Taking your kids on a hiking trip in Arches National Park is the perfect way to see some of the most spectacular natural wonders this world has to offer. From colorfully striped rock walls to towering sandstone arches, and meandering canyons – there really is something that everyone can enjoy. Here, we’re sharing with you some of the best Arches hiking trails for kids.
As Utah locals, visiting Arches National Park happens just about every year for us (and sometimes multiple times in one year). We love that Arches has plenty of adventures that work for all ages, whether you’re going with toddlers or with teens. Our first visit to Arches was when our older kids were toddlers, and they’re now teens, so we’ve been hiking in Arches with kids more times than we can count.
With plenty of easy trails that are well-marked, you don’t have to worry much about getting lost or spending too much time trying to figure out which trailhead leads where. Follow our recommendations below on the best Arches hikes with kids to find the perfect hikes for your Arches National Park family vacation.
How to Get To Arches
The fastest way to get to Arches National Park is from Salt Lake City, and the trip will take about 3 hours and 45 minutes. Head south on I-15 and then take Highway 6 to Green River (follow the signs for Price). At Green River hop on I-70 eastbound and get off at exit 182 headed toward Moab on Highway 191. Go south for 27 miles and the entrance to Arches is on the east side of the road. You’ll see the visitors center and entrance station on your left but keep going for about 0.7 miles south to get onto the road to enter Arches National Park. While you may be tempted to push your speed a bit on the more desolate stretches of the road, DON’T. Highway Patrol is always in the areas giving out speeding tickets.
Timed Entry Into Arches
A couple of years ago, Arches implemented a timed entry system to help control crowds. A timed entry reservation is required to get into Arches from April 1 until October 31 each year. You’ll need a timed entry reservation to enter Arches from 7 am to 4 pm daily. If you’re planning a last-minute Arches National Park trip, you can check recreation.gov the day before you want to visit as they release a set of last-minute tickets at 6 pm the night before. If you can’t score a timed entry ticket, plan on getting up early. As long as you’re through the entry gate by 7 am or enter after 4 pm, you won’t need an entry ticket. Timed entry tickets are available 3 months in advance of the first of the month you’re going (ex all of the tickets for May entry open on February 1). Timed entry reservations have a $2 fee and are nonrefundable.
Admission to Arches National Park
Even if you have a timed entry reservation for Arches National Park, you’ll still need to pay the entrance fee. The cost is $30 per car and that will pay your entry fee for an entire week (though you still need a reservation at peak times). I HIGHLY recommend getting an America the Beautiful National Parks Annual Pass for just $80. There are 5 National Parks in Utah, and even if you just visit Arches and Canyonlands (just 20 minutes down the road), you’ll have almost paid for your full cost! The annual pass gives you free admission to all National Parks, monuments, and forest service fee areas in the United States.
Best Time Of Year To Visit Arches National Park
The best time of year to visit Arches National Park for hiking is from October-April. The temperatures are cooler then and the crowds are smaller. The most popular time to visit Arches is from March to May and from September to November when the weather is mild and comfortable for hiking. Summers can be hot, with temperatures regularly exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and winters can be cold and snowy. We do not recommend doing a lot of hiking in Arches in the summer unless you are VERY CAUTIOUS!
Arches are busiest in the summer months, especially in June, July, and August. If you want to avoid the crowds, consider visiting in the early morning or late afternoon when fewer people are around.
Best Time of Day to Hike in Arches National Park
Arches can be hiked all day long from October – April. The temperatures are cooler then (downright cold in December, January, and February), so hiking is comfortable and safer. If temperatures are going to be above 85 degrees, only hike in the early morning or evening when the weather is cooler. The biggest risk associated with hiking in Arches with kids is the heat, so monitor your kids carefully to make sure they’re in good shape. Read below for the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, something that all parents should know before hiking with their kids in the desert.
