Family Travel to Arches National Park

Bryce Canyon arch rock.

Arches National Park, located in southeast Utah, offers an abundance of geological wonders waiting to be discovered by visiting families. The park’s scenic, red rock landscape is home to more than 2,000 natural stone arches, along with other impressive formations such as towering fins, spires, pinnacles and precariously balanced giant rocks. You’ll find everything from peace and serenity to adventure and excitement at Arches. The park’s unique features, awe-inspiring views, spectacular sunrises and sunsets, stunning night skies and inspirational hiking trails await your arrival. Perhaps it’s time to plan your next family road trip.

“America’s national parks offer wonderful, indelible experiences for every family. They’re beautiful, they’re inspiring, and they’re fun! The parks are places to fall in love with nature and wildlife, to relive history, to take on challenges and share adventures, and to build family memories that will last a lifetime. Since 2016 marks the hundredth anniversary of the founding of the U.S. National Park Service, this is the perfect year to get to the parks.” -- Ford Cochran, Director of Programming, National Geographic Expeditions

Travel Tips
Arches is situated approximately 780 miles from San Diego, about an 11-hour drive. If you don’t mind the long haul and your kids are patient travelers, you could make it in a single day. For many, an overnight stop along the way is a better option. Note: The drive between Las Vegas and Arches is stunning; try to travel this portion during daylight.

With more than 1.4 million visitors per year, expect crowds at Arches National Park, especially during peak season (March­–October). Spring and fall offer the most pleasant weather. Whenever you go, plan to enter the park before 8 am or after 3 pm to avoid long entrance lines and congested parking. Note: Mornings and late afternoons offer the best lighting for photography.

Lodging & Food
Within the park, campers can make reservations for one of Devils Garden Campground’s 52 sites. This campground offers fantastic views and surroundings, but fills up quickly during peak season. Make campground reservations at www.recreation.gov.

There are no food or lodging facilities inside Arches’ borders, but the nearby gateway town of Moab has a variety of restaurants, motels, hotels, resorts and additional campgrounds. It may be helpful to find a hotel that includes complimentary breakfast and has a fridge in the room so you can quickly and easily depart for the day’s adventures with full stomachs and packed lunches. Park picnic areas are located at Balanced Rock and Devils Garden.

Moab Burger Company & Atomic Lounge has a pleasant outdoor patio and kid’s menu; Pasta Jay’s lively ambiance offers tasty pizza and pastas. There’s even an ice cream shop right across the street, in case you have room for dessert.

Learn more at www.discovermoab.com.

Beautiful arches in nature.

Scenic Drives
Navigating through Arches is a simple, yet sublime, experience. Try to drive the entire 18-mile main road, which ends at Devils Garden Campground. The road has clearly marked sites and parking areas for all the park’s major attractions. Stop at as many overlooks, arches and trails as time permits. Don’t miss the “skyscrapers” of Park Avenue, Balanced Rock, a view of Fiery Furnace, or Devils Garden areas. Be sure to also cover the two, short side roads—the first goes to the popular Windows section, the other to Delicate Arch’s trailhead and viewpoints.

Hiking
While you can certainly enjoy Arches from a car, hiking the park’s trails is the best method to explore the sites. Wear appropriate footwear and carry plenty of water; rangers recommend at least one gallon per day, per person. Stay on trails to protect the unique and delicate environment. And don’t move the cairns (small piles of rock) that mark the trails.

For an easy stroll, explore the marvel of the Balanced Rock (0.3 mi) or walk along Park Avenue (1.0 mi, one way). Hike the popular Windows trail (1.0 mi) to get up close to multiple arches; this takes you to North and South Windows and Turret Arch. Return on the primitive trail to view additional perspectives.

If you’re up for a half-day challenge, the Devil’s Garden Trail is the longest in the park (7.2 mi). This trail takes hikers to Tunnel, Pine Tree, Navajo, Partition, Landscape, Double O and Private arches. Don’t shortcut any of the trail offshoots—they are all worth the extra steps. You can return via the primitive trail for the full loop.

