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Pa'rus Trail and Zion Canyon Drive

Sometimes, a biker has to take a break from kickin' rock and spend a little time with the family. Well, here's an awesome day for you: Bike up Zion Canyon with the kids.

View of the cliffs above the virgin river, with a small waterfall. March 31, 2001.

Going up the canyon to the end of the road (Temple of Sinewava), you'll spend 2 miles on the paved Pa'rus Trail, then 6 miles on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive road. You'll gain 450 feet of elevation. It's not a difficult ride, but it will take a while, so the kids will appreciate a few breaks from pedaling. Stop and take a couple of short hikes along the way. (Our map -- see below -- shows some good spots for a pedaling break.)

The trip up Zion Canyon starts at the parking lot on the right side of the road, just before the toll both for Zion National Park. (Yep, that's right, you can duck the entrance fee, although we suggest you pay your fair share.) You can get to the Pa'rus trail by taking the dirt singletrack that leaves the north end of the parking lot. Ride this trail into the South Campground (about 1/4 mile), then find the Virgin River on the main campground road. The paved Pa'rus Trail starts right alongside the river.

The Pa'rus Trail is paved. It's wide and flat enough that towing a bike trailer full of toddlers is NO problem. You'll go through the two Zion campgrounds and cross the Virgin River, Oak Creek, and Pine Creek.

Heading up the canyon from Zion Lodge, Dominic tows Samantha and Alexandra in the trailer, while Vince and Savannah are watched by their mother Suzie. March 31, 2001 by Bruce.

Once you arrive at the Zion - Mount Carmel Highway, it's time to cross the road and ride north up the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. That's the road that goes left. (Right takes you up steep switchbacks to the Mt. Carmel Tunnel, a stiff climb with a good chance you'll wind up underneath a Winnebago.) During peak season, shuttle buses go by every few minutes, but otherwise the road is yours. (Off-season -- example, March -- cars are allowed into this part of the canyon, which makes riding with young children a little unnerving.)

Vince admires the yucca plants along the trail, near the park entrance.

About three miles before the end of the canyon, you'll pass the Zion Lodge. The snack bar here is a good place to feed the kids if you don't want to pack lunch with you.

The kids will see squirrels, lizards, birds, and probably a mule deer or two, as you cruise underneath large cottonwood trees along the river. 

Depending on your energy level, you can take the kids on a few side hikes as a break from biking. These range from a quick break (Court of the Patriarchs, about 150 feet) to tough major climbs (Angel's Landing, 5 miles and about 1500 vertical feet). The riverside walk at the Temple of Sinewava is a paved 1-mile stroll to the mouth of the Virgin Narrows, a nice end-of-ride hike for your youngsters.

Flowing floodwaters have eroded the sandstone of the Virgin River into unusual formations.

We usually use a locking cable to lasso the bikes together at hiking stops -- so visiting California teens don't "borrow" a bike for the day. But you don't need to be paranoid about bike theft. Zion Canyon is not a "high crime area."

Bike rentals and repairs are nearby in Springdale (just outside the park entrance) at Bike Zion. If you have a special rental need (bike trailer, kid's bike), call them. Chances are they can help you.

Getting there:  Heading south on I-15, take the exit for Highway 17 to Toquerville and La Verkin. In La Verkin, watch for Highway 9 to Zion. It will turn off on your left. Continue east to Springdale. Just past the Zion Amphitheaters (on your right), you'll see the entrance station to Zion National Park. Pull into the parking lot on your right, just before the fee stations.

Riding resources:
One-page riding guide
Lodging, camping, shops: 
     Links to St. George area resources

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