We recently spent a weekend in Moab, Utah, at Arches National Park. It was so fun!! Jeff would go here every year growing up and was excited to finally take the rest of us. And with so many family-friendly hikes, this is a great option when planning an easy family vacation in Utah. Since we live about 3 hours away, we left late one Friday morning, hiked all afternoon, ate dinner, got ice cream, swam at our hotel pool (very important to the kids!), finished hiking the next morning and got on the road by 2 p.m. We had more than enough time to do all the hikes we wanted with our 11, 8 and 6 year old.
A few tips:
- Parking is limited at the park–nearly every trail has a designated parking lot at the base, but they get crowded quickly! You may have an easier time finding parking earlier or later in the day. They do ticket, so be sure to only park in the designated spots. Plus we want to preserve the beauty of Arches National Park. If you can’t find a spot at the first trail you come to, move on to another one and come back later.
- Bring LOTS of water. Even on the smaller trails, bring water. It’s amazing how thirsty everyone gets in the heat, even on smaller hikes. We had a backpack to tote the water along on each trail.
- Pack snacks- gum and licorice worked great on the trails to keep blood sugar up and little ones happy (and enticed them to keep walking). We also packed grapes, apples, and granola bars.
- Use the bathroom at any trail head that offers one. Even if little ones just went and claim they don’t have to go. Trust us. Nothing worse than getting to an arch and someone says, ‘I have to go..NOW.’ And then a mad-dash to the bathroom ensues.
- Lastly, be sure to grab a Visitor’s Guide (a newspaper type brochure) as you enter the park. It has all the up-to-date information you need for your time in the park, including a map. Typically they are available at the Ranger’s Station when you pay to enter the park ($25 for a 7 day pass), but you can also find them in the Visitor’s Center.
So what are the best hikes for families at Arches National Park??
1.Sand Dune Arch was at the top of our list for favorites!
With so many places to climb, play and explore, no wonder this easy trail was a win with our kids! We packed some sand toys, but our kids had so much fun just exploring, we didn’t even use them. The simple trail was about a 15-minute walk to the arch. We spent about an hour here, but you certainly could spend more or less depending on your schedule. And there was shade, too, which was so nice since it gets VERY hot!
2. Balanced Rock is the first easy trail you’ll come to when you enter the park.
This easy trail, maybe even the easiest out of all the easy trails, has a flat walking path to the base of the rock. From there, you can climb up a little bit below the rock if you choose. We spent about 30 minutes here.
3. The Windows are actually three separate arches: North & South Windows and Turret Arch.
A slightly longer path with some stairs and rocks to climb on makes this a fun, but slightly more difficult ‘easy’ path. It IS still easy, but you definitely cannot take a stroller on this trail and little legs may start to slow down walking from one window to the other. Our kids had a blast climbing all over the rocks on this trail. There is little to no shade on this trail. Plan for at least 30 minutes–we spent about an hour going from one arch to the next and back to the parking lot.
4. Landscape Arch took us about 1 1/2 hours to explore. It’s a longer trail than some of the other easy hikes, plus there are two additional easy trails where you can see Tunnel and Pine Tree Arches. We also saw PLENTY of lizards on this trail 🙂
Landscape Arch (pictured above) and Pine Tree Arch (pictured below).
5. Double Arch is located across the parking lot from The Windows. It is a pretty quick and easy trail, even for little legs. We spent about 30 minutes or so at this arch.
6. Skyline Arch is a super short 20 minute hike on a clearly defined trail.
7. Petroglyps located at the trail head to Delicate Arch are super cool to see whether you plan to hike Delicate Arch (more on that below) or not.
Lastly: Delicate Arch.
Should you hike with young kids? Probably! We did, and were SO glad we did, but it just depends on your kids 🙂 Keep in mind it is a strenuous hike, in direct sunlight. While it can be hiked in 2 hours, we would say block out 3.5 hours for the entire experience. That includes using the bathrooms before, which there is typically a long line, seeing the petroglyphs at the bottom, and plenty of time for stopping along the way to rest, get drinks, and have snacks. Our young kids did great and we saw several other families with children our age or even younger.
Be sure to follow the cairns (we missed one, following some other hikers) and took a 20 minute detour. Also be aware that the last 200 yards of the hike, there is a rather steep drop off. We had our young kids keep one hand on the side of the mountain at all times. It can also be pretty steep hiking out onto the side of the ‘bowl’ to get right under the arch. We opted not to do that part quite yet.
One last note: Hotels & Food!
We opted to stay at the Holiday Inn Express and Suits Moab. The pool and free breakfast were awesome.
After hiking all day, it felt great to cool down in the pool!
As far as dinner went, we opted to eat at Pasta Jay’s (something about carbs 🙂 )
The Garlic Bread was really yummy, as were all the pasta dishes. Emily didn’t love the chicken in hers, but thought everything else was delicious.
We also grabbed ice cream from Crystal’s Cakes & Cones, just adjacent to Pasta Jay’s. They had the yummiest flavors, were huge scoops and a great price!
We absolutely loved our time at Arches and can’t wait to go back!