If there’s time for only one hike, the iconic Delicate Arch is probably the one to do. This popular trail is rated difficult (inclines, open slick rock, exposure to heights) though is of moderate length (3 mi). Sunsets are extremely popular here; if you stay late, bring flashlights for safety on the way down. Sunrise and early mornings are great alternatives to avoid crowds. Note: Many people line up to get their photos taken in front of this arch; don’t forget your camera!

Amazing formations in rock.

Other Activities
Ranger programs include guided walks, geology talks and evening programs. A strenuous, guided hike through the maze-like Fiery Furnace is a popular program, though children under 5 are not permitted.

Kids ages 6–12 can pick up a Junior Ranger booklet at the visitor center to complete and earn their Junior Ranger badges. Families are also invited to borrow Explorer Pack— complete with binoculars, hand lens, naturalist guide, notebook and activity ideas.

Definitely stop in the Visitor Center to learn how the arches formed and all about the park’s flora (juniper, yucca, prickly pear) and fauna (mule deer, chipmunks, big horn sheep, ravens).

Biking within Arches is restricted to the roads and not allowed on any of the trails. Limited backpacking camping options are available. Most climbing opportunities require advanced techniques and day use permits; canyoneering expeditions are permitted. Note: Climbing of any type is forbidden on any of the arches.

Finally, although there is much to discover at this phenomenal park, the proximity of Utah’s four other national parks—Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef and Zion—invite an even more memorable, multi-destination vacation.

Learn more about Arches National Park at www.nps.gov/arch.


Lisa Pawlak is a contributing writer who lives in Encinitas with her husband and two sons.

Published July 2016

All Aboard! Where to Ride the Rails in California

All Aboard! Where to Ride the Rails in California

Experiencing both the Skunk Train and world-famous Rail Bikes in Mendocino County inspired me to explore what other fun railways exist in California. Thanks to tips from train-fanatic friends, I found . . .

Read more

Road Trip Bingo

Road Trip Bingo

Planning to take a road trip with kids or be in the car for an extended period of time? Schedule a break from screens with this fun game that encourages kids to look out the car window and discover th . . .

Read more

Visit Bryce Canyon National Park

Visit Bryce Canyon National Park

Breathtaking Bryce Canyon National Park offers one of the planet’s most surreal landscapes. Within the park’s 56 square miles, the geological forces of weather and erosion have carved intense sa . . .

Read more

Family Fun in Lake Arrowhead

Family Fun in Lake Arrowhead

Escape to Lake Arrowhead, nestled in the tree-covered mountains of San Bernardino National Forest, for a relaxing getaway immersed in nature and outdoor fun. It takes just a couple hours to drive fr . . .

Read more

Visiting the Mendocino Coast with Kids

Visiting the Mendocino Coast with Kids

When I was a kid, my parents went to the coastal town of Mendocino to take a break from—well, me. So, I always assumed there was nothing to do there with kids. Boy, was I wrong. The Mendocino Coas . . .

Read more

Discover California National Parks

Discover California National Parks

These national parks in Southern and Central California are within a day’s drive of San Diego.Celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service with a visit to one (or more) of these sc . . .

Read more

Visit Zion National Park in Utah

Visit Zion National Park in Utah

Photo by Lisa Pawlak Breathtaking, colorful Zion National Park embraces towering cliffs, glimmering waterfalls, emerald-green pools, blue skies, red sandstone river canyons and massive multihued rock . . .

Read more

Family Camping Fun: Activities, Recipes and Ideas

Family Camping Fun: Activities, Recipes and Ideas

  Grab your camping gear and get ready for a great outdoor adventure (even if it's only in the backyard). Here are activities, crafts, recipes and tips that make fabulous family camping me . . .

Read more

Six Snow Play Destinations

Six Snow Play Destinations

photo credit- Big Bear Mountain Resort Ready to play in the snow? The whole family can enjoy a snowy, active vacation with adventures like skiing, snowboarding, sledding, snow tubing, ice skating, sn . . .

Read more

Camping Scavenger Hunt

Camping Scavenger Hunt

Camping Scavenger Hunt If your family is planning a camping trip to a campground, national park or other outdoor destination, be sure to take along our free, printable Camping Scavenger Hunt! Print . . .

