Arches National Park is one of the “mighty five” national parks in Utah along with Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Capitol Reef, and nearby Canyonlands. The park boasts supernatural rock formations and stunning landscapes, including the famous delicate arch that can be seen on every Utah license plate. Our kid-friendly guide to Arches National Park delivers the essentials you need to make the most of your trip.
The park is massive with plenty to offer, so having a plan with the kids is helpful. On our first five day trip to Moab, we planned to visit Arches, Canyonlands, and Dead Horse State Park, but were so impressed with Arches that we never left. This was a easy for us since we live a few hours away, but this guide should help narrow down the highlights.
Park passes can be purchased at the visitor center. A $15.00 pass is good for 7 days. You can also purchase an America the Beautiful annual park pass for $80.00 that is good at all national parks for a full year. You can buy the annual pass either at the visitor center or online. We recommend buying online from REI because you can get the 10% dividend and they also donate an additional 10% to the parks.
When to visit
One great perk about the parks in southern Utah is that there never really is a bad time to visit.
Weather in Arches National Park
Summer temperatures are hot and with the dry climate so staying hydrated is especially important. The winter is comfortable, however, camping at night does get a bit cold.
Best time of year to visit Arches by month
November – March
It may be chilly, but there are very few crowds at this time. Camping in the park does not require a reservation, but there are no ranger programs in the winter. Don’t forget your sleeping bag!
April – May
Rangers offer free guided hikes every day throughout the spring, summer, and fall and these shoulder months offer the most enjoyable weather. Be prepared, though, because it is still a dry climate so stay hydrated.
June – August
Even though temperatures are borderline oppressive at this time this is peak season at the park. Hydration and limiting sun exposure is especially important at this time of year.
September – October
Similar to the April – May shoulder season, the weather is near perfect for late night camping and stargazing. The rangers are also still offering the free guided hikes. Be prepared for larger crowds, but not quite as bananas as the summer.
If you plan on doing a lot of hiking with a baby or toddler, especially in hot and dry climates like southern Utah, consider a carrier with a sun shade and a water bladder. The carrier fit is important so be sure to try a few on, but we like the Osprey Poco Child Carrier along with the 3 Liter Osprey Hydraulics Reservoir.
The thing we like about the Poco is the sun shade and obviously the fit. With the reservoir, we chose the 3 liter version because of the firm back plate. The 2.5 liter version feels like a water balloon on your back. The reservoir we chose also fits in most backpacks so we will carry it on solo hikes or when we are not using the carrier. With the reservoir, we are able to hike hands free for small climbs or chasing after the older kiddos, and when the baby gets thirsty, we just send the bite valve back to him for a sip.
Where to stay
Hotels in Moab
There are hotels to fit any budget in Moab and Booking.com reviews are a good place to start a search. Our favorite has been Cali Cochitta. We stay in the guest house, which has a full kitchen, a washer and dryer, access to the hot tub, and free bike rental.
Camping near Arches
There are also many kid friendly campgrounds near Arches National Park with varying price points and amenities. For tent camping, the absolute best locations to search are the Bureau of Land Management campgrounds along Highway 128 or the campgrounds within Arches itself.
The BLM campgrounds along Highway 128 offer convenient access to both Moab and Arches. All BLM sites have beautiful views of the Colorado river and the adjacent canyon walls. They are also better proximity to Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse State Park, but they are all literally right next to the road. The occasional car or truck driving by at night may wake the baby or mess up your night sky photo.
Devils Garden Campground
The more kid friendly campgrounds within Arches are stunning, but difficult to reserve and about a 30 minute drive into the park. The extra time adds to any adventures or pit stops that take you outside the park. We ultimately chose to stay in the park because we have a light sleeping baby I’m also obsessed with night star photos.
For those venturing under the stars with a little kiddo, be sure to check out our hacks on camping with a toddler.
Junior Ranger Program
We would be remiss if we wrote an article about a national park and did not mention the Junior Ranger program. We are big fans of the educational value and the mission. The kids love the activities and any time they get a new badge they walk around with pride. Arches has its own program separate from Canyonlands so there are plenty of activities for the kiddos.
Arches National Park Scenic Drive
If you are short on time or not a hiking kind of family, the scenic drive is a kid friendly way to experience Arches National Park. Many famous rock formations such as balanced arch can be seen from the side of the road. The drive from end to end will take an hour all by itself.
Best hiking in Arches National Park for young kids
We have an entire article on the kid friendly hikes in Arches National Park, but the best bang for your buck is Balanced Rock viewpoint. The picnic tables will not be as crowded as the more obvious locations at the Visitor Center, Delicate Arch, or Devils Garden. Balanced Rock is also very close to the the Windows and Turret Arches. The entire area offers great hiking and climbing opportunities for the kids.
From there, if you have the time, drive all the way back to either Sand Dune Arch or Devils Garden. Sand Dune arch is 0.2 miles from the Broken Arch Trailhead and enjoys shade most of the day as it is flanked on two sides by large sandstone fins. It is great for the little kiddos to play around in the sand with a fantastic landscape backdrop.
Devils Garden is a bit longer, but also starts out in a shady canyon. Do not be intimidated by the number of cars at the trailhead. There are several trail options once you get going. Following the trail to the delicate arch is a great way to go, but you really can’t go wrong. It’s a good opportunity to allow the kids to choose their own adventure.