Zion National Park with Kids (2-Day Itinerary)

If you’re headed to Zion National Park with kids, we have a perfect 2-day itinerary for you!

Zion National Park is absolutely gorgeous. Each park is unique and has its own beauty, making it hard to pick favorites.  However, if my husband, Allan, were to pick a favorite, it would be Zion.  If I were to pick a favorite, it would be in my top three (Yosemite and Yellowstone also have large pieces of my heart).

Like most national parks, you could easily spend a week in this little slice of paradise.  

Unfortunately, we don’t always have a week.  

Fortunately, you can get a nice overview of the park and visit some iconic places in two days!

While the park does have some more advanced trails and trails not suitable for young children, there are plenty of trails that are family and kid-friendly. Your kids will love Zion!

In fact, when we first entered the park, my 8-year-old was staring up at the sheer red walls, silent. “What are you thinking?”  I asked.

“God is bigger than the tallest mountain and smaller than the smallest pebble, and He’s faithful in everything,” he said, followed by, “Am I dreaming?”

Zion does feel like a dream, and this two-day itinerary will help you see and enjoy its beauty. 

DAY 1: Zion National Park with kids

The first day is a good day to get to know the park, get an overview of the layout, and just take in the splendor.

Entering Zion National Park

If at all possible, enter the park through the east entrance.  The drive through Kanab and Mt. Carmel Junction will knock your socks off. 

Confession: I loved reading westerns like Louis L’amour and Zane Grey’s books as a young adult.  When I pictured myself living on a ranch in the 1800s, it would have been that type of rangeland that’s found near Kanab.


Watch Buffalo Graze

Zion Mountain Ranch is on the south side of the road before you enter the park.  They have horses…and buffalo!  Since buffalo are a little sparse in California, the kids perched on the fence and watched the little herd graze.  It’s the little things.

Watching the buffalo herd at Zion Mountain Ranch in Utah

Travel Through the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel

Heading east from Zion Mountain Ranch, you’ll enter Zion Valley through a tunnel.  This 1.1-mile tunnel, completed in 1930, is uniquely constructed with large rock cutouts towards that end that give you quick little glimpses of the valley.

Traveling through the tunnel with larger vehicles (like RVs) does require a permit. You can obtain a permit from the park entrance station for a small fee.  The permit provides traffic control since the tunnel only allows one-way traffic for larger vehicles.  One permit grants two trips through the tunnel.  

After driving through the main portion of the park, check into your campground or hotel.


Stop by the Zion Visitor Center

Whenever we go somewhere new, or if it’s been a while since we’ve last visited, we always stop by the visitor center first.  It’s a great starting place!  You can look at maps, talk to rangers, and learn about any trail or park changes.


Pick Up a Junior Ranger Booklet

No trip to Zion National Park with kids is complete without a Junior Ranger badge!  If you have young nature enthusiasts in your group, the beginning of your trip is a great time to pick up a free Junior Ranger booklet.  Children ages four (4) and older can work independently (or with a parent) to complete the activity booklet.

The booklet is a great way to learn more about the park and increase your knowledge about its history, geology, and inhabitants.  Our kids love participating in the Junior Ranger program at all national, and some state, parks!  As a reward for completing activities, children can earn a free wooden Junior Ranger badge.  It makes for a fun souvenir, too!

Ride the Shuttle Through the Park

Hop on the park shuttle at the visitor center and use the bus to get a free tour of the valley.  You’ll hear park facts and information over the speaker system.  It’s a great way to familiarize yourself with different areas of the park.

Due to COVID, public transportation has changed in most national parks.  Check the park website before visiting to see the current status.

Riding the shuttle in Zion National Park

Watch Zion Canyon: Treasure of the Gods (CLOSED)

There was an IMAX theatre that showed a film about the natives who originally inhabited the park, but unfortunately, the theatre was closed in 2017 and currently has no plans of reopening


Tour the Town of Springdale

In addition to the park shuttle, the little town of Springdale offers free shuttle service up and down their main road, stopping at many of the hotels, shops, and eateries.

View the town from the shuttle bus or get out and walk!  We aren’t into shopping, but we enjoyed looking around, eating a yummy Mexican food dinner, and getting ice cream.

