Trip Report | Zion National Park

Last week we set out on a Griswold-worthy family vacation of National Parks… a trip I’ve been dying to take for years, but we waited until both kids were old enough to remember and enjoy it, and be able to handle the physicality. And it was absolute perfection! We hiked, we laughed, we ate, we talked…we reconnected in a way that’s difficult to do at home, surrounded by life’s demands.

The entire trip had just enough downtime to really relax, but also a heavy amount of activity and adventure to keep everyone engaged (and worn out every night! #bonus). And from the social media response I had last week on our travels, there’s a hefty number of you anxious to take a similar trip with your own families!

There is just way too much info to include everything in a single post, so I’m planning a stand-alone post for each park, Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Grand Canyon South Rim, plus a comprehensive post outlining the full itinerary, drive times, excursions, etc! We did a ton of research for our trip, and I’m happy to pass it along to you, in hopes that it’s helpful when planning your own family adventure!

Today we’re starting out with our favorite of the three, Zion National Park…so buckle up, friends, it’s photo overload!

Velcro Tennis Shoes

Zion National Park is a southwest Utah nature preserve, distinguished by Zion Canyon’s steep red, rocky cliffs. The scenic drive in cuts through the base of the canyon, with towering cliffs rising up all around. Forest trails branch out along the Virgin River, taking you either to the top of the cliffs, or down to the Emerald Pools, which have waterfalls and a hanging garden. One of Zion’s biggest draws is the Narrows…a hike down the actual river (sometimes in chest-deep water), through a narrow gorge of sandstone walls thousands of feet tall.

Oversized Hoodie | Bootcut Leggings with Pockets | Long Sleeve Layering Tee

Fleece PulloverVelcro Tennis Shoes

My pictures don’t come anywhere close to showing the true beauty of the park, but even harder to capture is the massive scale of the mountains and cliffs. All three parks have done an excellent job of marking and maintaining trails, and providing excellent, comprehensive trail maps…all while keeping the true rugged nature of the parks in tact. There are levels of trails for every type of hiker, but everything is at your own risk. There are few railings and barriers, so we were sure to set really firm ground rules with our kids before setting out! #nervousmom

Our Spring Break fell really early in the year…which meant we had minimal crowds, but fairly cool weather. It was chilly at the base of the canyon, but we quickly shed our layers as we climbed higher.

Sugarplum Travel Tip: The sun seems to shine extra bright at Zion, and paired with the reflection off the red rocks, it was positively technicolor! So sunglasses and hats are a must!

Faux-Fur Hooded Coat | Leggings | Hiking Shoes

The single most important thing I brought were these shoes! Every pair of hiking/trail shoes I’ve ever owned were heavy, uncomfortable and clunky…so needless to say, I wasn’t looking forward to packing them! But that stereotype was wiped clean when I found this pair, and I ended up wearing them every single day…even when we weren’t doing any real hiking!

They are lightweight (like a sneaker), and extremely comfortable to wear for hours and hours at a time. I wore them out of the box, and never once had any rubbing or blisters. They’re even water resistant, so I was able to tromp through puddles, and mud rinsed right off. Plus, I had plenty of grip for all the slick and uneven surfaces. I love them so much, I’ve taken to walking the dog in them every morning now that we’re home.

Fit Tip: I tried no fewer than 10 pairs of trail shoes (thank goodness for Nordstrom free shipping and returns!), and these were the hands-down winner! I also tried them in three different sizes, and even when worn with good wool socks, I needed to size down half (I’m normally a 7.5, and wear a 7 in these).

As for the rest of my wardrobe, I packed my favorite athletic pants and leggings, and a stack of sweatshirts, a windbreaker, and my heavy coat. And of course my Uggs, for all the times we weren’t hiking!