What To Take For Hiking Arches National Park With Kids
When taking kids hiking in Arches National Park protection against the heat and the sun needs to be your top priority. While it’s often overlooked, the head is the most dangerous thing about hiking in Arches with kids. Here are some essential items to bring when hiking with kids in Arches National Park:
Best Arches Hiking Tip
If you’re hiking in Arches with kids, the best tip I have for you is to teach your kids to stay on the trail. SO HARD, RIGHT?? I know it’s tricky, especially with little kids or older ones with high energy, but a lot of the ground at Arches is covered in Crypto-biotic soil which means that it’s actually living. Stepping into these soils can kill them or take decades to recover. To help preserve the local ecosystem, the best thing you can do is to stay on the trail and teach your kids to do the same.
Best Arches National Parks Hikes for Kids
Arches is one of the best National Parks for hiking with kids since there are so many short and easy hikes. It’s got lots of trailheads and so many options to make hikes shorter or longer for kids that it’s easy to find the perfect hike for your family trip to Arches National Park.
Park Avenue Trail – Best Kids Arches Hike for Eager Kids
Distance: 2 Miles
The Park Avenue Trail is the closest trail to the Arches Visitors Center and can be done as a one-mile shuttle hike or a 2 mile out and back hike. While you won’t see any arches on this hike, you’ll be surrounded by massive sandstone walls, ending with an incredible view of Courthouse towers. When we hike Park Avenue in Arches with kids, we typically do the hike as soon as we enter the park and have one parent drop the other parent and the kids off at the Park Avenue Trailhead, while the other parent heads down to the Courthouse Towers Viewpoint to park the car and hike up from the bottom. This works out great because the kids usually have a ton of energy early in the day, so they can get through this hike relatively quickly.
Sand Dune Arch – Best Arch For Hanging Out
If you need some time during your Arches family trip to just relax for a while, plan on spending some time at Sand Dune Arch. While there is an arch, the real highlight is the deep sand beneath it, which our kids always use as a giant sandbox. We usually bring sand pails and shovels as well as plastic dump trucks, and the kids can play here for an hour or two. Sand Dune Arch is the best place for kids to play in Arches National Park since it’s in a deep canyon that’s shaded for a good portion of the day. Sand Dune Arch is a must-visit trail if you’re hiking Arches with kids ages 5 or under (though our teens still absolutely love to play in the sand there as well).
Balanced Rock – Best Arches Hike For Toddlers
Distance: 0.3 Miles
Elevation: 55 Feet
Balanced Rock is the easiest hike in Arches National Park with kids and is our top pick for Arches hikes to do with toddlers. At just 0.3 miles, it’s mostly just a pull-off where you can hike to the base of balanced rock. It can be done incredibly quickly but is also a great place to let little ones try hiking on their own, especially if they’re usually in a baby backpack for hiking in Arches.
Double Arch – Best Short Hike at Arches for Kids
Distance: 0.5 Miles
Elevation: 40 Feet
The hike to Double Arch with kids is about as easy and straightforward as they come. It’s a half-mile loop with minimal elevation, so it’s perfect for kids who may still be getting used to hiking.
The hike starts by the Double Arch Parking Lot and heads north for 0.25 miles through the sand. Make sure you’re wearing closed shoes, especially on hot days since the hot sand can burn your feet if you have sandals on. The parking lot is often full, but if you wait 5 or 10 minutes, a spot will usually open up. While you’re there, plan to hike to Turret Arch and The Windows.
Delicate Arch – Best Arch View
Distance: 3 Miles
Elevation: 420 Feet
The hike to Delicate Arch in Arches National Park is one of the most popular hikes in the park, and if you’re up for a challenge this is a great Arches hike with kids. Due to its popularity, the parking lot is usually full from 10 am-3 pm, so we suggest avoiding those times. If you’re looking for quiet and solitude, this is NOT the hike for you. If you want an awesome viewpoint and to stand at the base of an incredible freestanding arch (made famous by the Utah license plates), you’re in the right place!
