The Ultimate Roadtrip to Zion, the Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon & Sedona With Kids
The Grand Canyon
It's no secret that some of the most stunning landscapes in the United States can be found out West amid National Parks like Zion & the Grand Canyon. A road trip exploring these parks is a special trip regardless, but taking this trip with littles in tow creates a unique experience guaranteed to be filled with lifelong memories. While this may mean you aren't hiking the entirety of Bright Angel Trail or The Narrows, you & your family can still immerse yourselves in the surreal beauty of the surroundings, explore the culture of the area, & of course, enjoy the delicious cuisine of the Southwest. This itinerary can be used with littles of any age as long as you have the proper gear.
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Where to stay
Under Canvas Lake Powell - Grand Staircase
Safari-inspired tents with king-sized beds, ensuite bathrooms and in-tent wood-burning stoves overlooking Lake Powell.
El Tovar Hotel
A charming, historic lodging offering breathtaking views of the Grand Canyon Village.
Centrally located near hiking with great evening activities (think: making s'mores and live music).
$100 food / beverage credit.
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Day 1: Arrival & Zion
The route laid out in this itinerary begins by flying into Las Vegas. With generally reasonable flights & readily available rental cars, this typically makes a great launching pad. Upon arrival, kickstart your trip with a pitstop at the Hoover Dam & Lake Mead (35-minute drive) before heading on towards Zion National Park, about 3 hours from the dam. Stop in Boulder City, Nevada to grab lunch.
You will most likely opt for Springdale, Utah, as your base for exploring Zion unless you are staying inside at one of the park's lodges, which requires planning well in advance. I recommend staying at LaFave: Luxury Rentals at Zion. These apartment-style rentals give you & your family a relaxing place to unwind & spread out with perfect views of the surrounding landscape, all right by the entrance to Zion National Park. Depending on what time you arrive & how much gas your family has left in the metaphorical tank, pack some snacks & drinks & head over to the Watchman Trail to watch the sunset. This 3.1 mile out & back hike is absolutely stunning & is very popular, especially with families.
For dinner, either swing by Sol Foods Supermarket & grab something to make in your kitchen at LaFave or I highly recommend King's Landing Bistro, a short 1-minute drive or 5-minute walk, for a delicious sit-down meal with some of the best views in town.
Day 2: Zion National Park
Get an early start for a full day exploring Zion National Park. Pack plenty of snacks, water, your park pass if you purchased one, sunscreen & wear comfortable shoes! You will want to make sure you have enough of whatever supplies your kiddos need for the day depending on their age & also will want to make sure you have the appropriate gear. A really great thing about Zion with kids is that several parts of it are stroller-friendly! The hikes I lay out below are stroller-friendly but swap it for the carrier if planning to add on some of the bigger hikes.
Depending on what time of year you visit, the main drive through Zion is not open to private vehicles & you must use the shuttle to decrease congestion.
My recommended route inside the park with littles in tow is as follows:
Hop off at Stop 4, known as the Court of Patriarchs, which is a quick [0.2 mile] viewpoint featuring five mountain peaks: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, The Sentinel, and Mt. Moroni.
Hop off again at Stop 5 to hike the Lower Emerald Pool Trail - a very popular hike, especially among families. It is an easy out & back trail that spans 1.4 miles total. Most of it is paved & you get to surprise the kids by walking behind a small waterfall! This stop also has the Zion Lodge & the only restaurants in the park. You can continue on via the Grotto Trail from here to Stop 6 or hop back on the shuttle. Grotto Trail is the easiest in the park & is a quick 1-mile section. This one is a fan favorite of those with really small kids.
Get off at Stop 7, Weeping Rock Trail, to take in views of Weeping Rock, Angel’s Landing, the Great White Throne, Big Bend & Cable Mountain from here. This viewpoint is just a simple 0.3 mile out & back walk.
Also get off at Stop 9: Temple of Sinawava. This is the most popular stop. The Temple of Sinawava is a naturally formed rock amphitheater & is the entrance to the famous Narrows hike. The views here are incredible & from here, you can do the Riverside Walk Trail. This trail is 1.9 miles, out & back & leads to the entrance of the Narrows. It is super easy & is a must-do. Once you hit the entry point for The Narrows, you will see hikers walking through the Virgin River. That hike is 16 miles in total, through the water. The Narrows is very popular, but is also a slot canyon & can be dangerous due to flash floods & sometimes, the presence of toxic bacteria. No permit is needed (when entering from the south) so you are allowed to enter & explore some if desired but recommend checking the national park site for advisories first.
