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Road Trip in Utah with Kids

Being from Alberta, we frequently hear of families taking a road trip to Utah with kids. From what we understand, it’s not uncommon to see a lot of Alberta license plates around Moab and the five Utah National Parks in April every year.

It’s the perfect trip in April to escape what seems like a never-ending winter to bask in sunshine filled days hiking.

We planned a three week Utah road trip itinerary to ensure we had time to visit the Mighty 5 National Parks properly. As we suspected, we loved our road trip in Utah with kids.

image of boy hiking in bryce canyon national park utah

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3 Week Road Trip Itinerary for Utah with Kids

While we understand that not everyone has 3 weeks to dedicate to one trip, we couldn’t have been more pleased to have this much time with our kids in Utah. This allowed us the time to see as much as possible and fit in all the hikes we wanted to do at a pace that worked for our kids.

Zion Junior Ranger Program

Our kids are no strangers to hiking, given that we hike with kids in Banff and the surrounding area all the time. We also incorporate outdoor activities like hiking, biking or kayaking into every trip we do, regardless of where we are around the world.

Our tips for hiking with kids is what we use, especially when we plan a trip with as much hiking as our trip to Utah had.

image of boy looking at trail sign along delicate arch trail in utah

We should also mention that our kids were 3 and 5 at the time of our trip, so we had to take into consideration how much hiking we did with them and consciously taking time each day to let them have time to just play.

Itinerary for Visiting Utah National Parks

When we originally planned our Utah family vacation, we planned to visit Bryce Canyon last to give it more time to warm up. As luck (or lack thereof) would have it, with events happening in Moab we had difficulty finding a place to stay.

We ended up shifting the order of our visits to each of the Utah parks.

Here is the breakdown of our 3 week road trip in Utah:

  • Bryce Canyon National Park– 5 Days
    • Day 1 – Hike Queen’s Garden Trail
    • Day 2 – Red Canyon hikes: Bird’s Eye Trail, Pink Ledges Trail & Golden Wall Trail
    • Day 3 – Mossy Cave hike & Angels Palace hike in Kodachrome Basin
    • Day 4 – Hike Fairyland Loop
    • Day 5 – Panorama Trail in Kodachrome Basin
  • Zion National Park – 5 Days
    • Day 1 – 1.5 hr drive from Bryce to Zion and setting up camp
    • Day 2 – Northgate Peaks trail in Kolob Canyon
    • Day 3 – Riverside Walk and Lower Emerald Pools hikes
    • Day 4 – Hike Watchman Trail & Zion Human History Museum
    • Day 5 – Hike Weeping Rock, Grotto Trail & Pa’rus Trail
  • Moab (including Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park) – 5 Days
    • Day 1 – 5 hr drive from Zion NP to Moab and setting up camp
    • Day 2 – Arches NP – Hikes to Delicate Arch, Double Arch and Windows Trail
    • Day 3 – Arches NP – Devil’s Garden Trail, Sand Dunes Arch, and Park Avenue Trail
    • Day 4 – Canyonlands NP – Slickrock Trail in the Needles
    • Day 5 – Canyonlands NP – Hiked Mesa Arch Trail, Grand View Point Trail, and Upheaval Dome
  • Capitol Reef National Park – 4 Days
    • Day 1 – 1.5 hr drive to Goblin Valley State Park then another 1 hr drive to Capitol Reef NP
    • Day 2 – Gifford House for pies then hiked to Hickman Bridge and the Chimney Rock Loop
    • Day 3 – easy hike at Capitol Gorge
    • Day 4 – Hiked Frying Pan to Cassidy Arch to Grand Wash Trail
image of two kids hiking along one of the best hikes with kids in utah

While 5 days in each National Park might seem like a lot, there was one day allotted to travel each time we changed parks. This left us with closer to 4 days in Bryce, Zion and Moab and only 3 days in Capitol Reef.

We also had to spend a couple of days on each end driving down from Alberta, Canada.

We have detailed posts for not only each of the Mighty 5 National Parks in Utah but also for many of the hikes we did throughout the parks.

Interested in more family road trip ideas? See our Southern USA road trip with kids.