The hike starts at the historic Wolfe Ranch, a homestead that was established in the late 1800sand you can still see some of the outbuildings and the corral. About 0.25 miles from the trailhead, you will come across a rock panel with several petroglyphs that include images of animals, people, and geometric shapes. At the 0.5-mile mark, the trail crosses Salt Wash, a dry wash that is sometimes used as a drainage channel during flash floods. The wash can be very dangerous to cross during periods of heavy rain, so if heavy rain is in the forecast, plan on doing your hike another day.
At the 0.8-mile mark, you will reach the Lower Delicate Arch Viewpoint, which offers a distant but still impressive view of Delicate Arch. This is a fantastic place to take a break from your hike, have a snack, and make sure that the kids have been drinking enough water.
From here on, the next 0.7 miles of the hike is more difficult. The trail gets steeper and more challenging as you are mostly hiking across Slickrock here. Let the kids look for the cairns that mark the trail so you don’t lose your way! Just before you get to the arch, you’ll be walking against the cliff on a narrow ledge. While the drop-off isn’t extreme, this is a place where you should have your kids hold your hands, especially if there are hikers who are going in the opposite direction. After you pass the exposed section, you’ll climb a little more and you’ll be at Delicate Arch.
Delicate Arch Viewpoint
Distance: 0.7 Miles
Elevation: 50 Feet
If you want to see Delicate Arch but want an easier hike with kids, The Delicate Arch Viewpoint is a popular alternative. It’s shorter and easier and is significantly less crowded. The Delicate Arch Viewpoint trail is 1.2 miles past the Wolfe Ranch parking area.
As you start the hike, you’ll see that the viewpoint is a fantastic point to get a panoramic view of Arches National Park. About 0.2 miles down the trail, you will come to an overlook that offers a pretty good view of Delicate Arch in the distance – you can turn around here if your kids are tired or keep going for an even better view! This is a good spot to take a break and enjoy the view before continuing on to the viewpoint.
At the end of the trail, you will reach the Delicate Arch Viewpoint, which offers a closer and more panoramic view of the arch. It’s not too far and the views make this a great Arches National Park hike for family photos!
Distance: 1.8 Miles
Elevation: 240 Feet
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
The easy hike to Landscape Arch in Arches National Park is a popular and relatively easy trail that’s perfect for kids. It’s a little longer, but it doesn’t have too much elevation which makes it easier for hiking with kids.
The hike starts at the Devils Garden Trailhead, which is a popular trailhead for several different trails. The entire Devils Garden hike is just over 8 miles but has some difficult sections that are too hard and exposed for most kids. At the beginning of the Landscape Arch hike, you’ll enter a narrow canyon. The path turns from hard-packed dirt to sand which can be difficult with kids. This is a hike you’ll be grateful you chose to wear closed-toed shoes. About 0.25 miles from the trailhead, you will come across two smaller arches, Tunnel Arch and Pine Tree Arch. These are both worth stopping to see and if you have little kids, this could make a great turnaround point.
At 0.8 miles you’ll get to Landscape Arch, which is the longest arch in the world. It honestly looks a little out of place after seeing all the thick and chunky arches that are throughout the rest of the park. Historically, people were allowed to walk underneath it, but it’s become more delicate lately, and with the risk of it breaking (you’ll understand when you see it), you can’t hike underneath it. This Arches hike for kids has some of the best bang for your buck since you’ll hike to 3 arches in just 1.6 miles.
Distance: 1.0 Miles
Elevation: 100 Feet
Turret Arch is an arch that’s seen as part of the Windows Loop Trail. While you can go just to Turret Arch for a 0.7-mile hike, it’s worth going the extra 0.3 miles to see both the north and south Window Arches up close. These Arches hike for kids is simple though there isn’t much shade, so don’t go during the middle of the day. You can hike up underneath the Turret arch with gives you a unique view from the backside. The backside is steep slick rock, so we always remind our kids that they stop at the top, so they don’t slide out of control down the other side.
