Utah National Parks with Kiddos

Utah has A LOT to offer in regards to National Parks so we decided to make our entire spring break based on that!  Our travels took place in March 2021 so if you are visiting in the summer I would think our experiences could vary due to the weather!

We flew into Salt Lake City and had a very late arrival so we just quickly went over to the Residence Inn which was right by the airport.  We literally just slept here and then headed out the next morning but the room was good!  The next morning we headed out to go to Moab where we spent the first half of our trip.  The drive from Salt Lake City to Moab took us 3 hours and 40 minutes but the scenery is beautiful.  I would suggest making sure you have a full tank of gas before taking this drive as well as it was pretty remote but there were bathroom stops available.  On our drive over we saw some snow flurries. 

MOAB ARRIVAL (Saturday)

When we arrived in Moab our place was not ready yet so we went to one of our hikes we wanted to do and changed our shoes in the car and layered up.  The forecast said rain and it was drizzling so we debated going but we are glad that we did.  We did the Corona Arch Trail which was rated as moderate and I would for sure agree with that.  There was an area of the trail that you had to use a rope to pull yourself up some rocks.  Getting down the girls for sure needed some assistance / reassurance to get down.  Once we got to the Corona Arch it was stunning — so big & beautiful. 

We for sure saw people on the trail but it was not busy at all!  We have done lots of hiking in National Parks but I read that these parks were very rocky and hiking boots were suggested rather than just sneakers.  So, I bit the bullet and got us all some.  About 3 minutes into the hike we were so thankful not only for our hiking boots but our warm wool socks.  I did a bunch of research and for myself and the girls we went with these Columbia boots.  For my husband we got these Columbia ones.  We all were happy with them and found them comfy and had a great grip.  The wool socks were so great because it is COLD and they really are a game changer.  I got these ones for the adults and these for youth!  Once we completed the hike we headed to our Air BNB with a quick stop into the town grocery store. We went to The Village Market - I felt like they had a great selection, even a fresh deli and some cut up fresh fruit options and reasonable prices.  Before leaving Salt Lake City we did go by Target to get non perishables so we just had to get a few things.  We stayed in this Air BNB and would recommend it as well. It was clean, great location & the kids thought the rock climbing wall, super tall bunk beds & fireman’s poll were amazing :).  If you prefer a hotel there are also tons of those options as well — we saw several chain hotels (Marriott, Westin, Holiday Inn, etc) as well as private ones.  Most of them have pools for those visiting in the summer.  We cooked dinner in our rental, watched a movie & went to bed!

ARCHES NATIONAL PARK (Sunday)

Our next day we headed into Arches National Park.  We have a 4th grader with us so we used the free National Park pass that they get but otherwise note that there is an admission cost of $35 per park.

The entire park is one drive with a few breakouts for trails.  We knew we wanted to do windows so we headed that way and did the double windows trail.  When we arrived we hit the restrooms (which were great compared to some other parks we’ve been to) and it started snowing so we hit the trails.   We went to the North Window and then the South and hit a bonus arch on our way out. This trail was pretty easy but there are a decent amount of steps so wouldn’t be stroller friendly — we saw lots of people with baby carriers though.   

 

We also pack a soft sided cooler to bring with us so we can pack our lunch on hiking days.  So, we headed to the car to find a picnic location and we hit the jackpot with this pullover viewing / picnic spot.  After leaving here on our drive to our next Traill we did see a set up picnic area with picnic tables which would be awesome as well!

 

 

The next trail we did on accident and it was the Tunnel Arch from the Devil's Garden Trailhead.  It was easy but just an eh trail.  We did snap a few pictures then headed back to find the trail we were looking for :) Also, I know this trail has many breakout points so it may be a great place to catch some other hikes! 

Our next trail was Broken Arch Trail.  It was interesting — it wasn’t super well marked but it was about 1.6 miles round trip and took us to this huge arch which had a rock scramble underneath it.  The path was lose clay so it was a little more difficult when going back uphill — kind of like walking on the beach going uphill in boots :)   It was fun and I would suggest it, again, not stroller friendly. 

We headed back to the rental, watched Hunger Games & made homemade pizzas :)  Of course, we all coordinated to wear our Adventure Buddies sweatshirts on the same day :). 

CANYONLANDS NATIONAL PARK (Monday)

Before we did our adventures in Canyonlands we stopped by Moab’s best donut spot - Doughbird.  They also rave about their chicken sandwich but that wasn’t available until 11am.  The donuts were more gourmet style donuts and they also had cronuts.  Jeremy & Jules really liked them — I am more of a DD kind of girl :) 

With our donuts in hand we started our journey on to Canyonlands National Park.  Before plotting out your trip take note that there are TWO entrances to the park and you can’t drive through the park to the other entrance so you make a choice which one you want to go to.  They are about 2.5 hour drive apart.  We went to the Island Sky entrance (about a 45 minute drive from Moab) and quickly realized that you can’t drive through the park so we did one hike here — Mesa Arch.  It was amazing and such awesome views but I will say it was probably also the busiest view point we had been to thus far.  We had to wait in a line to take pictures in the arch. 

