Arches National Park covers 76,519 acres, making it one of the smaller national parks in Nothern America. However, there is plenty to do and see if you want to spend two to three days in the park. We only had one day to dedicate to the park, so we wanted to make the most of it.
After spending some time researching and looking at our schedule, I decided that it would make the most sense for us to spend an evening in the park, then come back the next day and spend a morning in the park.
Fortunately, Arches is located just outside the city of Moab, which was a mere 10-minute drive from our hotel.
Because we were visiting in July, we opted to spend our afternoons at the hotel pool, which still left plenty of time to get a good overview of the park and explore some areas in detail.
Stop By the Visitor’s Center
Whenever we visit a national park for the first time, we always like to stop by the Visitor’s Center. We are a family who loves learning, so the Visitor’s Center is always a great place to learn more about the park, its history, conservation efforts, wildlife, and more.
The Visitor’s Center is also a great place to refill water bottles and ask questions about trails and activities.
Participate in the Junior Ranger Program
If you have younger kids, pick up a Junior Ranger booklet at the Visitor’s Center for them to complete as you make your way through the park. The Junior Ranger Program is a highlight for many young adventurers. When they complete their booklet, return it to the Visitor’s Center later in the day, share their discoveries with a ranger, recite the Junior Ranger pledge and receive a wooden Junior Ranger badge.
Park Avenue & Courthouse Towers viewpoints
These gorgeous red walls will be one of the first sights you’ll see as you make your way into the park.
A short, accessible trail will take you from the parking lot to the viewpoint.
Hike the Park Avenue Trail
Trail Difficulty: Moderate
Trail Length: 2 miles, out and back
If you’re up for a little hike, follow the trail from the Park Avenue Viewpoint to Courthouse Towers.
This trail offers up-close views of these stunning, massive red rock walls.
Explore the Windows Section
We had heard how crowded the park was before our trip, but we were pleasantly surprised by the low crowd levels in this section of the park. The Windows Section of the park is a 25-30 minute drive from the park entrance and absolutely breathtaking.
The Windows Section of Arches National Park is kid-friendly and perfect for beginning hikers since all of the attractions are within a short walking distance from the parking lot.
If you have only 1 day at Arches National Park, the Windows Section is a must-visit area of the park. You can see such a great variety of rock formations in a short amount of time!
Double Arch Trail
Trail Difficulty: Easy
Trail Length:0.3 mile trail (0.6 round trip)
Reaching 112 feet above the ground, Double Arch is the tallest arch in the park.
Primitive Loop Trail
Trail Length:1.1 miles
The Primitive Loop Trail will take you around the entire Windows Section. However, if you’re not feeling up to a mile-long walk, you can skip the loop trail and hike directly to each viewpoint. Our kids just wanted to run around and climb up rocks, so we didn’t end up hiking the entire loop.
North and South Windows Trail
Trail Difficulty: Easy
Trail Length:0.3 mile trail
It’s one thing to see a picture of these massive rock formations and another thing to stand inside of them. It makes the world feel big and beautiful. The wind blows through the windows, creating natural air conditioning (which is a welcome reprieve from the blazing Utah sun…especially in July).
Turret Arch Trail
Trail Difficulty: Easy
Trail Length:0.1 mile trail (from South Window)
Turret Arch was the arch we visited the longest. The kids enjoyed scrambling over the rocks leading up to the arch, and the lighting was just beautiful. It also had relatively few visitors compared to the other arches and windows in this area of the park.
See Balanced Rock
Located right off the main road, Balanced Rock is easy to spot, even from a distance. If you didn’t already stop and take pictures here before exploring the Windows Section, Balanced Rock has a picnic area which could be a great place to stop and enjoy a meal together before heading out on your next adventure.
Hike to Delicate Arch
Due to warm weather conditions and limited trailhead parking, we opted to hike to this incredibly famous arch first thing in the morning. Depending on the weather, this could also be a great hike on a summer evening, or during the day at other times of the year.
Delicate Arch Hike Details
Trail Length:3 miles round trip
Some people might consider this hike strenuous, but I think it’s mostly because shade is in limited supply on this trail (READ: non-existent!), which can make it unbearably hot during the summer. There is a steady rock incline and a narrow rock path with drop-offs towards the end of the trail. But certainly, it’s not in the same caliber as Angel’s Landing or Half Dome.
While this trail was challenging for our youngest, Claire, due to her muscle disorder, it was ranked as “easy to moderate” by the rest of the family.
Trailhead parking is limited, so if you’re coming during the summer, you’ll want to arrive before 7:30 am. If you opt to hike later in the day or evening, parking isn’t usually an issue.
There are vault toilets at the trailhead, but no other facilities.
Delicate Arch is one of the most photographed arches in Utah and is worth a visit. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen and just leaves you in wonder. For another great view of Delicate Arch, towards the end of the hike, you can climb up to a little window and view the arch through the window.
