If you are looking for an easy hike which has tons of epic scenery with very little effort required, try the Riverside Walk. Zion National Park is really showing off in this part of the national park.
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The Zion Riverside Walk is the feeder hike to the famous Narrows hike. But, this easy walk is much more than simply a way to get to the Narrows.
They call this a “walk” as it’s not really a hike…. it’s a paved walking trail which runs parallel to the Virgin River.
The Zion Canyon gets quite narrow on this walk; with the massive cliff walls looming overhead it’s a pretty dramatic family-friendly Zion walk. Add to this the chance see hanging gardens, rock climbers and towering waterfalls and you have the makings of a great family hike in Zion NP.
Riverside Walk Stats
Distance: The round trip distance of this easy Zion walk is 2.2 miles / 3.5 km.
Elevation Gain: The walk is very flat and has very little elevation gain. Over the course of 2.2 miles, we only gained 57 feet / 17m in elevation.
Difficulty: The Riverside Walk is short and flat enough to be ranked easy. Our 3 & 5 year old kids easily did the entire hike themselves.
Duration: This hike took us 1 hour and 50 minutes to complete, which is a pretty typical pace for us with the kids. Without the kids, Celine and I could have done this hike in around 35 minutes.
Riverside Walk 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 a Sunday in April and the lot was nearly full.
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 Riverside Walk trailhead is located very close to Shuttle Stop 9 (Temple of Sinawava). It’s a 40 minute drive on the shuttle from the Visitor Center to the trailhead.
Riverside Walk Highlights
There are several special viewpoints on this hike:
Shortly after the walk begins, you can leave the main trail and walk on a dirt path to the side of the Virgin River. Above this point is a super-high waterfall which starts near the top of one of the towering cliffs overhead.
The waterfall is so high that the water dissipates on the way down; only to reform into a waterfall again as it hits the rocks close to the bottom. The only other place in the world I have seen this effect is Angel Falls in Venezuela.
The furthest point of this walk is where the famous The Narrows Zion National Park hike begins. You’ll notice that the on-land trail ends here… that’s because the brave people doing the Narrows hike need to get in the river and stay there for the duration of their hike!
Hiking Riverside Walk with Kids
- There are bathrooms and a water filling station at the trailhead.
- This trail is paved, but it’s covered with a thin layer of dirt, which can get a bit slippery at times. You can wear just about anything you’d like on your feet for this hike, but you may want closed toed shoes if you leave the main trail for the dirt path side trails along the riverside.
- Given this hike is in a narrow canyon, be prepared for cooler weather than the forecast calls for. It takes much longer for the sun to find you on this hike, so it can be quite chilly.
- This trail is stroller accessible, but the vast majority of hikers with small kids had them in a carrier for this hike.
- No dogs are allowed on Riverside Walk.
- Keep your eyes open for wildlife. We saw a wild turkey on the shuttle bus ride and we saw a deer in the trees during this hike.
- There are lots of very friendly squirrels along the trail, which will delight your kids. Note, the fine for feeding them is $100.
Where to Stop for Lunch or a Break
There are lots of benches along the way on this walk which make an ideal spot to stop for lunch. Alternately, there is a rest area with a stone wall to sit on at the end of this hike (where the Narrows hike begins).
- The sun can get intense in southern Utah, so bring more water than you think you will need.
- A small section of bushes near the beginning of this hike had a poison ivy warning sign.
What to Bring
Other Zion Canyon Hikes
If you are looking for additional easy, family-friendly hikes in Zion National Park, we suggest taking a look at Weeping Rock Trail, Grotto Trail and Pa’rus Trail (which we did back-to-back in a single day).
Other more-challenging, yet very do-able family-friendly Zion Canyon hikes you may enjoy are:
- Enjoy the cooler air and pine forests while hiking the Northgate Peaks Trail with kids
- Break a sweat for some incredible views on the Watchman Trail
- Walk behind a waterfall hiking the Lower Emerald Pool Trail with kids
If you have an adventurous parent in the family, consider treating them to a day without kids while they hike Angels Landing trail, while the other parent spends an enjoyable day with the kids doing some of the easier hikes in the park.
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.