For spring break this year, the Fab Fam took a camping road trip across the Southwest (from Austin to Big Bend Ranch State Park in West Texas, Page, Arizona for Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend, and Zion and Arches National Parks in Utah). I’ll share our overall road trip route, itinerary, and recommendations in a few weeks, but leading up to that I am highlighting each of our destinations in detail. Today’s post covers our visit to Arches National Park in southern Utah.
Since I knew that Arches was a big park, I knew that we would need to maximize our time there. The solution was to do some research in advance to plan our strategy. The best resources were cross-comparing the park map (click here for a PDF) with this great article on kid-friendly hikes in Arches. The article shares which hikes the kids could likely handle (distance, incline, etc.) as well as the hikes and spots in the park in which young children would have the most fun. This helped us plan our attack and prioritize the two half-days we had there.
We decided to start with Balanced Rock, a short trail with a cool rock formation. Even though we didn’t stop before Balanced Rock, there was much beauty to be seen on the scenic drive leading to it. We could see Courthouse Towers, Tower of Babel, and the Petrified Dunes from our car.
The view from the North and South Windows trail is pretty incredible, but you’ve got to get up into the window to see it.
We were running out of time to get out of the park before their nightly construction began (there is a big park construction project in 2017), so couldn’t see much more on our first half-day in Arches. We knew we had to see Delicate Arch (the most iconic arch in the park), but didn’t want to try to fight the sunset crowds (it is apparently most picturesque at sunset) then scramble to get out of the park in time, so we decided to save it for the next day.
There are two ways to see Delicate Arch. There is a viewpoint only a short walk from a parking lot. This would be an ideal choice on a really hot day, if you didn’t have much time in the park, or if you weren’t physically able to handle the hike to the arch itself. The second option is a 3-mile round-trip hike that gets you right up into the arch. A good part of this hike is uphill, and there is very little shade. That being said, I highly recommend seeing the arch up close if you and your family can handle all of this.
We went in March, which was warm, but not terribly hot. We still required lots of water for the hike, and had to give the kiddos pep talks along the way. But they did handle it, and I was very proud of both of them! There were lots of other families with kids on the hike, so we knew it was possible. The feeling of accomplishment of getting to the arch, coupled with the majesty of the arch itself made it even more special when we finally got there.
Since the hike to Delicate Arch took more time than we expected, and since we had to get back on the road, we didn’t get a chance to see Sand Dune Arch, which is apparently really fun for kids. Next time!
We booked too late to camp in the park or in nearby Moab, so we stayed about 45 minutes north in the Green River State Park campground. This was a very nice campground, but it would have been nice to be closer to Moab, where there are grocery stores, cute restaurants and shops, and other facilities that you just can’t find anywhere else nearby (this is a sparsely populated part of the state). Again, next time!
I hope this helps inspire your own visit to Arches National Park! Don’t forget to pin for when you are planning your own family trip to Utah, and stay tuned for our full southwestern US road trip itinerary on the blog soon!