View Ute Petroglyphs and Old Cabin
At the start of the Delicate Arch Trailhead is a panel of petroglyphs left by previous inhabitants. The panel art is typical of what is seen in Ute rock carvings. Archeologists estimate that the markings were made sometime between 1650 and 1850.
Nearby, you’ll also see a small, one-room cabin built by John Wesley Wolfe in the late 1800s. If I had my pick of the Wild West in the late 1800s, I’m not sure that this is the spot I would have chosen to live. If you like blazing hot temperatures in the summer, sans shade trees and air conditioning, it might be a good choice for you. For that reason, this small, non-descript cabin is extra intriguing.
Hike to Sand Dune Arch in Devil’s Garden
This short hike is popular with families. It offers some shade during the summer…and plenty of sand to play in for the younger hikers.
have some Extra Time in Arches?
If you still have time to burn during your 1 day at Arches National Park, check out some of the other nearby arches in the Devil’s Garden area of the park. Broken Arch and Skyline Arch are both good choices! Or, head over to the Devil’s Garden Trailhead and hike to Landscape Arch or Double O Arch. For those who feel extra adventurous, a ranger-led tour through the Fiery Furnace might be a good option!
Hoping to spend one day in Bryce Canyon National Park and don’t know what to do? We can help!
If you’re traveling through southern Utah, Bryce Canyon is an absolute must-see!
We spent two days and nights in Bryce on our 7-day southern Utah road trip and it felt like the perfect amount of time. However, not everyone has two days, and you can certainly see much of the park in one day!
HIKE QUEEN’S GARDEN + NAVAJO LOOP TRAIL
Views of the canyon from up above are gorgeous, there’s no denying it. However, to fully experience Bryce, YOU MUST hike down into the canyon.
Wondering through the hoodoos as the sunlight dances through all the nooks and crannies is something we’ll never forget.
We suggest starting at Sunrise Point and taking the Queen’s Garden Trail. The path is steep, but the least steep of all trails leading into the canyon.
Follow the Queen’s Garden Trail until you reach the Navajo Loop. Take the Navajo Loop towards Wall Street (not Thor’s Hammer). Wind your way through a towering slot canyon until you reach Sunset Point.
Hike Length: 2.3 miles
TOUR THE VISITOR’S CENTER
There’s no better way to learn about the canyon than hearing about its history and speaking to the people who care for it day in and day out.
Head to the Visitor’s Center to watch an informative video about the park, talk to rangers, check out the interactive displays, and pick up a Junior Ranger booklet for the younger members of your crew.
VISIT INSPIRATION POINT AND BRYCE POINT
Riding around the park on the shuttle is a great way to see the canyon without the hassle. Take a shuttle tour of Bryce Canyon and get off at all the vista points! Two sights that you don’t want to miss are Inspiration Point and Bryce Point.
Inspiration Point offers jaw-dropping views of the unique rock formations. If you’re feeling up to it, take the short, but steep, hike up to mid and upper Inspiration Point.
EXPLORE OLD TOWN BRYCE
Small and quaint, albeit touristy, most families will enjoy a stroll through Old Town Bryce. Pick up souvenirs, take silly pictures, and grab something to eat. This area is small enough that if you blink, you might miss it!
If you ride the shuttle into town, don’t forget to bring along your park entry ticket so you can re-enter the park…without paying twice.
GO ON A WILDLIFE SIGHTING ADVENTURE
As dusk approaches, Bryce Canyon’s finest residents make an appearance. While wildlife isn’t nearly as diverse as Yellowstone, adventurers of all ages will enjoy spotting wild turkeys, mule deer, prairie dogs, chipmunks, and a variety of feathered friends.
We spotted the most creatures as we drove our car a few miles down the road, past Bryce Point toward Swamp Canyon and Whiteman Bench.
STROLL ALONG THE RIM TRAIL
Before the sun sets, hike the Rim Trail between Sunrise and Sunset Point. If you have extra time, hike from Inspiration Point to Sunrise Point.
This trail is mostly flat and hugs the edge of the canyon.
Trail Length: 1-mile roundtrip (Sunrise to Sunset)
Enjoy the beauty of Bryce Canyon
While Bryce Canyon National Park may be one of the smaller national parks, it should definitely be on everyone’s list. There’s nothing quite like it in all the world!
A Southern Utah road trip has been on my radar for years.
We’ve passed through Utah on several occasions, visited Zion National Park, and explored Dinosaur National Monument, but hadn’t spent concentrated time in this unique state.
The gorgeous red-rocked landscapes of Utah are recognized across the world. We didn’t have time to see everything (farming is a difficult job for Allan to do remotely), but we had plenty of time to see an amazing collection of some of the most beautiful places in Utah.
