Going to Zion National Park with a Baby
This post has been a long time in the making! Last May, Brett and I celebrated our 5 year anniversary. Jackson had just turned three months old now and was (mostly) sleeping through the night, so we decided that we would attempt our first mini family vacation. We decided to go to Utah’s Zion National Park as it was an easy drive from Southern California (about a 6.5 hour drive from our doorstep to the hotel). We only had a three day span set aside for our trip, including two driving days. We set out on a Friday morning and made two stops along the way, about every two hours.
Jackson slept for the first two legs of the trip, but got a bit restless during the last hour and a half. I ended up crawling into the back seat to entertain him until we reached St. George, not far from the southwest border of Utah (about an hour drive from Zion). After getting Jackson down for the night, Brett and I cracked open a bottle of wine and pulled out our maps for the next day. We stumbled upon pictures of another nearby park, Bryce Canyon, and they were unlike anything we’d ever seen. We’d initially planned to just spend the day at Zion, but we were so close to Bryce- we couldn’t not go! So we rearranged our day and decided to fit in both parks.
We got an early start to our morning and were at Zion by about 8:00. In all of our research, we failed to take note of the parking situation (see below), which resulted in a bit of lost time. Once we finally figured out the parking and trams, we were set! We had the tram drop us off at the Riverside Walk first, at the furthest end of the park. This is one of the most accessible trails, with a mostly flat walk, but gorgeous views.
We had Jackson in a front carrier. He loved looking around at the scenery, but also drifted in and out of sleep as we walked.
It was just over a one mile walk to get to the turn-around point at the Temple of Sinawava. If you look behind us in the picture below, you’ll see hikers continuing on to the Narrows. This gorge has rock walls over 1,000 feet tall and requires you to walk through the Virgin River. You can hike up to 10 miles through the Narrows without a permit and we saw several parents with older children heading out. Definitely something we would do with Jackson when he’s old enough!
When we were done with the Riverside Walk, we took the tram down to Zion Lodge for a quick snack before heading out on the trail to the Lower Emerald Pools. There is a bit more climbing required on this trail. Nothing terribly strenuous, but definitely not stroller-friendly. The end point is about a half mile in where you’ll come across the Lower Emerald Pools and some waterfalls. For a more moderate hike, you can continue another half mile up to the Upper Emerald Pools. We wanted to get on the road to Bryce Canyon, so we chose not to continue.
Once we finished our hike to the Lower Emerald Pools, we took the tram back to our car and set out for the hour and a half drive to Bryce Canyon. We made decent time and were at Bryce Canyon by 3:30ish. Unlike Zion, you can drive through the park and park in lots connected to the trailheads. Being short on time, we drove directly to Inspiration Point. We parked there and hiked the Rim Trail from Inspiration Point to Sunset Point (maybe three quarters a mile at most). The trail was mostly flat, though you walk next to some pretty steep cliffs.
When we reached Sunset Point, we took a trail partway down into the canyon for a different vantage point. Had we had more time at Bryce Canyon, we would have spent more time in the canyon and would have continued the hike from Sunset Point to Sunrise Point (another half mile).
Once we hiked back to our car, we took off for St. George. After a quick dinner at a local restaurant, we were ready for a good night of sleep! The next morning, we traveled back to Southern California. Here’s my overall feedback about our trip:
What we did right:
- We didn’t go to Angel’s Landing at Zion: When I was researching our trip, I was looking for the most baby-friendly trails at Zion for hiking. A few forums that I found suggested a hike to Angel’s Landing…for families with children. If you’re not familiar, it looks like this:
That’s right, it’s about a 1,000 foot drop from some of the highest points! There are no guard rails and some parts don’t even have a chain to hold onto! Though I am a bit of an adrenaline junkie, in no way would I have been comfortable hiking this trail with our baby. Many people have died here- look it up!
- We didn’t bring a stroller: There are two trails where you could have had a stroller at Zion, Pa’rus Trail (towards the beginning of the park) and the Riverside Walk (the very last tram stop). The Riverside Walk may be a bit rough with an everyday or umbrella stroller, but a jogging stroller probably would have been fine. The bigger issue would have been loading and unloading the stroller from the trams. The trams were often quite crowded and sometimes standing room only. Our front carrier was perfect, and I saw many people with backpack carriers like this one. A jogging stroller probably would have been fine along the Rim Trail at Bryce Canyon, but we probably wouldn’t have been able to take it into the canyon.
- We brought a sound machine: We brought a small, portable sound machine and used it both in the car and at the hotel. I think it was a big part of what helped Jackson sleep so well on the drive. Jackson and I are both light sleepers, so the sound machine was also a life-saver at the hotel! We have this one.
What we would do differently:
- Parking: We should have actually read the info we had about Zion National Park. Had we done this (properly), we would have known that you can’t park inside Zion unless you stay at Zion Lodge (with the exception of two VERY small lots close to the entrance of the park). Though we did find parking in one of the small lots (we were really lucky!), it would have been much easier to park in the large lot right outside the gate to Zion and take the tram in. You have to get on the tram from the smaller lots anyway, so it’s really not worth the hassle of driving into the park.
- We would have stayed longer: You can barely scratch the surface of what Zion has to offer in one day. We could have spent at least 2 full days exploring Zion and a day at Bryce Canyon.
- We would have visited Zion and Bryce Canyon on separate days: There’s just too much to see at both of these parks. We only had time to really walk around the rim at Bryce Canyon and it would have been really to spend more time in the canyon among the rock formations. Going to both parks meant a lot of extra driving as well- it was an hour and a half from Zion to Bryce and over two hours from Bryce Canyon back to St. George. We spent about 5 hours driving on our non-driving day!
- For our shorter visit, we would have stayed in Springdale instead of St. George: St. George was a lovely town, but it was an hour away from Zion. Springdale is right outside of the boundaries for Zion National Park, so it would have been a much better choice considering we really only had one day for hiking.
Which National Parks have you explored with your kids?
More info on Zion National Park: www.nps.gov/zion
More info on Bryce Canyon National Park: www.nps.gov/brcaTips for hiking Zion National Park with a baby!Click To Tweet