Hiking with Kids: Fatherly Musings in Zion National Park, April 24 2015

Having been obsessed with statistics for most of my life, I’ve also been very goal oriented in much that I do. If there aren’t any inherit goals in an activity, I always seem to create them. This carried over into my hiking: a desire to take on the toughest trails I can safely handle, wanting to improve my performance each successive time I hike a trail and in general, just pushing myself to limits of my abilities, if only to see what I am capable of.

Family photo by the park entrance

After my son was born, I did not know what to do with myself. For the first few months, he would happily sit in a child carrier for a few hours. We stayed close to home, taking him on local trails. I enjoyed the challenge of carrying the extra weight, but it just wasn’t the same. Starting at around the age of 2, he decided that he wanted to hike on his own. He could hike at a surprisingly fast speed for his age, but the stops every 5 or 10 minutes to pick up sticks or build a mountain of rocks really cut into the time we actually spent hiking. I eventually learned that having an itinerary or making plans was nearly pointless.

“I’m on the bridge Mommy and Daddy! I’m on the bridge!”

On our recent trip to Zion, I had to remind myself of this. This was a challenge because two of my bucket list hikes are in the area – The Narrows and Angels Landing. Last year, I would have been trying to figure out just how much I could cram into our three days, but for this trip, I made no plans. The time during which I would normally be exploring a canyon or challenging my fear of heights, I was taking multiple rides on the shuttle (Ethan’s first time on a big bus), taking an extra long lunch break to pet the doggies, watching my son cross the same stream in the same spot again and again and again, and slowing down so that he could clean the sand off of every step on the Emerald Pool Trail.

Excitedly waiting for the shuttle bus

A few years ago, I couldn’t have imagined driving 12 hours knowing that these were the type of activities that awaited me. Now I finally understand that I have a different type of goal. A goal that will follow me wherever I bring my son and in everything we do – I need to cultivate and encourage my son’s sense of adventure and wonder. Help him dream big and believe that anything is possible. Build a respect and awe for Mother Nature. Help him understand why he’s collecting stamps showing his visits to National Parks, instead of collecting autographs from fictional characters at Disney.

Ethan encouraging Daddy to test the waterproofness of his Oboz Beartooth BDry boots

I know that the bug to hike the toughest trails or speed up a mountain will occasionally pop up and bite me, but looking over to see my son’s beaming face as he’s splashing in a babbling brook or running down a trail as fast as he can is enough to remind me of what I’m here for. Soon enough, he’ll be taking on those tough hikes with me and I’ll look back fondly at these times.

Trip Report

We started our hike at the Zion Lodge, taking the Emerald Pool-Lower, Middle & Upper trails to make it to the Upper Emerald Pool. Upon our descent, we hopped onto Kayenta Trail, hiking to the Grotto Picnic Area, where we took the shuttle to the Temple of Sinawava. From the Temple of Sinawava we hiked the Riverside Walk and spent some time playing in the water at the beginning of the Narrows. After returning to the Temple of Sinawava, we took the shuttle, getting off to view the Court of the Patriarchs. After the short climb to the observation point, we took the shuttle back to the park entrance and returned to our hotel.

Over 5 hours we covered around 5 miles – not bad considering my son hiked half of it and we spent 1.5 hours riding the shuttle. My son hiked from each trailhead to the turn-around points. If the trail is steep, or if we have more hiking planned for later in the day, we typically encourage him to ride in the pack on the way down. It usually takes some convincing, but luckily he wasn’t argumentative on this trip.

The next morning I got up early to go take some photos. Unfortunately it was raining and overcast, so I spent most of my time riding the shuttle. After packing up and checkout of our hotel, we drove the Zion – Mount Carmel Highway to see the tunnel and interesting rock formations.


Family hike, but nothing remote or strenuous. Gear was somewhat minimal.

Notable Gear

  • Cotton Carrier Strapshot 
    • Performed as expected. I do have some recommendation for Cotton Carrier in terms of design, but the utility of this piece is hard to beat at it’s price point.
  • Deuter Kid Comfort III
    • One of the best purchases we’ve made over the years. I’ve “comfortably” carried up to 55 lbs.
    • When I’ve not carry my son, I usually take my wife’s pack and place where he would normally sit. Makes the hike more enjoyable for her and I get a better workout.
  • Farm to Feet Merino Wool Socks –  Madison and Greensboro 1/4 Crew
    • I have been testing the microbial properties of Farm to Feet’s merino wool socks and they’re nothing short of amazing.
      • I’ve worn them up to three days, including 1 day of hiking without them smelling.
    • I doubled up on socks for this hike, since the Madison’s were a little thinner than what I’m used to.
  • Geigerrig Hydration Pack Engine
    • We put the Hydration Engine in an old Osprey pack that my wife likes. She’s becoming a big fan of the pressurized bladder. Maybe I’ll get to use it one of these days!
  • Oboz Beartooth BDry
    • After carrying my son around for half the day (pack weigh about 55 lbs with him in it) and figuring our my sock situation (see above), I’ve decided these boots will be used on my HST trip.

Geek Stats

  • Zion Family Hike || Distance: ~5 miles total || Duration: ~5 hrs (including shuttle rides, lunch, playing in water)


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3 Responses

  1. kamrawerk

    Lovely story. Enjoyed that so much. (found it on Twitter posted by American Hiking)

    • TheHikingGeek

      Thanks! It’s great to hear that people are enjoying it and sharing it!

  2. Alan Ritter

    Great photos! Love how the little ones sleep the night after a big day of fresh air and exercise! Keep him hiking!