Perfect Southern Utah Packing List: Zion National Park Printable Packing List

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Southern Utah is one of our absolute favorite places to go with our kids. It’s a great escape from where we live in the mountains near Park City, and it has so many great places to explore and adventure, that the entire family loves.

Since all of Southern Utah is a giant desert, you really need to be careful with what you pack when you travel to Zion National Park, especially for the kids. Even though it’s a desert, it’s not uncommon to see snow in the winter, get hit by summer monsoons, and feel like you’ve been through 4 seasons in just one week. We’ve put together our best packing suggestions for Zion and all of Southern Utah including what to pack for St George, the nearest big town to Zion.

What to Pack for Zion Year Round

Below you’ll find suggestions for what to pack for Zion all throughout the year. We give packing suggestions for winter in Zion, what to bring to Zion in the spring and fall, and what things to wear in Zion during the hot summer months. First of all though, below you’ll find the year that you need to bring to Zion regardless of what season you visit during.

what to pack for zion

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Sturdy hiking shoes

Whatever your Southern Utah itinerary has on it, I’m pretty sure that you’ll find yourself doing a fair amount of hiking.  

For adults, we prefer to wear trail running shoes instead of hiking shoes, since they tend to be more flexible and comfortable.  Here are some of our top recommendations for trail running shoes for hikers.

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If you’re planning on spending time in the water in Zion doing things like tubing the Virgin River or hiking and swimming in Pine Creek, you’ll want some Chaco sandals.  I’ve been wearing Chacos for over 20 years, and they’re still my go-to favorite. I also wear these hiking a lot since they offer good footbed support and have a rugged sole.  

For kids, we’ve writtent two separate articles that break down all the best choices for you to check out:  Best Hiking Shoes for Kids, and also the Best Outdoor Sandals for Kids.

Hat with good sun protection

While a hat might not be considered incredibly stylish, it’s a whole lot more stylish than a horrible sunburn, or worse skin cancer.  When the sun isn’t as intense, we all tend to prefer trucker hats like these ones since they’re lightweight and the prints are super fun.   When the sun in more intense in late spring and summer, you will want better coverage from a wide brim hat like this one or a safari style hat are a great idea. I love that they give great sum protection, but also will keep your heat cool since they’re lightweight.

kids in sunday afternoon hats

For the kids, we’ve tried dozens of hats over the years and keep coming back to Sunday Afternoon Hats.  There wide brim hats have great coverage and are easy to pack, and their other hats have awesome enough designs that even my 13-year-old doesn’t complain about wearing one.

Hiking socks

When you’re anywhere around Zion you can pretty much guarantee that you’ll be getting sand in your shoes throughout the day, and if you’re not careful, that can lead to blisters.  I recommend getting a couple pairs of hiking socks before you go to help avoid the irritation and to keep as much sand as possible from getting in your socks, of just skipping shoes altogether and hiking in outdoor sandals. Trust me, regular athletic socks really don’t cut it for the sand in Utah (as much as my wallet would love that). Here are some great hiking socks for men, hiking socks for women, and of course, hiking socks for kids here and more socks here. While these are more money, this pair has a lifetime warranty so if you want something that lasts, get some of these socks.

A high quality cooler

A cooler is an absolute necessity when you are traveling through the Utah desert.  We’ve broken down our favorite things about some of the best affordable high-quality coolers here.  For most of our trips, we take this cooler since it’s lightweight, durable, keeps food ultra cold, and is the perfect size for a day out with the family.  Also, make sure to keep a good eye on your ice situation, as ice has a harder time staying frozen in a hot car.

canyon cooler in the desert

Comfortable Hiking Backpack

On a trip to Zion National Park, a good backpack is so important, since you’ll be wearing it almost constantly.  Our top recommendations are backpacks like this from Osprey which is my personal favorite – I have the women’s backpack and there is also a men’s version.

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This has been my go-to pack for the last 7 years, and I absolutely love it.  It’s a perfect backpack for hiking in Southern Utah since the mesh panel separates the backpack from your back, keeping you significantly cooler. I also love the hydration system that it comes with, since it holds 2.5 L of water and the bite valve sticks to a magnet on your chest strap (so you don’t have to bother with the annoyance of clipping and unclipping it).  These backpacks aren’t cheap, but they’re backed by Osprey’s Lifetime Warranty so you know it’s money well spent.  

For kids, I recommend just having them hike with a hydration pack with a small pocket. If you want to choose a great hydration pack for your kids, we’ve reviewed the top 10 kids hydration packs.

Compact towel

Even though you are in the middle of the desert in Southern Utah, there are plenty of things to do that involve water, and even hikes where you have the option of hiking in the river, like Red Canyon, and The Narrows.  We always through a couple of these towels in our backpack and they’re a lifesaver when we just need to dry off a bit, or when it’s just so hot that one of the kids has to jump into the nearest stream NOW (which they’ll always be begging to do in Zion with the Virgin River RIGHT THERE).  They weigh almost nothing, and are one of our favorite items to always have on hand (ours have been to over 30 countries with us, and on almost every trip since our gap year).

