The Ultimate Guide Zion National Park

zion national park

“Let’s go to Zion” is a phrase uttered by most Las Vegans at least once a year. Only 2.5 hours away, Zion National Park and its neighboring towns offer a lot for the outdoor adventurer. There are also tons of fun things to do at Zion National Park for families and kids. So pack up the kids and check out these 5 fun things to do at Zion National Park.

Zion National Park is a major destination for adventure seekers worldwide. It’s the fourth most popular national park. The park gets busy especially during the summer. If you can go in the spring, fall or winter, the park will be less busy.

Tips for your Trip to Zion National Park

Arrival and Parking

Parking is available inside the park if you arrive early ( before 9am). Additional paid parking is available along Highway 9 and at various shopping areas just before the Zion National Park entrance.

During the off season (anytime except summer) you can drive into the park and park your car.

Shuttle Tickets

Private vehicles are not allowed on the scenic route during the busiest times at Zion National Park, which includes all summer. Instead, shuttles operate to transport park guests from the Visitor’s Center to various points around the park.

As of July 1, 2020, the park is using a paid ticketing system to access the shuttles. Shuttle tickets are $1 and required for access to the park including popular spots like the Zion Lodge, The Narrows, The Grotto, and Angel’s Landing.

Learn more about the shuttles in Zion National Park

Unless you planned WELL in advance, you will have to get tickets the day before your visit or pay for one of the private shuttles that have access to Zion National Park.

How to get shuttle tickets the day before your visit
Shuttle tickets are released on a monthly basis. If you didn’t get the tickets during the initial release, don’t fret, there’s still another opportunity. Shuttle tickets are released one day in advance at 8am MT and do sell out fast.

Example: If you plan to visit Zion National Park on a Friday, you will want to be online and logged in at 8am MT Thursday to reserve your tickets.

Tickets are $1 each and can be purchased here.

Strollers are allowed on the shuttle bus but will need to be folded and put on the bike rack at the front of the bus. Shuttles passengers are limited due to COVID-19. Please bring your mask, stay seated with your party, and plan for social distancing.


Food is available inside the park at the Zion Lodge including ice cream. Keep in mind you will need a shuttle ticket to access the lodge. Snacks are available in the Visitor’s Center. There are many restaurants just outside of the park entrance in Springdale.

What to bring

  • Insulated water bottles. There are places to fill your bottles at the park for free. I also bring packets of hydration drinks (Drip Drop, IV Hydration) because it’s hot and your body needs electrolytes.
  • A backpack with snacks (because kids)
  • Baby wipes for faces and hands (because kids)
  • Hand Sanitizer (because COVID)
  • Sunscreen, hats, UPF clothing
  • Comfortable shoes for easy hikes, good hiking shoes for more strenuous hiking
  • Money for the gift shop
  • A pen or pencil for the Junior Ranger Booklet
  • A waterproof phone pouch if you plan to hike The Narrows
  • A good attitude and sense of adventure

Park Admission

Have a 4th grader? Get in FREE!

If you have a 4th grader, check out the Every Kid Outdoors website to get a free national parks pass.

Daily admission to Zion National Park is $35 for a car. Various annual passes are also available. If you have a 4th grade student that is eligible for Every Kid in a Park, admission will be free!

Don’t forget to stop by the gift shop and get a Junior Ranger booklet for the kids to complete during your trip

Things to do in Zion National Park with Kids

1. Become a Junior Ranger

The Junior Ranger program is one of our favorite things to do when visiting national parks. The activity-based program is available at most national parks including Zion National Park.

The Junior Ranger motto is recited by children around the country; each taking an oath of their own to protect parks, continue to learn about parks, and share their own ranger story with friends and family.

Junior Ranger programs are generally best suited for children ages 5-13 but there are no limits and anyone can participate. Upon completion of selected activities, kids are sworn in as part of the National Park Service, as Junior Rangers.

Get a head start and download the Zion National Park Junior Ranger book.

Be at Virtual Junior Ranger!

Summer Distance Learning with Zion National Park

Get your Junior Ranger book at the Visitor’s Center.

Sam is a Zion National Park Junior Ranger

2. Check out the Zion Nature Center

The Zion Nature Center is located next to the South Campground. The center offers youth specific programs from Memorial Day to Labor Day. These highly interactive family learning experiences are designed to help enhance the understanding of the park and it’s inhabitants. The nature center can be accessed without a shuttle ticket.

3. Check out the Zion Human History Museum

The Zion Human History Museum is the second stop on the shuttle and thus requires a shuttle ticket to reach it. A free 22-minute video is shown every half hour. The video provides a park overview. Rangers are available for questions and the museum bookstore is open.

Permanent exhibits display the rich human history of Zion National Park. Showcasing American Indian culture, historic pioneer settlement, and Zion’s growth as a national park, the Human History Museum also illustrates the effects of water in Zion. Both creator and destroyer, water is why people have traveled through and settled in Zion. Water creates the scenery and sanctuary that makes Zion famous.

4. Picnic in The Grotto

The Grotto is Stop 6 on the Zion Shuttle Bus. A shuttle ticket is required to reach this part of the park. The Grotto provides access to Angels Landing, Scout Lookout, West Rim trail and Kayenta Trail.

The Grotto Trail is kid-friendly and good for all skill levels. The trails is about 1.25 miles out and back.

This is a great spot to picnic and a short trail will take you the the Lodge.

