When planning a family vacation to Utah, it can be hard to choose between visiting Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. With double the number of annual visitors, Arches is the more popular of the two Moab national parks but we encourage you to take a closer look at visiting Canyonlands with kids.
The scenery in Canyonlands National Park is incredible and is very different than the scenery at nearby Arches National Park. A visit to Canyonlands with kids is well worth a trip!
Canyonlands National Park with Kids
Canyonlands with Kids
We allotted 2 days of our family road trip in Utah with kids to Canyonlands. As with the other Utah national parks we visited, we found the best things to do in Canyonlands National Park with kids was hiking.
We kept it interesting and engaging for the kids by stopping at the Canyonlands Visitor Center to pick up their Junior Ranger booklets. They were starting to get excited about having their Junior Ranger badges from all the parks we would visit in Utah.
In Canyonlands National Park, we knew we wanted to explore further, but with a 3 and 5 year old, we had to choose our family hikes carefully. We did our best to choose easy hiking trails in Canyonlands National Park that would be fun for the kids.
We were pleased to find several easy hikes in Canyonlands that our kids were capable of. Between the Slickrock trail in the Needles district and several easy Island in the Sky hikes, we think we did pretty good. We especially enjoyed how different Canyonlands National Park felt vs Arches National Park.
Getting to Canyonlands National Park
Most visitors to Canyonlands National Park base themselves out of Moab, UT. We went camping in Moab and used it as our base to explore both Arches National Park with kids and Canyonlands.
We spent all of our time in Canyonlands National Park with kids in the Island in the Sky and the Needles districts as they are the most accessible areas from Moab. Focusing on the areas closest to Moab gave us enough time to do lots of fun things in Canyonlands with kids, plus give the kids time to rest and play at our Moab campsite each day.
It’s a 40 minute drive from Moab to the Island in the Sky Visitor Center and approximately 35 minutes from Arches National Park. If you plan to visit Arches and Canyonlands with kids in one day, we recommend visiting the Island in the Sky district as it is the closest.
By comparison, the Needles Visitor Center in Canyonlands National Park is closer to an hour and a half from Moab.
4 Easy Hikes in Canyonlands National Park with Kids
Most visitors to Canyonlands with kids will explore the Island in the Sky area as it is the closest area to Moab. This is good news for families as there are plenty of fun, easy Island in the Sky hikes. In fact, we spent a full day enjoying several kid-friendly Island in the Sky hikes.
If you have the time, we also recommend the Needles section of Canyonlands National Park with kids – it’s definitely worth a visit. Needles is home to the Slickrock Trail, one of our favorite kid-friendly hikes in Canyonlands. This fun & easy hike was of our favorite family hikes on our entire road trip to Utah with kids.
Here are the best easy hikes in Canyonlands National Park for kids:
1. Mesa Arch Trail – Island in the Sky
Looking for arches in Canyonlands National Park? The Mesa Arch trail is an enjoyable, short Canyonlands hike on a well-maintained gravel trail through desert scrub with lots of beautiful wildflowers.
There is a slight incline to this Canyonlands National Park hiking trail, but anyone in reasonable shape ought to be able to do it. The uphill walk and lack of any tall trees means that the impressive views of the surrounding canyon become visible right away.
As you approach the top of the loop, the Mesa Arch hike transitions to uneven slickrock. Shortly thereafter the Mesa Arch becomes visible.
If you’ve already hiked to the Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, odds are your initial reaction will be, “awwww… what a cute, little arch”. But as you get closer to the Mesa Arch, you quickly realize what makes this such a special place; the views of the canyon through the Mesa Arch are breathtaking. You will immediately understand why the Mesa Arch trail is such a popular easy hike in Canyonlands National Park.
Hiking the Mesa Arch Trail with Kids: The Canyonlands Mesa Arch hike is 0.7 miles / 1.2 km long with 80 feet / 25 meters elevation gain. This easy Canyonlands hike took us 30 minutes, which is a pretty typical pace for us hiking with kids.
There are bathrooms in the parking lot of the Mesa Arch trailhead, but no water facilities. Good shoes are recommended. This easy Island in the Sky hike is not stroller friendly; a good hiking backpack carrier for a baby or toddler is a great option for anyone visiting Canyonlands National Park with a toddler
2. Grand View Point Trail – Island in the Sky
The Grand View Point Trail is one of the best hikes in Island in the Sky. This mostly flat, kid-friendly hike follows the rim of the canyon providing some of Canyonlands best views. This incredible Canyonlands scenery is literally on display every step of the Grand View Point trail.
If you only have time for one easy 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 of Canyonlands National Park.
Just as you are getting used to the view on one side of the canyon, the view switches to the other side of the canyon as you near the end of the Grand View Point trail, offering a brand new set of jaw dropping vistas.
This easy Island in the Sky hiking trail has a variety of surfaces, ranging from paved (at the beginning), to well-maintained gravel, to smooth slickrock, man-made stone steps and uneven rock. Good hiking shoes are recommended.
