Those looking for easy Zion Canyon National Park hikes should look no further than the Pa’rus Trail. This flat, paved path begins at the Zion National Park Visitor Center and ends at Canyon Junction (shuttle stop #3).
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Zion Canyon is nice and wide at the southern end of the park by the Zion National Park Visitor Center and the canyon walls gradually narrow as you head north.
The best thing about the Pa’rus Trail is that it runs along the center of the canyon floor, affording jaw dropping vistas of some of Zion Canyon’s most famous rock formations, including the Watchman and the Towers of the Virgin.
The fact that it runs alongside the beautiful Virgin River for most of the way is a nice bonus.
Considering there is very little effort involved, Pa’rus Trail provided some of the best Zion National Park scenery we enjoyed during our entire 5 day stay in Zion
The scenery is especially good north of shuttle stop 2 walking towards shuttle stop 3.
Pa’rus Trail Stats
Distance: Given you can start/end the Pa’rus trail hike at any of three locations, there are several iterations of this walk, but the full round trip distance of the Pa’rus Trail is 3.5 miles / 5.6km.
Elevation Gain: This hike is very flat with no periods of strenuous elevation gain. The elevation gain for this hike is a mere 50 feet / 15m.
Difficulty: If you do the full round trip, this trail can be a decent length, but it’s paved and flat, so we’d rank this one as easy. Our 3 & 5 year olds could easily do this entire hike themselves.
Duration: The kids were just itching to get their Zion Canyon Junior Ranger badges, so we didn’t force them to do the full hike. At our normal pace, the entire round-trip length of this hike would take us just under 3 hours.
Pa’rus Trail Location
How to Get There: To find a parking spot at Zion NP, 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 the free Springdale shuttle bus from many spots in town to the park gates. There are plenty of paid parking spaces in Springdale, but these also 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 Pa’rus Trail trailhead starts at the Zion NP Visitor Center (i.e.: no shuttle required), or at shuttle stops 2 or 3. It’s a short drive on the shuttle to either of these stops.
Parking Location: The official Zion Canyon parking lot is found here, just inside the park gates.
Trailhead Location: There are three Pa’rus Trail access points:
Pa’rus Trail Highlights
- The best part of this hike is the spectacular views of the Zion Canyon. This trail is in the middle of the canyon floor, with little vegetation to spoil the view. The wide open terrain found here provides some of the best vistas of Zion Canyon we’ve seen anywhere in the park. All of this, with very little effort required!
- Watch for the side pathways which take you to nice spots along the river.
- This is the only shared use trail in the park, meaning dogs and bikes are allowed.
Hiking Pa’rus Trail with Kids
- There are bathrooms and water filling stations at the Zion Visitor’s Center and shuttle stop 2 (the museum), but not at shuttle stop 3.
- This short hike is paved all the way. You can wear anything you’d like on your feet, including flip-flops.
- Pa’rus trail is in middle of the canyon with little vegetation for shade. Bring tons of water and sunscreen and make sure the kids have hats.
- Pa’rus trail is stroller accessible and plenty of people were enjoying a walk with their baby.
- If you are thinking of taking a dog to Zion National Park, dogs are allowed on this trail only. If your kids love dogs, as ours do, they will get to pet an endless stream of families out walking their dogs.
- We saw lots of small lizards scurrying across the trail. We also saw several large clown beetles, also fondly known as Stinkbugs. Beware that these stinkbugs will, if threatened, lift their butts in the air and fire a noxious liquid at you.
- As you walk back towards the Zion NP Visitor Center, keep your eyes on the sky as you may get lucky and see a California Condor soaring overhead with its massive 9.5′ wings.
- If you are limited on time and can’t do the whole walk, the stretch between shuttle stops 2 & 3 is the nicest. The stretch between 1 & 2 follows the South Campground for most of the way, which ruins the nature feel slightly.
- Zion National Park has a fun and educational Junior Ranger Program. Get a workbook from the Visitor Center early in your visit so your kids will have a chance to complete their assignments during your visit and hopefully earn their Zion Canyon Junior Ranger badge.
Where to Stop for Lunch or a Break
There are plenty of benches to stop and have a break on, but the best Zion Canyon picnic spots are the river access trails. Watch for signs along the trail which point out the places where you are allowed to leave the trail and walk down by the river.
Many of these approved river access areas have trees, providing a rare opportunity to rest in the shade.
- Pa’rus means “bubbling waters” in the indigenous Paiute language.
Pa’rus Trail Cautions
- The sun can get intense in southern Utah, so bring more water than you think you will need.
What to Bring
Other Zion Hikes
Other family-friendly Zion hikes you may enjoy are:
- Enjoy the cooler air and pine forests while hiking Northgate Peaks Trail
- Walk through a narrow, towering canyon on the Riverside Walk with kids
- Break a sweat for some incredible views while hiking Watchman Trail
- Walk behind a waterfall at Lower Emerald Pool Trail
Another fun idea is for one parent to take the kids for the day and do three easy hikes in Zion NP back-to-back (Weeping Rock, Grotto Trail and Pa’rus Trail). The other parent can treat themselves to a kid-free day of adventure hiking the world famous Angel’s Landing.
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.