Read more

SoCal’s Best Beach Camping

SoCal’s Best Beach Camping

Southern California beaches are a popular destination year round, so why not spend a few days at a beachfront or bayfront campground? “Southern California has some of the best ocean-front campgro . . .

Read more

Family Road Trip: 6 Fun Stops Along California's Central Coast

Family Road Trip: 6 Fun Stops Along California's Central Coast

The secret is out: San Diego is amazing. In fact, it’s a top U.S. vacation destination. So while the rest of the country is descending upon San Diego this summer, consider venturing away from the . . .

Read more

Fun Things to Do with Kids in the Bay Area

Fun Things to Do with Kids in the Bay Area

Planning a road trip to the San Francisco Bay Area? Here are five kid-friendly stops from Gilroy (south of San Francisco) to Fairfield (north of San Francisco). Each super fun spot will entertain, e . . .

Read more

Take the Family Glamping in Buellton, California

Take the Family Glamping in Buellton, California

So, what is glamping? Glamping is like camping—but not. Combining the words glamorous and camping, glamping includes amenities and comforts of home (beds, electricity, indoor plumbing). None of th . . .

Read more

Family Travel to Arches National Park

Family Travel to Arches National Park

Arches National Park, located in southeast Utah, offers an abundance of geological wonders waiting to be discovered by visiting families. The park’s scenic, red rock landscape is home to more than . . .

Read more

Best Family Camping in San Diego

Best Family Camping in San Diego

Ready to embark on a San Diego family camping adventure? Help your kids experience the great outdoors at one of the many family campgrounds in San Diego County! First-time campers? Consider pra . . .

Read more

Get started with RV Camping

Get started with RV Camping

Take Your Family on the Road, RV Style! During a recent email session with an old friend about our summer plans, I mentioned that our family planned on taking our annual four-week road trip in our . . .

Read more

Get to Know Lake Gregory in Crestline, CA

Get to Know Lake Gregory in Crestline, CA

I had never even heard of Lake Gregory in California’s San Bernardino Mountains until a couple months ago. But now the secret is out! Bustling with fun lake activities for families, it’s a perfe . . .

Read more

Plan a Family Adventure to Catalina Island

Plan a Family Adventure to Catalina Island

What do wild bison, an awesome zipline, a casino and walking on the ocean floor have in common? Catalina Island, of course.Looking for a fun family day or weekend trip? I’ll let you in on a little . . .

Read more

Insider's Tips when Visiting Catalina

Insider's Tips when Visiting Catalina

Here are helpful insider’s tips you won’t find anywhere else. Things I didn’t know until I got to Catalina. They could make your visit to the island a little sweeter.If you haven’t read the . . .

Read more

Ski Mammoth Mountain

Ski Mammoth Mountain

Take the kids to “shred some pow” at Mammoth Mountain, one of California’s premier winter sports recreational resorts. Families wanting a fun, wintery escape will fulfill mammoth-sized dreams . . .

Read more

Make Traveling with Kids a Lifelong Adventure

Make Traveling with Kids a Lifelong Adventure

Travel is loaded with benefits for families. It awakens curiosity and helps kids and parents feel more at home in the world while creating strong bonds and lasting memories. As kids grow, the fun of . . .

Read more

Winter Family Fun in Big Bear

Winter Family Fun in Big Bear

Ready to take your family on a winter getaway close to San Diego? Head to the mountains for a fun-filled winter vacation at Big Bear. Winter activities include skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing and . . .

Read more

11 Kid-Friendly Adventures on Oahu

11 Kid-Friendly Adventures on Oahu

Taking a family vacation to the island of Oahu? Sure, you’ll lounge on the beach, build sandcastles and play in the water; but why not dig a little deeper into the culture, traditions and excitement . . .

Read more

Family Getaways in Southern California

Family Getaways in Southern California

Southern California resorts and hotels that families love! Looking for a family getaway where there’s relaxation for adults and fun for the kids? These SoCal resorts offer plenty of amenities . . .

Read more

San Diego Family Magazine Logo

Be Family Informed – Sign up for our Newsletters below!