We Fell in Love With Utah - Part 2 - Zion National Park

I called it! A full month later and I'm getting to part two of our Southern Utah adventure.

After a full day exploring Bryce Canyon NP and Tropic Reservoir, we were ready to see Zion National Park.

Quick back story. In February Scott and I ran the Zion Half Marathon. After spending five days exploring the park without kids we knew it was a placed we needed the kids to see. Maybe one day I'll post about that kidless trip. But until then...

As with Bryce, we had a loose itinerary of easy and mostly paved trails mapped out for the day.
We had a pretty good hunch Pa'rus Trail would be where we spent most of our time. We weren't wrong. The trail is flat and parallels the Virgin River as it cuts through the park.

The kids were immediately drawn to the river.
The abundance of sand, rocks, twigs, and sticks was all their national park loving hearts could dream of.

Though Zion NP was noticeably warmer than Bryce Canyon NP (approximately 15 degrees warmer), the kids didn't seem to notice or keep them from forging ahead on the trails.

A quick park shuttle ride took us to the Lower Emerald Falls Trail. Another easy trail that led us right to the backside of Lower Emerald Falls. And this is where we really noticed just how busy the park was. The trail and waterfall vistas were packed with hikers (the park was much less crowded when Scott and I visited in February).

To better enjoy the trail we stepped just off the trail for some light and easy bouldering. It's safe to say the kids enjoyed climbing rocks more than looking at the waterfall.

About mid-day it was apparent the heat and time on the trails were getting to the kids. We hopped on a park shuttle and rode it through the park. That's about the time Julia passed out, and our time in Zion National Park was coming to an end.

However, that wasn't the end of the day...

As we were reluctantly headed out of Springdale, the town adjacent to Zion, we noticed George Barker River Park, just off the road and we decided to see what it was all about. No playground equipment, but plenty of open space, and the river flowing next to it.

It was an unexpected but perfect spot to cool off, enjoy the views of Zion, and give the kids one last good dose of Southern Utah.

So, our takeaway and advice for parents with littles from our time in each National Park:
1) Set the hiking standards fairly low. And then lower them again. Our time in each park would have been pretty miserable had we expected our kids to hike much more than 3.5 miles. And, though we were fairly spot on with the miles they could handle, we were also pleasantly surprised at just how awesome the kids did.
2) We also discovered, if you can handle cooler temps, visit the parks when no one else wants to (like, say, February).
3) The unplanned spots and visits may end up being the most memorable. This was true for us at both parks. Mossy Trail in Bryce was a last minute decision, and the stop at the Springdale park just outside Zion was made on a whim. And, both those places were clearly our kids' favorites.

The other thing we learned? We're hungry for more time in National Parks, and need to do it again, and the sooner the better.

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