Are you planning a visit to Zion National Park with kids? The best things to do at Zion National park and how to plan one day in Zion National Park.
We knew we wanted to include a day at Zion National Park in our Las Vegas getaway as soon as we started planning it. Although we are not big hikers we appreciate the National Parks and couldn’t wait to visit.
What I love about Zion National park is guests can enjoy it whether you are looking for strenuous hikes or a short hike that is at a beginners level.
It is one of the best places to visit in the United States and I highly recommend it for everyone. You don’t need to do any of the hikes if you would rather drive on the main road and take in some of the best views I have ever seen.
I had seen so many pictures and I couldn’t wait to spend time at Zion National Park. We had one day at Zion National Park and I knew we had to maximize our time.
Luckily we were able to fit in 3 different hikes and enjoy the gorgeous setting of Zion National Park.
One Day Zion National Park Itinerary
Our 1 day at Zion National Park Itinerary was busy but we knew we had to use our time to experience everything we wanted to see and do.
Below is a quick overview of our Zion National Park itinerary:
- Arrive at Las Vegas airport (9:00am)
- Rent car and drive to Zion National Park (160 miles)
- Arrive at Zion National Park
- Take Shuttle bus to shuttle stop 5. Do Lower Emerald Pools hike and the Grotto Hike.
- Take Shuttle from stop 6 back to the Visitors Center. (Parking or walk back to hotel.)
- Dinner at Jack’s Sports Grille.
- Early start at 6:00am
- Breakfast at Best Western/Check-Out
- Drive to Zion National Park up through Zion Canyon Scenic Drive up to shuttle stop 9.
- Hike the Riverside Walk.
- Exit the park and start drive back to Las Vegas or do another hike.
FAQ’s about Zion National Park
Where is Zion National Park
Zion National Park is located in Springdale, Utah. It is in Southern Utah. We flew into Las Vegas for our Zion to Las Vegas Road trip and drove a little under 3 hours to Zion.
The Las Vegas airport is actually the closest airport to Zion National Park. Salt Lake City is next at 311 miles.
Springdale, Utah is the town that Zion National Park is located and this is where you will search when looking for accommodations.
Zion National Park Weather
We visited Zion National Park during winter and the temperature was mid-50s during the day and dropped to 30s at night. You may even see snow if you visit during the cold months.
The sun is out most days so it feels warmer than it actually is but plan on wearing layers, hats, gloves, and jackets.
If you are visiting in the summer it gets very hot with highs in the 90s. Be prepared with layers and lots of water. I highly suggest planning your Zion National Park itinerary around the weather. You also want to pack hats and sunscreen.
Where to Stay at Zion National Park
There are a lot of hotels within walking distance of Zion National Park in Springdale, Utah. We stayed at the Best Western Plus Zion Canyon Inn & Suites.
Prices will vary depending on the time of your visit. Summer months and weekends will be much higher than winter months.
Book early if you can. I checked July 2022 rates (in March) and prices were already well over $300.00/night with limited availability. If you have your heart set on a specific destination book early.
There is also a lodge within Zion National Park called the Zion Lodge. Guests staying here can exit their hotel room at the trail heads. Also parking is included with your stay. It is a bit more expensive then the Springdale hotels but you are staying within the park and it may be worth it.
Where to Eat at Zion National Park
Most of the dining will be in Springdale in town. The town is very small and if you are looking for quick fast food options you are out of luck. They have also been hit hard with the pandemic and are still recovering in regards to servers and staff.
During our visit we were unable to find any place that would do take-out orders. I think this was due to the staffing shortage and may improve with time.
We ate dinner at Jack’s Sports Grille. This was perfect for our family. It had American food options and was reasonably priced. A few more options are Zion Pizza & Noodle Co., Zion Canyon Brew Pub, and Casa de Amigos.
During dinner hours and peak season expect long wait times for meals. I don’t say this to discourage you but to set your expectations when planning your meals.
Especially when traveling with kids. You may want to do a bit of research into the restaurant to see their menu and hours for your visit.
Zion National Park Kid Friendly Hikes
We are not big into hiking but we can still appreciate the beauty of the parks and want to experience them. With that being said when I planned this visit I knew we would stick to the easy hikes.
Every family will have a different expectation for what is easy. The hikes we decided to do were paved and wheel chair friendly so we knew they would be okay for us. We probably could have done a few moderate hikes as well if we had more time.
If you are looking for easy Zion National Park Hikes for kids I suggest the Riverside Walk. This was my favorite hike and offered an easy hike with unbelievable views.
Most of the moderate hikes have drop-offs. There are not always railings either so use your own judgement when traveling with small children.
I found that you do not have to do the tougher hikes to thoroughly enjoy the park. Do what is best for you and your kids. No matter which hike you choose you will not be disappointed. Check the hike descriptions here.
When is the Best Time to Visit Zion National Park?
The best time to visit Zion National Park is whenever is best for you. If you do not like hot weather you should plan a late fall or winter visit. You will also avoid the busy season during the winter.
How many hiking trails are at Zion National Park?