Sweatshirt | Pants | Shoes | Sunglasses

Being the outdoorsy type, Mr. SP jumped at the chance to add to his outdoorsy wardrobe, and hot-footed to Nordstrom for updated performance wear. Their selection is so big, he got a little carried away, but I’m in no position to object! He packed climbing pants, joggers, his favorite athletic pullovers, and a North Face jacket. The Style Police are still out regarding his camo boots though. 😉 #pickyourbattlesgirls

Twill Pants | Pullover | Similar Boots | Sunglasses

Sweatshirt | Pants | Shoes | Twill Pants | Pullover | Similar Boots | Sunglasses

The kids blew us away, with their adoration of the parks and Mother Nature, and energy to keep at it! They always wanted to hit another trail, or push forward to the next level. They stayed warm and comfortable with cozy layers, but we could have done a better job with their shoes. They managed with their everyday athletic sneakers, but hiking shoes would have been best.

I’m not sure what was happening here, but I loved finding it on my camera! This guy makes my heart explode. But when did he get so freaking big!?!

As does this precious Little Miss.

Athletic Jogger Pants | Shoes

{Where We Stayed}

Zion National Park Lodge
Located inside the actual park, lodge guests have full and first-access to the trails, and parking lots, making it an extremely convenient choice, and maximizes your time in the park. More hotels are located outside the park, in Springdale, but that mostly requires the use of the park’s shuttle bus system to come and go, and get around.

Our room was basic and clean, but very comfortable, and had a beautiful canyon view off the porch. There’s a restaurant on-property that serves all meals, and packs a mean sack lunch for taking with you! We spotted deer and wild turkeys everyday, too. And don’t get me started on the starry sky!

{Where We Ate}

Zion Park Lodge – Red Rock Grill
A traditional mountain lodge setting, with views of the canyon…they have full menu service, plus a huge breakfast buffet. The food is average, and a little pricey, but you can’t beat being steps away from the canyon (and your room, if you decide to stay on-property). They do have excellent hot chocolate, and pack an impressive sack lunch for the trails (just give them a 1-hour heads up)!

Oscars Cafe

You won’t find a McDonalds or Starbucks in Springdale (the closest town to Zion, about 15 minutes by car), but you’ll find a nice selection of quant, locally-owned restaurants and cafes. Oscars was lively with a great heated patio, and unbelievable hamburgers.

Faux-Fur Hooded Coat | Long Sleeve Layering Tee | Similar Joggers | Boots | Sunglasses

{Trails We Hiked}
We spent about a day-and-a-half in Zion, with a full day dedicated to hiking and exploring.

Scout’s Lookout ~ start at the Grotto Trailhead, and follow the West Rim Trail, up to Scout’s Lookout for an exhilarating view of the canyon below. If you’re feeling adventurous (and brave), go another half-mile to Angel’s Landing. We skipped that last leg for safety reasons with the kids, but everyone raved about it. 4 miles round-trip, 1500-feet elevation change

Emerald Pools ~ starting at the Grotto Trailhead (also a good spot for a picnic lunch), head in the opposite direction on the Kayenta Trail, a fairly flat hike to the Middle and Lower Pools. Another half-mile takes you up a steep, chilly path to the Upper Pools. 3 miles round-trip, 400-feet elevation change

Riverside Walk ~ from the Temple of the Sinawava stop, wander the paved trail along the Virgin River to the narrowing slot canyon. No special water gear is needed for this trail. We’d love to go back in warmer weather and hike the Narrows Trail (an 8-hour trek through the river, surrounded by towering narrow canyon walls).

We spend a lot of time together as a family, but nothing compares to the closeness that comes from getting away together (and sharing a single hotel room!). What travel plans do you have for your family this year? Have you been to Zion National Park?

{Shop the Post}

Mr. SP loves creating videos of our trips, so here’s another peek at Zion National Park!

See more of our Travel Adventures here.

[More National Parks Posts]

National Parks Road Trip | The Itinerary
Trip Report | The Grand Canyon
Trip Report | Bryce Canyon
Trip Report | Zion National Park
Trip Report | Antelope Canyon + Horseshoe Bend
Trip Report | Big Bend National Park
Trip Report | West Texas Road Trip
Our Favorite Hiking Spots in the United States
Road Trip Essentials

*This post is created in collaboration with Nordstrom, but all opinions, travels, and burning legs are my own.*



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