If you have not yet been to Zion National Park, I highly recommend you go tomorrow. Zion has some of the most breath taking scenery in the US (in my opinion).
My husband and I do not usually shy from camping trips and most hiking invites, even with our two young children. This fall we went with a group of friends to camp near Zion and hike in the park. I just had our boy at the end of April and felt fully ready to participate by early September hiking. I had not been for a few months since I do like to give my body some recovery time after birth. In these short few months, my daughter had gone from being a 2 year old, to a 2 and a half year old! Which, really is a big difference in physical, emotional and cognitive abilities.
Last time we went hiking, she was kind of just along for the ride. She liked it but she was not independent or in charge of her pace and journey, we were (which ever one of us wore her last). But this time, she flourished. She enjoyed walking with her stick, tapping it in tempo with her steps, walking with traffic up the path. When we got to the water, she was ecstatic to explore. My husband and I watched her play and walk around, finding her way down the canyon. We noticed our friends waiting for us on a bank down the way a bit. Oh yeah… toddler legs are not quite as quick. Here we had the choice to interrupt Nadia’s adventure, or wave our friends along so they could go without us. Easy choice, we gestured with big arms to go.
Now, our adult friends probably hiked three times as far as us that day, and that is okay. We let Nadia lead us and she took us on a shorter but deeper path. If you recall the saying “stop and smell the roses”, that is probably the best description of how we ended up hiking. We stopped to admire rocks, to pick up leaves, to watch bugs, to touch the canyon walls, to watch other hikers… we stopped a lot. Each stop was jam packed with toddler descriptions of what was happening and what went through her mind about it.
Our baby slept most of the hike, but when he woke up, Nadia was thorough in describing what he missed and what was happening now that he was awake. We stopped when it had been about half the time we panned to hike, and decided to hang out for a little bit, then turn back. Our toddler was pretty tired, so she got put up on her papa’s back. Because both kids were up on us, it took significantly less time to walk back. So we waited for our friends by some big rocks at the edge of the water. The rest of the way back to the parking lot, we talked to Nadia about her hike and what she liked about it. She had soaked up so much.
Honestly, this was my favorite narrows hike I had ever been on. Nadia showed me so much of the small stuff that I usually zoom past. We did not get very far that day but we saw so much. More importantly, our daughter experienced as much as she could, and took full advantage of what the canyon had to offer her. I loved hiking this trail with a toddler so much. If you have young children, and are nervous about hiking, I say try it. It might be different, but it is still so amazing