A good camera

The beauty of Zion and the entire St George area in Southern Utah is something that you’ll want to capture so that you never forget it.  I shoot most of my photos on this affordable DSLR Camera, and love how easy it is to use. Of course in the desert, make sure to use special caution not to get sand in the camera of the lens as that can cause damage, but I’ve never had many problems by just being aware of that.  

desert photography with DSLR

For video, nothing quite captures footage quite like a GoPro. I know it can be a bit hard to choose with all the models of GoPro out there, but we are on our 3rd GoPro, and just bought the GoPro Hero 8, and it blows all the other models out of the water. I can literally run behind my kids, and the video is completely smooth and looks like I have an expensive gimbal mount on it. The sound and image quality are significantly better with the Hero 8, so it’s a fantastic choice for capturing family memories.

The GoPro can also take photos remotely from their app, which lets me see what we look like before taking the photo (priceless for family photos!) One of my favorite features of shooting on a GoPro is that you can just download the footage to your phone, put it in their Quik app, and get a nice little video that puts together all your footage in just a few minutes.  

Insect repellant

In the spring, summer, and fall, there are certain areas around Zion where the bugs can get pretty annoying once the sun goes down.  This is our favorite bug spray since it’s all-natural, smells good, and works incredibly well.

Sunscreen

We spend a massive amount of time outside, and this sunscreen has been our go-to for years.  I love that it’s got a high SPF rating (we all burn really easily), and that it doesn’t sting the kids eyes.  We always slather everyone up before an adventure, but then keep one of these sunscreen sticks in each of our backpacks to touch up throughout the day.

I burn very easily on my face and neck (and have had several spots of skin cancer removed there), so I prefer to wear this extra high SPF sunscreen that’s also really gentle on my skin.  

A water bottle that doesn’t leak

A good water bottle only really needs to do one thing – not leak.  Having a water bottle leak and lose all your water when you’re out in the desert can be incredibly dangerous. I’ve tried more water bottles that I can even remember, and the absolute best out there are Nalgene bottles.  I’ve never had one of their bottles leak or break, and I’ve been using them since I was just a kid (over 30 years ago).  While it’s tempting to get a fancy bottle, I really recommend just sticking with a regular Nalgene so you never have to worry about water spilling and ruining something else in your bag.

While I wouldn’t hike with this, we also keep this giant insulated bottle in our car for filling up water bottles with cold water throughout the day (because no one likes boiling hot water).  It is seriously the best thing ever and always feels so refreshing to come back to the car and have a nice big drink of ICE WATER!

What to pack for Zion in the winter

If you’re planning a trip to the Zion area in the winter, come prepared for cold temperatures.  The desert gets pretty cold in the winter and high temperatures are often in the 30’s and 40’s and it even snows on occasion, especially when you get to higher elevations.  

zion in winter

The trick to staying warm in Zion in the winter is to dress in LAYERS.  Below I’ll show you (including exact product recommendations) what to pack for Zion in the winter, and what to pack for St George in the winter.

For women, I love this combination of base layers, durable hiking pants, a warm shirt, a warm hat, and a down jacket.

For men, my husband wears something similar to these pants, a half-zip shirt, and a down coat.

For our kids, they always wear base layers, a warm shirt (with a t-shirt underneath) and a synthetic puffy coat (down is hard to maintain with kids).  

What to pack for Zion in the Spring and Fall

Not sure what to pack for Zion in the spring and fall? If you’re planning a trip to Zion and Southern Utah in the Spring, expect warm temperatures, and cool nights.  The high temperatures often range from the 70’s to low 90’s and can get down into the 40’s at night, so you’ll need a variety of clothing for all the different temperatures (especially if you’re planning on camping or going hiking in the early morning).  

zion ins spring and fall

Here is what you need to pack for Zion in the spring and fall, as well as the rest of Southern Utah in the spring and fall.

Here’s what we pack for Zion for our family:

  • Outdoor Sandals
  • Trail running shoes
  • Hiking Socks
  • Hat
  • Swimming Suit
  • Athletic wicking t-shirts to keep you dry from sweat- Recommended: Women, Men, Boys, Girls
  • Hiking shorts – Recommended: Women, Men, Boys, Girls
  • Lightweight hiking pants – Recommended: Women, Men, Boys, Girls
  • Long-sleeve zip-up shirt
  • Fleece Jacket

What to pack for Zion in the Summer

If you’re planning a trip to Southern Utah and Zion in the summer, be prepared for the HEAT!  Here is exactly what you need to pack for your trip to Zion, St George, and Southern Utah in the summer. Even though temperatures in Utah in the summer can get cray hot, the good news is that you can almost always find ways to beat the Utah heat outside in the summer.
Here’s what we pack for everyone:

  • Outdoor Sandals
  • Trail Running Shoes
  • Hiking Socks
  • Hat
  • Swimming Suit COTTON T-shirts (they will stay moist from your sweat, which actually helps cool you down)
  • Hiking Shorts
  • Fleece Jacket

How to manage the heat in Zion during the Summer

During the summer in Zion, you’ll need to be very conscious of the temperatures, so knowing how to manages the heat of Zion during the summer is essential. Thankfully, inside of Zion National Park, there is a lot of shade in the valley, but outside of that, you’re going to be pretty exposed, so make sure you’re prepared.