-You can switch shuttles at the Visitor Center to head back to LaFave.
The shuttle ride itself is very scenic & takes about 45 minutes each way if you don’t get off at any stops. Restrooms/water fountains are available at stops 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, & 9.
If looking to eat out for dinner, drive 3 minutes to Spotted Dog for a delicious farm-to-fork dinner. Head back to soak in the starry night on your balcony or enjoy the hot tub/pool.
Day 3: Page/Lake Powell, AZ
Depending on the level of hikes you are looking to do, you can add a day in Zion here or continue on to the Page, Arizona/Lake Powell area. If you get an early enough start, you could also just fit in one last one before heading out. This is laid out more as suggestions/ideas for the day than a chronological itinerary. If heading on to Lake Powell/Page, grab breakfast at Oscar's Cafe before hitting the road for the 2ish hour drive.
I recommend staying at Under Canvas-Lake Powell for the ultimate glamping experience underneath the most stunning desert sky. If you arrive in the area before time to check-in, I suggest heading on to Page, about 20 minutes away. **PLEASE NOTE THE TIME DIFFERENCE HERE. Under Canvas in on the Utah side of the line of Page/Antelope Canyon/Horseshoe Bend are all on the Arizona side, which is an hour ahead.**
If the weather is nice, exploring Lake Powell by boat is an excellent way to see the area & enjoy the day. There are several places to either rent a boat or go on a tour from Page. If that isn't in the cards, at least make a stop at the Wahweap Overlook for incredible views of the lake. The beautiful Horseshoe Bend is also in this area & is a must-visit.
Spend the rest of the day at Under Canvas, enjoying all they have to offer. There are different family-focused activities planned throughout the day & each night ends with complimentary s'mores & stargazing! There is cafe-style dining on the premises for dinner.
Day 4: Antelope Canyon & Grand Canyon
Grab breakfast at Under Canvas before loading up & heading off on your tour of the mesmerizing Antelope Canyon. *Keep the time difference in mind!* These slot canyons are protected by the Navajo Nation & must be visited by tour. You can either opt to do the Upper, Lower or both. Both tours last around 1-1.5 hours. Grab lunch & fuel up if needed in Page if needed before heading on to the East Entrance of the Grand Canyon, an hour & 48 minutes away. I recommend staying at El Tovar on the South Rim inside the park for this stretch of the trip. It doesn't get any closer to the action than this hotel & you will need to book well, well in advance.
One of the most scenic drives in the Grand Canyon, Desert View Drive, happens to be on your way from the entrance to El Tovar. Check-in at ET isn’t until 4pm & usually, early check-in is not an option. Desert View Drive is a 23-mile drive that starts at the Desert View Services Area/Desert View Watchtower & ends at the Visitor Center. It has seven developed canyon viewpoints, four picnic areas, five unmarked pullouts & the Tusayan Pueblo Site. You will end at the Visitor Center. A 5-minute walk behind the center leads to Mather Point, which juts out over the canyon & provides a stunning view.
You can either just rest & relax after checking in or can explore part of the Grand Canyon Village, located just outside of El Tovar. Pop down to the South Rim Trail that runs behind the hotel near sunset to take in the views over the canyon (or the El Tovar Lounge Patio if there is space). I recommend dinner at the El Tovar Dining Room.
Day 5: Grand Canyon
El Tovar Dining Room offers breakfast or you can pop over to the Maswik Food Court to be able to find things the whole family loves. You have multiple choices for how to spend the day & will want to prepare for the day similarly to Zion. This day will again be more of a range of options as opposed to a chronological itinerary.
Tours - the Park offers several options for tours including mule rides, river rafting & bus tours.
A self-guided option is the Hermit Road Overlook via free shuttle (or bike/walk/combo, private vehicles not allowed). It spans 7 miles & hosts 9 viewpoints.
You can also rent bikes for the day. The only place to rent bikes is Bright Angel Bikes & Café, located at the main visitor center you visited the first day. You can do a guided bike tour from here or you can do one of the self-guided tours that they have designed.