The Grand View Point trail is wide and is well away from the ledge in most spots, but there are spots where it narrows and gets close to the edge. If you have small kids, watch them close as there are no guard rails and any fall would be fatal.
Also be aware of the strong, unpredictable wind gusts at the top; watch your kids (and their hats) when they are close to the edge. We don’t say this to scare you, only to warn you in advance as we all know how kids can love to run up ahead.
If you are looking for a place to stop and have a break along the Grand View Point trail, there are plenty of rocks with incredible views to sit at the end of this easy Canyonlands hike. Here you will also find a rock pile which is popular to climb up for a break, but there isn’t much room up there for all those people and we don’t recommend it for small kids.
Also note, the chipmunks which frequent the picnic area at the end of the Grand View Point trail are some of the most aggressive we’ve seen anywhere in the world – don’t feed them or you will regret it.
Hiking the Grand View Point Trail with Kids: This easy Island in the Sky hike is 2.1 miles / 3.4 km return with 193 feet / 59 meters elevation gain. Hiking the Grand View Point trail took us 1 hour and 39 minutes of walking time, which again, is a pretty typical pace for us hiking with the kids.
There are bathrooms in the parking lot of the Canyonlands Grand View Point trail, but no water facilities. Good shoes are recommended. This trail is not stroller friendly, but due to the length many parents used a carrier for hiking with toddlers.
3. Upheaval Dome Trail – Island in the Sky
The Upheaval Dome hike in Island of the Sky is cool because it’s a geological mystery. Scientists cannot agree on what phenomenon created this unique rock formation. Basically, it’s a deep crater, open on one end, with a mound of green rock protruding upwards from the bottom. It’s a very interesting sight and is worth doing this short Canyonlands hike.
The Upheaval Dome trail has two observation points; the first is a mere 0.25 miles / 0.4 km, while the second is an additional 0.5 miles / 0.8km. The hiking trail to the first observation point is a steady uphill on uneven rocks and/or man-made rock stairs.
The sky turned dark with threatening clouds as we pulled into the Upheaval Dome parking lot, so we elected to speed things up and put our kids in our toddler carriers. We had our 3 year old in a Piggyback Rider and our 5 year old in a Lillebaby CarryOn Toddler.
We got to the first Upheaval Dome observation deck in less than 10 minutes (it would have taken 30 minutes had the kids been walking). We started our attempt to get to the second Upheaval Dome observation point, but the rain started to fall and the wind picked up, so we turned back halfway there.
Note, had the weather not been bad, we know through experience, our kids could have completed the full distance of this kid-friendly Canyonlands hike themselves.
Hiking Upheaval Dome Trail with Kids: There are bathrooms in the parking lot for the Canyonlands Upheaval Dome trailhead, but no water facilities. Good shoes are recommended.
The Upheaval Dome trail is not stroller friendly. If you are visiting Canyonlands with a baby or toddler, many parents opted to use a hiking backpack carrier to carry their little kids on this hike due to the short, but steep hill.
4. Slickrock Trail – The Needles
Located in the Needles area of Canyonlands National Park, the Slickrock Trail is one of the best kid-friendly hikes in all of Utah. This 2.7 mile (4.5 km) hiking trail follows along the outer edges of a V-shaped mesa providing outstanding views of the Canyonlands national park and the “needles” the area is named for.
The Slickrock 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.
We had so much fun hiking the Slickrock Trail in Canyonlands National Park with kids. Our kids spent the entire time running and crawling over rocks on this kid friendly hike in Canyonlands. They were having too much fun to appreciate the views of the Needle District, but we sure did!
The Slickrock trail ended up being our favorite hiking trails in Canyonlands National Park and one of the highlights of our entire family road trip to Utah with kids.
Non-hiking Things to do in Canyonlands with Kids
Canyonlands Half-Day 4WD Tour
Looking for other things to do with kids in Canyonlands National Park? Try exploring 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
Don’t miss the Canyonlands National Park Junior Ranger program for the kids. While you are picking up your Canyonlands National Park trail map, kids can pick up a Junior Ranger handbook from the one of the Canyonlands Visitor Centers (Island in the Sky or Needles). It has all the 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 Canyonlands with kids.
Which is Better: Arches or Canyonlands with Kids?
Arches and Canyonlands National Parks couldn’t be more different despite their close proximity. Where Arches offers impressive arches with easy walking distances, Canyonlands hiking trails gives hikers incredible panoramic views.
You’ll still find an arch or two in Canyonlands National Park and there are some incredible views to be had in Arches too. In all honesty, the two national parks are different enough that’s it’s worth allotting time for each.
We recommend at least two days for Canyonlands National Park as well, to visit both the Island in the Sky and the Needles areas of the park.