If you want to go hiking or biking during the summer in Southern Utah, it’s absolutely possible. Our goal when we hike in this area, is to go really early in the morning so we are done by around 10:30, and then we head out again after 5pm. If you’re heading to Zion, the best time to hike is in the evening, since the crowds are significantly smaller than in the mornings, and you’ll have a chance to get some places all to yourself.

In the summer the best activities to do in Southern Utah during the middle of the day are floating the Virgin River, visiting a splash pad, and spending the day Sand Hollow or Quail Creek Reservoirs.

What to wear hiking in Zion

Choosing the right clothes to wear hiking in Zion and St George is really important because wearing the wrong clothes can leave you chaffed, sweating, or freezing depending on what time of year it is.

hiking zion

In our seasonal suggestions for what to pack, I gave lots of specific suggestions for clothing that’s exactly like what we would wear hiking in Zion. Our top tip for hiking clothing in Utah is to dress in layers. The temperature difference between morning and evening can be as much as 50 degrees different. This can be extra exaggerated if you’re going to be hiking in the sunshine vs the shade (about a 20 degree difference), and slot canyons can be as much as 40 degrees cooler than open air.

What to pack for kids in Zion

As you can see from above, our kids wear essentially the same clothing that we do.  We are big believers that it’s important to invest in good quality clothing for our kids, since it keeps them comfortable and helps them to stay out on adventures longer.  Also, when I buy high quality clothes for my kids, I’m able pass them down between multiple kids so they last longer too.

kids in zion

When you head to Southern Utah with your kids, make sure to take a few things to help them EXPLORE.  There are lizards to be caught (not allowed in the National Parks though), critters to examine, and lots of rocks to add to their rock collection.  We always pack a few exploring toys for our kids when we go to the desert – here are some of our favorites:

A bug collecting jar

Kids Binoculars

Sand buckets and shovels (these collapsible ones are great if you are traveling form far)

A small backpack for treasures (this one doubles as a hydration pack).  

A bug/lizard catching net (these telescoping ones are great for putting in your backpack and suitcase)

What to pack for a baby or toddler in Zion

If you’re heading to Southern Utah and Zion with a baby, there are a few extra things that you’ll want to add to your list to keep both you and baby more comfortable.

The biggest necessity you need when visiting Utah with a baby is this baby carrier.  It’s absolutely the best for hot weather since the mesh inside helps to keep both the baby and parent cooler (as most baby carriers are REALLY HOT).  Here, I’m carrying my 2-year-old, but I use it from birth until age 5 (on those days that little legs just can’t keep up). I recommend this exact carrier to all new moms and I actually prefer it over our big framed backpack carrier.

If you’ve got a baby that really wants to move, but can’t walk yet, consider getting a play station like this or this one.  It’s a great way to keep them out of the sand and rocks, AND it folds up super compact so you don’t have to stress about bringing it with you.  

Soft baby shoes are also essential.  The ground in Southern Utah seems to either be super hot or super cold, so make sure to protect your little one’s feet (even if they aren’t walking much).  We’ve loved soft baby shoes like these for our infants and flexible sole shoes like these for our beginning walkers since they help our babies really feel what’s underfoot, and it seems to help them learn to walk on uneven terrain better.

A sturdy picnic blanket where you can lay them down.  Don’t get a flimsy parachute blanket since baby will usually have it in a mess within a couple minutes of moving around, and rocks always seem to poke through that type.  This blanket is a good option.

Don’t forget to bring a baby-friendly sippy cup or water bottle as well.  We’ve tried dozens with out 5 kids, and this cheap one was always the best and almost never leaks! Even if your baby is just barely starting to drink water, you need to make sure they stay hydrated, so offer water or milk to them often.  In the heat, we start offering our babies water around 5 months old. If you’re a breastfeeding mom, staying extra hydrated in the desert can be hard, but it’s essential. Most recommendations suggest drinking 1 Gallon of water per day in the desert heat, so if you’re nursing, plan on about 1.5 gallons (5-6 L)

When is the best time of year to visit Zion and St George?

People regularly ask us when the best time of year is to visit Zion, St George, and the entire Southern Utah region. The best time of year to visit Zion is in the Spring and in the Fall.  In winter it can get pretty cold, with temperatures often below freezing.  In the summer, the temperatures can get up to 105-110 degrees, and there isn’t always.  Obviously the crowds are higher in the spring and fall when the weather is fantastic. If you want to avoid crowds in Zion, plan on going in the winter.

zion with a toddler

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