ZION NATIONAL PARK - With Toddlers!
Written by: Tyler Fontes
Who are the Fontes?:
The Fontes family is a very outdoor adventurous family and Tyler, stay at home dad raising their twin three year olds boys, is always taking their twins on new outdoor adventures all over Utah. Some favorite family activities include hiking, fishing, camping, road trips, biking, among many other fun outdoor activities! They recently moved to Utah from Arizona and love exploring all the new hiking trails the Salt Lake City area has to offer!
One of our absolute favorite locations in the west is Zion National Park! We did a week long road trip from traveling from Phoenix Arizona to Mammoth California and decided to bring along a pop up camper in the bed of our truck versus tent camping. This made this road trip style of camping much easier to set up and break down camp almost every other day. We spent two nights in Zion National Park and wish our stay could have been the full week we loved it so much!
The scenery is absolutely stunning and the park is very well run, organized and tons of great hiking trails everywhere. If you plan to camp, I highly recommend Watchman Campground. The campsites are perfect for families and well organized. The location was perfect as everything needed for our 2 night stay was walking distance from the campsite. The Campground is located along the Virgin River next to the Visitor Center and shuttle busses to get you to all the major hiking trails. There is also a bridge over the river to restaurants, shops, cafes, and Zion Outfitter. Watchman Campground also holds a special place in our hearts as one of our sons took his very first steps in this campground!
I also want to note that easy access to the shuttle busses is great because you are not allowed to just drive up the canyon to all the trailhead heads (unless you have reservations to stay at the Zion Lodge). You are required to take the shuttle busses only. They are constantly running and pick up / drop off at every trailhead along the way including the Zion Lodge in the canyon.
The Narrows is by far a must do hike if you are in Zion National Park! Even if you are unable or not wanting to hike up the canyon in the river, there is a great pathway that winds up in the canyon to the river that is equally as impressive to see! I noticed a lot of hikers hiked this trail to the river to either watch some of their party hike into the river or just to enjoy this trail to the river. As a parent of twin boys who were only 15 months old their first time in Zion, I still recommend any parent with younger kids to hike this trail utilizing a kid carrier backpack. I personally recommend the Deuter Kid Comfort Carrier as all our hiking backpacks are from Deuter and we absolutely love them! Our kids were comfortable the entire hike and even napped at times as we explored the Narrows. We hiked up the river about an hour and half, then stopped along the shore to let the kids get out and explore the rocks and wave to other hikers as they passed by. We spent about an hour just relaxing by the river and taking in all the beauty of the Narrows as our boys crawled around the sand and rocks.
I will say that this trail can be intimidating for parents with kids at first, but once you start the hike in the river the worries tend to go away and you are immersed in the beauty of the canyon! There are also shops in the town that rent out water boots and poles for anyone interested in utilizing poles on the hike and not wanting to purchase them ahead of time. We debated on poles, but ultimately decided not to, but I will say we did see a lot of hikers utilizing poles in the rocky river hike. I also recommend to parents attempting this hike for the first time to do what's best for you and your family. Go at your own pace and once you hit a point along the hike that feels like a good halfway point, I say take a quick break along the shoreline and then start your hike back.
Whether you hike the Narrow for a few hours or 30 minutes, it's all totally worth it!