Every Kid Outdoors Pass: Visiting Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park

Our oldest son is in fourth grade and he qualifies for the Every Kid Outdoors pass this year. This means that he and the family get free access to hundreds of parks, lands, and waters for an entire year. It is an amazing program for all fourth grade students in the United States.

We have previously purchased the America the Beautiful pass which is the Interagency Pass that provides access to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas across the United States. Our family didn’t purchase an America the Beautiful pass this year because we knew Caden would qualify for the Every Kid Outdoors pass. With this in mind we want to create really special memories for him and our family this year using his pass.

Our family packed up and headed to Utah last week to visit Zion and Bryce National Park. Along the way we stopped at the Hoover Dam and also took a drive through Las Vegas. We stayed in Saint George which ended up being a great starting point for our adventures to the National Parks.

Having never been to Utah before I purchased this book to help our family make the most of our two full days we had for Zion and Bryce. It was very helpful and I highly recommend this series by Moon Travel.

Bryce Canyon National Park

The weather was overcast and rainy the first day in the parks so we decided to go to Bryce to see the Canyon. We drove to Bryce on the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway which took us into Zion Park and it was well worth the extra 40 minutes of travel time. At the entrance to Zion, Caden handed the park ranger his paper pass we had printed out. The ranger made a big deal about Caden being responsible for us in the parks and exchanged the paper pass for the Every Kid Outdoors card. It was super cute. Once Caden signed the back of his card we were on our way to Bryce Canyon.

Zion-Mount Carmel Highway

From the Zion Park entrance the drive took about 2 1/2 hours to get to Bryce Canyon. It was a beautiful drive and honestly didn’t seem that long. We had the kids leave their tablets at the house we stayed at to make sure they really got to see everything as we went.

We stopped at The Rock Stop in Orderville and the kids got to pick out souvenirs and also had some tasty donuts. They enjoyed the donuts so much we stopped on the way back from Bryce for more.

Bryce Canyon National Park

The weather was windy, cold, and wet when we arrived at Bryce Canyon. I am not sure how busy it typically is at noon during the week but we didn’t wait long at the entrance and were able to park at the lodge. This worked out perfectly because Sunrise and Sunset Points are easily within walking distance to these locations to overlook the canyon.

I am so proud of the kids for how well they did during this trip. We walked 2 miles around the rim before it started to rain more. Bryce Canyon is beautiful.

Zion National Park

The weather was gorgeous! Mid September weather didn’t disappoint. It was 58 degrees when we arrived at 9am and when we left at 2pm it was 72 degrees. Our kids are 10, 8, 5, and 5 years of age and we were able to hike 6 miles with them the day we went.

We used the shuttle bus to get around and parked our car at the visitor center. Being midweek we were still able to get a parking spot inside the park. By the time we left there was no parking available at the visitor center and many spots were filled close to the Zion Park entrance in Springdale.

Thanks to our guidebook I had a general idea which hikes I thought we could manage with the kids. Our day started at Stop 9 Temple of Sinawava for the Riverside Walk. It was a perfect paved trail that led down The Narrows.

Up next we took a bus to the Grotto and hiked a dirt trail to the lodge. This took 20 minutes. Once we reached the lodge we had our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and snacks.

Our last hike of the day was Lower Emerald Pools. Again this was also paved but was uphill. The kids were troopers and were super excited to see the waterfall.

Before leaving the park we took the bus to The Court of the Patriarchs and saw Abraham, Issac, and Jacob.

Saint George & Washington, Utah

Saint George and Washington were a great starting point for all our adventures this trip. It worked out fantastic especially for Zion National Park. Bryce Canyon was more of a drive but the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway was beautiful.

If you are traveling to this area with children here are some places and activities I would recommend.

Pinkbox Doughnuts

Donuts. The cutest donuts ever. They also have vegan donuts which I appreciate because of my egg allergy. I lost it and couldn’t contain my laughter when I order the poo donuts for the kids. Be warned the tops of those things are made of frosting.

