This summer we chose Arches for our National Park in Utah to explore with the boys! Today I’m sharing our overall experience, the hikes we managed, gluten free food we found & the accommodations so you can make the most of your trip! We have made it a goal to take them to one park a year if possible. You can see our winter trip to Yosemite last year here .
I found Arches to be very family friendly and very manageable when it came to a National Park. It’s a fairly small park only about 1/10 the size of Yosemite so driving through the park, hiking and exploring felt less daunting! There was no shortage of short easy hikes some that were even stroller friendly. We saw tons of families enjoying the park & would say it’s toddler approved!
The Windows: This was the longest hike we did with the boys! But it was definitely one of the most beautiful! This hike definitely has some incline & lots of steps, but is 1 mile round trip with phenomenal views at the top!
Balanced Rock: Stroller Friendly 0.3 mile loop hike with tons of photo ops! This is a great one to save as a second activity of the day! You can see balanced rock from the road but the loop trail has next to no elevation gain and is mostly paved making it super accessible for kids!
Double Arch: Take this 0.6 mile hike to see the tallest arch in the park! This relatively flat packed gravel hike leads to 2 gorgeous arches. You could easily take a stroller right up to the base of the arch!
Delicate Arch Viewpoint: Lower viewpoint is stroller friendly – we didn’t use the stroller but wish we had! By the time we did this one the boys were pooped, it was peak heat in the day so needless to say we didn’t stay long. This viewpoint is wheelchair accessible and only about 200ft, but for a tired, overheated toddler you might opt for the stroller!
Sand Dune Arch: This was on our list but we didn’t get to hike this. This 0.4 mile hike is listed as a popular hike for kiddos! But as the name eludes to there’s lots of sand so plan accordingly!
*If you’re planning a trip in the summer I can’t recommend these cooling towels enough! They’re ultra light weight and you simply pour water on them when you’re ready to cool off! We used these everyday we were out in the park & they’ll definitely be a summer staple!
Accommodations: We stayed at Springhill Suites in Moab & LOVED it! If you’re visiting in the Summer this resort is amazing. They have two pools, a splashpad & 4 hot tubs including one that is considered a “warming tub” that is significantly less hot & geared towards littles! One of the pools is super shallow which was perfect for toddlers who are still getting the hang of swimming! They also have family suites that include bunk beds and a great free breakfast that starts at 6am which I never truly valued until I started traveling with kids!
Things to consider:
Time of year – the weather can certainly be a factor so if your trip is lined up for mid summer be sure to plan accordingly. The actual park does not have any food inside and you’re encouraged to bring a LOT of water with you inside the park. We went ahead and booked tickets for early morning entry & spent the morning in the park and left by noon when the temperatures were reaching their highest for the day!
Plan your days – My advice is to plan to do about 2 hikes or sights in the park per day if you have young kiddos, especially in the summer when the heat is no joke. We found it was to start with the longer hike & save something that is stroller friendly or shorter for the second half!
Expect / plan breaks – Toddlers are more than capable of enjoying and participating in hikes and national parks but planning in breaks is KEY. I recommend bringing some small toy for the halfway point of the hike. When we hiked The Windows hike I knew we’d want to stop at the top, rest, hydrate and admire the sights. Toddlers are less into pausing and soaking in the vastness… So I brought the boys little toy dinosaurs to play with at the top. I kept them in my backpack so there wasn’t any temptation beforehand and then it was a little surprise. Then I told them we had to pack them away so they could get down the hike safely again! This seriously bought us 20-30 min at the top, which allowed for both Chris and I to go see the views at the very top, and allowed for everyone to feel rested for the walk back!
Keep it fun – hiking in the heat, even short distances can be a lot for little kids. So keeping it fun and lighthearted is the best way to keep your toddler moving forward. We play red light / green light. Chase / stomp on each others shadows, play ispy, and look for little creatures and of course racing each other! These little distractions helped a ton with our kids and kept the carrying them to a minimum!
Food – Downtown Moab has a ton of options all within a 5 block radius. There was no shortage of gluten free options available.
Pasta Jays – gluten free pastas, garlic bread, huge portions and large outdoor patio!
Miguels Baja Cafe – Nearly everything here is gluten free unless otherwise noted! Super cute colorful outdoor area to eat!
Moab coffee roasters – affogatos to die for here.
Food Truck Park – A ton of food truck and a nice shaded square to enjoy your food!
Moab Giants: If you extra time this Dinosaur park is the best add on for your toddlers. It’s a few minutes from the park entrance and you can explore these life size replicas of Dinosaurs. They also have an air conditioned museum. We did this one morning instead of the National Park & the boys loved it!
All in all we had a great time at Arches, I think the boys were at a great age to experience this park & I didn’t feel like we missed out on much! Obviously the older your kids are the more they can hike and explore but I think for toddlers this park is perfect. There’s short hikes, minimal cliffs and plenty of beauty and nature to be appreciated!
I’d love to hear about other National Parks you think are great for kids! Every time we finish one of these trips it gets me so excited to research and plan our next park so I’m open to any and all suggestions!!