So – as part of Spring Break, we decided to hit the trail and explore a few more National Parks (Zion, Bryce Canyon and Grand Canyon) in the region. Considering we have two young children, we knew it would be a bit of an adventure – but we’re sharing what we learned for other parents considering the trip.
First things first: hiking is a lot different when you have children. Lots more to carry (including a very chubby 11-month-old) and lots more safety concerns to consider (like a 3-year-old dead set on jumping off every cliff he sees). We decided to take it slow and go with the flow – and we enjoyed (almost) every minute.
- Good to know: The park’s interior is only accessible by shuttle, so it’s important to pack smart once you park your car.
- What we wish we’d known: The Zion Lodge (shuttle accessible) has a huge grassy area surrounded by mountains perfect for an afternoon lunch (or even grassy nap). If we had known beforehand, we would have headed there first to get oriented, rather than making our way to the location later in the day.
- Traveling with kids: The River Walk (enter near the Visitor Center) offered a paved, stroller-friendly path with some beautiful views of the red-rock mountains, and even some (amazingly un-crowded) sandy spots on the river’s shoreline – perfect for a picnic, or just a much-needed rest for the little legs in the group. The Emerald Pools Trail was also a generally easy trail – a few slight drop-offers and inclines, but the kids made it through OK. (Most other trails were a little too intense for young children.)
- Overall impression: We were fortunate to have gorgeous (80 degree) weather and blue skies for this leg of the trip, and we saw lots of wildlife (deer, goats, etc) throughout the journey. Couldn’t have been more gorgeous.
- Good to know: Unlike Zion, most parts of Bryce are accessible by car.
- What we wish we’d known: Despite the proximity (one to two hours, depending on which side of Zion you’re staying), the weather varies widely between Zion and Bryce. Pack lots of warm clothes just in case.
- Traveling with children: The trails in Bryce Canyon are wide and (for the most part) easily walkable. However, outside of the Rim Walk (paved, amazing views of the entire canyon), paths feature drops that are steep and dangerous. We traveled most of the way through the Queens Garden path but turned back once the drops got too dangerous and slippery (not to mention tempting) for our 3-year-old son.
- Overall impression: Hoodoos for miles – one of the most stunning things I’ve ever seen. This was definitely the highlight of the trip.
- Good to know: The only “grocery store” in Tusayan (the village outside of the Grand Canyon gate) is extremely expensive. Eating out was actually cheaper than cooking in. Pack accordingly!
- Traveling with children: The weather dropped to 28 degrees (day) when we visited the park, so we were thankful that there were plenty of lookouts and parking throughout the region to avoid hiking from point to point. As with most “major” National Parks, there were tons of dining and lounge options – as stress-free as a trip could be.
- Overall impression: Gorgeous – but I was so in love with Bryce that I was probably less impressed than I would have been otherwise
Vacation rentals are always a great option when traveling with kids, as they kids to keep their general routine, and offer more room for playing and resting. On this trip, we decided to make Duck Creek Village (mid-way between Zion and Bryce) our home-base. We found a three-bedroom condo (including wi-fi and Direct TV) for $90/night, and we loved it so much we didn’t want to leave. Though the location forced us to back-track to hit Zion, it made for a much more manageable drive to Bryce than if we had stayed in Springdale (small village outside Zion’s gates).
After heading to the Grand Canyon, we stayed at the Canyon Plaza Resort – steep at $159-$179/night, and with wi-fi that worked only in the hotel lobby. Kind of a bummer, but the room itself was nice enough.
Our route: Las Vegas >> Zion National Park >> Bryce Canyon >> Grand Canyon >> Home
It’s worth noting that one of my fave parts of the trip was the drive from Duck Creek Village to the Grand Canyon. Gorgeous views – and endless sky – at every turn. Though it was a long drive, it was worth the mile-age – even with a screaming baby in the back seat.