Zion National Park was the first stop on our 2018 road trip! Our family of five is from TN and this was our first trip out west. We flew into Vegas, picked up our rental and checked in to our hotel. We stayed on the strip to get a little glimpse of the city. However, if you stay there with children, I highly recommend staying in a known-to-be kid friendly hotel. We did have a couple bad experiences trying to guard the eyes of our little ones. However, we loved Excalibur and have also heard great things about Circus Circus.
We woke up early and got on the road the next morning to head straight to Zion. It was about a 2 1/2 drive from Vegas. We stopped midway to pick up a cooler and some lunches to pack into the park. We went during a very busy time but parking wasn’t too bad in the the city of Springdale. You are required to park outside the national park and take a bus in. If you are coming from Springdale, there are several clearly marked stops that will take you into the park and back to your vehicle from the visitor center. Just remember where you parked!
Once the Springdale shuttle drops you off at the visitor center, you must take the park shuttle to get around the park. (Trust me, this is a huge park. It’s the only way!) There are often long lines to get on the park shuttle even though several shuttles are running continuously. Once you are on, there are nine clearly marked stops along the road inside the park. The drive itself is incredible. The park shuttle is not air conditioned, but lots of air flows through as you drive. My biggest suggestion would be to study the map before you arrive to the park. Don’t wait until you get there to figure out what trails you want to do. There isn’t enough time for that! To be honest, the process of getting in and out of the park is quite lengthy. We felt like we were back at Disney World! Don’t be surprised by that. It is completely worth all the work!
You will want plenty of snacks, drinks and a meal if you plan to spend the day there. There are not many places to eat inside the park and it stays quite crowded. Being that we had only one day in the park, we just packed our food with us and had a picnic when we were ready to eat! There are fill stations for water bottles and bathrooms at many of the shuttle stops.
We chose two trails because we only had one day in the park. The first was the famous Narrows! (Make sure you check the weather before doing this one. Flash floods can be dangerous.) You head all the way to the last stop on the park shuttle, stop 9, and begin your hike there. You must get there by taking the easy one-mile Riverwalk trail. (It does not feel like a mile.) At the end of the Riverside Walk, you will dead end into the Narrows! At that point you must get in and begin walking along the river. It was so much fun! You are far down in a canyon with rock as far up as you can see on each side of you. There are several areas where water trickles down the road to form small waterfalls. Sometimes the path is wide and other times it narrows. There will be several areas along the side of the river where you can sit on rock and take a break. Every single turn is breathtaking! The Narrows run for miles and miles. With a family, we just walked as far as we felt like we could, about another mile, then turned around and walked it all back. My kids are 12, 9 and 6 and they all handled the water just fine. We needed to hold the 6-year-old’s hand many times throughout the hike. But, the older ones were dependent the whole time.
Next, we chose to walk the Canyon Overlook Trail. Wow! It was completely different than the Riverside Walk and the Narrows. Canyon Overlook gave us the first wide open views of the gigantic cliffs and canyons. For most of our shuttle ride, Riverwalk and Narrows, we were hidden inside the canyons, looking up to it surrounding us. But, the Canyon Overlook Trail is a completely different perspective! It was a very easy 1-mile trail. It shows you what Zion looks like when the space opens up and gives you a full view of its glory. We all were stunned with every view on this trail.
Once we got back to our vehicle, we choose an amazing Mexican place for dinner right there in the city of Springdale. It is a beautiful small city with many local food choices. Also, there is a glorious view of the Zion’s mountains from every angle in Springdale. Then, we drove about 30 minutes outside Springdale to La Verkin, UT and stayed at a very nice Best Western. My kids love a continental breakfast! You will save a little money on the cost of lodging if you drive outside the park a little ways, and free breakfast is always a plus!
One day in the park wasn’t enough for most people. I’m sure there were so many more beautiful things to uncover and someday we will return! However, having young children, the one day trip felt appropriate. The plan for this road trip was to keep things moving and travel to a new destination each day. The kids were always excited about what exciting adventure the next day would bring!
1. Look at a map and plan your route before you get there.
2. Park in Springdale and ride the shuttle to Zion’s visitor center.
3. Bring a backpack with a drink, snack and a meal.