7 Easy Hikes in Zion National Park (Complete Guide!)

Last Updated on March 14, 2023 by admin

Zion National Park is famous for its extreme hikes (such as the hike to Angel’s Landing or The Narrows). However, Zion National Park also has a lot of easy hikes that are absolutely breathtaking. We visited Zion National Park with our toddler, and we were thrilled there were so many hikes that were accessible to us. We did a lot of research on which hikes were short, sweet, and relatively safe. We were excited to find many easy hikes that had epic views of the canyon, waterfalls, and the Virgin River. In this post, we’ll share 7 easy hikes in Zion National Park.

(For a full list of all our posts about things to do in Utah, click here!)

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Zion National Park Entrance family-friendly hikes at Zion National Park

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About Zion National Park

Zion National Park was Utah’s very first national park. It is one of the Mighty 5 national parks within Utah today. It has been inhabited by people for thousands of years, and many indigenous tribes within the region have stewarded these lands.

The most popular section of the park is within Zion Canyon, which contains more than 15 miles of sheer sandstone cliffs. The land was first protected by the government in 1909, and it was given the name Zion in 1919.

Women's sweaters banners for Fall 2022


Tips for Planning a Trip to Zion National Park

Zion National Park was just one of the places we visited during our 3-week road trip to Utah and Arizona. Read our trip highlights here!

Tip #1: Choose Accommodations Close to the Park

We don’t always advise splurging on hotels, but this is one trip where it really makes a big difference. If you’re able to stay close to the park entrance, you’ll be able to walk to the entrance without having to take the Springdale shuttle, which will save you a lot of time. 

An important thing to know is that there are two shuttle systems: one for the city of Springdale and one for Zion National Park. The Springdale shuttle has stops throughout the town and drops visitors off directly at the park entrance. The second shuttle system is within Zion National Park itself, and that shuttle takes visitors to the trailheads.

If you choose a hotel near the park entrance, you can bypass the Springdale shuttle system all together. You won’t have to wait for it to arrive, and you won’t have to worry about it being too full and needing to wait for the next shuttle. You can just get to the park entrance and focus on navigating the Zion park shuttle. 

Best Western Plus Zion national park where to stay
Best Western Plus Zion Canyon Inn & Suites

 

Hotels Within Walking Distance of Zion National Park’s Entrance

  1. Zion National Park Lodge: This is the only hotel within the park itself. If you’re lucky enough to stay here, you’ll bypass a lot of the crowds. I would recommend this option if you are able, as it’s definitely the most convenient!
  2. Cable Mountain Lodge: Located 500 feet (2 minute walk) from the park entrance.
  3. Cliffrose Lodge: Located .3 miles (6 minute walk) from the park entrance.
  4. Desert Pearl Inn: Located .8 miles (16 minute walk) from the park entrance.
  5. Best Western Plus Zion Canyon Inn and Suites: Located .9 miles (18 minute walk) from the park entrance.

We personally stayed at the Best Western Plus Zion Canyon Inn and Suites. It was easy for us to just walk to the park in the morning. Plus, we really enjoyed the nice pool and free breakfast. Their pool had a shallow area with an umbrella that was perfect for our toddler to enjoy pool time without us having to worry about too much sun exposure. 

For a full list of hotels in Springdale, Utah, click here.

Booking.com  

Tip #2: Learn How to Use the Zion Shuttle System

If you want to visit Zion National Park, it’s important to know that personal vehicles are not allowed in the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive for most of the year. (This is the road that has access to many of the park’s trailheads.) Instead, there is a shuttle with nine stops that takes visitors up and down the canyon. Riding the shuttle was actually one of our daughter’s favorite parts of the trip!

toddler at Zion National Park family-friendly hikes

(PS. If you like this toddler sun hat, it’s linked here!) 

Tips for Riding the Zion Shuttle

  • Be aware of the timetable. If you miss the last shuttle, you will have no choice but to walk all of the way out of the park back to entrance. (That’s a walk of up to 8 miles!) When we visited Zion, the shuttle hours were from 6am-8pm. (Be sure to check the shuttle hours here to plan for your trip.) The last shuttle left the last shuttle stop (Temple of Sinawava) at 8pm. What we didn’t realize, though, is that the last departing shuttle from the park entrance was actually at 4pm. We arrived after 4pm just hoping to do the shuttle ride with our daughter and we had to turn around because it was closed for the day. 
  • Be prepared for crowds. During our trip, the first shuttle left at 6am. We got to the shuttle line at 5:55am (thinking we were early!) and there was already an hour line in front of us just to use the shuttle. (This was in June 2021.) We didn’t actually catch a shuttle until 7am. If you are traveling to the park during peak season, plan to arrive a lot earlier than you anticipate. 
  • Plan your stops. There are 9 stops and dozens of trailheads and activities. Make sure you have a plan for the day so that you can maximize time. This is not the type of vacation where you want to “wing it.”
  • Do some hikes that don’t need the shuttle. We wrote an entire post on 9 hikes that don’t need the shuttle to access them (linked here). You can avoid the crowds by completing some of these hikes!