There are 12 hiking trails at Zion National Park. They are:
- Pa’rus Trail (easy, 3.5 miles round trip)
- The Grotto Trail (easy, 1 mile round trip)
- Lower Emerald Pool (easy, 1.2 mile round trip)
- Riverside Walk (easy, 2.2 mile round trip)
- Canyon Overlook (moderate, 1 mile round trip)
- Watchman Trail (moderate, 3.3 mile round trip)
- Sand Bench Trail (moderate, 7.6 mile round trip)
- Kayenta Trail (moderate, 2 mile round trip)
- Middle Emerald Pool (moderate, 2.2 mile round trip)
- Upper Emerald Pool (moderate, 1 mile round trip)
- Angels Landing via West Rim Trail (strenuous, 5.4 mile round trip with 1500 ft elevation change)
- The Narrows (strenuous, 9.4 mile out and back)
Angels Landing is a serious hike that has a big elevation change as well as long drop-offs. Be sure to prepare yourself before planning to do this hike.
The Narrows is located at the Temple of Sinawava. It is actually at the end of the Riverside Walk. You will be hiking through water and through narrow canyons. Be sure to check water levels and potential flash flood warnings before you begin.
If you are hiking The Narrows you need to dress with waterproof shoes and clothing. They can be rented here.
Can you drive around Zion National Park?
You can drive around Zion National Park but it depends on the day you visit. When we arrived late afternoon there was no accessibility and no parking spaces. We had to park back at our hotel and walk.
If you are entering from the east entrance you will drive through the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel which is a stunning reveal of the canyon.
For most of the years the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is only open by shuttle. Most people get around by shuttle. Because we visited in February and the shuttle was only on the weekends we were able to drive around the park.
When is peak season for visiting Zion National Park?
Zion National Park is one of the most popular national parks and during peak season expect very large crowds. If you are visiting in late spring and summer Zion will be busy. Often the on-site parking spaces are full and you will have to park in town.
To avoid busy crowds arrive at early morning to secure a parking space. There is a free shuttle that has multiple stops within the park. Be sure to check to shuttle schedule for the day you are visiting when you plan your trip.
How much time do you need to visit Zion National Park?
You could definetly spend a full day at Zion National Park and many people spend numerous days. It depedns what you want to do during your visit.
Zion National Park is a bit too far of a drive for a day trip from Las Vegas so I suggest staying at least one night to experience the park.
How much does is cost to enter Zion National Park?
It cost $20.00 per person to enter Zion National Park if you are walking through the entrance. Children 15 and under are free. If you are driving in it cost $35.00 for a car. This is valid for 7 days.
If you are visiting with a 4th grader you can get the free parks pass the is good for one year of National Parks visits for the 4th grader and family. Learn more here.
Tips for Zion National Park with Kids
Understand the Zion National Park Shuttle Service
I had to read and reread the shuttle service and keep checking the website up until the day we left to make sure I was up to date on times the shuttle was running.
The basics are there are two shuttle services. One within Zion National Park and one that runs through the town of Springdale.
The Zion National Park Shuttle runs for specific times and dates through the park. This shuttle has specific times and you do not want to miss the bus. If you miss the bus you are expected to walk back to your destination.
The Springdale Shuttle runs through numerous stops in Springdale and drops guests off at the entrance of Zion National Park. There is a stop outside the Best Western we stayed at but the Springdale Shuttle does not typically run in the winter months.
On our 1 day in Zion National Park we arrived at Zion around 2:00pm. We drove around for 15-20 minutes and the parking lot was full.
At this point we had to park at the Best Western and walk 1 mile to Zion National Park. We ran to the Zion shuttle to make the last shuttle of the day at 3:30pm. If we would have missed it we would have been out of luck for our planned hikes for the day.
Because we visited in the winter the shuttle times were limited. Expect longer hours during the spring/summer/fall months.
The following day the Zion shuttle was not running, because it was a weekday, so we could drive ourselves up to the Riverside Walk.
We arrived around 7:15am. As we were leaving the park around 9:00am we noticed all the parking lots were full and they were no longer allowing cars to drive up the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.
I can’t stress this enough: check the shuttle times and use it to plan your day at Zion. Especially with kids! You don’t want to get stuck and have to add hours and miles to your day if you can avoid it.
Pack Snacks and Water
This may be an obvious one but be sure to pack snacks, water, and anything extra you may need for your hike. You know your kids best and depending on the weather you may or may not need it.
Prepare Your Kids with What to Expect
Depending on the hikes you do you will need to prepare your kids with what to expect for the day. Go over the weather and expectations before you arrive.
Talk to them about safety and how long the hikes will be. Everyone will be happier if they know what to expect.
Don’t Underestimate the Crowds
Arrive early if you can because Zion National Park crowds will get busy. We visited in February which is a low crowd time and the parking lots were full.
I would think summer is much worse. Plan on arriving very early to secure a parking spot or to enjoy the hikes with less people.
I was surprised at how much we could get done in 1 day at Zion National Park. If you plan to do a few more hikes or a couple of the longer ones you may want to plan an extra day but we felt like we successfully got a lot done with our Zion National Park one day itinerary.
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Leah has been traveling with her family of 5 since 2012 and sharing her expertise on planning family vacations and visiting theme parks since 2016. Leah has been featured in Visit Rochester, Undercover Tourist, and Home Publications. She has worked with brands like Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, Hersheypark, Toyota, and various Tourism boards and destinations. Leah creates family travel itineraries based on real trip experiences with her family. Her guides and tips help others plan great family vacations. Learn more about Leah and Five for the Road.