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!
If you’re looking for things to do in Bryce Canyon with kids, you’ve come to the right place!
The area around Bryce Canyon is not highly developed, so most of the adventures here will be a little more on the rustic side.
Fortunately, if your kids love dirt, rocks, trees, birds, and animals as much as our kids do, they’ll be perfectly content. The two days we spent camping at Sunset Campground in Bryce Canyon National Park were some of our kids’ favorite days on our southern Utah road trip!
Go for a hike
I’m not sure how we got so lucky, but our kids love to hike. Maybe it’s because we always hiked with them (even when they were newborns) or because they got hiking genes. Either way, I count myself fortunate!
Even if your kids don’t love to hike, there are trails in Bryce Canyon that I think every kid, and adult, will love.
Queen’s Garden + Navajo Loop
Hands down, this is our favorite trail in Bryce Canyon. While it can be a little steep at the start and finish, there are so many “fun” things about this trail that make kids happy.
There are weird rocks, chipmunks, tunnels, rock cutouts, tree tunnels, and a tall narrow slot canyon.
This wide, flat path will take you from Bryce Point to Inspiration Point to Sunset Point to Sunrise Point. You can walk the entire length or you can simply walk between two points, like Sunrise and Sunset.
Mossy Cave Trail
Located outside of the main park area, this short jaunt offers something different–water. If water is flowing, that is. Kids may enjoy seeing something different, and Mossy Cave is different.
Take in the views
Don’t feel like hiking? Ride the shuttle!
Bryce Canyon shuttle buses are air-conditioned, which is lovely during the hot summer months. Kids will love sitting in a cushy chair, without a seat belt, and enjoying the canyon at an easy pace.
At most national parks that provide shuttle service, we like to ride the shuttle around the entire park when we first arrive to familiarize ourselves with the layout of the park.
The shuttle bus in Bryce Canyon takes visitors to well-known vistas including Inspiration Point, Bryce Point, Sunset Point, and Sunrise Point.
Go for a bike ride
The bike trail system in Bryce Canyon is top-notch!
There is a shared-use, paved path that winds through the park and out of the park for 18 miles. The portion of the path that runs through the park isn’t completely level, so keep that in mind if you have young bikers.
Bikes can also be placed on a bike rack on the front of the shuttle bus, so we recommend riding downhill (Inspiration Point is the highest location), then having the shuttle bus take you uphill.
Explore the Visitor’s Center
We always love learning more about the places we visit, the Visitor’s Center is the perfect place to educate yourself!
Watch a Park Movie
A free film about the park, its history, and its inhabitants plays every 30 minutes, on the hour and half hour. Kids will also enjoy looking at the animal displays located in the theatre.
Discover Hands-on Displays
Within the Visitor’s Center are educational displays that provide a hands-on experience.
Participate in the Junior Ranger Program
The Visitor’s Center is also a great place to pick up a Junior Ranger Booklet for the kids to complete. They can take the pledge as a young ranger and earn their own Bryce Canyon badge!
Go Wildlife Viewing
Kids love nothing more than going on a wildlife sighting adventure! Take the shuttle, walk, bike, or hop in the car and search for wildlife at dusk. We saw birds, deer, turkeys, prairie dogs, chipmunks, and more!
Wander Through Old Town Bryce
While Old Town Bryce is small and may be a bit of a tourist trap, it’s certainly kid-friendly. Kids will enjoy souvenir shopping, looking at petrified wood, and grabbing a sweet treat to eat.
Attend the Bryce Canyon Country Rodeo
If you’re looking for an old-fashioned adventure, check out the Bryce Canyon Country Rodeo. It runs Wednesday through Saturday nights throughout the summer months.
Take a Horseback Riding Adventure
If you’d rather be in the saddle yourself, take a trail ride! Guests must be at least seven years old to participate.
Enjoy a Guided ATV Tour
For something a little more adventurous, take a guided ATV tour. Riders must also be at least seven years old to participate.
Or Simply Enjoy Your Campsite
Kids truly don’t need much to be entertained, and our kids enjoyed biking around the campground, finding lizards, making pine needle forts, playing games, and just hanging out!
Are you planning a trip to Bryce Canyon National Park with kids? Do you have any questions! I’d love to hear from you!
If you’re looking for the best family hike in Bryce Canyon, look no further.
We combined Queen’s Garden Trail + Navajo Loop + Wall Street while visiting Bryce Canyon National Park with the kids. This 2.3-mile trail combo is now one of our top three kid-friendly hikes of all time.
Bryce Canyon sits at roughly 8,000 feet of elevation, so we enjoyed this hike on our second day in the park, which gave our bodies a little more time to adjust to the lower levels of oxygen.
Because we were visiting during the summer, on our 7-day southern Utah road trip, we opted to hit the trail first thing in the morning, before the sun was blazing.
FINDING THE TRAILHEAD
Head to Sunrise Point, where you’ll find the trailhead!
Shuttles in the park didn’t begin operating until 8 am when we were in the park, and since we wanted to get an early start, we opted to drive our vehicle to Sunrise Point.
At the base of the Sunrise Point viewpoint, you’ll see a trail marker for Queen’s Garden.
While you certainly can start this trail combo at Sunset Point, we had heard from some other travel friends that hiking UP Wall Street was magical, so we chose to start at Sunrise Point on the Queen’s Garden Trail.
Note: There are restrooms located near the parking lot at the General Store. There are no restrooms (of the modern variety) along the trail. So, plan accordingly.
QUEEN’S GARDEN TRAIL
You’ll quickly notice that the start of this trail is steep! However, this point of entry is considered the easiest trail to enter the canyon.