Exploring Springdale, Utah

DAY 2: Zion National Park with kids

Make Day 2 a hiking day!  Zion offers over 100 trails, providing plenty of choice for those who love the feel of dirt and rock under their feet.  We opted to hike some of the most familiar trails that were kid-friendly.

Check the Weather Before Hiking (ALWAYS)

Before you hike in Zion, check the weather conditions.  Local news channels, phone apps, and the visitor center give regular weather updates.  Zion is prone to flash flooding and hiking narrow canyons with the chance of showers is never a good idea.

Hike Lower Emerald Pools + Kayenta Trail

Knowing that we wanted to hike The Narrows when it was warmer, we opted to do an easier hike in the morning.  

Starting at the Emerald Pools trailhead, take the moderately easy 0.8-mile trail to Lower Emerald Pools. 

Lower Emerald Pools Trail + Kayenta Trail

Once you’ve reached the pools, rather than retrace your steps, continue northeast along the river on Kayenta Trail.  Kayenta Trail is a 1.6-mile moderately easy trail that leads you to back to the main road just north of where you started.  

If you packed a lunch, snag a table in the Grotto Picnic Area at the end of the trail and enjoy your meal. 

Lower Emerald Pools Trail

Hike the Zion Narrows

After your belly is full, and you’ve triple checked the weather to confirm there are no approaching storms, hop on the shuttle and head to the Temple of Sinawava.  

The trail to the Narrows starts with a wide, paved trail (and plenty of people). This highly accessible portion of the trail is called the Zion Narrows Riverside Trail.  The paved trail is almost a mile (one way). At the end, you’ll put on your water shoes and start hiking up the river!

The great thing about the Narrows trail is that you can do as much (9.4 miles roundtrip) or as little as you would like.  For the first portion of the trail, you won’t get wet, but you should definitely plan on walking, hiking, or wading through water if you opt to go further up the Narrows.

Also, make sure that any electronics are safely stowed away in a dry bag.  Sometimes, you can be walking along in knee-deep water, then accidentally step off into a drop-off that is chest-deep.  Ask us how we know… haha!

Finally, you’ll want to keep in mind that it takes significantly longer to wade through water than it does to hike on dry land.  One mile feels like four.

Despite the drop-offs, the numerous people, and the challenge of walking through water, this is a not-to-be-missed hike.  The tall, towering canyon walls on either side of the river are stunning, making you feel like you’ve been transported into another world.

Our kids loved hiking through the water and splashing around!

The Narrows is, without a doubt, the most memorable hike in Zion National Park with kids.

Hiking the Zion Narrows

Pick Up Junior Ranger Badges & Souvenirs

On your way back to the campground or hotel, drop by the visitor’s center with your completed Junior Ranger booklets to obtain your Junior Ranger badge for Zion National Park!

Kids can also pick out a souvenir from the gift shop while you’re in the area to help them remember their adventures in Zion.


After a full day of hiking, relax around the campfire or soak your sore muscles in the hotel hot tub (we choose the latter).

If you’re traveling to Zion with a 4th grader, don’t forget to get your free park pass before you go!

Have you been to Zion?  What are some of your favorite kid-friendly hikes and activities?  What’s on your must-see list when you have only two days in Zion National Park?  Tell us about them in the comments below!

2-Day Itinerary for Grand Teton National Park

Need help planning your itinerary for Grand Teton National Park?  We have you covered!

If you’re planning a road trip to Yellowstone National Park, you’ll definitely want to add Grand Teton National Park to your itinerary as well!

On our last visit to Yellowstone, we spent three days in the park and were able to see all the main attractions.  After leaving Yellowstone, we made the short drive south to Grand Teton National Park to spend a couple of days exploring the area.

The Grand Tetons are known for their stunning scenery and wildlife.  It’s one of those places that just makes your heart happy!

Camping in the Grand Teton National Park

We were tent camping and opted to stay at the Colter Bay Campground located at Jackson Lake.  If you want or need hook-ups for your RV, you can reserve a spot in advance, but since we were tent camping, we opted for the first-come, first-served campground.  We arrived around 11:30 in the morning in the middle of July on a Wednesday and were able to secure a spot easily.

The ranger assigned us a campsite in a loop furthest from the water, but it was the quietest campground we’ve ever visited.

