Arches is one of our favorite spots in Utah. We love exploring this National Park, and it is perfect for families. The arches are so rewarding for kids, so they are happy to hike along the trails. Most of the trails are very family-friendly, too.
Today we are sharing a one day itinerary in Arches National Park. Of course, in order to squeeze the most out of the day, you’ll want to arrive in Moab the day before and find lodging, because to get it all in, you’ll need to start early. If your children are good car travelers, you can consider driving to Moab early in the morning and then home late at night. It’s a 3 hour drive from Lehi where we live.
We traveled in winter when there were shorter days, so we went down late Sunday night. Then we spent all day Monday exploring. We left our hotel at 7:30 in the morning. The park is open 24 hours a day, so you can get an even earlier start if you like. Luckily, Moab isn’t very large, so wherever you stay you are only 5-15 minutes from the park entrance. Since we were traveling in winter, our days were shorter. It was just getting light as we drove into Arches National Park.
We need to let you know of an update beginning in 2022. If you plan to visit Arches between April and October, Arches is requiring reservations to help manage the crowds. Tickets are available 3 months in advance, so if you are planning on visiting any time in April, reservations become available January 10. If you are visiting in August, reservations would become available May 1. For more information on timed-entry reservations, visit the Arches National park website. These tickets are free, but require a $2 processing fee.
Our first stop was Balanced Rock. We hopped out and walked around this interesting rock feature. The sun was in the worst spot, so we don’t have a lot of great pictures, but this is an easy, family-friendly stop that only takes a few minutes. Plan just 15 minutes at Balanced Rock.
Next we headed to the Windows trail. This hike includes Turret Arch, as well as both North and South Window Arches. It is flat, easy, and only 1.0 mile. We love that you can see so many Arches on one little hike. We spent around an hour an a half with these arches, and that includes Double Arch. across the street
Right across the parking lot is Double Arch, which appeared in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. This is definitely a highlight. It’s only a 1/2 mile RT hike to this amazing arch, which is actually two connected arches. The trail leads right into the arch, so it is a must stop. If you’d like to save time, you can easily see it from the parking area, though the views aren’t as nice.
After finishing these three short hikes, head over to Delicate Arch. We arrived at the parking area around 9:30. We like to do this hike early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the heat, not that it mattered too much since it was January. This trail is a little tougher since it climbs straight up the slick rock for the first 1/3 of the hike. There are also some tougher places to traverse with drop offs, so make sure your children stay close and are ready for this moderate 3.0 mile hike.
It is worth the climb because Delicate Arch is a Utah icon. There are tons of great photo ops and it is a hike to check off your bucket list. However, Delicate Arch might be too much for your family. If this is the case, we recommend driving out to Devil’s Garden at the end of the Arches Road. From there you can hike to a bunch of arches, but Landscape Arch is 1.6 miles RT and the trail is flat. You can also add Tunnel Arch and Pine Tree Arch, which are on side trails, but they add 1/2 mile to the total distance.
Following your big hike to Delicate Arch or Landscape Arch, it’s time for a picnic lunch in the car. Sometimes you can find a picnic table, but they’re in high demand, and there are only a few. There are no restaurants in Arches National Park, so you may choose to leave and come back. We recommend the Moab Diner. We like that they serve breakfast all day, but all of their food is delicious. Since it saves time and money, we usually opt for the picnic.
Tapestry Arch & Broken Arch
After lunch, we’ve got a bit of a secret for you. The trail to Tapestry Arch and then around through Broken Arch is a little less traveled and can be done by shuttling a car. The entire family hiked to Tapestry Arch, which is a unique arch that not many people see. The trailhead is in the campground! After we walked under Tapestry Arch, Dad headed back to the car while Mom and the boys took the back trail to Broken Arch. Dad drove around to the trailhead for Sand Dune Arch and hiked the trail to Broken Arch. We met right under Broken Arch, it couldn’t have timed out any better. Then Dad retraced his steps with the rest of us back to the new parking spot. The total distance from the campground to Tapestry Arch, through Broken Arch, and to the other parking area is 2.0 miles.
If you want to hike the short trail out to Tapestry Arch and back, this trail is 0.7 mile out and back. You could then drive to the Sand Dune Arch parking area without visiting Broken Arch. (Note: the trailhead for Broken Arch and Sand Dune Arch start at the same place. Broken Arch to the left, Sand Dune to the right.)
Sand Dune Arch
Whatever you choose to do, don’t skip Sand Dune Arch. It is only a 1/4 mile over to Sand Dune Arch, and it is a kid’s playground. Right underneath the arch is plenty of beach like sand, except it is red. The kids dug in the sand for awhile, and then we walked back to the car. It was starting to get later in the afternoon, and we still had to drive home, but we had one more stop.
Skyline Arch is our middle child’s favorite arch, so we can’t skip it when we visit Arches National Park. This arch is visible from the road, so you can just pull over, read the sign, look at the arch, and move on, but we always enjoy the easy 1/2 mile RT trail to Skyline Arch. Especially because below the arch is the huge piece that fell out of it where you can scramble around and explore.
Visitor Center & Junior Ranger
This ended our day in Arches. We hurried back to the Visitor Center before it closed at 4:00 pm. We wanted to turn in our Junior Ranger booklet. Since we were strapped for time, we had printed them out before coming to Arches. Then we had worked on the booklet before coming down, so there were just a few things to finish in the park. Our boys were sworn in as Junior Rangers at 3:30, and we headed out of the park.
We grabbed dinner at the Moab Diner since it is our favorite and then headed back to Utah Valley. We got home around 9:00 pm and went straight to bed. It had been a great, but long day!
Feel free to adapt the one day itinerary in Arches National Park to fit your family’s needs. If you have more time to spend in Moab, there are other hikes and things to do in Arches, as well as Moab. Check out our suggestions here:
Make sure to check weather conditions on the Arches National Park website.
This Post Has 5 Comments
You mention that Arches is open 24/7 but what does that mean with Timed Entry in place? We will be visiting next month and have a 7AM entry pass. Thanks!
Reservations are required to enter the park between 6 am and 5 pm. You can enter the park without a reservation during the other hours. The park is still open 24/7.
Great itinerary! Going to visit in December and hoping for not too much snow and great weather!
Think we might be following a very similar schedule!
Thanks for this. We just decided we’re going to Arches National Park on Saturday April 18th, 2020 which is a free admission day for the national parks. We’re in particular targeting Landscape Arch. Can’t wait, we’ve only been once as a family in May 2019 and had a lot of fun (hiked around Balanced Rock, and to Double Arch, to a viewpoint of Delicate Arch, also enjoyed the city of Moab – Rotary Park in particular). I also got to go to Arches NP as a kid in 1992, and hiked to Delicate Arch with my dad and my sister. Such a great place, and now I live just 3 hours away.
Wonderful! That will be an awesome time to visit Arches. I hope that this post helps you plan an awesome day trip!