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This guest post was written by my amazing friend Alyssa from The Gifted Homeschooler. It’s a great look at what it’s like to visit Arches National Park from a family perspective and an accessibility perspective.
Arches is a beautiful park, and a family favorite. It’s small enough to see and do pretty much everything in three days and it’s all relatively close together. When we visited last year we had kids ages 7, 6, and 2 and they all did great on the hikes! This is a great weekend trip from Salt Lake, and should be on every family Utah Bucket List.
Make sure to also check out our top recommomendation for activities to do with kids in Moab, just a couple of miles down the road, as well as our favorite hikes in Arches with kids. Need more ideas? Check out our other kite, Utah Kids Explore for more Moab activities and things to do in Arches with kids.
What makes Arches National Park Unique?
Arches National Park is one of my favorite parks out of the 20 or so I’ve visited. The red rock is so incredibly vibrant and it’s mixed with copper-rich soil that contrasts the warm surroundings with piles and stripes of light aqua green. It also has a really high concentration of things to do within the park, so we realistically felt like we saw most of the park’s highlights in just three days.
I’m embarrassed to admit that after 30 years of both traveling to and spending the last 5 living in Utah, I never realized that the blue and orange license plate on so many Utah cars is from Arches National Park. I always assumed it was Rainbow Bridge, the beautiful arch that is suspended above deserts near Lake Powell. I spent enough summers hiking up to Rainbow Bridge you’d think I’d recognize it, but no. Utah license plates actually feature Delicate Arch which is hung in the Moab area inside Arches National Park. Once I realized there was an entire park FULL of arches, I had to go.
- What makes Arches National Park Unique?
- How difficult is it to get around Arches National Park?
- Is Arches National Park good for families with young kids?
- Best scenic drives and viewpoints in Arches National Park
- Camping in Arches National Park with Kids
- How wheelchair and stroller friendly is Arches National Park?
- What is the best way to get around Arches National Park in a wheelchair?
- How to get in to Arches National Park
- What to bring with you for a stay in Arches National Park
- Are dogs allowed in Arches National Park?
- Teaching kids about Arches National Park
- Petroglyphs near Arches National Park:
- Easy mountain biking near Arches National Park
- What else to bring
- ADA accessibility in Arches National Park
How difficult is it to get around Arches National Park?
This particular trip was very unique for us as I was 7 months pregnant and technically on bedrest. We calculated all possible risks from this trip and weighed them against my mental health – I just NEED to get outside for adventure regularly. When we decided to have our fourth child we knew it would come with 6 months of bedrest and so we planned to do some juggling to get all the needs met – baby’s and mine! Since Arches National Park packs a huge variety of things to do in such a small area, we knew that it would be a good fit for both our young family as well as my difficult health situation. We never had to drive too far to get to things and there was always something that completely captivated the kids.
Is Arches National Park good for families with young kids?
Arches is a wonderful National Park to visit with kids! We chose Arches because: 1) It’s a small area packed with lots of hikes and lots of scenic drives. I would be able to rest in the car or campsite as needed 2) The hikes vary in challenge level, so we were able to take a temperature on my capabilities each day and go with that as well as accommodate our youngest adventurers. Make sure to read The Best Hikes With Kids in the Moab Area for some great hiking suggestions in Arches! 3) When we all needed a break we could enjoy the scenic drives around the park. We were able to either hike or view all but a few of the park’s major formations. 4) The visitors center is very accessible and informative. We learned how the arches were formed and how erosion has changed them over time.
Arches is heavily regulated as far as where you can hike. That can be annoying, but it preserves the most amazing views.
Best scenic drives and viewpoints in Arches National Park
We enjoyed taking breaks from hiking and driving along all the scenic views. From the visitors center headed inside the park you can drive by the Moab Fault, Park Avenue, La Sal Mountain Viewpoint, Courthouse Towers Viewpoint, Petrified Dunes Viewpoint, Balanced Rock Viewpoint, Windows Spur Road, Panorama Point, Cache Valley Overlook, Delicate Arch Spur Road, Salt Valley Overlook (an important one to see in order to understand how the arches were formed), Fiery Furnace, Sand Dune Arch and Broken Arch, Tower Arch Road, Skyline Arch, and finally Devil’s Garden.
