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Arches National Park with kids

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Arches National Parks with kids overview

We just got back from a fantastic trip to Arches National Park and I thought I’d share some of our tips from the trip, including the basics of visiting as well as the most child friendly things to do when visiting Arches National Park with kids.

Arches National Park is one of five National Parks in Utah, and one of the most visited and popular National Parks in the US. The fee to enter the park is $30 for an individual vehicle, but the park accepts National Park annual passes; we used our Every Kid Outdoors pass which is free for 4th graders!

The park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, although the visitor center has set hours that vary depending on the season. The park can get very busy during peak times and lines to enter the park can be long; if you’re visiting during school vacations or National holidays then I’d recommend arriving before 8am or after 4pm.

Weather at Arches National Parks differs greatly throughout the year. The winters are very cold, summers are very hot, and both spring and fall are fairly temperate. We visited in late November and it was very cold but we had brilliant blue skies all day – I think this was the perfect time to visit.

Places to stay near Arches National Park with kids

Most people coming to Arches National Park with kids will stay in the town of Moab, which is the closest place nearby to both Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. It takes about 10 minutes to drive from the center of the town to Arches, and about 30 minutes to Canyonlands.

There are plenty of brand name hotels in Moab, including a Hampton Inn by Hilton, SpringHill Suites by Marriott, Wingate by Wyndham, and a Hyatt Place, which is where we stayed. There are plenty of other motels and hotels as well.

The Hyatt Place worked out perfectly for us. The location was perfect, just a 15 minute walk into the center of Moab, clean and comfortable rooms, and a fantastic complimentary hot breakfast. I wouldn’t hesitate to stay there again.

If you’re feeling more adventurous, then there are places to camp in both Moab and within Arches National Park itself. You can find out more information on camping at Devil’s Garden campground in Arches National Park here.

If you do stay in Moab, there are plenty of places to eat within the town. I’d particularly recommend the Moab Diner for very reasonably priced comfort style food (the Green Chili Cheese Fries were amazing!), Moab Coffee Roasters for a great cup of coffee, and Red Rock Bakery and Café for sandwiches and boxed lunches to take into the park with you.

My only warning for those looking to stay in Moab is to be aware of the gas prices if you’re driving in and out. There are only a couple of gas stations in the town and since they have a captive crowd, they take advantage with pretty high prices; we found gas to be almost double here compared to anywhere else we drove to in Utah. If you can get gas before you come into Moab, that would be my suggestion.

Getting around Arches National Park

The only real way to get around Arches National Park with kids is by car. We did see a few brave cyclists but they were all adults and the hills are really too steep for kids to manage.

Arches National Park only has one entrance and exit so it’s not too hard to find your way around. One long main road eventually splits off once towards the Windows Section, and then again towards Delicate Arch, ending finally in Devil’s Garden.

This one long road makes the park extremely easy to navigate and everything is well signposted, but it does mean it takes a while to drive between sections and there are no shortcuts. I loved looking at the landscape so much that I really didn’t mind the long drive in and out, but the kids eventually grew tired of it.

There’s nowhere to get gas in the park so make sure you fill up before you enter, and I would caution to have way more than you think you need since the roads are so long.

There is also nowhere to get food within the park, so be sure to bring snacks or lunch with you. We brought boxed lunches we picked up in Moab, and snacks we’d brought from a local grocery store. You can fill up water bottles for free at the visitor center.

Kid-friendly hikes in Arches National Parks

Delicate Arch

Roundtrip: 3 miles, 2-3 hours (moderately difficult)

Delicate Arch is one of the most iconic and famous arches in the park, so naturally the trail to view the arch is incredibly popular. There is an easy trail to see Delicate Arch from a distance, but we chose to hike the longer, more strenuous trail for a closer look.

I was nervous about this trail with my children; 2-3 hours is a long time to hike and 3 miles on a trail with considerable climbing and elevation changes is a lot for adults, let alone kids. I decided to give the trail a try based on a few factors: my children are very active so I knew they could physically manage the trail, and it was a cold and sunny day so weather wouldn’t be a concern.

This trail is definitely not stroller friendly and I wouldn’t attempt it with a baby or a toddler. We took plenty of water and snacks with us, and took our time climbing. Our hike took almost exactly 2 hours and that was with about 10 minutes spent at the arch itself.

Since this is one of the most popular trails, I would recommend getting there as early as possible. Not only does the parking lot fill up early, but the trail and the arch itself can get crowded.

We arrived right after sunrise to find an almost empty parking lot, but two hours later when we returned to our car there were cars circling waiting to park. The other perk to hitting the trail early is avoiding the midday heat if you’re visiting in the summer; I can’t imagine taking on that trail in extremely high temperatures!

When you finally reach Delicate Arch, the views of the arch and the surrounding landscape are incredible and well worth the length of the hike. You’re obviously very high up and there are some steep drops so I was very careful with holding the kids hands, but at no point did I feel like they were unsafe.