To help you plan your family’s southern Utah road trip, here’s a 7-day itinerary!
The first part of our road trip was spent…well, on the road. We traveled from the Central Coast of California to St. George, Utah. It was an 8-hour drive that was relatively uneventful.
The kids spend most of their time working on their new Road Trip Activity Binder that I created. Their favorite activities included the Find that State (license plate game), completing Silly Stories (my version of Mad Libs), and playing Sink the Ships. It definitely cut down on the typical disagreements that occur in the car.
The rest of the time they spent eating, looking out the window (we saw wild donkeys), and watching a Harry Potter movie.
We arrived at St. George in the middle of the afternoon and in the middle of a heatwave. A southern Utah road trip in July is not for the faint of heart. Thank goodness for swimming pools and air conditioning.
Swimming and relaxing for the afternoon and evening was a perfect way to start our vacation!
DAY 1 – BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK
Bryce Canyon is located only a little over two hours away from St. George. The wonderful thing about Bryce Canyon is that it’s nestled in the mountains at 8,300 feet above sea level. The temps dropped 25 degrees which was a nice change.
Get Settled at the Campsite or Hotel
When we arrived we immediately went to our campsite and set up camp. We like getting settled before we begin our adventures.
We stayed in the Sunset Campground which has picnic tables, fire pits (although there was a fire ban due to the drought), and flush toilets. Showers can be found at the General Store, a short distance from the campground.
Sunset Campground at Bryce National Park
Visit Inspiration Point
After setting up camp and getting some food in our bellies, we walked to the campground entrance and caught the shuttle bus to Inspiration Point.
The shuttle buses have air conditioning, which was lovely on a hot summer day. Masks are required on the shuttle, so don’t forget to throw one in your backpack!
We hopped out of the shuttle at Inspiration Point and got our very first glimpse of Bryce Canyon. Allan saw it first and all he said was, “Wow.”
“Momma, why aren’t you taking any pictures?” one of the kids asked.
“First I need to take it all in,” I replied.
Pictures are a treasure but they can never replace experiencing something with all five of your senses.
From the first viewpoint, we hiked up a short, but steep, dirt trail to the middle and upper lookouts for Inspiration Point. Sometimes, there are no words.
Tour the Visitor’s Center
Next, we hopped back on the shuttle and made our way to the Visitor’s Center. We typically like to stop by the Visitor’s Center on our first day in a new park to talk to Rangers, watch informative videos about the park, and check out the interactive displays. It’s also a great time to pick up a Junior Ranger booklet if you have younger children.
Explore Old Town Bryce
After the Visitor’s Center, we got back on the shuttle and rode into Old Town Bryce. We took silly pictures, contemplated buying an expensive slab of petrified wood (not really), and window-shopped.
TIP: Don’t forget to take your park pass with you! Old Town Bryce is located outside of Bryce National Park and the shuttle bus driver will require that you show your pass before you can get back on the bus.
We didn’t have ours with us. Oops! I asked if I could show him my campground reservation for proof of entry, and he obliged.
Visit Bryce Point
In the evening, we decided to drive ourselves down to Bryce Point. We admired the views of these amazing hoodoos, then got back in the car for our next adventure.
Take an Evening Wildlife Drive
The best time to view wildlife is in the cool of the morning or evening, around dusk. After leaving Inspiration Point, we drove towards Rainbow Point for a few miles and spotted mule deer, wild turkeys, prairie dogs, chipmunks, and ground squirrels.
Catch the Sunset at Sunset Point
Just before sunset, we ended our drive at Sunset Point. We walked along the rim trail and took in the changing views of the valley. There was a decent amount of cloud cover that evening, which ended up obscuring the sunset. Regardless, it was beautiful!
DAY 2 – BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK
On our second day in Bryce Canyon, we decided to beat the heat and take a morning hike. We were told that to fully appreciate Bryce Canyon you MUST hike into the hoodoos and see the rock formations up close and from a different angle.
Hike Queen’s Garden + Navajo Loop + Wall Street
The Queen’s Garden Trail begins at Sunset Point. The trail is fairly steep and the dirt trail was loose underfoot, but if you have decent traction on your shoes, you should be fine.
We hiked down Queen’s Garden Trail until we ran into the Navajo Loop Trail, which we followed east, and then finished by going north on Wall Street, up and out of the canyon.
This loop was about 3 miles and one of the most beautiful trails I have ever hiked in my life.
Eat Ice Cream in Old Town Bryce
After working up a sweat hiking, we drove into Old Town Bryce and got ice cream from the ice cream parlor. Unfortunately, it was some of the worst ice cream we’ve ever had. Haha! I didn’t know it was possible to have bad ice cream, but apparently, it happens. Next time, we would probably opt for a prepackaged ice cream treat from the General Store.