Plan for Mosquitos

Just like Yellowstone, the mosquitos in the Grand Tetons can be a bit of a nuisance during the summer months.  Unfortunately, my son and I got eaten alive, but the rest of the family faired quite well.

The mosquitos weren’t as noticeable at the water’s edge or while hiking, but they definitely were in full force at the campground.  We noticed that while they only seemed to make an appearance at dawn and dusk at Yellowstone, they hung around all day at the Colter Bay campground.  I’m not sure if we just got unlucky or if that’s typical.

Bring bug repellent and long sleeves and pants to help deter the pesky little critters!


Amenities at Colter Bay Village

One of the reasons we chose to stay at Colter Bay was the amenities.  While we typically enjoy areas that are lower key, we knew we would need to wash clothes and restock our ice chest.  Also, showers are always a welcome amenity when you’re tent camping!

Laundry Facilities

We were a week into our road trip when we arrived in the Grand Tetons and needed to do some laundry.  Fortunately, the Village at Colter Bay has a decent-sized, coin-operated laundry facility.


Shower Facilities

Shower facilities at national parks aren’t always the most prestigious, but if you bring your flip-flops and set your expectations low, you’ll be thrilled with the warm water coming out of the showerhead and won’t get too critical of your surroundings.  Fortunately, the showers are located right next to the laundromat and the general store, making it easy for the entire family to shower while you wash a load or two of laundry!

Enjoying ice cream at Colter Bay Village at Jackson Lake

Day 1 (half day): Grand Teton National Park Itinerary

The first day of our itinerary for Grand Teton National Park was a good introduction to the park.  We arrived at Jackson Lake mid-day, secured our campground, set-up camp, then headed down to the marina area for some lunch and to explore the area.

Food and Ice Cream at Colter Bay Village

First, we grabbed some pizza and salad from the cafeteria near the marina.  

Next, we restocked our ice chest with some essentials from the general store.  We were excited to get some fresh berries (shipped from fields near our home in California)!  After eating dried fruit for a few days, fresh fruit is always a hit.  Overall, the prices were better than I expected with a good variety of foods to choose from.

Of course, the highlight of the general store was discovering the ice cream counter at the back of the store.  Yes, I still dream about huckleberry ice cream.


Swim in Jackson Lake

After lunch, we went to our campsite, put on our swimsuits, and drove back to the marina.  We all got an ice cream cone then headed down to the day-use area to the right of the Visitor Center.

Luckily, we found a spot on the small beach and dipped our toes in the water.  It was warmer than we expected, and it didn’t take long before we were all the way in.

The views of the snow-capped mountains are absolutely breathtaking.

After swimming, we went back to the campsite, ate dinner, then moseyed back to the marina to wash laundry and shower.

Swimming in the pristine water of Jackson Lake’s Colter Bay

Visitor Center

The Colter Bay Visitor Center sits right at the water’s edge.  We chatted with the rangers to find out more about viewing wildlife in the evening.  

If you have kids 12 and under, the first day is a great time to pick up their Grand Tetons National Park Junior Ranger Booklet for free from the visitor center.  Getting it the first day gives them plenty of time to complete the booklet and earn their Junior Ranger badge before you leave the park.

Wildlife Viewing in Grand Tetons

An hour before dusk, we headed south on Highway 89/191 in search of wildlife.

Willow Flats

Willow Flats is located near the Grand Teton Lodge Company.  As you would expect, it a large, flat, marshy area.  Moose like to graze in this area, but we didn’t see even one. However, we did see some iconic views and take a family photo.

Oxbow Bend

Driving further south towards Jackson, we reached Oxbow Bend.  We still didn’t see any moose or bears but we did get to watch birds, river otters, and even a beaver!

After sunset, we called it a day and headed back to the campsite.

Elk grazing at Willow Flats near Jackson Lake, Grand Teton National Park

Day 2 (full day): Grand Teton National Park

Knowing we had a full day, we decided to make it a hiking day.  Grand Tetons, like Yellowstone, has its fair share of grizzly bears, so renting a can of bear spray, or bringing your own, is always advised.

Jenny Lake

I knew from research, that one place we had to have on our itinerary for Grand Teton National Park was a visit to Jenny Lake.  We packed a lunch and our backpacks and made the 30-minute drive to one of the prettiest lakes in the United States.

