We spent an unforgettable spring break in Zion National Park, Utah (where we learned the correct pronunciation rhymes with 'lion' and not 'lie on' like we had been saying lol).
The two most iconic hikes of Zion are Angels Landing (too dangerous for children!) and The Narrows, which despite what others may tell you, is definitely doable with kids!
Follow this plan and you'll be on your way to making fantastic, Insta-worthy memories.
1. Get There and Book Accommodation: The closest airport to Zion is McCarran International Airport of Las Vegas. So fly into Vegas, rent a car and drive to Springdale, UT (a little over 2 hours). Springdale is right at the foot of Zion and has many campgrounds, "glamp-grounds", and hotels, so you’ll have lots of options for where and how to stay.
2. Shuttle Tickets: At exactly 5:00pm, shuttle tickets for the following day are released. NOTE: If you do not get shuttle tickets, you can’t go! The tickets are highly competitive to score and on most days will be completely sold out by 5:01pm. So be ready, signed in to an account and refreshing the page at 4:59pm. We had 5 devices trying at once and one of them got through for tickets on the second day of trying. If you try every day of your trip and still aren't lucky enough to get tickets, you can always show up to the Visitor Center the day of and enter the standby line, for a chance to get on the last shuttle of the day at 2pm. However, the line is known to already be a few hundred people long by noon, so be prepared to wait if you choose this option.
3. Check Conditions: On the morning of, be sure to check the weather for any signs of flashfloods (!). During a flash flood, water walls 12 feet high or more can rush down the canyon and because there are steep cliffs on either side, it can be fatal as there is no way to climb to higher ground. Yes, people have died on this hike. Often times, flashfloods can be caused by storms miles away, while the weather overhead looks clear, so it's imperative to check the weather within a 30 mile radius of the park. If the weather looks good all around, you then need to check the water level of the river. This is especially important if you have children doing this hike. (Remember, what may be waist-deep water for you, will be chest-deep water for them!) The ideal height for this hike is anything flowing below 50 cfs (cubic feet per second). If it is at 50 or below, a child age 5-8 will have no problem doing this hike. If you have a child younger than 5, use your discretion. You might need to carry them in a carrier, unless they are advanced hikers and know how to swim.
4. Find Parking! If all the stars have aligned for you, you will still need to find parking at the Visitor’s Center. By 11:00am, this parking lot will fill up, so beware! If you don't find a lucky spot, you will need to look for (paid) parking back in the city of Springdale and take the free shuttle to the Visitor Center. NOTE: This is not the same shuttle that you have tickets for. If you are staying at a hotel in Springdale with parking, it might be a better idea to just leave your car there and take the shuttle to begin with, especially if you are staying at one of the hotels which has a shuttle stop in front.
5. Get Your Gear: You will need to rent gear from Zion Outfitter, located next to the Visitor's Center. They rent water proof pants, socks and shoes and special canyoneering hiking sticks. The water is COLD and the hike is hard so you will need this special gear. The package costs $55 per person per day to rent. Those who didn’t have gear didn’t make it very far into the river or in at all. Trust us, do not attempt this hike without renting the proper gear.
6. Ready to go: Once in your gear, walk to the Visitor's Center and show your QR code to board the shuttle into Zion at your designated time. You will need to pay an entrance fee to enter the park which is $20 per person. Ride the shuttle all the way up the canyon to the very last stop (stop number 9 also called "Temple of Sinawava"). This will be your last place to use the bathroom, so take advantage. From there, follow the paved pathway for about one mile to get to the Narrows entrance. When the river walk dead ends, it's time to descend the stairs, enter the water and let the true adventure begin. This is also the perfect place and time for a picnic lunch to give you energy for your journey ahead. You don't want to risk having soggy sandwiches, should you lose your footing accidentally and fall in (which you will, at least once), so eat before you enter the river. The entire Narrows hike is 8 miles up the river (and then you must come down!), but the sweeping views start almost immediately, so don't worry if you don't go all the way up, we'll never tell 😉. In fact, we only hiked about 2 miles total in the water and it was more than enough for the gorgeous views and fun experience.
What to do on the days you don't have shuttle tickets: Without shuttle tickets, you can still explore the East end of Zion, which is open to car traffic. The highlight of the East side is the one mile long Zion Mount Carmel tunnel, which was blasted straight through the sandstone cliffs, and includes fun peepholes throughout to look out at the valley down below as you drive through. Be sure to stop along the pullouts for some gorgeous photos amongst red rock cliffs as you meander your way up to the tunnel.
Immediately to your right as you exit the tunnel (drive slow as you near the end so you won't miss it!) is the parking lot for perhaps one of the most picturesque hikes in all of Zion. It is a very short (1/2 mile hike) to the Canyon Overlook. However, the parking lot is tiny (only a dozen spots), so it will take a certain amount of luck to do this hike. If you can't get a parking spot, keep driving and there are plenty of places where you can pull over and do an impromptu day hike. There aren't officially marked trails in this area, so people just stroll along the rocks and river beds at the sides of the road. Keep your eye out for the big horned sheep that roam this area frequently! Finally, be sure to pack lots of water and food because traffic builds up to get back through the tunnel in the afternoon and you might be stuck there for awhile.
Have you ever hiked The Narrows? Let us know how it went and if you have other tips!