Tip #3: Bring the Right Gear

Finally, before you hit the hikes, be sure to bring the right gear. This includes comfortable hiking shoes that have been broken in (nobody likes blisters on vacation!), a day pack, an insulated water bottle, a first aid kit, and sun protection

If you’re hiking with young children, you’ll also want to bring the right gear to transport them. We recommend the following products below.  

We wrote a blog post on the importance of bringing the 10 Essentials when hiking. If you haven’t heard of the 10 Essentials before, be sure to check out our post to know what you should bring on each and every hike. 

You’ll also want an insulated backpack system to keep your food cold (especially if you are hiking in the summer). It’s also nice to have a park map handy! 

We brought a SnoozeShade cover for our stroller. It blocks out a lot of the sun’s UV rays (Hooray for sun protection!), is made from an air-permeable fabric, and it keeps the stroller dark for nap time. You can get a discount when you purchase through my link here (or use code WriteTravel10).

SnoozeShade at Zion National Park
So glad we had our SnoozeShade so we could enjoy the park during the day!

 


7 Easy Hikes in Zion National Park

1. Lower Emerald Pool

Directions: Take the shuttle to the Zion Lodge stop. Once you disembark, the trailhead is directly across from the lodge.

Distance: 1.4 miles roundtrip

We were able to take our stroller for this hike to Lower Emerald Pool, which made it much easier with a toddler. There were some minor drop offs along the paved route, but we kept our daughter in her stroller for the hike so it wasn’t an issue. This hike gave us stunning views of the canyon and took us straight to the lowest emerald pool. We also got to hike behind a waterfall, which was a unique experience! This area of the park felt like an oasis. There was lots of green and we were surrounded by red rock.

If you want, you can also continue to the Middle Emerald Pool. However, the paved portion of the trail ends at that point, so this is where we decided to turn back.

Lower Emerald Pools, Zion National Park, family-friendly hike
Proof we took the stroller on this hike!

 

2. Riverside Walk

Directions: Take the shuttle to the final shuttle stop, Temple of Sinawava. 

Distance: 1.9 miles roundtrip

The Riverside Walk is also a paved trail so we were able to bring our stroller. We went later in the morning and it was very hot outside, but it still felt nice and cool hiking alongside the river. The canyon walls blocked out a lot of the sun, so we were able to hike mostly in the shade. 

This was a very pleasant hike. It was heavily trafficked, but it was still peaceful. There are some portions of the hike where you can walk alongside the river off the main path, and that’s a good way to get some space from the crowds.

This is the hike that leads to the famous Narrows (hiking up the river itself through the canyon), but the Riverside Walk portion is very easy and manageable. We enjoyed sitting on the rocks and looking at the river. We didn’t hike the Narrows with our young toddler. After seeing the entrance to the Narrows at the end of this trail, we personally would not recommend hiking with very young children up to the Narrows. Instead, just complete the Riverside Walk portion.

Riverside Walk at Zion National Park

3. Pa’rus Trail

Directions: Once you enter the park, you can follow the sign directions to the entrance of the Pa’rus Trail. (Located just past the campground.) You do not need to take the shuttle to access this trailhead. (This is a major bonus if there is a shuttle line!)

Distance: 3.4 miles roundtrip

The Pa’rus Trail is a paved trail that will take you directly through the center of the canyon. The trail is named after a Paiute word which means “bubbling, tumbling water.” The name definitely fits, because you’ll follow the Virgin River as you walk along the trail.

Because it is a paved trail, there can be a lot of bike traffic. We went early in the morning and found that we beat a lot of the crowds. Our toddler was able to walk around a bit on her own. (Although we were still cautious for bikes zooming up the trail). 

If you’d like to bike this trail, you can bring your own bike or rent one while in Springdale.

Pa'rus Trail at Zion National Park, family-friendly hike

Pro Tip: If you want to beat the crowds at the park entrance waiting for the shuttle, you can hike along the Pa’rus Trail to start your morning until you reach the Canyon Junction shuttle stop. There, you can hop on the shuttle and there will not be as long of a line. It might not save you a lot of time, but I’d personally rather be going for a beautiful walk than standing still in line!

4. Grotto Trail

Directions: Take the shuttle to the Zion Lodge stop

Distance: .6 miles one-way

The Grotto Trail is a very flat trail that is short and sweet. There is a rocky section, so it’s best not to take a stroller on this hike. This trail is particularly known for viewing wildlife.

5. Watchman Trail

Directions: You can walk to this trailhead just a half mile from the park entrance (no shuttle needed!)

Distance: 3 miles roundtrip

The Watchman Trail has only 400 feet of elevation gain, but it gives you a spectacular view of the valley. There is limited shade for this hike, so be sure to take the weather into account and bring lots of water.

6. Archeology Trail

Directions: Located near the Visitor Center at the park entrance

Distance: .3 miles

The Archeology Trail is a very short hike that will take you to an Ancestral Puebloan food storage shelter which is located at the top of a hill. This area was used by the Ancestral Puebloan people from AD 700 to 950. 

7. Timber Creek Overlook Trail

Directions: Drive to this hike in the Kolob Canyons. (This hike is not in the area of the park where the shuttle is required.) 

