The Grotto Trail is a super-short, flat and easy hike in Zion Canyon National Park. This scenic walk follows along the base of a canyon wall between shuttle stop 6 (The Grotto) to shuttle stop 5 (The Zion Lodge). The Grotto Trail is also one of the best places in Zion Canyon to see wildlife, due to the flat, open, riverside forest opposite the canyon wall.
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Grotto Trail Hike Stats
Distance: The one-way distance of this short Zion hike is 0.5 miles / 0.8km.
Elevation Gain: This hike is very flat with hardly any noticeable elevation gain. The elevation gain for this hike is a mere 35 feet / 11m.
Difficulty: This trail is super-easy. Our 3 & 5 year old kids easily did the entire hike themselves.
Duration: Despite being short and flat, this hike took us around 50 minutes of walking time, which is about half the speed we usually do. This is likely because of the 8 billion caterpillars the kids found on the trail. Or… it could be that Mom was off hiking Angel’s Landing by herself and I was being too lenient with the kids?
Grotto Trail Location
How to Get There: To find a Zion National Park parking spot, you’ll need to arrive quite early in the day, especially during peak times. We got there at 8am on several days in April and the lot was nearly full each time.
If you aren’t an early riser, you can take a free shuttle bus from many spots in the town of Springdale to the park gates. There are plenty of paid parking spaces in Springdale, but these too fill up early during peak times.
Between spring and fall, there are no private cars allowed on Scenic Drive within Zion National Park. The park operates a free shuttle bus service instead, which takes you to the major spots within the park. The Grotto Trail runs between Shuttle Stops 5 & 6. You can get off at either and do a one-way hike. It’s approximately a 25 minute drive on the shuttle from the Zion NP Visitor Center to the trailhead.
Grotto Trail Highlights
- This trail parallels a big, flat and open forested area, making it one of the best hikes for Zion National Park wildlife viewing.
- Just north of the Zion Lodge the trail passes a large lake, which on a still day, will provide some pretty epic reflections of the massive Zion canyon walls. There are plants and tree roots etc. in the lake, so you won’t get a perfect reflection, but it’s still an impressive sight.
- Water is a magnet for wildlife in a desert environment, so keep a close eye for deer or other wildlife near the lake and on the far side of the forest where the Virgin River runs. Nature is fickle and we didn’t see any wildlife on our hike, but the habitat is perfect for wildlife viewing, so hopefully you’ll have better luck!
Hiking Grotto Trail with Kids
- The Zion Lodge is at Shuttle Stop 5 and you will find all services here, including a cafeteria. In addition, there are bathrooms and a water filling station for your hydration packs at Shuttle Stop 6.
- This short hike is on a wide, packed dirt trail with a short, narrow stretch over some large rocks. You can get by with normal shoes, but we wouldn’t recommend wearing flip-flops.
- This hike is in the shade in the morning, making it a good option for families looking to escape the hot Zion Park weather. If you are going later in the day, bring lots of water and sunscreen.
- This trail is not easily stroller accessible as you’d need to carry it over the rocky section. The most popular option for child transportation we saw parents using within the park was to put kids in a backpack carrier.
- No dogs are allowed on The Grotto Trail.
- Park officials say this is the best trail in the park for wildlife viewing. Keep your eyes peeled in the adjacent forest, especially as you near the lake near Zion Lodge.
Where to Stop for Lunch or a Break
There are benches or even big, flat rocks to stop for an extended break along the hiking trail. If you plan to have a meal after the hike, we recommend starting at shuttle stop 6 and hiking towards Zion Lodge, where you will find a cafeteria with outdoor seating.
If you pack your own lunch, the Lodge has a huge grass lawn to sprawl out on under the shade of a massive tree and enjoy a picnic with amazing views.
The small brick building near the Shuttle Stop 6 trailhead is the original Visitor Center for the park.
Grotto Trail Cautions
The sun can get intense in southern Utah, so bring more water than you think you will need. A popular option for hikers in the park was a hydration backpack.
What to Bring Hiking in Zion
Other Zion Canyon Hikes
Other family-friendly Zion Canyon hikes you may enjoy are:
- Enjoy the cooler air and pine forests hiking along the Northgate Peaks Trail
- Walk through a narrow, towering canyon with kids on the Riverside Walk
- Break a sweat for some incredible views while hiking Watchman Trail
- Walk behind a waterfall at Lower Emerald Pool Trail with kids
If there is an adventurous parent in your family, they could treat themselves to a kid-free day of adventure on the world famous Angel’s Landing. The other parent can take the kids for three easy hikes back-to-back (Weeping Rock, Grotto Trail and Pa’rus Trail).
Zion National Park with Kids
For more Zion National Park things to do with kids, family friendly Zion hotels and campgrounds, visit our Zion National Park with Kids post.