs of rock were very impressive (and a great way to cool off!).

The kids catch spring water in their hats at the first of three Emerald Pools.

Weeping Rock is another easy hike for kids, which my boys explored with a ranger as part of their Junior Ranger curriculum. This trail is short (.4 mile) but steep, and very beautiful. Definitely worth a stop!

For more daring families (or more likely, adults), try the Angel’s Landing trail from the Grotto shuttle stop. A strenuous 2 mile hike up the canyon, this trail ends at the top and affords amazing views of Zion. From there, hikers can continue an additional .5 mile up the sandstone rock utilizing chain supports. This section of the trail follows a knife-edge of path with drop-offs on either side. If you’re at all fearful of heights, you can skip this last section (I did).

Final section of the climb to Angel\’s Landing.

Note: We did not take our kids on the Angel’s Landing trail. Our older two (11 and eight) could have climbed the first 2 miles, but the last .5 really is not appropriate for anyone under age 14-15, in our opinion. This final climb involves sharing a tight space of trail with many others, hanging onto a chain, and strenuous climbing (drops offs stretch to 1400 feet). Of course, use your own judgment with your children (we did see a few attempting it), but we felt safer saving this hike for when they are teens.

Extra Tip: Due to Zion’s high temperatures, we embarked on all hikes by 8 am and returned to our pool/air-conditioning/river by 1 pm. It appeared that most other families did this as well. In addition, water bottle filling stations are available at most shuttle stops. You’ll need to drink lots of water, and the stations are a fun way to get kids involved in filling bottles!

Date last visited: July 2010.

Distance off the interstate: About 30 minutes from I-15 off Hwy 9.

Bathrooms: Pit toilets are located at most shuttle stops.

Food Services: Zion Lodge (shuttle stop) serves all meals. There’s also a quick service ice cream and snack location on-site. The visitor’s center at the entrance to the park has a convenience store nearby. The Grotto (shuttle stop) has a nice picnic area.

Directions: Zion National Park is located on Hwy 9 in Springdale, Utah. From I-15, follow signs onto Hwy 9.

Up Next: We arrive in Laguna Beach, CA and explore the lesser-known kid-friendly locations in Orange County.