Hike to Hidden Falls

We had planned to hike to Hidden Falls on the other side of the lake, but, unfortunately, there was a rock slide (which occurred a few months later) and the trail closed temporarily.  Several of our friends have done this hike and enjoyed it.

If you choose, there is a shuttle boat that travels between the marina and falls.  If you’re not up for a hike, the shuttle is a good option.  Or, if you only want to hike halfway, you can grab a one-way shuttle ticket.

Tickets cannot be reserved in advance, but can be purchased at the main boat dock (East Dock). The shuttle can drop off hikers at the West Dock near the Cascade Canyon trailhead.  From there, is a short ½ mile hike to Hidden Falls. Hiking from the main (East Dock) marina to the falls is 2 ½ miles, one way.


Hike to Moose Pond

Since the trail to Hidden Falls was closed, we opted to hike to Moose Pond on the south side of the lake.  We started at East Dock and followed the easy 2.7-mile (out-and-back) trail to Moose Pond.

As our luck would have it, we didn’t see any moose.  We hung out for a while and bird-watched admired the amazing scenery and found plenty of moose tracks. 

Fish, Swim, or Boat at Jenny Lake

In addition to hiking, guests can rent canoes or kayaks, swim, or fish!  The lake has lake trout, cutthroat trout, mountain whitefish, brown trout, and Chinook salmon.

Visitors can swim in designated areas at Jenny Lake, or head back to Colter Bay for an afternoon swim!

Hiking Jenny Lake Trail

Stunning views!

Moose-less Moose Pond

Swim in Colter Bay

Our family opted to go back to Colter Bay to swim.  Ice cream may have been a contributing factor.  Are you noticing a pattern, yet?  Ice cream first, followed by a swim.  Priorities. 

Dinner at Trapper Grill

For dinner, we ate at Trapper Grill.  This lovely little spot is located right on the water at the Signal Mountain Lodge.  While it wasn’t phenomenal, the food was the best we had while in the Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.  The views were gorgeous and guests have the choice between indoor dining and patio dining.  Both locations offered excellent views of the Grand Teton mountain range.

Scenic Drive in Search of Wildlife

After dinner, we went in search of wildlife, again.  We drove down Teton Park Road.  Then, we went back to Oxbow Bend and Willow Flats.  Although we took several little dirt roads that had been recommended to us by rangers and staff, unfortunately, we never found any moose nor bears. 

We didn’t see nearly as much wildlife in the Grand Teton National Park as much as we did in Yellowstone.  I’m not sure we just got unlucky or if we needed to stay a few more days.  Regardless, the scenery is jaw-dropping everywhere you go!

The Snake River near Jackson Lake

Day 3 (half day): Grand Teton National Park

After spending our morning packing up camp, we headed back to the Colter Bay Village

Colter Bay Vistor Center & Gift Shop

The last day is when we typically buy our souvenirs.  And when I say souvenirs, I mean small mementos.  For me, that meant a couple of huckleberry bonbons.  Chocolate is my favorite souvenir.  Though, is it considered a souvenir if it doesn’t last more than one day?  The memory will stick with me for years to come, so I guess that counts!

The last day is also a great time for kids to present their completed Junior Ranger booklets and obtain their free Junior Ranger badge!


Tour the Jackson National Fish Hatchery

After leaving Jackson Lake, we made our way south toward the town of Jackson.  Outside the town, we spied a fish hatchery with free tours. We enjoyed learning more about conservation endeavors and the process of raising fish.  


Explore the Town of Jackson

Next, we traveled on to the quaint, touristy town of Jackson.  We enjoyed eating lunch in a real town for the first time in a week, visiting art galleries, taking a stagecoach ride, and walking around the square.

While we enjoyed the town, we’re definitely not shoppers, and the town itself felt very touristy.  It was good for a short visit, but definitely not someplace we would want to stay for more than half a day.

Sculptures in Jackson, Wyoming

Stagecoach ride around Jackson Square

Plan Your Grand Teton Visit

This two-day itinerary for Grand Teton National Park allowed us to see the highlights of the park and the town of Jackson!  We loved the natural beauty of the park and hope to visit again someday.  But, next time, we plan to stay for a few more days.

Are you planning a trip to Grand Teton National Park?  Do you have any questions?  I’d love to hear them and help answer them!