We debated if we wanted to go to the Needles section of the park and do the drive but we decided since this was our plan for the day that we should.  So, we loaded back up and drove to the needles entrance.  As with most of the area we passed one gas station so make sure you fuel up before heading out! 

Once at Needles we did the Slickrock trail which said it was a 2.5 mile trail.  We started on and encountered a couple that told us the loop started up ahead and took the full 2 hours.  We thought we were already on the trail — so I would say there is about a .5 mile hike before getting on the trail so take that into consideration.  It was about 52 degrees when we went on our hike and it felt nice!  Once we got on the loop we realized the sun was POUNDING US!  We all got pretty hot and we took one shade break.  That was literally the only shade we found hiding under a tree — there is NO shade on these trails so the sun is literally beating on you.  We went through 4 bottles of water for the 4 of us and celebrated when we reached the end of the loop.  It took us a little less than an hour to complete the loop.  Just be sure to realize it is going to be HOT with the sun pounding and bring plenty of water.   

We then headed over to Cave Springs Trail with a cool down in the car on the way over.  We followed the map provided and it does take you to an unpaved part of the park but it was easy driving.  This trail was neat — it had an old cowboy camp and some drawings on the cave walls.  During the hike we walked under an overhung rock which did provide some shade and then had to climb two wooden ladders.  The ladders were easy but the steps off onto some rocks were a little nerve wracking for us old people but the kids thought it was no big deal.   Once above the ladders we followed the cairns for the rest of the loop which took us across some rocks and then back down to the overhung rock area and back to our car.  This was a short (.6 miles) hike but had lots of different things in it so I think it would be a great one for kids!

After those hikes we headed back into town and decided to go to the Food Truck Park for dinner.  It is a park in downtown Moab with about 8 food trucks there and some picnic benches in the center.  They even had lights strung for when the lights go down.  A few of them were closed but several were open.  We had Fresh 2 Go and the taco truck.  Fresh 2 go was just faster to go items (sandwiches, burgers) but it was good!  The taco truck was also good but I would say not for kiddos — the rice was spicy!  We were all pooped and wanted a shower so we headed back for our last night in Moab.

Drive to Glendale with a stop at CAPITOL REEF NP (Tuesday)

Again, the drive is desolate -- at one point my husband started counting the cars we passed because there were so few!  On the drive over there was a lot of open land -- be sure that you get gas, drinks, snacks or whatever you need on your way out of town.  Wifi reception isn't very steady either.  But, it sure is beautiful.  When we got to Capital Reef it was raining so we ran into the Visitors Center for a map. This park seemed to have more moderate and difficult trails that were much longer than the littles enjoy so we didn't have much planned.  There were several signs about flash floods and monitoring your conditions as you are far from emergency help so we took that into account and just did one "quick" hike.  They tell you they are shorter but when you realize you are from Florida and then hiking at 7,000 ft elevation it is a little harder than you think.  We did the Hickman Bridge hike which had a 400 ft elevation change which seemed to be all right at the beginning.  From the name of the hike we thought we would cross a bridge but to be honest we never saw a bridge.  It was VERY slippery and gross due to the rain but we did it!  

After completing our hike we found another pull off to enjoy our picnic lunch before we headed to our next stop -- an Air BNB in Glendale. We rented this Air BNB in Glendale -- it is a shipping container the family put together as a rental. It was awesome!  The details were great and it was very comfy -- upstairs they had lots of stuff for kids -- surround sound connected to Alexa, foosball table, pool table & an air hockey table.  We chose Glendale because it was between Zion and Bryce Canyon which were our two next stops.  I would probably do it again for the access to both parks but know this is NOT A LARGE TOWN.  It is very small.  We went to the grocery store suggested by the owners and it was not only a grocery store but also their hardware & craft store as well.  This grocery did not have a large selection of fresh items and the prices were higher than you would expect.  This night we also refreshed our phones  & computers a zillion times at 5pm local time to try and score some shuttle tickets for Zion.  I had not known that shuttle tickets were required so I did not get them in advance but learned they release some the night before each day at 5pm local time so we did it.  We pieced it together with different times but then were able to get 4 tickets together on the 7 - 8am shuttle.  We released the ones we were holding for others.  The tickets are just $1 so we kind of figured we would do our best and then when we release them someone else got the chance.  With our tickets secured we researched where we could get Zion Narrows hiking supplies that early in the morning and found Zion Outfitters opened at 7am! So, we went to bed early knowing we would be up early! 