The trail can be dusty and slippery, so make sure you have decently treaded shoes!
The hoodoos (pillars of eroded rock) give a garden-like appearance…if you use your imagination. Keep an eye out for the garden’s namesake, Queen Victoria, as she looks out over the rocky garden.
The scenery as you look out over the amphitheater is spectacular. Just within the first half mile, you’ll realize why this is one of the most popular trails in Bryce Canyon.
Around every corner is something mesmerizing.
Rest in the shade of a limestone hoodoo when you get tired, or just pause to take it all in.
Kids, especially, will love the tunnels cut out of the rock!
NAVAJO LOOP VIA WALL STREET
The trail will eventually intersect the Navajo Loop trail. Turning right will take you back up and out of the canyon, but if you want to see the most remarkable portion of this trail, you’ll want to take a left and follow the Navajo Loop along the canyon floor.
The final portion of the Navajo loop will show you why this trail is the best family hike in Bryce Canyon.
Towering walls of red limestone will surround you and become increasingly narrow as you head up Wall Street.
If you’re like us, you’ll say “wow” every ten seconds and stop to take dozens of pictures.
The last portion of the trail is a series of steep switchbacks, but you’ll be inspired by all the beauty around you.
ARRIVE AT SUNSET POINT
The trail will come to an end at Sunset Point. Take some time to admire the views (and catch your breath). If your legs feel like JELL-O, grab the shuttle and hitch a ride back to your vehicle at Sunrise Point.
If you still have some energy to burn, hike along the Rim Trail back to your starting point.
Wall Street! Can you spot the hikers on the trail coming out of the canyon?
Have you hiked Bryce Canyon?
Do you have a favorite family hike in Bryce Canyon? Or have you hiked this trail combination before? Share it with us in the comments!
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?
Do you have a budding paleontologist in your family? Or, is your child obsessed with geology and fossils?
We have a couple of kiddos in our family who are. They spend hours looking at rocks they find in the riverbed behind our house, trying to guess what fossilized creatures they’ve discovered.
When I knew we would be passing through eastern Utah on a road trip, inspiration struck. Without a doubt, I knew we needed to add Dinosaur National Monument as a stop.
It’s one of those places I hadn’t heard much about, and none of our friends or family had visited. I’m not sure why. Maybe because it’s not close to any other attractions, but off by itself in the middle of nowhere.
Honestly, I thought it would be fun for our dinosaur-lovers, but I wasn’t prepared for how much ALL of us would love this little hidden gem.
Two States, One Monument
Dinosaur National Monument sits right on the border of Colorado and Utah. There are two areas of the park, the Canyon Visitor Center located in Colorado, and the Quarry Exhibit Hall located in Utah.
If you want to see dinosaur fossils (you do), you’ll want to visit the Utah side. A large building called the Quarry Exhibit Hall houses the fossils.
The Quarry Exhibit Hall is built around a huge riverbed discovery. About 1,500 dinosaur bones are on display!
Quarry Exhibit Hall fossil collection (over 1,500 bones)
Get In Free If You Have a Fourth Grader
We had a fourth-grader when we visited, so we were able to use her “Every Kid Outdoors” pass to get the whole family in for free. If you have a fourth-grade student, you’ll definitely want to get a pass of your own! Not only does this pass get you into national parks free for one year, but it also grants you access to over 2,000 national monuments and federal recreation sites!
Quarry Visitor Center
The visitor center is small, consisting primarily of a theatre and gift shop. First, view a short film about the park and learn more about the history of Dinosaur National Monument.
Become a Junior Ranger
Also, while you’re at the visitor center, be sure to pick up a Junior Ranger booklet for your young adventurers. Young explorers can complete activities in the booklet and earn a Junior Ranger badge–for free!
At the entrance to the Quarry Visitor Center in Utah
Ride the Tram
From the visitor center, guests can take a tram/shuttle ride up to the Quarry Exhibit Hall. Depending on the season (and COVID precautions), guests may take their own vehicle instead.
Obviously, the tram ride is a hit with kids. It made the trip to the Exhibit Hall more exciting and mysterious!
TIP: Bring plenty of water if you’re visiting during the summer. It was scorching hot when we visited in July. We had to wait for the tram for about 15-20 minutes.
Riding the tram to the Quarry Exhibit Hall
Dinosaur fossil heaven
Visit the Quarry Exhibit Hall
This is where the magic happens! Guests will get to see dinosaur bones up close and personal. They even get to touch them!
My eldest was especially in awe. “My mind is just blown. I just can’t believe it. It’s just completely blown! I’m looking at all these real dinosaur bones, AND I’m actually getting to touch them.”
Blissfully content after touching REAL dinosaur fossils
Explore More at Dinosaur National Monument
Turn your visit into a mini-vacation! If you have more than a day, you can explore even more at Dinosaur National Monument.
Visit the Canyon Visitor Center in Dinosaur, Colorado, and spend some time hiking, fishing, and discovering petroglyphs throughout the park. Some camping is available as well.
If you’re feeling extra adventurous, go white-water rafting on the Green River!
A DINOSAUR-LOVER’S DREAM VACATION
Scheduling a stop at Dinosaur National Monument is a must if you’re passing through north-eastern Utah! This was a highlight for our kids, and they have asked to go back. They want to camp and explore more of the area.
However, if camping isn’t your thing, you can stay in the town of Vernal, Utah, just a little north of the park.
Do you have aspiring paleontologists in your family? Have you been to Dinosaur National Monument? What did you think? Tell us in the comments below!