We visited Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park with kids in late-April (our kids were 3 & 5 years old at the time). Our family loves being active, while enjoying the beauty of nature, so Arches and Canyonlands National Park were a perfect fit for our lifestyle. We spent 5 days in Moab, UT enjoying the wide variety of natural wonders these two amazing national parks have to offer.
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Things to do in Arches National Park
Delicate Arch Trail
The Delicate Arch is the most Instagram-able, superstar attraction of the park. As such, it’s a super busy trail, so get there early.
The hike to see the arch up close is a moderately easy 3 mile (4.8km) round trip. Everyone is on the trail to see the Delicate Arch, but as a huge bonus, the trail itself is a lot of fun with great views of the surrounding national park.
The middle section of this hike is a large, sloped section of slickrock which kids of all ages will find fun. Be aware there is a potentially dangerous drop-off during the final 200 yards of this trail.
Facilities: There are bathrooms within the parking lot, but no water station.
Read more on hiking to Delicate Arch with Kids
Devil’s Garden Loop Trail
The Devil’s Garden Loop Trail is actually three separate hikes stitched together with a total roundtrip distance of 7.2 miles / 11.6 km. Anyone of any age and ability will be able to hike the flat & easy trail to see the Landscape Arch, one of the longest stone spans in the world. At a minimum, it’s worth the drive to this most northern section of the park to see this arch – it’s massive!
The Double O Trail and the Primitive Trail combine to make the trail a loop. They are difficult trails and potentially dangerous for small kids. We elected not to do the most northern part of the loop as we were concerned about our kids listening abilities and therefore their safety.
We were still able to hike the safe sections of each trail (totaling 5.4 miles / 8.7km) and had an enormously good time enjoying some incredible scenery.
Facilities: There are washrooms and a water station at the trailhead.
Read more on hiking the Devil’s Garden Loop Trail with kids
Park Avenue Trail
It’s easy to drive right past this hike near the entrance to the park, but that is a mistake; this is a must-do short hike in Arches. Park Avenue runs in the valley bottom with towering rock walls on either side. If you want to know what it’s like to feel small, just wait until you are here.
This 0.9 mile / 1.5km one-way trail is not a loop and runs primarily downhill from south to north.
Read more on Park Avenue Trail in our 5 Easy Walks in Arches NP
Delicate Arch Lookout Trail
This short and relatively easy hike is a good alternative for those who want to see the Delicate Arch but are unable to do the full hike up to it.
Read more on the Delicate Arch Lookout Trail in our 5 Easy Walks in Arches NP
Double Arch Trail
This is an easy walk through a scrub forest to a rare & dramatic double arch within Arches National Park. When you arrive at the arches, there is an opportunity to scramble up some slickrock to get directly underneath the pair, providing an excellent vantage point to enjoy this unique feature as well as the Windows Arches across the way.
The roundtrip distance of this walk is 0.7 / 1.1km roundtrip. There is negligible elevation gain unless you elect to hike up the slickrock underneath the double arch.
Read more on Double Arch Trail in our 5 Easy Walks in Arches National Park
Windows Loop Trail
This easy 0.8 mile / 1.3km loop shares the same parking lot as the Double Arch Trail. The main attraction of this hike are the side-by-side arches (as opposed to the front-to-back Double Arches), with a bonus third arch (the Turret Arch).
If you like climbing underneath arches, you will have the chance to do so with all three here. You can see the Double Arch from spots on this trail, but you really need to get up close to them to properly enjoy them.
Read more on Windows Loop Trail in our 5 Easy Walks in Arches NP
Sand Dunes Arch Trail
If you’re looking for a genuinely kid-friendly activity in Arches National Park, look no further than the Sand Dunes Arch Trail. This super short & easy trail leads to a small arch with a sand dune underneath it. It’s basically a beach without an ocean!
Kids will love the ability to plop down in the sand and play. Several families were prepared for this and actually had pails and shovels for their kids. The sand dune is reason enough to visit, but it’s also nice and shady providing welcome relief from the hot Utah sun.
Read more on the Sand Dunes Arch Trail in our 5 Easy Walks in Arches National Park
Arches National Park 4×4 Adventure
Explore the isolated corners of Arches National Park by 4×4. This kid-friendly 5-hour tour from Moab visits famous rock formations, follows a former cowboy trail and even has dinosaur footprints!
Arches Junior Ranger Program
Arches runs a great Junior Ranger program for the kids. Kids need to pick up a handbook from the Arches National Park Visitor Center and complete a certain number of activities within the book (the number increases with the age of the child). The required activities are age appropriate and will teach kids and parents alike some great things about the park and how to behave such that generations to come will be able to enjoy the park.