ZION NATIONAL PARK (Wednesday)

Our map told us it would take about an hour to get to Zion so we left at 545am to head into town and get our rental equipment.  This was our first time into Zion and it was 545am and it was DARK! So, driving into the park was a little nerve wracking with fog, the dark & not knowing where you are but seeing huge mountains on the side of you.  We got to Outfitters a few minutes before 7am and watched the town come to life.  You could tell lots of people were coming for the 7am shuttle and get their equipment for the Narrows.  Again, it is winter so we got the full dry suits, socks, shoes and hiking stick.  I know some people who have gone in the summer and only needed to rent the socks & shoes.  Our youngest is 9 and the worker did make us a little nervous that she would not be tall enough and might get hypothermia but we decided we would go until we were comfortable and turn around if we thought we should!  So, we got dressed in our dry suits over our clothes and headed off to the shuttle.  The shuttle line was long and they mentioned they have taken out every other row due to Covid but they had so many shuttles ready to go that the wait was not terrible.  The Narrows are the last stop so we got to sight see some on the way up and then hoped out when it was our turn.  We used the restroom and followed the crowd to the entrance of the Narrows.  Lots of people were walking just to hike the path as well.  It was about 1 mile walk to where you enter the water.  Once we got there we were timid and tested our feet to make sure we wouldn't get soaked when we got in the water.  At the very beginning it was pretty low water but then about .25 mile in it got deep!  Jordyn hopped onto my husbands back for that section and we were able to continue on.  It was just that one section that we ever thought was crazy deep and honestly it would never be a problem if it were summer and the water not so cold.  

The Narrows are truly amazing -- just gorgeous!  We all enjoyed it and the girls will tell you it was their favorite part of the trip!  We had a dry bag and brought some water and snacks and found some rocks to sit on for a few minutes.  We continued on as far as the girls were comfortable reminding them that they had to walk that same distance back!  Having littles with us it was more challenging as we were always holding on to them and trying to keep our own balance as we walked through.  I am not sure we would have been so nervous about holding onto them if the man hadn't mentioned the hypothermia bit 😂.  I think it was an amazing experience and would totally recommend it to anyone interested! 

I feel like this took a lot out of all of us -- we were nervous, had to use some balance and we had gotten up early so once we were done we caught the shuttle back to the visitor center, returned our clothes and searched for some lunch.  They do have a brewery there in the same rental area but it was not open for serving lunch so we grabbed some grab and go items from the store next door.  They had several gift shops, the brewery & a coffee / smoothie shop in the area.  This is also the area that we were lucky enough to park in since we arrived so early.  It was $20 parking for the day.  The lots were full when we left so I would probably suggest arriving earlier than needed to find parking.  After eating we drove into Springdale which is basically the town Zion is in to get gas and see if they had a grocery store for dinner that night.  We found both and the town was so cute & fun.  If we were doing just Zion I would totally stay in Springdale -- they had a lot of outdoor areas and restaurants available.  

BRYCE CANYON (Thursday)

We slept in and then decided to pack up and head to Las Vegas after Bryce Canyon instead of coming back to the Air BNB.  We had an evening flight booked out of Vegas on Friday and it was about a 4 hour drive back so we kind of wanted to break it up and not do them both the same day.  So, we headed off to Bryce Canyon for some more fun.  Bryce was the snowiest of the parks that we went to -- all the trails were covered and suggested that you put cages on your shoes for walking and several of the trails were closed.  We did the Rim Trail right when we got there and it gave you a beautiful showing of the canyon.  They also had a little park store there as well that had some snacks, food and souvenirs.

We then did the 18 mile scenic drive through the park and stopped at many of the viewing points and just took in the beautiful landscape.  When we got to the end of the drive we got out and walked around, ran into a fellow UCF grad (GO KNIGHTS!) and used the restroom.  We had one more hike that we wanted to do but it appeared it was at the beginning of the park so we headed back that way and looked for a picnic area.  We found one right in the middle of a bunch of snow!  It wasn't terribly cold so we put on our jackets and went and enjoyed our picnic in the snow area!

We then ventured to the Mossy Cave trail. Once we got to the front of the park we realized you had to leave the park and enter from another way.  It wasn't a long drive - maybe 10 minutes and the map led us right there.  It must be a popular hike as there were a bunch of people there.  We got some great views on this hike of the hoodoos and this icicle cave.  It was pretty neat. 

Once we finished we cleaned up our hiking shoes the best we could, packed them up and headed to Vegas.  We followed our map and it took us past another way you could get to Zion as well so I think there are more commercialized areas you could stay in if you wanted to.  We hadn't seen much of anything on our drives all week and then when we got to the St. George exits we saw everything!  We made our way to Vegas and stayed the night at the Bellagio.  

LAS VEGAS (Friday)

I think we were all pooped from a very active vacation so we were more than happy to have a relaxing morning.  We went out and walked around for a bit and had met up with some friends the night before who were also in Vegas but it is truly a crazy experience for a 9 & 12 year old.  Lots of questions / explaining happening.  Of course before we left the West Coast we had to find an IN & OUT burgers to get our fix :) Then off we went back to the sunshine state. 

The only other things we purchased for this trip and recommend were -- 

We really enjoyed our trip and hope that you might find any of this information helpful!  If you have any questions drop them below or shoot us a message!  

Happy Traveling!!!

 


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  • Darrell Carpenter on

    Wow , what a great trip you had. Awesome pictures.
    I live in Apache junction, Arizona. My trip starts on 5/2, staying in Kanab for 5 nights. From there I visit and stay at different campgrounds , ending up in Moab, ( 6nights). I’m really looking forward to it , as I’ve never been there. Taking my bike !!! I’m in a 5th wheel, so I will have the clothes I need, for all weather !!!!


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