Camping in Arches National Park with Kids
This park is best enjoyed via camping — period.
We camped in the middle of the park at Devil’s Garden Campground and were surrounded by red rock and arches all night long! Skyline Arch Trail is accessible from the site and its arch greets you as you enter; at only 0.5 miles it’s a great starter trail to do after setting up camp for the evening. At the campsite, the kids climbed and explored on their own time while the adults cooked, relaxed, and grew a child without having to follow them everywhere. We also brought sand toys and matchbox cars to keep our two-year-old happy and occupied nearby. The red sand is great fun to play in and you can even find some Barbie-sized arches carved into the rocks at camp. Camping also means you can come back to homebase for a rest or reload on food. We had a napping two- year-old at the time and this was a nice option.
We camped for three nights on the edge of a valley of crumbled rocks and amazing vistas as far as the eye could see. We went in late March, so it wasn’t too hot and the crowds were light. We cooked over a fire with no problem, had a close bathroom, and access to water.
Devils Garden Area
Many more hikes at Devil’s Garden will lead you deeper into the park, but it’s reserved specifically for foot traffic, which ruled me and my wheelchair out. We really enjoyed camping at the end of this long road and having access to so many different hikes. Parking at Devil’s Garden can be tricky because many of the trails are for day-long hikes; camping meant we always had a parking spot at this most popular trailhead.
How wheelchair and stroller friendly is Arches National Park?
My favorite hike was Double Arch. My husband was able to push my wheelchair most of the way up and I handled the few steps and light walking with lots of breaks (I would not say this is an accessible trail at all — lots of bumps and rocks and steep pavement, but it is paved and the steps are few and far between). My kids were able to keep up with us just fine and wandered around a bit without any parental worry. The views at Double Arch are incredible! You can see the valley below and look through two arches all at once.
Across the small side of the valley from Double Arch is Windows Loop and Turret Arch, another family friendly trail. We were able to view both arches from Double Arch, so we skipped that hike.
Other hikes that are more wheelchair and stroller friendly in Arches National Park are the Park Avenue Viewpoint and part of the Windows Trail is hard packed dirt which is also suitable for wheelchairs and strollers.
What is the best way to get around Arches National Park in a wheelchair?
The best way to take in all that Arches has to offer in a wheelchair is by car. It is pretty surprising how much of Arches you can see just from the road, but the scenery really is quite stunning.
If you are interested in camping in Arches National Park, there are 2 campsites in the Devil’s Garden Campground (where we stayed) that are ADA accessible.
Delicate Arch, the most famous arch, is accessible via a much longer trail that was out of my reach, but we were able to do the much shorter walk to Delicate Arch Viewpoint. This is a flat, accessible trail with a lower view point that connects to a steeper trail to the upper view point. Next time we go back I want to hike all the way to the arch itself!
Top Recommendations for Visiting Arches National Park:
How to get in to Arches National Park
We entered the park from the north via the Salt Valley Road on a very long dirt trail that took us an hour of aggressive driving, so not something you’d want to be doing daily. However, coming from Northern Utah, this saved us over an hour of driving time because it was a much more direct route to the campground, which is on the northern side of Arches. If the road has recently been graded, any car can make the journey. (After heavy rains, be wary of ruts, some of which may be large enough to make the road impassable for sedans and other smaller vehicles.) Beyond that there are no local hotels or grocery stores on that side of the park, just very overpriced gas stations and few at that. The Moab entrance is paved and very close to the city, but the lines of cars to get into the park are ridonculous. Hours long for sure during peak times. (If you insist on a hotel, leave for the park very early and plan to stay late.)
What to bring with you for a stay in Arches National Park
Since it can be a bit of a pain to get in and out of Arches at peak times, that means no popping into town for food or gas. You have to pack and pack well. There are no grocery stores nearby so make sure to plan your meals thoroughly and check your packing list twice. Check out our Ultimate Family Camping Checklist to help you out.
