Advice on Bryce Canyon/Escalante area with a toddler
May 15, 2014 11:38 AM   Subscribe

My wife I will be visiting Bryce Canyon in early June with our 2-year-old son. We want to do the Navajo/Queens Garden loop. Would this hike be safe/doable considering one of us will be (mostly) carrying our son in a pack? We are in decent physical shape, but online I'm seeing some hikers say it is an easy hike and others saying it is strenuous and very steep. We're also looking for suggestions for other good bang-for-your-buck hikes in Bryce, Zion, Grand Staircase/Escalante area that would be good for us with the little one. Thanks in advance!
posted by burlsube to Travel & Transportation around Utah (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
That loop would be super-safe with a kid in a pack- I don't remember anything more treacherous than you would find in an average hike. A small chunk of it is steep switchbacks, but overall it is pretty tame if you are in even reasonable shape, have moderate hiking experience and have decent shoes.

The two best hikes in Zion- Angel's Landing and the Narrows- I probably *wouldn't* do with a kid in a pack, for comparison.

My biggest concern would be sun protection, honestly- hats/more water than you think you need/good sunblock/lightweight long sleeves for the kiddo etc.
posted by charmedimsure at 11:51 AM on May 15, 2014

Not a hike, per se, but a fun excursion (and cheap place to rent a cabin): Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.
posted by melissasaurus at 12:03 PM on May 15, 2014

As for what you CAN do- in Zion the Riverwalk Trail is nice. Paved, easy. On the not-so-popular west side of Zion by St. George, UT, the Taylor Creek/Double Arch Alcove trail is about 5 miles round trip, flat, sometimes shady and very pleasant. Angel's Landing is pretty strenuous and there are too many spots where you could throw yourself off a cliff with an off-balance toddler that it doesn't seem like a good idea. The Narrows is a walk in the river

In Bryce, there's a paved trail along the rim that is pleasant, but it is nicer to get down into it on the hike you are thinking of. There's a nice little hike just outside the main park entrance to Mossy Cave that is along a little creek that I liked.

Between Bryce and Zion there is a park called Red Canyon in Dixie National Forest with some nice little loops. Great scenery, totally under-appreciated.

I always recommend a side-trip to Pink Coral Sand Dunes for sheer weirdness, but that might be really hot/difficult with a toddler. It's not really hiking to hang out there- more horrible sand-slogging anyway.

Grand Staircase/Escalante would be tough without a lot of hiking experience and a vehicle with high clearance, in my experience. The slot canyons are the coolest thing there, and they involve very sketchy "trails" in unbearable summer conditions.
posted by charmedimsure at 12:05 PM on May 15, 2014

This hike shouldn't present a problem, but you've got to be smart about where you are: at altitude, in the desert, far from amenities. Take more sunblock, water, food, shade (hat, umbrella for toddler, etc) than you might otherwise, share the load, take breaks where you find shade, do a shorter test hike first maybe.
posted by OHenryPacey at 12:50 PM on May 15, 2014

Kodachrome Basin State Park is not far off rte 12 and it's stunning, with several easy hikes and awesome rocks.

We hiked at least part of this loop when we were at Bryce, and it was definitely Noticeable when we were on the uphill trails. If you're coming from sea level and you've got a toddler on your back, chances are you will, too.
posted by rtha at 1:12 PM on May 15, 2014

You should be fine on those trails. I would think you would be careful walking downhill so as not not slip on some of the sandier spots of the trail.

As for Zion, I wholeheartedly agree that the Narrows is wrong for you but the Riverwalk trail to the start of the Narrows is perfectly easy (to give you an idea it is wheelchair accessible) and there is a lot of great beauty to be seen inside the narrow canyon. Another trail that is quite nice would be the Emerald Pools. Getting to the upper most pool would likely be a bit of challenge with a kid in a pack but the lower pools are very accessible and pretty.
posted by mmascolino at 3:11 PM on May 15, 2014

In Bryce The Navajo Loop/Queens Garden should be fine with a-two-year-old in a pack: some parts are steep but they are relatively short. It is a rigorously maintained and super popular trail. You should do the really easy but impressive Bristlecone Pine loop up at the top of the park drive at Rainbow Point as well -- truly stunning views there.

I second Kodachrome State Park just a bit outside Bryce. It really is lovely.

In Zion, I also totally agree with the recommendation for the Taylor Creek/Double Arch Alcove trail in the not-as-popular west side of Zion. This is a lovely hike as well that meanders along a creek in among some really beautiful and diverse landscaping. The double arch alcove at the end is truly rewarding. In Zion Canyon proper, you might enjoy the Watchman hike. Also a steep in spots and a decent ascent overall, but generally easy-to-moderate and very, very rewarding both during the hike and at the top. This hike is best done in the early day to avoid sun exposure.

Grand-Staircase/Escalante is going to be more difficult in terms of finding something good for your situation: long hikes, some quite technical. You might look at the Lower Calf Creek trail. It's relatively flat and also rewarding. Known as family-friendly. Parts involve some sandy switchbacks which makes for a real slog, though.
posted by beanie at 9:55 PM on May 15, 2014

Yeah- I thought about Lower Calf Creek Falls- which are, OP, super-lovely- but the last time I did it (starting at or before sunrise) it was oppressive, and I'm not sure how much I would have been stoked to have a miserable small child on my back while slogging through the sand. It was nice! I would do it again! But parts of it will leave a not-as-experienced Utah hiker wondering why to bother.

I feel like Grand Staircase/Escalante is kind of a deep cut of Utah hiking- do it after you have really explored the main stops.

Other places near (ish) Zion and Bryce kind of near St. George/Cedar City: Cedar Breaks National Monument is like a mini-Bryce. It is at 10,000 feet so it is cool- there is sometimes a little snow left in June- and there's a trail that wanders the rim that's reasonable, and a couple little nature loops.

In Snow Canyon State Park near St. George there are some fun orange pink sand dunes right off the road, and some other spots of interest notated in their little ranger guidebook that are fun (Jenny's Canyon, I forget what else). Also near St. George is Red Cliffs, which has a cool little trail in the slick redrock.

I'll second? Third? Kodachrome- a little off the path, but weird/cool and manageable. We rented a cabin and took some great star pictures.
posted by charmedimsure at 10:36 PM on May 15, 2014

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