We recommend at least two days for each Canyonlands and Arches National Park. This will give you enough time to see the highlights of each national park plus venture a little further away from the crowds.
Places to Stay Near Canyonlands National Park with Kids
Since we planned to visit Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, the best place to stay near Canyonlands for us was Moab, UT.
Canyonlands National Park Camping with Kids
The week we stayed in Moab was right after Easter and hotel prices were sky-high, so we felt lucky to be camping in Moab. It was the perfect base for visiting Moab’s national parks with kids.
We stayed at the Moab Rim RV Campark, which is located just outside of Moab 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 this Moab 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 near Canyonlands National Park, we highly recommend Moab Rim RV Campark.
Vacation Home Rentals near Canyonlands National Park
When we travel, we typically look at our Airbnb and VRBO options first. As a family, we enjoy having our own bedrooms, along with a full kitchen and laundry facilities. There are many great family-friendly Airbnb and VRBO vacation rentals in Moab.
Kid-Friendly Hotels near Canyonlands National Park
And finally, if you’d prefer to stay in a kid-friendly hotel near Canyonlands National Park hotel, we recommend these five hotels near Moab.
- Red Cliffs Lodge: The Red Cliffs Lodge is an excellent family hotel near Canyonlands National Park. Located in a remote location along the banks of the mighty Colorado River, the Red Cliffs Lodge boats a horse corral, a western film museum, a pool and tennis courts. Everyone in the family can get a good night’s sleep in a 1 or 2 bedroom suite.
- SpringHill Suites by Marriott Moab: Only 30 minutes from the park gates, the SpringHill Suites is one of the closest family-friendly hotels near Canyonlands National Park. Kids will love playing in the hotel’s awesome kid’s canyon, complete with a splash park, or in the two swimming pools, three hot tubs or the basketball court. Family-friendly rooms with a king bed for the parents and bunk beds for the kids are available.
- Moab Springs Ranch: Another of the very close family-friendly hotels near Canyonlands National Park, the park gates are less than 35 minutes away. Families will enjoy staying in a cabin-style bungalow with two queen beds.
- Hyatt Place Moab: This family-friendly Moab hotel offers a seasonal outdoor swimming pool and a playground for the kids. After a day of fun at Canyonlands National Park, families will appreciate staying in a 2-bedroom suite, giving everyone in the family a chance for a great night’s sleep.
- Under Canvas Moab: If you are looking to go glamping near Canyonlands National Park, we recommend you check out Under Canvas Moab. Named one of the ‘Top 15 Resort Hotels in the West’ by Travel + Leisure, families have the opportunity to get a tent for the parents with an adjoining tent for the kids! A stay at Under Canvas Moab is an experience your kids will never forget..
If you’d like to see additional family-friendly hotels near Canyonlands National Park, we recommend Booking.com. We use Booking for almost all of our family hotel stays as we find their ‘Top Picks for Families’ recommendations very helpful.
What to Pack for Hiking in Canyonlands with Kids
Moab’s national parks offers 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 kid-friendly things to do in Canyonlands National Park, which were mostly hiking.
We’re minimalists when it comes to hiking gear, but here is what we would recommend you bring for visiting Canyonlands National Park with kids each day:
The most important consideration when visiting Canyonlands National Park with kids is to protect them against the sun. For sun protection we recommend kids wear hiking hats and sunscreen, while carrying hydration packs for the adults and kids will help keep everyone hydrated.
The National Parks Service Junior Ranger program encourages kids to pick up 3 pieces of garbage on every hike. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone did that? At a minimum, bring a small garbage bag to carry out your own trash, and even better, carry out someone else’s too.
If you plan on doing a lot of hiking in Canyonlands with your kids, take a moment to check out our Tips for Hiking with Kids and the Best Hiking Gear for Kids. The miles will go faster and you’ll all have more fun with these hiking songs for kids.
Visiting Other Utah National Parks
No trip to Utah with kids would be complete without a visit to all of the Mighty 5 National Parks! We’ve got you covered with detailed posts on all the hikes we did and where we stayed here:
- Ultimate Guide to Bryce Canyon National Park with Kids
- Capitol Reef National Park with Kids
- Zion National Park with Kids.
We also highly recommend a stop at Goblin Valley State Park with kids!
More National Parks with Kids
Visiting national parks with our kids is one of our favorite things to do on family vacations. If your family vacation plans extend beyond Utah, check out these amazing kid-friendly national parks in the US and Canada:
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Celine Brewer is a dedicated family travel blogger with a profound passion for helping families create unforgettable adventures together. Her blog blends captivating travel narratives with practical tips for family-friendly destinations and enjoying active travel with kids. As a mother of two, she understands the unique challenges of traveling with children and offers valuable insights to empower parents.
When Celine isn't traveling with her husband and two kids, she's either working on one of her three travel sites (Family Can Travel, Baby Can Travel and Travel Banff Canada) or out enjoying the majestic Canadian Rockies her family calls home.