Along with Emerald Pools, the trail that we most highly recommend for families in Zion National Park is Canyon Overlook Trail. This hike comes with a stern warning, though: Steep cliffs are very prevalent, and the drops would lead to certain death. We’re firm on this, because parents must be aware of little ones at all times, particularly at the overlook.
This trail is short, primarily flat except for the steep climb at the beginning, and holds great rewards. The route for this trail basically runs parallel to the Zion tunnel and leaves you standing above the Zion Arch looking out over the canyon. The views are breathtaking, the drop frightening.
To access this hike, park at the east end of the tunnel. There is a small parking lot that can only be accessed traveling east (out of the tunnel). You must turn into this lot immediately after exiting the tunnel. Also, the sign says compact cars only, so if you drive a large vehicle you need alternate parking. We found alternate parking about 1 city block up the road on the north side. This parking lot isn’t a whole lot bigger, and on busy days, both may be full.
A sidewalk leads from the parking lot (or a dash across the street from the small parking lot) to the trailhead. There is often a ranger standing at this trailhead monitoring the tunnel traffic, too.
The trail climbs very briefly up a few steps and then levels off. After the trail levels out, a steep dropoff appears on the left. There is no real danger if you keep together, but if your kids are the kind that run ahead, this may not be a hike for you. Most of the drop-offs are blocked by a fence or railing, but little children could easily slide under the railing. We don’t want to talk you out of doing this hike, we just want you to be prepared. This really is an amazing hike! We walked with Mom in front, two big boys behind her, and Dad and our youngest holding hands together in the back. It helped keep anyone from running ahead. Watch the video below to see our entire hike.
There are some really cool sections of this trail that kids love. The first is a small bridge. This bridge takes you over a section of the trail that would be inaccessible due to the cliff. Don’t worry, as you can see in the picture, it is perfectly safe.
The second amazing part of this trail is the overhang. There is a section of the trail right after the bridge that is shadowed by the overhanging cliff. It is cool, and in the spring, a little moist, and kids enjoy walking along this section of the trail.
The third thing our boys really liked was “the funnel.” No one officially named this section of the trail the funnel, that’s just what we called it. It consists of two rocks that form a V that is kid-sized. Our boys liked walking down the V with one foot on each side. Near the V, you can also look down into a tight little slot canyon that would be really fun to hike if it were possible.
Finally, the view over the canyon at the end of the hike is breathtaking. At the end of the trail, you’ll look out over the canyon and the drop below is hundreds of feet. There is a small railing that you can keep little ones behind, but there is plenty of edge without a railing, too, so this isn’t the ideal place to play.
Spend as much time as you like feeling the wind on your face at the end of this hike. It is 1 mile RT with very little change in elevation. It is a popular trail, too, so you’ll see plenty of other hikers along the way!