Canyonlands Kid Hikes

Canyonlands National Park has some great hikes for kids. Our three boys ages 7, 4, and 1 completed each of the following hikes (though the little one rode in the backpack on the longer hikes). If you are planning a trip to Canyonlands, make sure that you understand that there are four different sections of the park . We are only covering two in this post: The Needles and Island in the Sky. Figure out which section you are going to before you plan any Canyonlands Kid hikes. This page shows short summaries of the hikes in each area of the park. Click the links for more details and images for each of the Canyonlands Kid Hikes.

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    Island in the Sky

    Island in the Sky is located closest to Moab, about 30 minutes. It is the most visited area of Canyonlands, but still not super busy. Here are our favorite trails in this part of the park.

    Aztec Butte

    This hike takes you right up on top of the butte to overlook a large section of the park. There is steep slickrock scrambling and some scary edges. If you’re not up for that, turn left before the butte and check out the ancient stone granaries built under a rocky overhang. It’s not far to the granaries, only 0.9 mile roundtrip, but the trail to the top of the butte and back is almost 2.0 miles.

    Mesa Arch

    Our baby walked the entire way on this half mile trail to an interesting stone arch. (We grabbed him when we reached it, as there is quite a drop). This is one of the nicest hikes at Canyonlands, and it is very popular at any time of the day or year. Anyone can and should do this hike. 0nly 0.6 mile round-trip, but not wheel friendly.

    Whale Rock

    This is our boys’ favorite trail because you get to scramble up the slick rock of Whale Rock. The views are beautiful and the trail is fairly easy other than the scrambling. The total distance is only 0.8 mile. The trickiest part if following the cairns to stay on the correct path. More details on our hike post.

    Upheaval Dome

    The upheaval dome is a unique geological feature in the park. The trail goes far beyond it, but to hike to the dome and back is only 0.6 mile. The payoff is pretty nice: white pillars of sand pushing up through the red rock. We really liked this short hike, but it is a steep climb.

    What in the world caused this?

    Grandview Point Overlook

    The parks website has this hike listed at 2 miles roundtrip, but it certainly didn’t seem like that. Maybe we only walked out a short way and turned around before reaching the end. At any rate, the view point is must-see for every visitor to Canyonlands Island in the Sky district. Then you can hike as far as you’d like along the trail and head back when you’re done.

    For more details and pictures about this area of the park, visit our post on Canyonlands: Island in the Sky.

    The Needles

    The Needles section of Canyonlands National Park is closer to Monticello, but only 90 minutes from Moab. It make a great day trip from that area. Make sure to stop at Newspaper Rock on your drive to The Needles entrance.

    Stone Storehouse

    This trail is sometimes referred to as Roadside Ruin. It’s only 0.3 miles RT to a very small ruin. There is an ancient granary at the end of the short walk, and this trail also has an interpretive guide and signs. This is a great hike for young kids.

    Cave Spring

    Cave Spring is the best hike in The Needles district. It is only 0.6 miles around the loop, and much of it is cool and shaded even on the hottest day. There are 2 short ladders to climb, a cowboy camp, and a spring. Lots to see on such a short trail. If you find yourself in The Needles, don’t skip this hike!

    Pothole Point

    Pothole Point is okay if you like to hike across slickrock and look at dry potholes. This is a short loop (0.6 miles) and the hike offers great views of the Needles. The hike is flat and easy with a few lizards to see. There is no shade.

    Slickrock Trail

    Slickrock is the longest of the short trails in the park at 2.4 miles. It follows the rim along the edge (it’s not a thousand feet down like in Island) and stops at four viewpoints to overlook small canyons. Legend has it that it is possible to see bighorn sheep out on the flat, but you’d have to be luckier than we were. It might be a good idea to hike out as far as viewpoint 1 or 2 depending on your ambition and turn around and do Cave Spring again.

    Chesler Park Viewpoint

    This trail really isn’t family friendly, but we hiked it on our latest visit to The Needles and wanted to share for those who have older children who might be ready for a challenge. This trail is 5.8 miles and gains 1000 feet elevation, so it is definitely a challenging hike. Our boys were 17, 14, and 11 when we hiked it, and the views are gorgeous. It was so neat to walking the middle of The Needles rock spires, but we were definitely worn out afterward. Read more here.

    For more details and pictures about this area of Canyonlands National park, visit our post on Canyonlands: Needles.

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