Zion for Families

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Zion for Families
From perfect picnic spots and camping under the stars to family hiking and biking and educational programs, Zion National Park is an idyllic family destination that is sure to keep the whole family amused.
Photo by Erik Isakson/age fotostock
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    Picnic Spots
    Zion National Park has three picnic areas, and the most popular one is the Grotto Picnic Area in Zion Canyon. You’ll find tables, fire grates, water, restroom facilities, and the shade of giant cottonwood trees, with various hiking trails and the North Fork of the Virgin River all nearby. The Kolob Picnic Area at the end of the Kolob Canyons Road also has tables, fire grates, and an outhouse. For a more remote experience, visit the Lava Point Picnic Area off the Kolob Terrace Road; note that it has tables only.
    Photo by Erik Isakson/age fotostock
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    Camping under the Stars
    Kids will never forget camping under the stars, and Zion National Park—with its mild spring, summer, and fall climate—is a perfect place for it. The Watchman and South Campgrounds, both located within Zion Canyon, are the park’s main campgrounds. Campsites are adorned with tables, fire grates, tent sites, and places to park an RV. Some sites have electrical hook-ups, and restrooms and water spigots are near to all the campsites. For a more primitive camping experience, try the tiny Lava Point Campground off the Kolob Terrace Road. Open June through October, you’ll find tables, fire grates, pit toilets, and solitude, but no water—so make sure to bring your own.
    Photo by Ken Lee
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    Junior Rangers
    All national parks have Junior Ranger programs for the future guardians of these precious resources, and they offer kids the ability to learn about the national parks they visit. Pick up a free worksheet for kids under the age of six and a booklet for kids aged six to 12 at the Visitor Center, Human History Museum, or Nature Center. Your child can work on the activities independently (with a little of your help) or through the guided Junior Ranger program offered during the summer. After completing the activities, your little one will be sworn in as a Junior Ranger by an actual park ranger and will also receive a small prize.
    Photo by Mike Robinson/age fotostock
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    Splashing in The Narrows
    The Narrows is a deep canyon that’s been carved by the North Fork of the Virgin River, which still flows through it. During the summer months, when the water is at safe levels and temperatures, The Narrows makes a perfect place for kids to swim, splash, and explore. Access The Narrows by walking up the Riverwalk Trail from the Temple of Sinawava shuttle stop. Once you’ve reached the end of the Riverwalk Trail, look for somewhere to settle in and play. It’s best to find a sandy river bank with some sun to warm you up when you come out of the water, as well as some shade to give you a break when you need it. Bring snacks or a picnic lunch to round out your experience with The Narrows.
    Photo by Bronwen Gregory
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    Hiking the Watchman Trail
    Hiking is a quintessential activity in national parks that almost everyone can enjoy, and a great way for kids to blow off steam. Try the Watchman Trail in Zion Canyon, which is a moderate 2.7-mile trail with great views for grown-ups and a safe path for kids. There are a couple of small drop-offs through which you'll want to hold your little one's hands. Since it's an out-and-back hike, you can turn around any time you like. The Watchman Trail is particularly nice in the morning, with soft light on Zion Canyon’s walls and more comfortable temperatures than in the full sun of the afternoon.
    Photo by Meghan M. Hicks
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    Horseback Riding
    Early visitors to Zion National Park and other national parks explored largely by horseback, and modern-day visitors can follow suit. From March through October, horseback riding on the trails of Zion Canyon is available for anyone over age seven and under 220 pounds. Offerings include an hour-long outing along the North Fork of the Virgin River, where you'll meander among cottonwood trees at the bottom of Zion Canyon, and a half-day tour along the Sand Bench Trail, which climbs a couple of hundred feet onto a sandy bench in Zion Canyon and offers bigger views.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    Zion on Two or More Wheels
    Zion National Park’s main roads can be steep and have small shoulders, and are therefore not appropriate for kids to ride their bikes. Try instead the Pa’rus Trail, a 3.5-mile round-trip paved path connecting the South Campground with Canyon Junction in Zion Canyon. The scenery is pleasant and the route is dotted with wildflowers and is ideal for easy walking and biking. The trail is closed to motorized traffic and runs next to the North Fork of the Virgin River if you need to cool off. On the Pa'rus Trail, you'll find adult and kid bikers, younger children with training wheels, and walkers enjoying a quiet swath of Zion Canyon.
    Photo by Meghan M. Hicks
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    Educational Programs
    Educational programs are offered by Zion National Park rangers, covering the park's natural and cultural history—including birds, reptiles, archaeology, geology, weather, and more. During spring and fall, each day has at least one program that’s been created with children in mind, with even more activities in the summer. Programs vary in their style; some offer kids the opportunity to play and learn with their peers, while others allow the whole family to work together. At the Visitor Center, Human History Museum, and Nature Center (which is open only during the summer and is geared especially towards children), kids can learn independently via interactive exhibits located both indoors and outdoors.
    Photo courtesy of Zion NPS
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    Family Mountain Biking
    Just beyond Zion National Park’s boundaries, families can find some excellent mountain biking. Kids love the slickrock of Gooseberry Mesa, an hour’s drive from Zion. Gooseberry Mesa has a loop called the Practice Loop, or Slickrock 101, which is a prime training ground for kids learning to mountain bike (though adults might also become addicted to the slickrock). Be warned that there’s some truly challenging terrain on Gooseberry that may tax even the most seasoned riders, so be sure to keep a watchful eye on your little ones if you do venture beyond the Practice Loop.
    Photo by Rachid Dahnoun/age fotostock