10 Jan Arches National Park: A Family Guide for Summer and Winter
Arches National Park. It’s one of the most majestic, incredible sights you experience from Mother Nature! For years I’d heard so many amazing things about Arches National Park but I’d never taken the time to go visit. Finally last summer we loaded the kids up and made the 3 hour trek down to Moab to see what all the hype was about. The adventure was even better than I had imagined and it was perfect for all ages! Here were my questions and hesitations before I left and didn’t know what to expect. Keep in mind I have 4 children ranging from 8 yrs. old down to 1 yr old.
Here are 6 tips for visiting Arches with kids in any weather condition:
- Make sure to allow time for the visitor’s center and Jr. Ranger Program. We love visiting national park and national monument visitors centers! At Arches, their visitor’s center explains how arches are formed. They show all of the fascination geological formations and they have a really awesome short video about the park. And the most exciting thing- you can become a Jr. Ranger. We love the Jr. Ranger program so much and collect all of the badges whenever we visit a new park! The kids also get 1 on 1 time with a park ranger and can ask any crazy questions they want. It’s definitely worth spending at least 30 minutes there. The gift shop is amazing as well, they have nice bathrooms AND there’s air conditioning 🙂 If you are going to do the Jr. Ranger program, make sure to stop by there first before you enter the park to grab booklets so your kids can do the activities along your adventures.
- Bring lots of extra clothes. I can’t stress enough how important this is. Kids get messy. Kids get cold. Kids get hot. Kids pee their pants. The list goes on. For both our summer and winter trips I packed an entire extra outfit for each child- shirt, pants, underwear, socks, extra jacket or coat. Without fail we used these extra clothes for each child throughout our day adventure in one way or another. It’s worth it!
- Overpack snacks. Kids get hungry and thirsty! Pack more than you expect to. They’ll be walking and hiking all day long and you’ll want to restock your backpack often throughout the day.
- Embrace the dirt. Arches is dirty. It’s inevitable that your children will get filthy, so embrace it. The dirt is red, and there is a lot of sand. Let them run, play, and go wild with it! They’re going to get dirty whether you like it or not, so like it 🙂
- Before you go, make a game plan. Arches is big. There are SO many arches to visit, and you may want to see some arches more than others. Map out all the arches you’d like to visit. Some arches only take 1-2 minutes to walk to. Others can take over an hour and many miles. So make a list of the ones that are top priority.
- Check the weather by searching hashtags on social media. Along with checking temperatures on my weather app, I also like to search for the location we’re going to on Instagram to check out what the weather looks like at the moment. Is is sweltering? Is there snow on the ground? How much snow? Is it small parches or knee deep snow? What are people saying about the weather conditions at the moment? It’s one of my favorite tools for predicting weather our final destination.
Arches in hot weather:
-It was hot. However, we expected it to be, so we planned accordingly. On road trips we always buy a big flat of water bottles so we have plenty on hand in case we can’t access any for a while. Also, as you drive in, Arches has their visitor’s center with a spigot to fill up any water bottles you have, too. Make sure to stop there and fill up before driving up the the Arches.
-There are shady spots if you’re under and arch or next to a hill, but you’re definitely in the desert. Bring lots of sunscreen, water, snacks, and extra clothes!
-Layers, layers, layers! Sometimes temperatures can drop in the evenings and get cold, so make sure to bring layers to take on and off as needed. Make sure to wear hats too!
Arches in cold weather:
We decided to take a day trip over Christmas break to visit Arches. Yes- you heard that right! We drove 3 hours to Arches, explored for a few hours, and drove home all in the same day with 4 children! It was fun, exhausting, and one of our favorite memories to date! This year it hasn’t snowed barely at all! Christmas eve is the only day it snowed and Moab just so happened to get snow as well. So before we left, I knew there would be SOME snow, but as I looked at photos on social media it looked like there were some small patches in shady spots, but seemed to be about 90% dry and clear of wetness. The morning we left, on a whim I packed an extra set of clothes for each child and grabbed their snow boots. I wasn’t planning on bringing snow boots at all. Guess what we wore the entire time? Snow boots! We pitied the people who were hiking in tennis shoes because it was SUPER muddy, and in some spots it was very icy! We definitely wouldn’t have as much fun if we didn’t have those snow boots on hand!
