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  • Writer's pictureKristin

1-Day Itinerary at Arches National Park with Kids

When we knew we’d have a little extra time to drive down to Nebraska to relocate, Arches National Park in Moab, Utah was at the top of the list of places we wanted to visit. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a ton of time to stay there so we did our best to squeeze in the visit to Arches National Park into 1-day. You can definitely do Arches NP into one day, but it is pretty jammed packed; especially if you add in the elements of young kids and hikes in the heat. However, it is possible, as long as you remain adaptive. Here’s how our one-day visit flowed at Arches National Park with our 4 and 7-year-old, and some feedback we have in hindsight about our visit.

Our Basic Itinerary for the Day was broken down as follows:

  1. Devil’s Trail & Landscape Arch; then we continued for a bit further to Navajo Arch

  2. Skyline Arch

  3. Sand Dune Arch (Broken Arch is also here but we didn’t have time to hike to it)

  4. Viewpoint of Delicate Arch

  5. Quick Roadside View of Balanced Rock

  6. Afternoon Break back at our Hotel in Moab

  7. Returned around 4:30 p.m. (30-minute line-up at entrance gate)

  8. Windows Road & Double Arch

  9. Evening Hike to Delicate Arch

Quick Recommendations:

If you’re traveling with young kids and you have the opportunity to visit the Park over two days I would highly recommend that. This would allow you to break up the larger hikes (Devil’s Trail & Delicate Arch) so that you only have to do one per day. Because we had two big hikes in one day, we had to drastically cut back on the walking we did to the other arches – sometimes just even taking photos from the truck.

Also, I would highly recommend staying in Moab. The hotels were more expensive relative to other areas in Utah, but we decided for convenience it would be worth it; and we’re glad we did. The Park entrance is only located about 10 minutes from several of the hotels in Moab, so when the kids were getting hungry, hot and tired in the afternoon we just exited the Park and headed back to the hotel for a mid-afternoon swim and snack. Plus, it gave them a break from the heat of the day too. This refreshed them enough that they were a little more willing to go back in the late afternoon/evening for more exploring! (Before the break they had literally not been willing to do anything.)

First Stop – Devil’s Trail & Landscape Arch

We woke up early to start our day at Arches National Park – partly to avoid the heat of the day and partly to beat the crowds. We had read that you should head straight to the back of the Park to start your visit off with a hike on Devil’s Trail and a view of Landscape Arch. However, I think a majority of the other guests must have read the same information, because when we arrived at 7:45 a.m. the parking lot was packed (although it is a very popular part of the park). Luckily, we only had to drive around one extra time before a car left and opened up a spot. However, I would still recommend heading here early in the day, as a majority of the trail was out in the open sun and it did start to feel hot already in the morning.

The hike to just Landscape Arch is only 1.6 miles roundtrip and it is definitely worth the view!

Arches National Park - Landscape Arch

However, the kids found some sand nearby and enjoyed playing in the sand piles as much as viewing the arch.

The weather was decent and we were feeling energetic at that point in the morning so we decided to continue on Devil’s Trail. The entire loop is 7.8 miles that takes you to 8 different arches. We knew the entire loop was too much, but we decided to venture on and see which arch we came across first. The hiking got a lot more technical and interesting once you passed Landscape Arch and soon we were literally scrambling up large rocks. The trail on top of the rock got a bit narrow, but as long as the kids held onto our hands and stayed away from the edges it felt quite safe. However, this was probably some of their favorite parts of hiking as it offered some fun exploration for them!

Navajo Arch – Devils’ Garden Hike Continued

Navajo Arch was the first arch that we came across so we explored that and the kids commented it was like a big rock house. There were all sorts of interesting things to see along the way too the arch as well, including some of the interesting rock formations that we dubbed as ‘bubble rocks.’

And of course, it made a great obstacle course for the kids.

We knew we’d be pushing it to go to any other arches, so we turned around to return after Navajo Arch.

