Arches National Park
Our 4,750 mile road trip route for our Utah National Parks and Grand Canyon Adventure is here if you’d like to see our full itinerary.
We set off early from Bryce Canyon on our drive to Moab, Utah. Moab borders both Canyonlands and Arches National Parks so we decided to make it our home base for a few nights while we explored the area. Arriving by lunchtime, we had a few hours to kill before checking in to the Moab KOA so we drove into Arches to spend a few hours. Starting at the Visitor Center, we watched the park video and spent a while exploring the exhibits. Arches has a wonderful Visitor Center with several cool exhibits detailing the various arches in the park and a beautiful view of the landscape from the large windows in the back of the building. Along with maps and touring advice from the park rangers, the kids also picked up their Junior Ranger packets to work on over the next couple of days.
After visiting the Visitor Center we headed over to the Moab KOA where we would be staying for the next 3 nights. Having stayed at several KOA campgrounds on various trips we were glad to find one in Moab since it would be a convenient base for both Arches and Canyonlands National Park. We really enjoy KOA campgrounds as we have found them all to have clean laundry, shower and restroom facilities as well as pleasant camping spots, swimming pools and convenient general stores. Sometimes we camp in our tents when at a KOA campground, but at the Moab KOA we decided to stay in one of the two room Camping Cabins. We have found the two room Camping Cabins to be the perfect compromise between camping and staying in hotels and are a great economical alternative for larger families. Our cabin in Moab had a full size bed in the first room and two sets of bunk beds in the back bedroom with a door in between which allowed Dave and I to have time to ourselves after the kids went to sleep. There is also a desk inside the back room and a cute front porch on each cabin with a porch swing which we enjoyed. At each cabin is a picnic table and grill which allowed us to cook meals which is another big money saver. And best of all? The cabins usually have air conditioning and heaters which is wonderful since you can stay comfortably in any weather! While very convenient, the cabins are not equipped with bedding, so bring your own if you decide to stay here. Once we checked in, the kids spent a relaxing afternoon swimming in the pool with Dave while I got our laundry done before we all started making dinner. We spent a wonderful night on the front porch talking, playing cards and star gazing.
We woke up the next morning excited to explore Arches National Park so we ate a quick breakfast and set off on the 15 minute drive to the park entrance. Our first stop was to the Devil’s Garden Trailhead to take a 1.6 mile round trip walk to Landscape Arch. We all enjoyed the views of the arches and other rock formations while in the car on the way to the trail. The Devil’s Garden Trail was very populated and easy to walk and I would highly recommend it for families with young children or those who have trouble walking on uneven surfaces. The landscape is quite different from what we are used to in Ohio and we loved looking at the blooming cactus flowers, the red rock formations and the sandy terrain. On our way to Landscape Arch we spent an hour or so at a tiny side “canyon” where we ran up and down the sandy hill and had a blast playing.
We continued our walk to Landscape Arch and were all amazed at the length of the arch and how delicate it looked. It seems impossible that it is still standing! Since large pieces have fallen off the arch in recent years I was glad we were able to see it since it may not always be there for us to enjoy. In fact, hikers used to be able to walk under the arch but are no longer able to due to the risk of falling rocks.
Delicate Arch From The Viewpoint:
After a picnic lunch, we got back in the car and headed towards the Delicate Arch Trail. Again, we enjoyed the beautiful scenery on our way to the trail. Before hiking, we took the short side trail to the Delicate Arch viewing area. While the view of the arch is from quite far away, this would be a good option for those with small children or who have mobility issues since the hike all the way to Delicate Arch was somewhat challenging with steep ledges and uneven footing in some areas.
Delicate Arch Hike:
While Delicate Arch is beautiful from the viewpoint, it in no way shows how big the arch is so if you are able to make the 3 mile round trip hike to Delicate Arch, do it! Make sure you take water and wear sunscreen as almost the entire hike is exposed and in the direct sun. The trail begins on a flat path and passes by Wolfe Ranch, a 1906 homestead that still stands today before it begins to climb on slickrock on the way to Utah’s most famous landmark. On the beautiful mid summer sunny day, the trail was crowded with hikers as this is a very popular hike in Arches National Park. After an hour or so we arrived at the famous Delicate Arch. It was surreal to turn the corner and come upon crowds of people all enjoying the view and we sat a long while and enjoyed the view. It was really windy! Dave and some of the kids wanted to walk under the arch but I decided to stay with the others because the strength of the wind made be too nervous to walk around. Walking under the arch allowed us to see how big the arch really is and it is HUGE!
Once back at the car we drove to the Visitor Center where the kids got their Junior Ranger badges and then we decided to head into town for some Mexican food in Moab. We just had to make one final stop before eating. Before entering the park we had passed a HUGE sand hill where we saw people climbing and the kids were determined to stop and play so off we went. I was tired from all the hiking we had been doing so Sophie and I stayed at the bottom and took pictures as everyone else stormed the hill. After a hard climb, everyone eventually made it to the top. Getting down was a big part of the adventure and Garrett actually tumbled down head over heals laughing the whole way. They were a dusty mess at the restaurant later!
Arches National Park is like a giant God-Made playground and we all really enjoyed our visit. It is another example of the vast diversity in landscape we are lucky to have in our beautiful country and we loved exploring it.
Arches National Park:
If you go:
Wear good comfortable walking shoes! You will definitely walk A LOT on a trip to Arches! I love to wear hiking sandals (I practically live in my Chacos) but boots or trail runners would be fine as well.
Bring snacks and pack picnics for your meals. There is no food service in the park.
Get your kids excited before you go! We like to read books about our destination to help pass the long rides in the car and to read at bedtime during our visit. One of our favorite books about Arches National Park are Arches: The Story Behind the Scenery. We also enjoy National Geographic Kids Ultimate U.S. Road Trip Atlas: Maps, Games, Activities, and More for Hours of Backseat Fun and National Parks: A Kid’s Guide to America’s Parks, Monuments and Landmarks which are wonderful resources for kids about National Parks and help provide context for a visit.
To help plan our trip we read Fodor’s Utah: with Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, Capitol Reef & Canyonlands National Parks which was an invaluable resource and we also took along National Geographic’s Trail’s Illustrated Map: Arches to map out our hikes which was also helpful.
Have you been to Arches National Park? What did you think?
Love your trip page (and that you have daughter named Maya). Our Maja will be 5 1/2 in July and we’ll be hitting Arches, Canyonland and Capitol Reefs, along with much of Colorado. Maja does some local hiking in California with us, and I’m wondering how the hiking is for small kids. You still have California to visit – I’d leave a whole trip for that.
California- someday we will make it there! 😉 Have fun road tripping with your Maja! All three of those parks will have hiking that is appropriate for your age kiddo. I would visit the ranger station at the Visitor Center when you get to each destination for specific suggestions. We have taken some awesome hikes in several parks from their input!