The Windows Section

Roundtrip: 1 mile, 30 minutes (easy)

The Windows Section is an area of the park where you can see three different arches all in one place, and actually from the parking lot you can include another two as well!

The Windows Section itself consists of North Window, South Window, and Turret Arch. All three can be seen on one trail, so it makes sense to go from one to the other all in one go.

North Window is the largest arch and can be seen from the parking lot. South Window is smaller but comes into view as you hike towards the arches. Turret Arch can be seen if you turn around the look in the opposite direction, and can be accessed from that side of the trail.

This is an easy hike and a great way to see plenty of arches in one go. While you’re parked in the parking lot for the Windows Section, you can also access the trail going down towards Double Arch. With so much to see in one area, this is understandably a very busy parking lot but it is a large one and we always found a space eventually.

Double Arch

Roundtrip: 0.6 miles, 15 minutes (easy)

It’s a tough call to make with so many beautiful arches, but I think Double Arch was probably my favorite. Not only is it an easy hike from The Windows Section parking lot, but the arches look pretty amazing together.

You can get a good view of the two arches together without going too far down the trail, but I think they look most spectacular once viewed close up. There are also plenty of rocks to climb on as you get closer; there are flat rocks that make for a great spot to sit and have a snack, and then more challenging climbs up to the arches themselves.

If you have very small children, the rocks closer to the arch might be a little tough for them to climb on, and there are some steep drops, but older kids will love the change to clamber all over the rocks.

Sand Dune Arch

Roundtrip: 0.4 miles, 15 minutes (easy)

One of the best kid-friendly hikes in Arches National Parks for kids is Sand Dune Arch, not just because it’s a super easy hike but there’s also lots of sand to play in!

This is a really easy trail that takes you between sandstone walls to find a hidden arch surrounded by lots of deep sand. The arch is protected from the weather thanks to the surrounding walls, which makes it great for the hot summer days or the cold, windy winters. The day we visited it was freezing with a bitterly cold wind so we stayed there a long time!

There were lots of families with young children playing in the sand while the parents explored the arch. This is the one place we saw the most people completely ignoring the directions to not climb on to the arch, I think perhaps because it was hidden away and climbing up looked fairly easy. Resist the urge!

Broken Arch

Roundtrip: 1.2 miles, approx. 30 minutes (easy)

From the Sand Dune Arch parking lot, you can also access the trail to Broken Arch. This is a fairly easy walk across an open meadow; you can walk to the arch and come back, or continue through the arch to a campground.

There was a very cold wind when we visited, so we opted for a brisk walk to the arch and back again. This wasn’t my favorite of the arches, but it made sense to include it since we were already parked for Sand Dune Arch. It was also a nice easy hike for the kids and gave them chance to run around a bit.

Skyline Arch

Roundtrip: 0.4 miles, 10 minutes (easy)

Skyline Arch is a large arch that – as the name suggests – frames the skyline as you look up at it. The trail is quick and easy, and just takes a quick pull off from the main road to access.

It makes for great pictures since the arch is found high up on a wall, so no people are going to be standing in it! We stopped at this trail twice and both times found ourselves the only people there so it’s definitely a less popular stop, but I thought this was a very pretty formation.

Other activities in Arches National Park with kids

Collect a Junior Ranger Badge

I have another post outlining tips for visiting National Parks with kids and this is my absolutely number one!

Junior Ranger badges can be collected from most National Parks and earning them is a great way to help kids engage with the park and learn more about it. Junior Ranger booklets can be picked up from visitor centers and then returned when complete in exchange for a badge.

The Arches Visitor Center is right at the park entrance so you really can’t miss it upon entering the park. We picked up our Junior Ranger booklets for the kids on the way in, worked on them throughout the day, then returned them as we left and collected the badges.

La Sal Mountains Viewpoint

One of the first places you’ll come to in Arches National Park is La Sal Mountains Viewpoint. This is a great place to stop, get your bearings, and take in an overview of the landscape.

The La Sal Mountains sit in the distance, and the contrast between their snowy caps and the deep red rock of the National Park is spectacular. I felt like we were a million miles from anywhere looking out onto this vista, and coming from a flat state like Florida, I could have looked at this landscape for days!

If you have very small children then be aware that there are some sharp drops here to watch out for, but otherwise it’s a large, mainly flat viewpoint with room to get out and walk around.

Balanced Rock

Balanced Rock is quite literally as it sounds; a large rock balanced on a tall sandstone pillar. You can view it from the road, or park and walk over for a closer look.

Parking is very limited here but we did always manage to find a space if we were patient. Most people are only there a few minutes to snap a photo and move on, so if you find a safe place to wait then you can usually jump into an open space.

My kids found this particular rock formation fascinating and loved looking at it. It only takes a few minutes to walk over to the rock and it looks even better the closer you get. We saw a lot of lizards in this area as well.

There were so many amazing things to see in Arches National Park with kids and although I was worried the kids might grow tired of looking at arches, they absolutely loved exploring and climbing and seeing the incredible landscape.