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Arches & Canyonlands in Utah's Mighty Five

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Copyright: ">teacherdad48 / 123RF Stock Photo

Copyright:">teacherdad48 / 123RF Stock Photo

Kick off a southwestern road trip with Arches National Park

Arches is great jumping off place to kick off a family road trip through Utah national parks.  Named for the 2,500+ sandstone arches that have been carved out by nature and time, Arches is full of natural beauty outdoor adventure.  

Great family hikes

Before you go, grab your camera and load your daypacks with large water bottles, salty snacks, and rain jackets (just in case).  If you have kids ages 2-12, pick up a Junior Ranger booklet at the visitor center near the park's entrance.  Talk to a ranger to determine which hikes would be the best fit for your family.  We chose the short hike to Landscape Arch and the gentle climb to The Windows.  Beautiful.  Gorgeous.  Endless exploration.  Picnic lunches, easy family hikes, climbing, and snapshots filled our time here.  


Where to stay in Moab

We stayed 3 nights in Moab at the beautiful, super family-friendly Best Western Plus Canyonlands Inn while we explored Arches and nearby Canyonlands National Parks.  Perfectly situated in lively down-town Moab, this hotel had a wonderful hot breakfast and a great laundry facility.  The kids loved the heated outdoor pool and hot tub.  From here you are just four miles from the entrance to Arches National Park.  Check out the Moab Recreation & Aquatic Center for more outdoor/indoor swimming fun.  Our favorite place to grab grub was the Moab Brewery on Main Street.  Family friendly with a great full menu.  Better yet was the local beer and authentic gelato. 


Canyonlands National Park - a day trip

From Moab, we took an easy day trip over to Canyonlands.  We chose to explore the area of Canyonlands known as Island in the Sky.  There is so much to see in this park.  Our family really enjoyed the drive through the park and pulling out to ooh and ahh over the huge canyons.  

We recommend taking a pit stop at the Visitor's Center, then check out Upheaval Dome, Grand View Point Overlook, Mesa Arch, and Slater Canyon Overlook.  So many different vistas with cool rock formations and monuments along the way.  Canyonlands was a great contrast to Arches.

More things to do around Moab

Honestly, our family easily could have spent an entire week based in Moab.  If the kids had been older, I bet we would have hiked another day in Arches, right up to the Delicate Arch, or we would have joined a park ranger for the moderately strenuous Fiery Furnace Walk.  This is a fantastic area for booking a river rafting trip down the Colorado or Green River or for touring the backcountry in an open-air Hummer with one of many local outfitters.  Kids would flip over a day of rock climbing/rappelling/canyoneering with the crew at Moab's Cliff and Canyons

For more great tips about Arches, Canyonlands, or any of the 38 national parks of the western United States, check out the Fodor's Complete Guidebook to National Parks of the West.  This book is loaded with fantastic tips for everyone, including families with kids of all ages.  It's packed with maps as well as lodging and restaurant recommendations.  This was our family's go-to guide when we spent 2 weeks exploring Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce, Zion, and Grand Canyon national parks.  Don't forget the sunscreen! 

What national parks of the west have you explored and what resources have you found helpful for planning your trip?