I had heard that Zion was beautiful and also that you could “hike the narrows” which involves literally walking up a river between two cliffs and that sounded fun so off we went!
You can’t drive all the way into Zion National Park in the Summer so unless you are just visiting the area at the beginning, it is better to find somewhere to park outside the park and get the free shuttle bus that stops at various places through the town of Springdale.
You get off this bus at the entrance to Zion and pay your way into the park ($15 per person/ $30 per car ). This entrance fee allows you to enter the park for seven days.
There is another bus once you get inside the park. This is the Canyon Tour Bus and it drives the length of the canyon, stopping at various points on the way for people to get on or off at different trails, the museum or the lodge where there is a restaurant.
The busses are every ten minutes so you never wait long but they are not air conditioned and at busy times are packed!
If you are wanting to hike the narrows then you stay on the tour bus to the very last stop at the temple of Sinawava. The bus journey to this point takes approximately 45 minutes.
Here there is a riverside walk, a gentle mile long path which takes you to the entrance to the narrows. I noticed a lot of people choose to take this path to the end or even some of the way and then stop to play in the river. The path is wide and smooth enough for pushchairs and wheelchairs but it does have some up and down hilly parts!
Along the path the scenery is amazing with cliffs on either side of you and the river flowing along the valley. There are many squirrels who come to say hello, and you can spot natural springs coming from weeping rocks where water has seeped through from the top.
When you reach the end of the path there is a rocky beach area where people either stop or carry on into the river.
You can choose how far you go down the river, if at all.
It is a challenging and time consuming but extremely fun walk! There are rocks in the water and you need to be careful, testing every step. We saw a few people fall in, although they didn’t seem to mind! We even saw some people swimming!
Walking the narrows is not suitable for small children as the river can flow quite fast and in some places came up above my knees. There are also places further on that are waist deep! However there were a lot of families with smaller children playing in the river off the beach.
You also need to be careful of flash floods which are often in the park and extremely dangerous if you are caught in the narrows during one. There are flood warnings at the beginning of the path that tell you how likely it is.
If you do get to walk in the river, even round the first corner it is worth it!
There are water shoes and walking sticks to hire from the main entrance to Zion, before you get on the bus. If you are planning on hiking the narrows it is worth hiring these or taking sturdy shoes that are ok to get wet. The sticks are useful to keep your balance in the river!
It is a good idea to take plenty of food and drink with you if you choose to do any of the many trails in Zion National Park and if you are planning on hiking far up the river it is also advisable to take a jacket as, even on hot days it can get very cold as the cliffs get closer together.
Zion National Park was a lot more commercialised than I expected and it can get very busy in the Summer. There is bus after bus through the canyon and unless you are doing one of the more strenuous or longer hikes you are unlikely to get away from the crowds. However the reason it attracts so many visitors is that it is absolutely beautiful!
Taking a child with an ASD to Zion National Park?
You can walk into the park if you park close enough or you will need to get a shuttle bus. The shuttle busses have no air conditioning and they get busy.
If you want to avoid busses you can literally stay near the entrance to the park, have a little walk and leave.
Hiking the narrows involves a 45 minute bus journey each way followed by a mile of walking before you get to the entrance.
There is water to play in but it is a river.
I personally wouldn’t take a child up the river unless they could swim.
There are squirrels to spot.
You can get off and back on the bus at every stop to break up the journey and a stop at the lodge will provide a place to eat, drink and use the restrooms. This is a fair way into the park.
There are very long or dangerous hikes in the park so make sure any you decide to take are suitable before you set off. You can get information on hikes and a map of the bus route at the visitor center just outside the park.
The park gets very busy with a lot of people. A quieter alternative might be Valley of Fire Park, which you can drive through yourself. You can read about our adventure to Valley of Fire Park here: https://kidsontour.blog/2017/07/30/valley-of-fire-nevada/
Zion National Park is in Utah. It can be found here: https://www.nps.gov/zion/index.htm