I’ve been to Zion Canyon many times. I love the national parks. Before kids, I hiked Angels Landing.
But my oldest is 14 years old, so ever since he (and the next three) came along, we had to adjust how we travel a bit. We still go to the national parks, but we have to try to keep the activities interesting, and the hikes short.
They’ve still almost died many times in the parks, so there is no way I’m taking them up Angels Landing right now (maybe my 14 yr old).
Now we still make them do adult activities and be part of the family. But we also have to find kid-friendly activities. Here are our 3 favorite kid-friendly activities in Zion.
1. The Riverwalk Hike
The Riverwalk hike is at the very end of Zion canyon. It’s at the last shuttle stop, the Temple of Sinawava.
The hike is really just a nice walk. It’s on a paved trail. It’d is a little less than a mile each way.
The trail goes along next to the Virgin river, with green trees and high red-rock walls. At the end of the trail, you can continue in the river on the famous Narrows hike.
But our kids aren’t ready for the long Narrows hike, so we let them play in the water and throw rocks near the end of the Riverwalk trail.
Because the canyon is so deep and steep, you almost always get interesting contrasts of sun and shade, green foliage and red walls. It’s a beautiful walk.
2. The Canyon Overlook Trail
The trail is not located in the main Zion canyon, but on the Zion-Mt Carmel road that heads to the east exit of the park.
The shuttle does not go there; you have to drive. For that reason, the crowds are much less.
To get there, drive on the Zion-Mt Carmel road, up the switch backs, and through the tunnel. Once you leave the tunnel, you’ll see a parking lot on the right. It is often full, but you can also park on the road, even if you have to drive a ways to find a spot on the road.
The hike itself is only a half mile each way. It has some pretty scenery on the way, and a little grotto.
Once you get the top, you’ll see a beautiful overlook of the the very switchbacks you just drove up.
You won’t be looking down the heart of Zion canyon, like you do with Angels Landing. But It’s a gorgeous view nonetheless.
I call it Angels Landing Jr.
Thankfully, there is a fence there to keep the kids from running off the cliff, because my nephew tumbled headfirst into the fence once. You still need to keep an eye on the kids though, because they can walk above the fence and have no protection.
You’ll have some great photo opportunities here.
3. Checkerboard Mesa
If you drive a little farther east, you’ll arrive at Checkerboard Mesa. This is on the right-hand side of the road and is a large cone-like red rock structure with lines on it like a checkerboard.
There is a pull out on the left-hand (north) side of the road.
The area we enjoy is on the north side of the road, directly across from the Mesa (and next to the pullout).
This is a place the kids can run around and climb on.
Our kids hate hiking, but they love climbing on things. Here, they can climb this very tall red rock hill.
We like climbing up with them. The wall at the top is farther than it looks!
This is a great place for a picnic and to let the kids get their wiggles out.
Bonus: Junior Ranger Program
A bonus activity for the kids: the Junior Ranger program.
Our kids aren’t necessarily excited about this, but we bribe them. If they complete it, we’ll buy them a stuffed animal from the visitor center.
I do this because I want them to 1) always be learning, and 2) to be engaged during the adult activities.
We are always on the lookout for animals, bugs, and other nature things that they need to check off in their books.
We like it so much sometimes us adults do it. My mom, who is 70, loves it and says they should have a Grandma Ranger program.
At the end, they must show a ranger at the visitor center, answer a few questions, and take the oath. Then they get a Junior Ranger badge. And the stuffed animal I promised them.