The heat was increasing (reaching close to 30 C) as we hiked back and the kids started to struggle a bit. In total, the hike to Navajo Arch ended up being about 3 hours 45 minutes. However, this included lots of time where the kids got distracted, went off and explored…and some piggyback rides.

Skyline Arch

Even after lunch, the kids were still pretty tired and it took some convincing to get them out of the truck to go see Skyline Arch. We literally just walked in a bit on the pathway so we could get a decent photo and then turned around to go back; as they weren’t willing to continue.

Sand Dune Arch

When you pull in the Parking Lot for Sand Dune Arch, you’re at the trailhead for Broken Arch and Sand Dune Arch. We knew we’d have to pick and choose which hikes we wanted to do, so Broken Arch was one of them that we decided to forego. However, to visit both Sand Dune and Broken Arch it would be a total of 1.8 miles and take about 1 to 1.5 hours to hike. (The Broken Arch Trail is completely exposed to the sun as well.) Therefore, we decided to just visit Sand Dune Arch, which was only a 10-minute walk to the entrance from the parking lot. We mostly explored the area, including several little crevices, and the kids found areas that were completely in the shade with lots of sand on the ground. They thought it was awesome to just play in the sand, as it was like one big natural sandbox! At the end of the day when we asked them which arch was their favorite, they both said this one was!

Distanced Viewpoint of Delicate Arch & Balanced Rock

We did drive down Delicate Arch Road to go to the viewpoints of Delicate Arch, as we weren’t sure at that point if we’d make it back for the actual hike later that day. However, just viewing Delicate Arch from the viewpoint just confirmed that I definitely wanted to do the hike later that day, as the arch is basically a blip in the landscape.

Then on our drive out we also stopped quickly for a view of Balanced Rock. However, this one was easy, as it is easily seen as you drive by on the road.

Taking a Break & Returning to Park for Part II

After a swim break back at the hotel, we returned to the Park in the evening. This break was definitely needed by the kids and helped refresh them for the evening portion. However, the only downside was that we had to wait in line again to get access to the Park, which took about 30 minutes when we arrived at close to 4:30 p.m. (Please note this was mid-May, so not even during peak season.)

Double Arch

As it was still pretty hot when we got through the entrance, so we decided to go to the Windows section of the Park to explore Double Arch to allow it to cool down a little more before the Delicate Arch hike. Double Arch was one of the most eye-striking arches we saw that day and we’re glad that we didn’t skip over it! It was probably only a 10-15 minute hike into the area; and there is the opportunity to climb up directly under the arch.

Delicate Arch

The hike to Delicate Arch is 3 miles round trip and would take most people 2.5-3 hours to complete the hike. It took us about 2 hours 45 mins. It is mostly uphill, so it was another intense hike for the kids. Connor just wasn’t feeling it at the beginning, so I gave him a piggyback, as I was REALLY determined to see this arch. However, luckily when we got to the rock portion of the climb and we pretended that the rock was the surface of the moon he was able to hike up the rest of the way to the arch and then back down. (At least until we got to almost the same exact point on the way down.)

Once we got to the top, the wind was pretty strong, but the view was AMAZING! It was crazy how these formations just seemed to be right on top of the rock and how water and erosion have shaped these over time. We spent some time taking in the view at the top and the rock formations surrounding the area were equally interesting. Several others were standing in line to take their photos under the arch, but the kids didn’t seem like they’d have the patience for that so we admired from afar. While we were there, dusk started to set in, which offered the right type of lighting for the arch. However, I’d just offering a warning of caution to take sure you have enough time to get back to the parking lot before dark, or have the right night hiking equipment. We saw several people heading up to the arch right as we were returning to the parking lot and it didn’t look like they had any headlamps. There are several uneven spots, so I would just think it would be helpful to see your footing.

I’m so glad that we didn’t chicken out and not come back for the night portion, as those two arches that evening were some of our favorite parts of Arches National Park. However, it was a long day for the kids. In summary, while Arches National Park is possible to do in one-day with kids, just be prepared for it to be a long day and come stocked with lots of snacks, water and patience to take breaks. But it is definitely worth the adventure!


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