Getting Into Arches National Park
The entrance to Arches National Park can get extremely congested, so to make the most of your visit get there as early as you can. Our Lonely Planet recommended to get to the park by 7am. We thought this sounded excessive and asked our campground staff what they thought, and they agreed with the advice saying that lineups to get into the park can exceed an hour if you get there at 8:30.
We hate waiting in car lineups, so we heeded this advice and arrived at the park around 7:15 each day. The gates are unmanned at this time, so we were able to drive straight through with no delay. We had an annual National Park Pass so we kept driving, but all others need to stop at the Arches National Park Visitor Center to pay admission.
Things to do in Canyonlands National Park
Slickrock Trail – Needles
Located in the Needles area of Canyonlands National Park, the Slickrock Trail is one of the best family-friendly hikes in Utah. This 2.7 mile (4.5 km) trail follows along the outer edges of a V-shaped mesa providing outstanding views of the national park and the “needles” the area is named for.
The trail itself is made mostly of slickrock (thus the name) with non-stop opportunities for small kids to climb, crawl and jump on kid-sized rock formations.
Read more on hiking the Slickrock Trail in Canyonlands NP
Grand View Point Trail – Island in the Sky
If you only have time for one hike in the Island in the Sky, it should be the Grand View Point trail. The 2.1 mile (3.4km) long trail follows the edge of a slim mesa, providing outstanding views of the massive canyon which stretches all the way south to the Needles District.
Most of the hike is a safe distance from the cliff-face, but the wind can get quite strong and there are little-to-no safety rails, so watch your kids closely.
Read more on hiking the Grand View Point Trail with Kids
Mesa Arch Trail – Island in the Sky
The Mesa Arch Trail is a super-easy 0.7 mile (1.2km) long trail to the Mesa Arch. The arch itself is pretty small and underwhelming, but once you get up close and see the views through the arch of the Canyonlands beyond, you will get why this is such a popular hike.
Read more on Mesa Arch Trail in our Easy Hikes in Canyonlands NP
Upheaval Dome Trail – Island in the Sky
Chances are that if you are visiting Canyonlands National Park, you are interested in beautiful & interesting natural formations. If this is you, make sure to swing by the Upheaval Dome where you can see a really interesting rock formation which has scientists scratching their heads. Even today, no one can agree on what caused this formation. There are two viewpoints on this trail, the furthest being a 0.8 mile (1.2km) walk one-way.
Read more on the Upheaval Dome Trail
Canyonlands Half-Day 4WD Tour
Explore areas of the Island in the Sky that most visitors will never get to see. This 4 hour family-friendly 4WD tour from Moab showcases the 1,000 foot cliffs of the Island in the Sky mesa and stops at the remains of an ancient Pueblo civilization.
Canyonlands Junior Ranger Program
Similar to Arches National Park, Canyonlands also runs an excellent great Junior Ranger program for the kids. Pick up a handbook from the one of the Canyonlands Visitor Centers (Island in the Sky or Needles) to get instructions on how your kids can earn a Canyonlands Junior Ranger badge. Our kids love the Junior Ranger program and we recommend the experience to all parents visiting the park with kids.
Where to Stay in Moab, UT
When we decided to do a road trip to Utah from our home in Alberta, Canada we knew we wanted to make camping part of our experience. The week we stayed in Moab was right after Easter and hotel prices were sky-high, so it made sense to make Moab one of our camping destinations.
We stayed at the Moab Rim RV Campark, which is located just outside of town but only a few minutes’ drive from town center. The campsites were small-ish, but there was still enough room for our enormous family-sized tent.
The one thing that set this campground apart from the rest is the service – I was only half-joking when I said, “The last time I had service this good was at the Four Seasons!”. The staff at the campground went far beyond the call of duty when it came to making sure we had everything we needed. If you are planning on camping in Moab, we highly recommend Moab Rim RV Campark.
When we travel, we typically look at our Airbnb options first. As a family, we enjoy having our own bedrooms, along with a full kitchen and laundry facilities. There are many great vacation rentals in Moab. If you are new to Airbnb, get a $35USD discount on your first rental by using our signup link.
And finally, if you’d prefer to stay in a hotel for your Moab lodging, these five hotels are the highest-rated family-friendly Moab hotels on Hotels.com:
See more family-friendly hotels in Moab.
What to Bring to Arches and Canyonlands
Moab’s National Parks offer some of the world’s best adventure activities. We found most of them to be beyond the capability of our young kids, so we focused our time on the family-friendly activities, which was mostly hiking. We’re minimalists when it comes to hiking gear, but here is what we would recommend you bring with you each day:
- Sun hats
- Hydration Packs for the adults and kids
- Garbage bag to carry out your trash
- Backpack carrier for smaller kids
Get 10% off the Lonely Planet Zion & Bryce Canyon National Parks travel guide with our discount code CANTRAVEL10.