Located in the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park, the Slickrock Foot Trail is quite possibly the most fun hike we did during our Utah road trip with kids.
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This family-friendly hike in the Needles explores the top of a V-shaped mesa, offering incredible views in all directions; snow-capped mountains, flat topped mesas and water carved canyons. There are four official ‘viewpoints’ on the trail, which is actually kind of silly given the scenery on nearly every second of this hike is epic.
If your kids love climbing on rocks, they will love this hike; the trail leads hikers through a massive slickrock formation with all kinds of rock shapes for the kids to climb on and over. Kids will also enjoy finding the little lizards which seem to be sunbathing on rocks around every corner.
Slickrock Foot Trail Hike Stats
Distance: The round trip distance of this balloon-shaped loop is 2.7 miles / 4.5 km.
Elevation Gain: The Slickrock Foot Trail has a few moderate inclines, but there are no really hard parts to this hike. Our GPS clocked in at 180 feet / 55m of elevation gain.
Difficulty: This trail is pretty easy, although some kids may find the distance a bit much. In reality, they’ll be having so much fun, they likely won’t notice the distance at all. We’d rate this trail as ‘easy’ as our 3 & 5 year old kids easily did the entire hike themselves.
Duration: This hike took us 2 hours and 30 minutes to complete, which is bang-on to our usual pace with the little ones. Without kids, we’d be able to hike this trail in less than an hour.
Slickrock Foot Trail Location
How to Get There: Slickrock Foot Trail is located in Canyonlands National Park – Needles area. The trailhead is approximately a 90 minute drive from Moab. Don’t let the distance scare you off; it’s a beautiful drive, especially once you turn onto Highway 211.
We got there around 10am on a Saturday in April and it wasn’t too busy at all. A welcome relief from the craziness of Arches NP the prior two days.
Slickrock Foot Trail Highlights
- As mentioned above, the trail itself is so much fun – it’s a natural jungle gym which kids of all ages will love.
- While the kids will love the trial, the parents will love the views. This hike follows the outer edge of a mesa, providing incredible views in all directions of the natural beauty of Canyonlands NP. We could see the Needles, the Island in the Sky, snow capped mountains in the distance, dramatic river canyons and so much more. There are four official (and well marked) viewpoints on this hike, but in reality, every step you take on this hike has insanely good views.
- Despite being in a desert environment, when we did the hike in April there were lots of beautiful wildflowers.
Hiking Slickrock Foot Trail with Kids
- The topography makes it hard to know where the trail is supposed to go, so NPS staff have placed rock cairns (inukshuks) along the path to highlight the way. Our kids loved looking for them and would often run ahead to find them.
- There are no bathrooms at the trailhead. It’s a good idea to stop at the Canyonlands Visitor Center on this way to go. There are a few trees to duck behind on the trail, but please be careful not to step on any of the black dirt, which is a living organism essential to surrounding plant life.
- There are no water bottle filling stations on this hike. If you need to fill your hydration packs before starting, the Canyonlands National Park Visitor Center has a water station.
- The trail is mostly over slickrock, but there are also sections which are on gravel. Normal shoes and hiking shoes will be fine, but we wouldn’t recommend wearing flip-flops on this hike.
- There isn’t much tree cover on this hike, so be prepared for full sun exposure for the duration of the hike. Bring lots of water and sunscreen; hydration packs are a great way to easily carry large quantities of water.
- This trail is not stroller accessible, but tons of parents we saw in Utah’s national parks used a carrier to get their small kids around.
- No dogs are allowed on Slickrock Foot Trail.
- Keep your eyes open for wildlife. We saw lots of lizards, a snake and a massive bird circling overhead. At first we thought it may have been a condor (found in Zion NP), but a park ranger thought it was likely a turkey buzzard. Although we didn’t see any, bighorn sheep can be seen on this hike.
Where to Stop for Lunch or a Break
The slickrock formations provide limitless spots to stop and sit for a break. Finding shade is a bit of a challenge though as there are few trees tall enough. We stopped for lunch in the shade of a large boulder on the approach to Viewpoint 2.
- The sun can get intense in southern Utah, so bring more water than you think you will need.
- The hiking trail follows the outer edges of a v-shaped mesa. Although the vast majority of the trail is far enough away from the mesa cliff-edge that you don’t need to worry, there are a few short sections which are precariously close to the cliff. Keep a close eye on your kids in these sections as the drop-off could be fatal.
Other Canyonlands Hikes
The Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands is also worth a visit. It’s much closer to Moab and don’t miss these family-friendly hikes in Canyonlands NP.
What to Bring
- Sun hats
- Hydration packs for the adults and kids
- Plenty of snacks
- A garbage bag to carry out your trash
Moab’s National Parks with Kids
Moab, Utah is a great base for exploring Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. For more things to do, family friendly hotels and campgrounds, visit our Arches & Canyonlands National Parks with Kids post.
Get 10% off the Lonely Planet Zion & Bryce Canyon National Parks travel guide with our discount code CANTRAVEL10.