Go Souvenir Shopping
Getting a small souvenir (we’re budget shoppers), is always on the kid’s “must-do” list. It’s also my least favorite part of vacationing. But it brings them joy for years to come, so it’s a small sacrifice. We perused the General Store in Old Town Bryce (it’s big!), then headed back to the campsite for lunch.
Bike Bryce Canyon
Claire’s legs were done for the day, so Corrine and Allan went for a bike ride. An 18-mile paved multi-use trail runs through the park, and out along the highway. They ended up riding about 8 miles round trip and got in a workout with the higher elevation.
TIP: A shuttle bus driver said the best thing to do was to put your bike on the front of the shuttle in town, ride the bus up to Inspiration Point where the trail starts, and ride downhill the entire way back into town.
Hike the Rim Trail
Allan and the older kids still hadn’t had enough exercise, so they took the shuttle up to Bryce Point and hiked the 2-mile Rim Trail back to the campsite.
Date Night: Bike Ride and Sunset Watching
By the time they returned and we had dinner, I was itching to get out and explore more, so we left the kids at the campsite to play card games while Allan and I went on a quick date. We rode our bikes to Sunset Point and watched the sun set over the canyon. It was such a peaceful, beautiful moment that I’ll remember forever.
DAY 3 – SCENIC HWY 12 & ARCHES NATIONAL PARK
We packed up first thing in the morning and headed toward our next destination, Moab. Although it’s a slower route, I wanted to take Highway 12. This famous highway is famous for a reason.
Highway 12 could be classified as one of the most iconic and beautiful highways in the United States. It is equal parts majestic and terrifying.
You won’t see large semis on this route, for good reason. This route is carved through the beautiful rock formations of Bryce, Grand Staircase-Escalante, and Capitol Reef. One section will take you along a ridge that has stunning drop-offs on both sides of the road.
Our advice, if you’re pulling a large trailer or there’s inclement weather, take an alternate route. Otherwise, this will be a road that you’ll never forget!
Take time to pull off the highway periodically and enjoy the views. If you have avid hikers, hike to Lower Calf Creek Falls (8 miles roundtrip). Alternatively, younger children will enjoy a visit to Goblin State Park!
I was also surprised to see that while there was a huge variety of rock formations, there were also beautiful green mountain passes like the one pictured below. I definitely wasn’t expecting to see this view on my southern Utah road trip!
Eat Dinner at Moab Diner
An early dinner at the famed Moab Diner seemed like a good idea. The food is good, down-home cooking. Nothing too fancy. Just solid food. However, they have ice cream…
TIP: Get the huckleberry shake or a cup of huckleberry ice cream! You’ll thank me later.
Explore the Windows Area of Arches National Park
Arches National Park is located on the outskirts of Moab, just minutes away from downtown. After dinner, we headed into the park and were able to see the Courthouse Towers Viewpoint, Petrified Dunes, Balanced Rock, and the Windows Section.
The Windows Section had low crowds with ample parking. We all loved standing under Turret Arch and in the Windows. It feels otherworldly.
We could have easily spent several more hours in this section of the park. There’s so much to see in such a small area.
TIP: If you’re wanting to pick up a Junior Ranger booklet, you’ll have to plan to arrive in the park before 5 pm, when their Visitor’s Center closes.
DAY 4 – ARCHES & CANYONLANDS National Parks
Spend the first half of the day exploring Arches National Park and the second half in Canyonlands National Park!
Hike to Delicate Arch
Delicate Arch is one of the most photographed arches in all of Utah. You’ll even find it on the state license plate. It’s an iconic hike and something that should be experienced…at least once!
Arches National Park has seen higher-than-average visitor levels. When parking lots fill, they close the park entrance for a few hours until things thin out.
We left our hotel at 7 am to go to the park. We ended up driving around for 25 minutes trying to find a spot to park.
TIP: To secure a parking spot, arrive at the Delicate Arch Trailhead before 7:30 am, or arrive in the afternoon.
It was hot, so we opted to hike in the morning when the weather was a little cooler.
The hike to Delicate Arch has almost no shade, and you’re walking uphill on a large slab of rock for a good portion of the trail. Bring plenty of water!
This trail is only 3 miles roundtrip with a moderate elevation gain. Spots near the end of the trail have steep drop-offs, so keep young kids close.
The view at the end is worth the work!
View Petroglyphs and Cabin
Near the start of the trailhead, there is a spur trail that leads to some petroglyphs and an old cabin that we all enjoyed viewing and learning more about.
See Other Areas of Arches National Park
Depending on your energy levels and how quickly you finish the Delicate Arch hike, you can check out the Fiery Furnace area of the Arches National Park, or take a quick hike to Sand Dune Arch (kid favorite).
Island in the Sky at Canyonlands National Park
Leave Arches National Park and make your way toward Canyonlands National Park. This park was the park that surprised us the most.
