Arches National Park was one of the most beautiful places we visited on our American summer road trip. It just so happened that we included Arches NP in the same itinerary as the Rocky Mountain NP, Aspen, and Yellowstone, and therefore ended up visiting Arches with kids in the summer heat of over 100°F (38°C). Despite that, we managed to see all the main highlights of Arches National Park, and we even did some hiking in Arches with kids (ages 5, 5, and 7 at that time). In this post I’m sharing our experience to help you better plan your family trip to Arches National Park with kids.
Best things to do in Arches National Park with kids
Arches National Park Scenic Drive
Driving the 18-mile long scenic drive is a good way to see the stunning landscapes of Arches National Park. Many sights are just a short walk off the main road. It’s a perfect way to explore the park if you are traveling to Arches with very young kids, or if the summer temperatures are really too hot to do any hiking.
Short hikes you can easily do in Arches National Park with kids
Many highlights of Arches National Park don’t require a lot of hiking. Here are some of our favourites you shouldn’t miss, even if visiting Arches with young kids. The distances in Arches National Park are not that big. Take a look at this official map of Arches N.P. to get a better idea of where all these places are located. You can also buy a map here.
Balanced Rock is an extremely popular stop along the scenic drive in Arches. The easy trail is just 0.3 miles (0.5km) round trip and is perfect for families with very young children.
The Windows area is simply spectacular and shouldn’t be missed when in Arches. The Windows Loop is an easy 1 mile (1,6 km) hike, or you can opt to walk just a part of it. You can see three impressive arches here: North and South Windows and Turret Arch. The whole area is relatively flat and is very easy to do with kids.
Tip: The Windows are just stunning at sunset, while the Turret Arch and the nearby Double Arch are just beautiful at sunrise.
Located just next to The Windows, Double Arch is another must-see in Arches with kids. It’s a very short easy trail of just 0.5 miles (0.8km) round trip. We also hiked up the slack rock for a view to the other side, but honestly I didn’t feel safe at all, and climbing back down was much more challenging for the kids than going up. The view from the bottom is actually better, so don’t worry that you are missing something and stay safe!
Pine Tree Arch and Tunnel Arch (Devils Garden)
Devils Garden is a popular hiking area with most visitors hiking to Landscape Arch or even further to Double O Arch (read further for more info), but if you are visiting Arches with young kids, those hikes might be too strenuous, especially in summer. However, the nearby Pine Tree Arch (featured image) and Tunnel Arch are both easy to reach and well worth a short hike. Round trip is around 1.2 miles (1.9 km).
Park Avenue Viewpoint
You can take the Park Avenue hike to the Courthouse Towers (1 mile (1.6 km) one way) and arrange for someone to pick you up by car there. Or you can hike just a part of it. With young kids, make sure to at least stop at the Park Avenue Viewpoint – the scenery is just incredible!
Wolfe Ranch and Rock Art at the Delicate Arch Trailhead
You can hike to Delicate Arch with kids (see below for more info), but I wouldn’t advise to do this hike with children younger than 4. If you are visiting Arches with young kids, you can see Delicate Arch in the distance from the Delicate Arch viewpoint along the scenic drive. And you can take the kids for a short stroll to Wolfe Ranch and the Rock Art Panel, just a few minutes from the car park.
Other easily accessible arches in Arches NP
Other short and easy places to visit in Arches with kids are Sand Dune Arch, Skyline Arch, and a couple of viewpoints along the scenic drive.
Most beautiful family-friendly longer hikes in Arches National Park
Hiking is of course the best way to see the most stunning scenery of Arches National Park. Despite of the heat, we managed to make several longer hikes in Arches NP with kids. We hiked Delicate Arch Trail and to Landscape Arch with the whole family. In addition, I also hiked a part of the primitive trail to Partition Arch and Navajo Arch with my 7-year old.
Delicate Arch is without doubt the most iconic landmark of Arches NP. It requires a 3-mile (4.8 km) moderate hike in order to see it from up-close, but it’s definitely worth it. And yes, you can hike to Delicate Arch with kids (ages 4+), even in summer. Just avoid the warmest hours of the day and go either early in the morning or – as we did – at sunset. Here you can read all about our experience hiking to Delicate Arch with kids.
Landscape Arch (Devils Garden)
Landscape Arch is probably one of the most popular trails in Arches NP. A relatively flat hike of just 1.6 miles (2.6 km) round trip is easily doable with kids. As I said before, you can hike just the first part, to Pine Tree Arch and Tunnel Arch, but it’s really worth it to continue just a bit further and see the famous Landscape Arch.
Navajo Arch and Partition Arch (Devils Garden)
Navajo Arch and Partition Arch might look very close to Landscape Arch on the map, but the trail leading there is quite challenging. At first, we were not planning to go as far with kids, but it looked so close by that we decided to give it a go. However, our 5-year old twins really had difficulties with the high temperatures (it was only 9.30 AM!), and so half-way the climb on the primitive trail my husband decided to hike back to the car with them. In the meantime I took my 7-year old to Partition Arch and Navajo Arch. After a challenging climb, the rest of the hike to these two arches is flat and easy. But that climb up (and especially back down) is definitely not for everyone.
Rafting with kids
Ok, rafting is not officially inside Arches National Park, but rafting trips run from Moab, where most of the visitors are staying anyway. We had several days in Arches, and since daytime hours were really too hot for anything else but water activities, we went on a half-day rafting tour from Moab. I can definitely recommend it. Rafting was huge success with our kids as well!
Colorado River close to Moab is rather quiet and so you can expect a very relaxing and family-friendly rafting experience, nothing compared to whitewater rafting I did in Colorado years ago. If it gets too hot, you can jump in to the river to cool off. You are wearing a life vest and basically just float in the river. We all loved it!
Tip: If you can, opt for the half-day rafting tour leaving in the morning. According to our guide, summer afternoons are too hot even for rafting. You can book Moab rafting trips here.
Practical tips for visiting Arches NP with kids in summer
- Visit the park early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the crowds and the heat.
- Limit hiking to the cooler hours of the day. We finished our morning hikes by 11AM, ideally you should stop by 10AM. The temperatures become somewhat more bearable around 6PM again, so you can do a nice sunset hike in the evening.
- Spend the warmest hours of the day by the pool of your hotel or go rafting. Book a hotel in Moab, close to the entrance of the park, so that you don’t have to spend hours in the car. We stayed at Aarchway Inn, great location and huge family rooms that sleep 6.
- You can do the scenic drive in Arches during the hot hours of the day as well, just limit your time outdoors.
- Carry lots of drinking water. Reusable water bottle is best, but you can only refill it at the Visitor Center and at the Devil’s Garden Trailhead. So make sure you have plenty of water in the car and refill your bottles before you set on any hike. Tip: if you use plastic water bottles, put them in the freezer the night before your hike. That way you can enjoy nice and fresh water during the entire day.
- Good sun protection is a must in Arches in summer. Use sunscreen lotion SPF50, wear a breathable hiking hat and sun glasses. I also advise to wear a long-sleeved shirt or an UV t-shirt. Sun is harsh in Arches NP in summer!
- Wear closed walking shoes if you plan to do any hiking in Arches.
- Buy a National Park Pass (you can get one at the entrance of any National Park) if planning to visit more than one National Park during your trip. It costs $80 for the whole family (one vehicle) and gives you unlimited access to all National Parks (and some other locations) for the whole year. When visiting Arches, don’t miss the nearby Canyonlands National Park as well.
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