This past summer, we visited Utah’s Zion National Park. It was by far one of our best trips yet! The kids did outstanding, the weather was perfect and it was such a treat to spend some quality time with our friends.
We’re no strangers to adventurous family road trips, but this one was a bit different. We knew that we wanted to visit a few of the National Parks and that meant hiking with three kids and a very pregnant belly (I will share more about hiking while pregnant).
Our first stop was The Narrows, which is a trail through the middle of the Virgin River that leads you through miles (approximately 10) of incredibly dramatic cliffs, canyons and out of this world scenery. The fun part about this hike is that you are hiking THROUGH the river. It’s strenuous, somewhat complicated and absolutely worth it. It’s important to mention that we hiked the Narrows Bottom-up and not top down which requires a permit and takes a few days to complete.
Tips on hiking The Narrows with kids
Gear up – Proper gear is essential when it comes to a hike like this one. Having the right gear kept us protected and allowed us to complete our hike with very little to no injury.
Osprey baby carrier – Haddon and Emory and our niece Charlee, were on baby carriers. Their ages range from 12m – 3 years. Grace is a strong 6-year-old and she did great. However, I do not recommend doing this hike with kids under 5 without carriers.
Walking stick– The rocks can be very slippery. The visitor center described it as “walking on bowling balls.” Having walking sticks helped me keep my balance and kept me from getting injured. I also had Emory on my back, which was an added 30 lbs. I strongly suggest walking sticks even if you don’t have babies on your back.
Right shoes – We purchased Merrell All Out Blaze Aero Sport Hiking Water Shoes for both Alex and I. We knew that we’d be trekking through water and wanted something light, quick drying but strong enough to take on the rest of the hikes on this trip. We got Grace a pair of New Balance lightweight sneakers and she did great. If you think you’ll need extra ankle support, I suggest you get hiking shoes with a higher top. The visitor’s center rents water shoes that are sure to keep your feet safe if you want to go that route.
Waterproof backpack – It’s inevitable that you are going to get wet. You may not get completely soaked, but you may not want to risk it. We had our Osprey carriers and in it carried our big camera wrapped in a plastic bag along with all of our electronics. If you don’t have a waterproof backpack, I suggest you have waterproof covers for all of your electronics.
Clothing – Summer temps are brutal and having the right clothing can either make or break your trip. We wore waterproof shorts, dry fit shirts and had sun protecting rash guards for the kids. The water is cold, but it’s more refreshing than anything else. From what we read, the spring and fall can get pretty chilly and you will need to up your gear.
Sun protection – Because of the altitude, you can get pretty sunburned, pretty fast. I suggest a high SPF for yourself and your little ones. Don’t forget to reapply if you end up taking a dip in the water.
Fuel – Between the five of us, we went through 18-20 protein/granola bars per day. We would have a big breakfast before leaving for the park and finish the day off with dinner. We usually spent our lunchtime at the parks and fueled up on bars. You may think it’s excessive but you are burning a lot of calories, so pack them even if you don’t think you’ll need them. As far as water is concerned, there are fill-up stations before you begin your hike. However, there’s no drinking water during the hike. Grace carried a water backpack for her and the kids and I carried one for Alex and I. We filled up on water right before starting the trail and made sure we sipped water during the entire trail.
Know your kids – If you’re reading this extensive post, I’m assuming that you’re hiking with kids. Grace hiked on her own. Alex and I held her hand for some of it, but she was solo for most of it. She used her hiking stick for balance and we made sure to keep her right next to us. We also trained for this trip. Grace walked a total of 6 miles a week for two months in preparation. Now, that may sound excessive, but this was the training I put myself through and I just brought her along. I’m glad I did because she outperformed all of us with very little complaints. As far as the little ones go, they all napped on their carriers, and we took breaks along the way to change diapers, stretch their legs and let them play for a bit. Knowing how much your kids can handle and knowing when to push a little is crucial.
Safety – As an ex-nurse, my instinct is to pack an entire pharmacy to bring along with us. For this trip, I brought a first aid kit, ace bandages, pain reliever, Benadryl, band-aids, antibacterial ointment, topical Benadryl, kids Tylenol, bug spray. Along with a first aid kit, we also have the kids memorize my phone number and role-play different scenarios that could potentially happen on the hike.
What to do if we get separated
What to do if they see something that makes them uncomfortable
What to do if they’re feeling dizzy or too tired
What to do if they see a snake or a wild animal
Flash floods – Because this hike is through the river, there may be flash floods. Always check at Springdale visitor center before taking off. If you notice the water beginning to get murky or rise, get to higher ground as quickly as possible.
Stay on the trails.
Timing– this was our first hike that day which didn’t start until the late afternoon. We were ok with it because we knew the water would be cold and keep us cool during the heat of the day. The walk leading up to the narrows was a little hot but we all cooled off once we got to the buses.
Best time to visit is sometime between June – September. By that time the icecaps have melted and the water level is lower. Also, the warmer temperatures make it much easier to walk through the cold river.
Plan on arriving at the park one hour before you plan to start your hike. Taking the shuttle bus from the Visitor Center to Temple of Sinawava takes 40-45 minutes each way (not including waiting for the bus to arrive). From the Temple of Sinawava, you will have another 20-40 minutes (each way) on the Riverside trail leading to the start of the Narrows.
There are large crowds in the summer months that make it a bit crowded. The earlier you arrive, the better.
There are no restrooms once you leave the Temple of Sinawava bus stop so make sure you go before you head out on the trail. I’m sure you can duck and pee in a corner somewhere but it may be a little tricky.
If you’re visiting with kids (or pregnant) plan to hike for an hour and then turn around. That’s a 2-hour hike altogether or you can plan to hike to Wall Street (which is three miles in) take a break and then head back. We stopped a little before Wall Street, played for an hour and then hiked it back. It was the perfect distance for us considering we were hauling four babies and two very fit but very pregnant mamas.
This was absolutely one of my favorite hikes and I recommend it to everyone heading to Utah!
I do have to say that I was 22 weeks pregnant at the time, was in great physical shape and had a lot of support from Alex. Always talk to your OB if you’re planning on doing anything active during your pregnancy.
Now for some of our pictures….