5. Catch tadpoles

When hiking the P’arus and Riverside Walk Trails kids can see tadpoles in the water! It’s a fun time see nature in action. If safe, you can catch one to get a closer look before you release it back into the Virgin River to grow into a big strong frog!

Checking out the tadpoles gathering near the rocks along the Virgin River

6. Go for a Hike

Hiking in Zion is very accessible for all skill levels – including little ones in strollers. Check out our 3 favorite hikes for families in Zion:

Pa’rus Trail

This trail can be accessed without shuttle tickets and just past the Visitor’s Center. The Pa’rus Trail is the only trail in Zion National Park that is open to bicycles and dogs. The trail is also wheelchair accessible and stroller friendly. The paved trail follows along the Virgin River with plenty of opportunities for exploring.

This is the only trail in Zion National Park that is open to dogs!

Fun Fact: Pa’rus is the Paiute word for bubbling water. There is lots of bubbling water along this trail.

Riverside Walk Trail

Take the shuttle to the last stop, Temple of Sinawava, for the Riverside Walk Trail that leads to the Narrows. This trail will give you an idea of how the canyon was formed. The walk includes a nice rock garden, plenty of room for kids to climb, explore and play in the Virgin River. The trail is mostly paved and good for strollers and wheelchairs. The Narrows is accessed at the end of this trail.

You do need shuttle tickets to reach this trail. Plan and purchase your shuttle tickets at or work with one of the private shuttles that have access to Zion National Park.

Lower Emerald Pool

This easy, paved trail is one of the best for families to see the Emerald Pools. The trail connects to the Middle Emerald Pool if you are able to go further.
July 2020: Not all of this trail is accessible due to a landslide and active construction

If you are up for a moderate hike that leads to the Upper Emerald Pool then try the Kayenta Trail. The Kayenta Trail can be accessed from The Grotto. This is a 3 mile out and back trail that features a waterfall.

Hidden Hike: Lower Pine Creek Falls Trail

Our friends at Just Simply Wander gave us this tip and we’re sharing it with you. The hike is outside of the fee area of Zion National Park driving up the switchbacks to the Mt Carmel Tunnel. Get complete details in her Southern Utah post.

Amber and Dash exploring the P’arus Trail and the Virgin River

Five Things to do near Zion National Park with Kids

There are plenty of things to do outside of the park itself.

1. Kolob Reservoir

Just 40 minutes from Zion Wildflower and right down Kolob Terrace Road is the Kolob Reservoir. Zion National Park’s quiet and less-crowded neighbor is a perfect spot to spend the day with your family. Kolob Reservoir is a great spot for fishing. Swimming is allowed but the water is cold. Primitive camping is available. There are plenty of trailheads to keep your busy.

2. Sheep Bridge Park

Just across the main road from Zion Wildflower Resort is the best little park. Also known as Falls Park, this riverside recreation area is a hidden gem. A rocky dirt road leads to the park so be prepared. In many parts the road only accommodates one vehicle, so check for other cars before entering or leaving. We made in on the road just fine in our Honda Odyssey driving slowly.

The park has restrooms and a few picnic tables. There is very little shade, but there is the Virgin River. The park is known for an abundance of baby frogs that fill it every summer! Be careful where you walk and do not step on any frogs. You can also tube in the river and there are a few places for cliff diving.

3. Confluence Park

Another great tip from Just Simply Wander.

Confluence Park is a 344 acre natural park managed by Washington County through the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve office. It is uniquely located within the boundaries of Hurricane and LaVerkin, Utah where Ash Creek and LaVerkin Creek meet the Virgin River. Confluence Park sits at the bottom of large basaltic lava cliffs, leaving it isolated and protected from development in the cities above.

To access this trail, first, go have a meal at River Rock Roasting Co, you won’t regret it. When you’re done, find the trailhead between River Rock Roasting Co and the vacation rentals. The is a dirt lot available for parking. The trail winds down to the river below. You can continue on the trail following the river to the old power station and then connect with the LaVerkin trailhead.

Thanks to Just Simply Wander for the great tip about Confluence Park and this trailhead.

4. Fort Zion

It’s a gift shop, but the best gift shop you’ll ever find. In additional to souvenirs, you’ll find burgers and homemade ice cream, fantastic photo opps, and a $1 petting zoo! Fort Zion is open April – October from 10am – 8pm. You can’t miss it on Highway 9 as you head to Zion Wildflower and Zion National Park.

5. Grafton Ghost Town

Located in Rockdale, Utah, this abandoned frontier town was settled by Mormons in 1859. Grafton Ghost Town appears in several films including “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”

Reach Grafton, one of Utah’s best-preserved ghost towns, by hiking, biking, or driving Grafton Road, a paved and gravel road sometimes called Grafton Trail. It follows a wide gravel bench below stair-stepped cliff bands to the south and green fields, orchards, and pastures along the Virgin River to the north. It’s best to find a parking spot on Highway 9 in Rockville, then shoulder your pack and start hiking or biking south on Bridge Road. After crossing an iron lattice-truss bridge built in 1926, the sunny road bends west. Keep right at a prominent junction toward Grafton. A left turn goes up scenic Smithsonian Butte Backcountry Byway.

Looking for a fun place to stay while exploring Southern Utah! Check out Zion Wildflower and see our amazing stay at this new glamping resort just outside of Zion National Park.

Know Before You Go (as of July 2020):

Summer 2020 Alerts for Zion National Park

Mask Up Springdale. Masks are required inside businesses in the city of Springdale, UT.

Cyanobacteria in the Virgin River. See updates on the rivers and cyanobacteria levels before visiting the park and planning your trip.