Windows Loop Trail
Distance: 1 Mile
Elevation: 100 Feet
This is combined with the Turret Arch Trail to make the Windows Loop Trail. The trail is in excellent condition with packed dirt and even stairs for most of this trail. In the 1 mile loop, you can see both the North and South Windows as well as Turret Arch. All of these are massive and make fantastic places for taking photos of kids in Arches.
Distance: 0.4 Miles
Elevation: 36 Feet
Skyline Arch is an easy hike that’s right out of the Devils Garden Campground. If you’re camping in Arches National Park, you’ll want to do this hike in some of your downtimes. With almost no elevation gain (a whopping 36 feet), and a distance of only 0.2 miles to get to the arch, this is one of the most kid-friendly hikes in Arches National Park.
Distance: 0.6 Miles
Elevation: 42 Feet
Tapestry Arch is another family-friendly Arches National Park hike that’s accessible through the Devil’s Garden Campground. Next to campsite #39 the trail takes off and it’s only 0.3 miles until you get to the tapestry arch. There’s one junction where you can go right to Broken Arch or left to Tapestry Arch. Tapestry Arch is next to two false arches, which gives it a fool-woven tapestry look. If you’re not camping at Devil’s Garden, there are several parking spots designated at the campground for hikers.
Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke in Kids While Hiking
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are two serious heat-related illnesses that can occur in anyone who is exposed to hot weather conditions. It’s a serious risk when hiking with kids in Arches, but the kids and adults. It is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke so you know if you need to seek medical attention.
Recognizing Heat Exhaustion in Kids
Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat illness that occurs when the body becomes dehydrated and overheated. Here are the signs of heat exhaustion that you need to watch for:
- Heavy sweating
- Pale or clammy skin
- Weakness or fatigue
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Nausea or vomiting
- Muscle cramps
- Rapid heart rate
If you notice these symptoms in your child, it is important to take immediate action to prevent further complications. Move your child to a cool and shaded area, have them lie down, and offer cool fluids to drink. You can also apply cool, damp cloths to their forehead and neck to help lower their body temperature. Mild symptoms of heat exhaustion can be treated on your own. If you’re concerned or you see many of these symptoms, seek medical attention.
Recognizing Heat Stroke in Kids
Heat stroke is a more serious heat-related illness that occurs when the body’s internal temperature rises to dangerous levels. Heat stroke can be life-threatening if not treated immediately. Here are the signs of heat stroke that you need to watch for:
- High body temperature over 104F
- Hot, dry skin
- Red, flushed skin
- Rapid breathing
- Rapid heart rate
- Confusion or disorientation
- Seizures or convulsions
- Loss of consciousness
If you notice any of these symptoms in your child, it is important to seek emergency medical attention immediately. Call 911 and then move your child to a cool shaded area. In the desert, there isn’t much shade, so look for shade under bushy trees or under rock outcroppings. While you wait for medical help to arrive, you should try to lower your child’s body temperature by applying cool, damp cloths to their body, especially to their head, neck, and armpits.
Preventing Heat Illness in Kids
The best way to prevent heat-related sicknesses in children is to take steps to keep them cool and hydrated in hot weather. These tips will help you avoid heat illness while hiking with your kids:
- Drink plenty of fluids, especially water, to stay hydrated. Kids need a minimum of 0.5L of water per hour while hiking in the heat and adults and older kids need to drink 1L of water per hour. A large water bottle or hydration pack helps with this.
- Avoid outdoor activities during the hottest part of the day, usually between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
- Wear light-colored and loose-fitting clothing to help stay cool.
- Take frequent breaks in the shade. If you’re driving between hikes, cool down by turning your car’s air conditioner on while you drive.
- Use sunscreen to prevent sunburn, which can make it harder for the body to cool down.
- Never leave kids in a parked car – temperatures can get dangerously hot within minutes.