Highlights of Visiting the Utah National Parks with Kids

We were concerned that after that much time, things would all start to look the same. We were especially concerned that once we got to our final stop in Capitol Reef that we’d lack the energy to explore it properly.

capitol reef grand wash trail with kids

We are happy to say that didn’t happen. Each of the 5 Utah National Parks is amazing in it’s own right. We found each of the parks different enough that we were still excited to explore and hike each day.

Here are some of the highlights from our Utah road trip:

1. Hiking Fairyland Loop in Bryce Canyon NP

The Fairyland Loop hike in Bryce Canyon is something else. At each turn, there’s an incredible view to be had. We highly recommend this hike to anyone physically able to do it!

Fairyland Loop Trail in Bryce Canyon NP

2. Visiting Goblin Valley State Park

A stop at Goblin Valley State Park will probably be the most fun time your kids have in Utah. On a whim we added it to our itinerary after chatting with other parents we met along the way. We think the kids would agree this was the best thing to do in Utah with kids.

Goblin Valley with kids

3. Hiking Angels Landing in Zion (without kids)

I couldn’t visit Zion National Park without hiking Angels Landing. Thankfully Zion has plenty of short easy hikes Dan was able to take the kids on while I accomplished this goal.

View from Angels Landing in Zion National Park

4. Our kids hiking their furthest distance yet in Capitol Reef National Park

The Capitol Reef hike made up of the Frying Pan trail to Cassidy Arch and finishing up on the Grand Wash trail was the best hike we did in Capitol Reef National Park. We were so proud of our kids for completing this 13.2 km / 8.2 mile hike.

frying pan hiking trail in capitol reef np utah

5. Slickrock hike in Canyonlands

Every once in a while we come upon a hike that our kids love. They’ll run through the hike from one thing to the next excited the entire way. Hiking the Slickrock trail in Canyonlands National Park was one of these hikes.

hiking in canyonlands np with kids

6. Camping in Utah with Kids

We had spent a lot of time camping prior to kids, but never got back to doing it once we had our kids. We spent a large portion of our time in Utah camping with kids.

Between camping by the river in Zion with incredible views and the fun campground staff in Moab, it was a camping trip we all loved!

zion national park camping

The Mighty 5 National Parks with Kids

Things for Kids in Utah National Parks

At each of the Utah National Parks, we always stopped in at the Visitor Centre first. This gave us an opportunity to grab a map, learn about the trails but more importantly get the Junior Ranger Booklets for the kids.

National Park Service Junior Ranger Program

Our kids loved completing all the exercises in their Junior Ranger books, but they loved saying their Junior Ranger Oath with a Park Ranger and getting their Junior Ranger badges even more!

image of two kids at Joshua Tree Visitor Centre

We highly recommend taking the time to do with your kids when visiting any US National Park. It’s educational and fun for kids.

Things to do with kids in Canyonlands Utah

What to Bring for a Utah Road Trip with Kids

We know that we are minimalists when it comes to packing both on our trips and for our daily outings, but here’s our must-haves for visiting the Utah National Parks:

  • The days can get quite hot, so we recommend staying well protected from the sun. Hats, sunscreen, sunglasses and plenty of water are a must for visiting these 5 Utah parks with kids.

  • Our Utah road trip with kids was in April, so layers were key for us. While we were wearing jackets complete with hats and mitts in Bryce Canyon, we had to switch to shorts and t-shirts for Zion and Arches. It was easiest to bring packable down jackets that didn’t take a lot of space, especially since we only used them for Bryce Canyon.

  • We also packed fleece jackets for days that started out cool.

  • We knew we’d be spending the majority of our time hiking, so we had proper hiking boots for us and for the kids. We’ve summarized our favorite hiking gear for kids in this post.

  • The other must-haves for us were backpacks for carrying everything we needed for the day, complete with hydration packs for the adults and kids.

  • We also packed two toddler carriers with us. These were so useful if we wanted to do an extra long hike or if one of our kids needed a small break from hiking.

See all these items in our convenient Utah National Parks with Kids Amazon Shopping List

Hiking with kids

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