We took a picnic dinner and explored the Island in the Sky area of Canyonlands. It’s truly stunning.
It reminded us of the Grand Canyon on a smaller scale…without all the people. This park is a hidden gem!
Hike to Mesa Arch
The hike to Mesa Arch is short, only .5 miles each way. Allan and I “hiked” in flip-flops, so I would say this is an easy trail for kids.
The most popular time to visit is in the morning when the sun is rising behind the arch. So, if seeing the Mesa Arch at sunrise is important to you, you could always visit Canyonlands in the morning and hike Delicate Arch in the evening.
The arch was much smaller than I had pictured it to be, but the view of the canyon through the arch is the show stopper. I could have sat there and stared out over the canyon for hours.
But, unfortunately, a storm blew in suddenly, and we were racing back to our vehicle to get out of the sand and wind. We, along with several other park visitors, ended up hanging out in our vehicle for almost an hour until the winds settled down and it was safe to drive.
Claire thought we were going to die. Everyone else thought it was exciting. To me, it was much less intense than being under a tornado warning in Texas (been there, done that).
TIP: Check the weather before you hike. Cell service can be spotty in the park, and summer storms can roll in quickly.
DAY 5 – TRAVEL TO ZION NATIONAL PARK
We packed up and hit the road for Zion. We thought about taking the southern route to see Monument Valley, Horseshoe Bend, and a couple of scenic spots in Kanab, but the kids were voting for less driving time, so we took the northern route.
The town of Springdale is located right next to Zion National Park entrance. There’s a free shuttle service that will allow you to travel up and down the main street. You can exit the shuttle right at the park entrance.
Yes, this is the place where you can talk to Rangers, ask questions about shuttles and trails, and pick up a free Junior Ranger booklet.
Ride the Shuttle Around Zion Valley
Whenever we arrive in a park, we enjoy riding the shuttle around the park to get “the lay of the land”. We hopped on a shuttle and rode down to the Temple of Sinawava, got off, then got back on and returned to the Visitor’s Center.
Evening Bike Ride along the Pa’rus Trail
While the kids and I hung out at the pool, Allan opted to take a bike ride along the Pa’rus Trail that winds through the park. There is an abundance of bike rental shops in the town of Springdale that rent cruisers and e-bikes. However, since we’re cheap, we love fixing flat tires, and we think riding bikes that haven’t had a tune-up in years builds character, we brought and rode our bikes.
DAY 6 – ZION NATIONAL PARK
Hike the Canyon Overlook Trail
Although we visited Zion National Park in 2015, we didn’t hike the Canyon Overlook Trail, so this was a first for us. Of all the hikes with did on our southern Utah road trip this summer, this one was one of our favorites!
We fell in LOVE with this trail.
It’s short, and has a cave, bridges, steps cut out of rock, and stunning views. What’s not to love?!
This 1-mile trail is family-friendly, but independence-seeking toddlers could make it more challenging.
TIP: If you can only do one hike in Zion, do this hike!
Lower, Middle, and Upper Emerald Pools Hikes
Claire’s legs were maxed out after hiking the Canyon Overlook Trail (when you live with a muscle disease, you learn that it’s best to know your limits), so Allan took the girls back to swim while Brandon and I went for a hike.
We chose to hike Lower, Middle, and Upper Emerald Pools. It was sweltering, but we survived and there was at least a little water falling which made it rewarding.
If you have younger kids, I would recommend taking the Lower Emerald Pools trail and combining it with a Kayenta Trail, skipping Middle and Upper Pools.
Relax by the Pool
We loved our hotel stay at La Quinta Inn and Suites. The pool was huge and perfect for families. Plus, we had amazing views of the red-walled cliffs and the hotel is located less than a mile from the park entrance.
DAY 7 – ZION NATIONAL PARK
The Narrows is a section of the Virgin River through a tall, narrow canyon. Hikers wade through the water, up the river for several miles. The water is typically no higher than waist-deep.
There are lots of rocks in the water that make it more challenging to navigate. It’s a gorgeous and unique experience that’s a must-do for most visitors to the park.
You’ll notice there are quite a few outfitters that rent hiking boots and poles.
Can you guess what we did since we’re cheap? We saved $150 and hiked in water shoes that we picked up at Walmart for $5.98.
You can hike for five minutes up the river or for hours. You choose! Claire and I opted for an abbreviated version, and Allan took the older kids higher up the river.
While I do love this hike, it is one of the busiest hikes in Zion.
The Lodge for Lunch
At Zion Lodge in the park, there is a cafeteria where we grabbed lunch after our Narrows hike. The food is typical park food with a selection of burgers, sandwiches, pizza, and salad. There is very little in life as rewarding as a burger and fries after a hike. I opted for a chicken burger and they were kind enough to give it to me in a lettuce wrap.