Layers are key! I didn’t know what to expect at all as far as weather. Would my kids be boiling hiking all day even though it was a consistent 35 degrees? Or were they going to freeze their buns off because it might be windy? I put them in light weight long sleeve shirts with a light weight jacket, and then brought heavy snow coats too.
The famous Delicate arch was SUPER icy and slippery, as well as one of the longer hikes, so we opted to not do that one due to it being dangerous with so many little kids. But don’t be sad if you don’t visit Delicate Arch! There are SO many other amazing things to see.
Things I wish I knew before going:
-One thing I didn’t realize is that each arch has designated parking lots. There are so many arches that you can park and walk to within a matter in a couple minutes, which is super fun for kids! I mean, they’re so easy my 1 yr old could “hike” it. So you’ll be going from arch to arch hoping in and out of your car often. Arches is one of my favorite spots for kids because it was so easy.
-There are bathrooms at certain arches. The NPS has designated restrooms all along the road so that was super convenient.
-Because the arches that are kid friendly are mostly super easy walks, you can pack your car up with all sorts of stuff for “just in case” items. Then you can just run back to the car and grab items as needed.
-Bring sand toys. There are a few spots that are perfect for digging and playing in sand (specifically Sand Dune arch).
-The small town of Moab is just a quick 15-20 minutes out of the park. So if you’re in desperate need of some chicken nuggets or a big mac, that can be a life savor!
-There’s lots of lodging in Moab! We haven’t yet camped at Arches, but we plan to this summer. Our first time there, we stayed at the Marriott closest to the Arches Entrance. Although we were close to the park, I wish we would’ve stayed closer to downtown so we were walking distance to restaurants and other fun shops.
Best arches for kids:
We definitely has our favorite arches! My kid’s #1 favorite arch was Double Arch, with Sand Dune Arch a close second! Here are some of our favorites and why we love them-
- Double Arch. Double arch is huge and majestic! Photographs don’t even do it justice! It’s only about a 3 minute walk from the parking lot do you can just run right up to it and do a little rock climbing underneath it. You can enjoy it from far away or go right up into it. Be careful because if you climb up too far it’s tricky for little ones to get down. Just be careful and you’ll be fine. We could spend all day here and be happy because it’s just so beautiful!
- The Windows. Both North and South Windows can be accessed in the same parking lot as Double Arch. So do double arch, turn around, and take a new extra steps over to the windows. They have really nice trails too so that’s super convenient! The North Window is great for a full family photo op! Don’t be afraid to ask fellow hikers to take a group shot for you! People are more than willing to help out.
- On the same trail as The Windows is Turret Arch which is breathtaking! We got there in the late afternoon and the lighting was incredible! With one quick look you’ll see 3 arches- North Window, South Window, and Turret Arch.
- Balanced Rock. This is maybe one of the shortest walking in the park, but is worth the stop. Balanced Rock isn’t an arch, but is very impressive! You can also see it very well from your car, so if you want to do a quick drive by, that’s a good option too.
- Sand Dune Arch. This arch “hike” is super fun! It takes you through really fun slots then opens into beautiful rooms. Sand Dune arch was especially magical in the winter with the snow everywhere! It felt so Narnia and I couldn’t even believe it! This only took about 5 minutes with the kids too, but you could spend hours playing in the sand. It’s shady too which is a plus in the heat! When we visited in the winter, because it had snowed a few days before, the snow had formed a little “slide” directly under the arch so the kids slid down that! It was wet, but very fun!
- Broken Arch. This arch is in the same parking lot as Sand Dune arch! It’s just a little further along the trail, so make sure to pack some snacks and water.
- Delicate Arch Viewpoint. If you’re hesitant to commit to the longer Delicate Arch hike with small children, consider stopping at the Delicate Arch Viewpoint. Within about a minute walk you can see Delicate Arch from afar.
I really hope you found this info helpful! If there is info that you have about a kid-friendly Arches adventure, please leave them in the comment section! I’d love to hear your tips and tricks too!