Hike part of Bright Angel Trail - This is one of the most stunning & most popular hikes in the park. It is over 15 miles total & goes down into the canyon. Due to the difficult nature, some people will just do the first couple of miles & turn back, especially with littles in tow.
You could also hike some of the other shorter hikes, such as South Kaibab to Ooh Aah Point (1.8 miles) or South Kaibab to Cedar Ridge (3.1 miles). You can organize hikes with guides if preferred.
Lastly, you can also check out other parts of the Grand Canyon Village or add on more challenging hikes in the park.
Days 6-8: Sedona
Start your morning with some breakfast & coffee from Bright Angel Fountain & watch the canyons wake up. Finish up any activities you didn't get to from the previous days before checking out & heading on to Sedona for the last leg of your trip. It should take just over 2 hours to get there.
I recommend staying at one of our stunning partner properties in Sedona - either the beautiful Enchantment Resort or if you are looking for a really luxurious end to your trip, L'auberge de Sedona. L'auberge offers incredibly tranquil riverside cottages that are perfect for families.
If you arrive in town before you are able to check in, Tlaquepaque Arts Village is a great way to spend the afternoon. This will give you a true sense of Sedona & provide a little break from outdoorsy things. Internationally renowned, this shopping district prides itself on one-of-a-kind works of all types & you will likely experience local artisans in action. It is open daily from 10am to 6pm. If looking for lunch while you are visiting, check out Pump House.
The remainder of this guide is more of a list of recommendations on how to spend your remaining time in Sedona than a chronological itinerary.
Sedona is known to be a very spiritual place, focused on wellness & healing. Many of the top attractions involve those elements & vortexes are a huge thing in Sedona.
-Visit the Chapel of the Holy Cross, known to be one of the top 10 most beautiful churches in the world. It is free to visit & is open from 9am-5pm daily. It is said to also be a vortex.
-The Amitabha Stupa & Peace Park is also among the top attractions in Sedona. It is a beautiful outdoor venue & a spiritual destination for prayer, meditation, & the experience of peace in a sacred place. It is open, sun up to sun-down & is free.
Hiking is obviously another one of the most popular things to do in Sedona. If looking to take in some of the stunning Sedona scenery on the trails, here are a few family-friendly options:
-Tea Cup Trail to Coffee Pot Rock - 2.2 mile, easy loop. *The full thing is 2.7 miles, but there is a scrambling section up Coffee Pot Rock at the end that is not recommended with smaller kids. You can see on the AllTrails map where to just continue on the loop instead of continuing on toward Coffee Pot Rock.*
-Chuck Wagon Supper & Show at Blazin’ M Ranch, a 20-minute drive from Sedona, provides a unique (& cheesy in a good way) family experience. This attraction is set up to mimic an old western town.
A few other dining recommendations for your time here include The Red Rock Cafe, The Vault & Creekside American Bistro for breakfast. The Vault & Creekside also serves lunch/dinner. Other options include Rascal, René Restaurant, Pisa Lisa, Javelina Cantina & for an upscale dining experience, Mariposa.
I recommend flying out of PHX, about 2 hours from Sedona, depending on traffic. *Definitely plan ahead if driving down the same day as your flight as traffic can become really congested*
Tips & Tricks
Purchase an America the Beautiful pass. This will give you & your family access to all of the National Parks & many of the federal sites in the US for roughly the same cost as purchasing a pass separately at each of the spots on this itinerary.
-Do your research on age-appropriate gear for your littles. Having a good carrier (if needed) & the proper supplies will be a game-changer.
-Keep time zones in mind! Nevada = PDT Pacific Daylight Time (1 hr behind Utah), Utah = MDT Mountain Daylight Time (1 hr ahead of Nevada) & Arizona = MST Mountain Standard Time (1 hr behind Utah). Nevada & Arizona share the same time; they are just technically in different time zones because Arizona does not observe daylight savings time.
-Prep for the weather. The temperatures in this climate can vary drastically & layers are a necessity.
-Download the AllTrails app. Even if you are just planning to do shorter hikes, this app is great for keep on trail & helping to plan out which hikes are suitable for your family.
-Plan early! Accommodations in these areas tend to fill up well in advance, especially in peak seasons. If you are interested in lodging located inside of any of the parks, lock those in first.
Need to Know
Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out my guide, Off the Beaten Path Ireland – The Skellig Islands.
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