Zion National Park

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Lower Emerald Pool Trail:

Little Mountaineers Rating: Easy (1.2 mile round trip to lower emerald pool/waterfall, paved trail)

Weeping Rock Trail:

Little Mountaineers Rating: Easy Moderate (.4 mile round trip, 173 ft elevation gain so some steep parts and minor drop offs)

Riverside Walk:

Little Mountaineers Rating: Easy Moderate (2.2 mile round trip to river narrows, mostly flat, paved trail)

Last spring we took our kids on their first trip to Zion National Park.  We were only going to be there 1 day so we kept it super easy.  You drive through Zion Canyon on a shuttle bus that has 9 stops.  There are many family friendly hiking and walking trails.  We ended up doing 3 hikes that day.  We decided to do the Lower Emerald Pool Trail, Weeping Rock Trail and Riverside Walk.  We also stopped at many of the scenic stops and lookouts along the way.  The trails we hiked were beautiful, mostly paved and easy to navigate, but there are a lot of tourists since it is very popular.  I can’t wait to go back and try some of the less traveled and more difficult hikes.  I also want to hike The Narrows with my kids when they are older.   It was a dreary day with a light drizzle of rain, but it was beautiful and my kids did really well.  They were exhausted by the end of the day of course!  I feel like Zions gives you beautiful scenery and fun hiking trails without you feeling like you are out in the middle of the wilderness, so I think it is perfect for families and beginner hikers.  You have easy access to modern amenities and the paved trails and railings help even the youngest of hikers. On the flip side there are more wilderness type hikes and strenuous options for those looking for that as well.   You could easily spend several days here or make a good day trip like we did.

Here is the link to Zion National Park website.

DSC_0594DSC_0636DSC_067120150425_15063720150425_142619My son loved Weeping Rock and was trying to catch droplets of water in his mouth.20150425_15133620150424_152523The Lower Emerald Pool features this water cascading off of the cliff above.20150425_152729Riverside Walk trail ends at the start of The Narrows, it’s quite majestic and the kids loved playing in the water and on the rocks.  However, we couldn’t manage to take a normal family picture here.  Don’t mind our awkward facial expressions.DSC_067520150424_150301This girl was 18 months and was barely taking a few steps (she was a very late walker) so I carried her all day.  Lot’s of people laughed at how funny she looked in my little carrier with her super long legs.20150424_15284020150425_15133920150424_153035Another angle of Lower Emerald Pool.

 

Buffalo Point Trail

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Little Mountaineers Rating: Easy Moderate (.8 mile round trip with uphill climb to top, rocks to climb and explore on top)

Ever since I was a little girl I have always loved Antelope Island.  I don’t even have a particularly good reason.  I think it just felt magical to me.  So close to home, yet you feel like you are on some grand adventure.  I’ve loved going back as an adult and taking my kids.  The views are grand, you will most likely spot some wildlife, and there are rocks for climbing, and beaches to explore.

Buffalo Point Trail is a great family friendly hike.  It isn’t very long (.4 miles one way so just under a mile round trip) and the views at the top, along with all the fun rocks to climb and explore, makes it a great place to take your family on an adventure.  We most recently went last July in the evening and it was perfect, this is a great sunset hike in the summer.  This trail doesn’t really have shade so it is best to go in the morning or evening during the summer.  Spring can be a great time to go to Antelope Island as well, but make sure you check their website or call ahead and make sure you aren’t going to be there during biting gnat season, trust me it isn’t fun.  (Biting gnat season is usually April-June) As with any hike it is always important to be prepared.  Bug spray, sunscreen, water and snacks are always important.  When my daughter was younger it was always important we had a carry option as well.  After finally learning to walk at 18 months, she had only a couple of months walking experience by the time we went on this hike.  I carried her up to the point, but she was very anxious to get out and explore and climb, then she went back in my baby carrier on the way down.  Little children with limited walking experience can tire quickly so this is a good thing to remember if you are taking them with you, make sure you have a comfortable option to carry them if needed.

Here are some pictures and highlights.  I can’t wait to share some other great trails Antelope Island has to offer.

Here is the link to the Antelope Island State Park website with maps of trails and other info.