Distance: 1 mile roundtrip

The Timber Creek Overlook Trail will take you to a viewpoint where you can see Shuntavi Butte and Red Butte. There is only 150 feet of elevation gain. This is not a paved trail, so if you have young children, be sure to bring your baby carrier or harness.


Three Day Itinerary for a Family Trip to Zion

Day 1: Hike Trails that Use the Shuttle

On this day, you will want to get at the park entrance in time to catch your desired shuttle. (Be sure to ask a park ranger ahead of time to find out what time you should arrive.) We recommend that you arrive as early as possible. On this day, take the shuttle to the Zion Lodge stop. From there, you will hike the Lower Emerald Pools trail. Afterwards, you can grab a bite to eat at the lodge. Then, take the shuttle to the last stop (Temple of Sinawava) and complete the Riverside Walk trail.

Day 2: Hike Trails at the Park Entrance

You can choose to complete as many of the following trails depending on how much time you have: Pa’rus Trail, Watchman Trail, and/or the Archeology Trail. All three are located within walking distance of the park entrance, and the shuttle is not needed. 

Day 3: Hike Trails Accessible by Car

On the last day, take a drive to the Kolob Canyons and complete the Timber Creek Overlook Trail.

Lower Emerald Pool trail at Zion National Park


Guided Tours of Zion National Park

One excellent way to see Zion National Park and other sights in Utah is to take a guided tour. You won’t have to worry about planning the travel details, and your guide will be knowledgeable about the local history and geology. For example, this half-day tour will take you Zion National Park and Kolob. It’s a great way to see sights that most tourists don’t see because they are off-the-beaten path.

 


Frequently Asked Questions About Zion National Park

When is the best time to visit Zion National Park?

The best time to visit Zion National Park is in November. Multiple locals told us that November is the best time to visit when we asked. (We asked several workers and park rangers while we were visiting the park.) They told us that the weather is perfect for hiking in November (average high of 63 degrees) and there are very few crowds. Accommodations are also more affordable, so it’s an excellent time to visit!

What is so special about Zion National Park?

Zion National Park is famous for Zion Canyon, which is 15 miles long and almost 3,000 feet in some places. The Virgin River cuts through the canyon, and the park contains numerous trails with expansive lookouts, precipitous drops, and unique hiking experiences. Some of the park’s most famous hikes include Angel’s Landing (a narrow trail up a series of cliffs) and The Narrows (in which you hike straight through the Virgin River).

Does Zion National Park have canyons?

Zion National Park is home to Zion Canyon, which is 15 miles long and up to 3,000 feet deep in some places.

Can you drive in Zion National Park?

The Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is closed to personal vehicles for most of the year. Instead, you’ll need to use the park’s shuttle service to reach the trailheads along that road. However, you can drive your personal vehicle along other roads in Zion National Park.

Is Zion National Park worth visiting?

Zion National Park is definitely worth visiting. We think it’s one of the most beautiful national parks in the country. The park has it all: a giant canyon, the Virgin River, and dozens of unique trails. 

How many days do you need in Zion National Park?

If you want to hike the most famous trails Zion National Park has to offer, we recommend spending at least four days at the park. You’ll spend one day hiking Angel’s Landing, one day hiking The Narrows, and then two more for the remaining trails you’d like to visit.

What’s the closest airport to Zion National Park?

The closest airport to Zion National Park is St. George Regional Airport, which is 47 miles away. Salt Lake City International Airport is 313 miles away, and the Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas is about 167 miles away from Zion National Park.

What hikes at Zion National Park are dog-friendly?

The only trail that allows dogs within Zion National Park is the Pa’rus Trail. (You can find the entrance to the Pa’rus Trail near the Zion Canyon Visitor Center.) Dogs are not permitted on any other trails within Zion National Park. (This includes the wilderness areas and the shuttle bus.) Dogs are allowed in the campgrounds, parking areas, and picnic areas. Because dogs are only allowed on one trail within the park, we don’t think Zion National Park is particularly dog-friendly. If you’re able to leave your dog at home, that might be best.


Summary: Easy Hikes at Zion National Park

We were excited to visit Zion National Park after our six-week trip to Europe in 2020 was canceled due to covid, and then canceled again in 2021. We wanted to plan an epic road trip within the United States. We decided to travel to Utah and Arizona to visit some of the country’s most famous national parks. Hiking in Zion National Park was the first thing we added to our list! Zion National Park contained many hikes that we found to be at an easy difficulty level. We definitely enjoyed our visit to Zion National Park, and we hope you’re inspired to take your own trip to Zion!

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Be sure to check out our post on our favorite baby travel products, linked here

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DisclaimerWe always strive for content accuracy. Since the time of publishing, travel-related information regarding pricing, schedules, and hours may have changed. Please look up such information directly from each vendor or institution for the most current information.

Kelly

After studying abroad in Spain, I became passionate about international travel. Since then, I’ve traveled to 6 continents and 36 states within the United States. When I’m not travel blogging, you can find me hiking, reading Spanish novels, or playing cribbage. I hope my blog inspires you to see the world!

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