Thunder Junction All Abilities Park

We loved this park and visited three times during our trip. There is a splash park, playground, and train. The entire park is dinosaur themed.

Pop Drinks

On our way to Swig to get sodas after our day of hiking we drove by Pop and decided to try something new. We are glad we did. The soda mixes were great and they gave the kids popcorn with their drinks.

Dino Cliffs Trail

This was our last hike of the trip. It was slightly difficult to find and had it not been for local hiker we would have given up looking. In case you use AllTrails like we do don’t let the app route you to the hike. It had has park in the wrong area. Thankfully we were redirected by a hiker to the correct location. Once we located the trailhead and hiked down the wash area our dinosaur loving kids were able to see the dinosaur footprints hardened in the sedimentary rock. There are 17 well preserved tracks which paleontologists suggest were from bipedal, meat-eating dinosaurs during the Jurassic Period. From the trailhead it is a short distance to the tracks. Round trip this took us about 30 minutes.

We had a fantastic time in Southern Utah and would love to go back. The kids have already asked if we can go again next year. In total we hiked 10 miles in three days. Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park are beautiful and I am so glad this trip was able to happen.

If you are in or near the Mesa, Arizona area the Tonto National Forest Mesa Ranger District has the Every Kid Outdoors cards available in case your fourth grader would like to trade in the paper pass for a card.


Meet Finn ~ Our Sonoran Desert Tortoise

It has been one month since we adopted our Sonoran desert tortoise from Arizona Fish and Game Department. Meet Finn.

We don’t know if Finn is a boy or girl and will not know until Fin is about 10 years old. Fin is currently 1 year of age.

Finn is a super low key pet. Our tortoise lives in our backyard in an enclosure. Once it gets bigger, Finn will be able to roam freely in the yard.

In the first week of having our tortoise we found Finn flipped over upside down three times. This can be super dangerous especially for the baby tortoises. They will release their bladders when upside down and can quickly become dehydrated.

After finding Finn flipped so many times we decided it would be best to redo the burrow again and add extra dirt in the enclosure. I have lost count at this point how many times we have remade the burrow. And this last time we got it just right. It is the perfect size and after some pretty heavy rains also stays dry. Plus Finn has not flipped over again.

Finn is super low maintenance and is about to become even more low maintenance. From October to March, Finn should be in hibernation (in reptiles it is called brumation). Which is so crazy to think about.

Our tortoise’s diet consists of hay, dandelion greens, globemallow, and green leaf lettuce. I tired growing buckwheat in the enclosure which was a big hit and was devoured as soon as it started sprouting. Going forward I will probably need to grow it out of the enclosure and then I can add it in to the feeding mix.

Currently Finn fits perfectly in our hands. We are excited to watch our little tortoise grow.


Desert Tortoise Hatchling Burrow & Enclosure

We are getting ready to add another member to our family soon and will be adopting our desert tortoise hatchling this week! We are adopting through the Arizona Game and Fish Department. Under state law, desert tortoises are available for adoption for Arizona residents only.

Our family has been in full on research and learning mode for the last two months to prepare an enclosure and burrow. The kids were super eager and motivated to help prep the backyard space for our new little friend and we let them take shovels and rakes to clear the space for the desert tortoise enclosure.

Once the area was clear the construction began. This was a slower process due to the heat of summer. The burrow itself was the most time consuming to construct, mostly because we had no idea how to size it appropriately for a hatchling.

Inside the enclosure is the burrow, water dish, a globemallow and desert hibiscus plants. Our enclosure measures 4 feet by 4 feet. It is 2 feet tall and has a predator proof that Josh made with chicken wire and plywood. After several weeks the project was complete and our application submitted.

Once our application was submitted we received a response fairly quickly that all looked good but we needed to add more shade. This was an easy fix that included scissors, a sun shade, grommets, and zip ties. I also adjusted the burrow construction after watching this Hatchling Burrow Building and Care on YouTube that Arizona Game and Fish recently shared.

We are looking forward to welcoming our desert tortoise hatchling to their new home. And I am extra thankful that our kids will be able to have a pet that won’t aggravate their allergies inside our house.