Attend Ranger Talk
We sat on the lawn to eat our lunch, and there was a ranger nearby leading a talk about condors. My ten-year-old especially loved learning more about condors! The rangers are great about making it interactive and having plenty of hands-on items for the kids to explore.
Relax by the Pool
Are you noticing a theme here?
We enjoy both camping and staying in hotels and typically do both on our road trips. In the first half of our trip, we camp. Then, for the second half, we stay in hotels. Ending our trip with plenty of pool time is a great way to just slow down and chill before returning home.
PLANNING YOUR SOUTHERN UTAH ROAD TRIP
Are you planning a southern Utah road trip? What is on your itinerary? Do you have any questions?
Looking to spend three days in Sedona for a couple’s getaway? If you love nature and want to explore this beautiful part of Arizona, this three-day itinerary will show you all the best parts of this gorgeous red rock community.
While the town of Sedona is small (there are only 10,000 residents), the town attracts over 3 million visitors every year. The area is well-known for its hiking, art, and beauty. Sedona boasts more than 300 miles of hiking trails, numerous art galleries, hotels, and day spas.
Allan and I recently visited Sedona for a much-needed couples getaway. It was the perfect mixture of relaxation and rejuvenation. We hiked, sipped coffee, kayaked, explored, and ate amazing food.
If you’re looking for a romantic getaway, Sedona is the perfect place to visit. If you’re looking for an adventurous getaway, Sedona is the perfect place as well. One thing Sedona doesn’t do well is nightlife. But that was fine with us since we are more into nature than city life…most of the time.
DAY 1: SEDONA GETAWAY
Eat Breakfast at Wildflower Bread Company
On your first day of your three days in Sedona, start the morning off with a quick breakfast at Wildflower Bread Company. While we didn’t find the breakfast outstanding, the views certainly are! Snag an outdoor table on the patio with unbelievable mountain views.
A short distance from Wildflower Bread Company is the Jordan Road Trailhead. While you won’t be hiking the Jordan Trail, it’s a great place to park if you want to hike Soldier’s Pass Loop Trail.
First, using your debit or credit card, purchase a $5 parking permit from the kiosk in the parking lot. Make a quick trip to the onsite vault-style restrooms (don’t forget to hold your breath). Then, hit the trail.
This 5-mile loop provides beautiful views of rock formations, and wildflowers (if you visit in spring), and stops by several well-known landmarks including Soldier Arch, Seven Sacred Pools, and the Devil’s Kitchen Sinkhole.
Have Lunch at Pump House Station Urban Eatery
You’ll be famished after all that hiking, so stop by the Pump House Station Urban Eatery and enjoy lunch on their back patio that butts up to Oak Creek. Large sycamores, green grass, and colorful flowers provide a peaceful ambiance.
Explore Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village
Take some time after lunch to explore the nearby art galleries and shops in the stunning Tlaquepaque Village. Cobblestone paths, beautiful landscapes, and arches will welcome you to stroll along and enjoy this area!
Experience the Airport Mesa Vortex
From the village, head to Airport Mesa to experience a popular Sedona vortex: Airport Mesa. If you’re up for more hiking, walk the 3.2-mile loop. If you just need some downtime, make the short trek up the rocky knoll to take in the incredible 360-degree views of Sedona. Sit and reflect, try some yoga, or even take a nap.
Visit the Chapel of the Holy Cross
While three days isn’t enough time to hike every trail Sedona has to offer, there are some places you can drive to without hiking. Many places in Sedona allow for hiking or driving. The Chapel of the Holy Cross is one of those places. Parking is free at the chapel, but the parking lot usually closes early, around 5 p.m.
This functional work of art was completed in 1956 and is uniquely situated on the red rocks.
Relax at the Hotel
If you’re not ready for dinner, head back to the hotel and enjoy the pool or spa while everyone else is at dinner. A soak in the hot tub is a great way to unwind after all the hiking and walking.
Dine at The Hudson
The Hudson is rated as one of the best restaurants in Sedona. You can expect that they will be busy! Either make reservations online well in advance (3+ weeks) or go early and expect a wait. If you can snag an outdoor patio table, you’ll get amazing views of the towering rock formations.
After dinner, head back to your hotel and get a good night’s rest!
DAY 2: SEDONA GETAWAY
Grab Breakfast at Layla’s Bakery-Café
Swing by Layla’s Bakery-Café for breakfast. Conveniently located near the turn-off for the trailhead, you’ll find an assortment of coffees, pastries, or heartier (and healthier) options like avocado toast, sandwiches, and breakfast burritos and bowls. To speed up your experience, order online ahead of time.
Hike to Devil’s Bridge
(Mescal Trail + Devil’s Bridge)
Devil’s Bridge is one of the most photographed, and popular, locations in Sedona. However, no trip to Sedona is complete without having seen this phenomenon at least once.