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Bryce Canyon-Winter Hiking

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Navajo Loop:

Little Mountaineers Rating: Easy Moderate (1.3 mile loop, 550ft elevation change, some steep climb.  Not always accessible during the winter, snow/ice will require extra equipment/precaution and will bump my rating up to Moderate during those conditions)

Rim Trail (Sunrise to Sunset):

Little Mountaineers Rating: Easy (1 mile round trip, paved mostly flat.  Not always accessible during the winter, snow/ice will require extra equipment/precaution)

I’m not the biggest fan of winter, I’ll admit it.  My 6-year-old went on a snowshoeing field trip this winter and loved it, which got me thinking that maybe some winter hiking wouldn’t be too bad.  So in February we decided to try some winter hiking and it was a big hit.  I’m actually looking forward to next winter and trying out some more winter hiking and snowshoeing.

Here in Utah, winter can mean terrible air quality.  We can get inversions that last for days and weeks.  Pair that with freezing cold temperatures and you might as well hibernate for the winter!  Luckily once you get out of the valley you can reach some clear air and sunny skies.  During a particular bad week in February we decided to ditch the inversion for the weekend and head south for an adventure to Bryce Canyon National Park and Escalante.

It was sunny, the air was clear, and temperatures during the day were 50’s and 60’s.  It felt amazing!

Hiking on snow can be tricky.  You definitely need snow boots or winter hiking boots.  These need to have good tread and they also need to be warm and waterproof, especially for kids to keep them comfortable.  You can use spike attachments to add to your shoes or use snowshoes and skis depending on where you go as well.  A beautiful sunny day may get you excited for some hiking, but it brings its own risks.  Warmer temps and sunshine can make it harder to navigate snow making it more slick and slippery.  So when you attempt any winter hiking, please be careful!  It is also important to remember hydration and even sunscreen in the winter, sometimes we forget these things since it isn’t summer but they are still important!

Bryce Canyon was absolutely breathtaking in the winter.  I can’t wait to go back, and also go visit in the warmer months too.  Not all the hiking trails are completely open, so you kind of just have to be flexible.  We hiked parts of the Rim trail that was open and also parts of the Navajo trail.  I only did the part of the Navajo trail with my 6-year-old though, I didn’t feel quite comfortable enough to bring my 2-year-old down the icy decent.  I felt like Bryce Canyon was really kid friendly in general, however winter hiking isn’t probably the best for beginners.  My kids did really great overall, but they have quite a bit of experience.  In the late spring and summer when the snow melts there will be more kid friendly hiking options with several easy and moderate trail options.  The viewpoints are breathtaking, I’m glad we made the trip this winter.  I consider Bryce Canyon a must see if you ever come visit Utah, or if you live in Utah and haven’t ever been then you really need to visit!

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Mirror Lake

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Little Mountaineers Rating: Easy Moderate ( about 1.5 mile loop, mostly flat with a couple rocky areas)

If you or your kids don’t have much hiking experience it can be tough to know where to begin.  Before doing any major outdoor excursion I recommend doing some research and finding some local nature trails in  your city.  I’ll post some of my favorites in a later post.  Once you’ve gotten some experience with your city nature trails and know your how your kids handle walking longer distances you can branch out a bit.  Today I’m talking about one of my all time favorite beginner trails in Utah.  This trail is perfect for families, young kids, and people with little hiking experience.  This is one of the first places we take our kids when they are little, and we keep coming back every year.

Mirror Lake is located in the Uinta National Forest and is accessed by the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway.  This beautiful drive has many stops along the way and many camping/hiking opportunities.  The drive alone is a wonderful way to spend a lazy summer day.

The trail starts at Mirror lake and is one big loop around the lake.    The trail gives you a real taste of the great outdoors without any extreme hiking.  Some years we just walk part of the trail and play in the lake and other years we hike the whole loop.  This is a great hike for summer or early fall.  Now for the best part, photos!  I’m showing you some photos from Autumn and Summer, it’s beautiful both seasons.

AUTUMN AT MIRROR LAKE

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Most of the trail is dirt, but the beginning is this fun wooden trail.

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SUMMER AT MIRROR LAKE

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