RVs are okay at several campsites, but would be hard to get into all the sites and parking lots, so check length regulations online and bring a smaller vehicle to tour around in. Bikes are not allowed on the trails, so plan to use those outside of the park (so many great trails in Moab!) or leave at home.
Are dogs allowed in Arches National Park?
Dogs are allowed at campsites, but not trails. We brought our Australian Shepherd and left him either in the car or shade while we were gone. We were there in late March, so it was still very cool outside and safe for him to be left tied up with food and water.
Teaching kids about Arches National Park
Utah’s National Park podcast has one episode created by kids that includes Arches information. We listened to the entire six minutes, but there’s about one minute specifically on Arches. Its short, but a good length for little kids to listen to A to Z. It served as a good jumping off point for our further talks about formations.
This is one park where I would not skip the visitor’s center. They do a really good job of educating the public with hands-on exhibits, a video, and a viewing area. They offer guided hikes and trail information there as well.
My kids learned that anyone who discovers an unnamed arch gets to name it; all week long they were trying to discover new arches! We found a six-inch one in our campsite and they went bezerk!
If you want to read up on the area before you go, which I always recommend, check these books out:
Petroglyphs near Arches National Park:
There are ancient petroglyphs all over the place no matter which direction you access Arches. We stopped at a few just north of the park and it was well worth the extra half hour. We visited some along Nine Mile Canyon just northeast of Price, Utah. Several are just off the highway and a fantastic way to stretch little legs and expand minds.
Easy mountain biking near Arches National Park
We decided to leave from Arches via the Moab entrance so Dad and the kids could enjoy some mountain biking. My husband found the Klondike Bluffs loop trail that goes along several preserved dinosaur footprints which the kids absolutely loved! I stayed in the car to rest along with our dog and they all went off on an hour long exploration to the Dinosaur Stomping Grounds on their bikes. This is a great beginner biking trail that I’m sure our family will enjoy over and over again on future visits to Arches National Park.
Read all about more great mountain bike trails with kids in Moab.
What else to bring
I wish we had brought binoculars. We got the kids binoculars this year when we visited the Grand Canyon, but I wish we’d had them starting last year to bring on all our adventures. They are a fantastic souvenir! We ended up buying some on the spot at the National Park store, but a better deal could easily be found with greater foresight by purchasing these binoculars before we left home.
For more packing tips for Arches, we have a Complete Packing List for Arches National Park HERE.
This is a park I will be visiting again and again. There is something so ethereal about the hanging rocks, the standing cathedral stacks, and the wide valleys. I also think my family will enjoy it on different levels as they age. It was very empowering for me to be in nature among the rough rocks, even as my mobility was so severely limited. I can’t wait to get back and do some of the more intense climbing and exploring!
Make sure to check out more of Alyssa’s adventures over at The Gifted Homeschooler.
ADA accessibility in Arches National Park
Arches National Park really does have many facilities that make it easier to travel there in a wheelchair. Here are is what the Parks Service shares on what options you have for accessible trails and areas in Arches National Park:
- Park Avenue Viewpoint: Flat, paved surface to a viewpoint.
- Balanced Rock: Flat, paved surface alongside Balanced Rock ends at a viewpoint.
- Balanced Rock Picnic Area: Picnic area is paved. Toilets are across a gravel road. Toilets are accessible.
- The Windows Trail: First 100 yards is flat, hardened surface and is considered
barrier free. Nearby toilets, along a paved surface, are accessible.
- Double Arch Trail: Relatively flat, hard-packed trail is considered
- Panorama Point: Viewpoint, picnic area, and stargazing area have paved surfaces. Toilets are accessible. Benches are available.
- Delicate Arch Viewpoint: Viewpoint has a flat, packed gravel surface. Picnic area and sidewalks are paved. Toilets are accessible.
- Wolfe Ranch: Path to Wolfe Ranch and petroglyph panel are flat with a gravel surface. Toilets are accessible.
- Devils Garden Campground Amphitheater: paved path connects
parkingarea to the amphitheater with a view of Skyline Arch.
- Devils Garden: Trail to Landscape Arch has a hard-packed surface and is considered
barrier free, howeverthe trail has steep slopes and may require assistance. Picnic area and trailhead have paved surfaces and accessible toilets.