Most people park along Boynton Pass Road and walk up Dry Creek Road (an ATV/4×4 road) to the Devil’s Bridge Trailhead. Don’t be like most people. Alternatively, park at the Mescal Trailhead and take the Mescal Trail to Devil’s Bridge Trail.
The hike is just over 4 miles round trip and fairly easy…except for the last half mile to the top of Devil’s Bridge.
If you want to get your picture taken on the bridge, expect to wait 45+ minutes. When we arrived at 9 am, over 100 people were waiting for a photograph. Given the slowness of the line, I estimate that it would have been a 1 ½ hour wait. Having a photograph wasn’t that important to us, so we took a cheesy selfie and went on our merry way.
Get a Sandwich at Wildflower Bread Company
Grab a sandwich to-go from Wildflower Bread Company. Their homemade sourdough is all types of amazing. I recommend their turkey and brie on sourdough–delish! Either eat in the car on the way to your kayaking adventure or have a picnic lunch by the river when you arrive.
Kayak Down the Verde River
While it’s a bit of a drive, variety is the spice of life when you have three days in Sedona, and being on the water is always fun! Enjoy a 2-3 hour float down the Verde River, located about an hour south of Sedona. If it’s windy, you will need to do some paddling, but overall, this is a low-key adventure that is suitable for most adventurers.
Meander Through Uptown Sedona
After your trip down the river, you’ll be ready to take it easy. Walk the streets and explore the shops of Uptown Sedona. Pick out a souvenir for the kids at home, and listen to the music being played by the locals.
Eat Mexican Food for Dinner
If you’re looking for an authentic Mexican meal, head to Tortas de Fuego, one of the top-rated Mexican restaurants in Sedona. They had me at chips and salsa. If you’re looking for something more upscale, visit Javelina Cantina and enjoy some tacos and margaritas with a view.
Relax at the Hotel or Go Stargazing
After dinner, head back to the hotel to relax. Or, if you prefer, park your car under the dark night sky and do some stargazing. Favorite stargazing spots in Sedona include Airport Mesa, Two Trees, Jordan Road, and Crescent Moon.
DAY 3: SEDONA GETAWAY
Enjoy Breakfast at Red Rock Cafe or Casa Sedona
Start your last day with a leisurely breakfast. Either hit up Red Rock Cafe in Oak Creek Village or Casa Sedona Restaurant in Sedona.
Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte
Located at the southern end of Sedona and just north of Oak Creek Village, there are plenty of trails to explore around Courthouse Butte and Bell Rock. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, try climbing Bell Rock and see how high you can get!
Lunch at Momo’s Kitchen
The highest-rated eateries in Sedona is a food truck. Momo’s Kitchen is magic. I’m a huge fan of bibimbap, and Momo’s did not disappoint. The truck is located in Uptown Sedona, making it the perfect lunch stop as you head up Highway 89A for your next adventure.
Drive Scenic Highway 89A
Next, hit the road and take the scenic Highway 89A north toward Flagstaff. Go as far as you would like and enjoy the beauty of the creek as it winds through the rock-walled mountains.
Visit Red Rock State Park or Swim at Grasshopper Point
If swimming is your thing, spend the afternoon at Slide Rock State Park. Located right off Highway 89A, you’ll find natural rock slides…and a fair amount of people. Additionally, visitors also enjoy swimming at Grasshopper Point where the crowds are a little thinner.
Enjoy a Couple’s Massage at Red Rock Healing Massage
Undoubtedly, the perfect way to top off your couple’s getaway in Sedona is to get a couple’s massage! Healing arts are widely embraced in Sedona, so there are plenty of options to choose from. We chose Red Rock Healing Massage. Patricia and Leigh were top-notch! They listen to your preferences and seem to know exactly what you need. They incorporated aromatherapy into the session, which I loved. I left feeling incredibly light and relaxed.
Dinner Creekside American Bistro
Finally, finish off your last evening in Sedona with a dinner at Creekside American Bistro. Weather permitting, outdoor patio seating is always a great choice!
Start Dreaming About How You’ll Spend Your Next Three Days in Sedona
Before our visit, I had heard so much about Sedona I was a little afraid it wouldn’t live up to my expectations—but I was wrong! Spending three days in Sedona for a couple’s getaway was the best decision!
Sedona is the perfect combination for nature lovers, adventure seekers, and foodies alike!
If you have any questions about planning a couple’s getaway or a family trip to Sedona, drop them in the comments below! I would love to hear from you!
Visiting Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado is a must for families.
While Mesa Verde National Park may not be as popular as the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, or Yellowstone, this park is a huge hit among kids and should be part of a family road trip!
Mesa Verde is home to some of the best-preserved cliff dwellings in the United States. These ancient ruins are truly remarkable.
Kids love the hands-on exploration
Hiking to Spruce Tree House cliff dwelling
About Mesa Verde National Park
Who Lived in the Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings?
For over 700 years, Native Americans called the Ancestral Puebloans (also known as the Anasazi) inhabited the flat mountaintops and eventually constructed living quarters in the sandstone mountainsides of Mesa Verde National Park.
What Does Mesa Verde Mean?
Mesa means “table” in Spanish and verde means “green”. So, Mesa Verde literally translated means “green table”. Some mountains are flat on top with no mountain peaks. These are commonly referred to as mesas because they are straight like tabletops! Green likely describes the shrubs that grow on top.
VISITING MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK
Where is Mesa National Park Located?
Mesa Verde is located in southwest Colorado within a short driving distance of Four Corners Monument (where Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and Colorado meet) and the popular travel destination of Durango, Colorado.
How Many Days Do You Need at Mesa Verde?
Most people find that a one-day visit to Mesa Verde National Park gives them a good overview of the park. If you want to see as much as possible, a two-day trip is advised.
The park is 52,000 acres and has over 600 cliff dwellings. Most of the dwellings are small with only one or two rooms, but the larger dwellings, like Spruce Tree House, has over 100 rooms! Not all rooms are accessible to the public, but there is plenty to see and experience during one full day in the park.
When is the Best Time to Visit Mesa Verde?
During the winter months and into early spring, park guests aren’t able to explore the cliff dwellings and ruins, but they can still view them from scenic lookouts. If your family wants to physically explore the Mesa Verde ruins (highly recommended!), plan a visit when the cliff dwellings can be toured, preferably during late spring through fall.
Can You Explore the Cliff Dwellings at Mesa Verde?
Yes! While not all the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings are open to the public, some are. Places like Spruce Tree House allow self-guided tours, while places like Cliff Palace and Balcony House are paid, ranger-guided tours.
Visit the park website for tour details and to check for any closures or alerts that may be in effect.
Mesa Verde Hiking and Trails
For those families who love to hike, Mesa Verde offers almost a dozen trails to explore! Most hikes are in the 2-3 mile range.
1-Day Mesa Verde Itinerary
To help you plan your visit to Mesa Verde National Park, we’ve put together a one-day itinerary to help you save more, see more, and enjoy more!
Stop by the Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center
After entering the park, you’ll want to stop by the visitor center. It’s here that you can learn more about the park, get a Junior Ranger booklet for the kids, and schedule a ranger-guided tour. While tours can be reserved online before your visit, you’ll still need to get a hard-copy ticket from the visitor center.
Become a Junior Ranger
The National Parks Junior Ranger program is a fun educational opportunity…with the benefits of a free souvenir! Kids who complete the program (usually a small activity booklet) and take the Junior Ranger pledge, will receive a small wooden Mesa Verde Junior Ranger badge!
It doesn’t take a lot of time, it’s free to participate, and the kids can complete pages while driving from one location to another or while sitting on the side of the trail. Each booklet teaches about the park’s history, ecosystem, and geology.
Simply return your completed booklet to a ranger at the visitor center at the end of the day and claim your reward!
My kids love asking the rangers questions–park rangers are the best!
Tour the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum
From the Visitor’s Center, you wind your way through the mountains to the hub of the park, The Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum, and the trailhead for Spruce Tree House Cliff Dwellings.
The museum has a variety of exhibits about the people of the park as well as a 25-minute film that gives an overview of Mesa Verde.
While you certainly can hike before watching the film, we like learning some of the park’s history before exploring.
Hike to Spruce Tree House
Spruce Tree House is visible from the museum, and it’s a fairly easy hike to the cliff dwellings. Kids will love exploring at their own pace, climbing ladders, and peeking through ancient windows.
Eat a Picnic Lunch
Find a picnic table, or sit cross-cross-applesauce on the ground, and enjoy the beautiful scenery while you eat your packed lunch. If you didn’t pack and lunch, you can also grab a bite to eat at the Spruce Tree Terrace Cafe.
Take a Ranger-Guided Tour of Another Cliff Dwelling
After lunch, take a guided tour with a ranger! The cheapest one to two-hour tours include Cliff Palace, Balcony House, and Long House.
Cliff Palace is the largest cliff dwelling at Mesa Verde while Balcony House has a short tunnel. All tours require visitors to climb large, sturdy ladders, so they may not be suited to very young guests…although we all know that 18-month-olds are the world’s fiercest mountain goats.
If You Have Extra Time in Mesa Verde
If you find yourself with extra time in your day (some of us hike and eat faster than others), try exploring Petroglyph Point Trail (more challenging) or Soda Canyon Overlook Trail (easy)!
Enjoy Your Day in Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde is such a unique place and the perfect place to spend a day exploring. Are you planning a trip to Mesa Verde? Do you have any questions? Ask me in the comments below!