The parks in Utah are an adventurous family’s playground. There are so many amazing things that you can do here with your family. The Utah landscape just shouts to be climbed on, hiked through and explored! We had a blast exploring the state and visiting all of the Utah National Parks plus one of the State Parks.
Here is our list of what to do at each of the national parks and what state park you should add to your list. Be ready to see natural bridges, red rock and amazing slot canyons.
You can only see the Fiery Furnace in Arches National Park if you have a permit and in most cases, are with a guide (unless you have hiked it many times before and know your way around). For good reason. You could easily get lost in there and not be able to find your way out!
It was an unreal walk through rock formations where we had to jump across crevices in the rocks and fit through some pretty tight spaces. It said that kids had to be 5 to do it . . . we told them our 4-year-old was 5 and he did great.
Sign up and pay (there is a fee) for this hike at the visitor center. Spots fill up so head there first thing to see when you can get on the list.
This is the iconic Arch that you see on the Utah license plate. It is a popular trail but well worth it! Be prepared as it is a 3 mile hike straight up hill . . . seriously it is pretty tough. Then right when you get to the top you are walking along a ledge for a bit.
I kept telling the kids get your hand on the wall. HAND ON THE WALL! It was a little scary but totally doable and a hike we recommend when you are here.
There are so many amazing places to go star gazing in Utah. The night sky gets so dark and if you are somewhere like Arches you can see the outline of the arches against the starry night sky. It is also really quite. Grab a blanket and take the family out to lay down and look up and count how many shooting stars you see!
Looking to rest your legs for a few hours? Then take the family on the scenic Highway 128 drive right outside of Moab. The drive takes you along the Colorado River and the views are amazing.
Nothing like rolling down your windows, playing some music and taking in the peace and beauty of the amazing state of Utah.
This park is close to Arches and is actually made up of 2 parks: Island In The Sky and the Needles District.
Island In The Sky
The Island In The Sky is a great park to drive through and stop to get out to take in the beautiful scenery. It really is amazing in Utah all of these parks and the different landscapes that they have.
Next you can head to the Needles district. We did a couple of hikes here: Cave Spring which had a few fun ladders for the kids to climb. Plus you can see some artifacts that were left from cowboys of the past.
The other hike we did was slickrock. This one was a little bit more strenuous but beautiful! You are up high looking down into the Canyon. Quite a view!
Goblin Valley State Park is out in the middle of nowhere, but it is well worth the trip. Plus, if you have an RV there is a really nice free camping place right down the road. What the kids loved about Goblin Valley State Park is that the park ranger said yes, go and climb on and over anything and everything out in the park.
Say what?! After visiting so many National Parks and State Parks where they had to stay on the trail and be careful where they climbed, they couldn’t wait to get out and climb, run and jump until their hearts content. The park is filled with hoodoos (it really is a word) and resembles something out of the Flintstone’s TV show.
Goblin Valley is also a great place to do some rock climbing! There is an eroded cliff that surrounds the valley and makes for a perfect place to climb. Without any rock climbing gear we were able to scale up the wall where there were large platforms to stand on but we didn’t make it too far. However, we did enjoy watching the rock climbers climb up to the top. We will definitely have to go back to do some real climbing in the future. To get more information on it check out their site: Goblin Valley State Park.
The Night Sky Team (yes it is a thing!) determined that Goblin Valley has one of the darkest night skies on earth. How cool is that! Don’t miss out on multiple nights of star gazing when you visit.
A lot of people skip this National Park when they visit Utah. Don’t. It ended up being our favorite of all the National Parks in Utah. It is much less busy than all the other parks and very beautiful and unique.
Capitol Gorge Trail
One of our favorite things was the Capitol Gorge Trail. It starts with an off road drive on a tight dirt road through the canyon back to the trail head. Take note – check the weather before hand – if rain is coming you don’t want to drive back here. It gets flooded. My parents drove it in their small car so no need for 4-wheel drive – if the weather is right.
Then the trail takes you on an old river bed with huge gorges reaching up on each side of you. At the end of the trail you can opt to climb up a mountain to check out these natural water tanks. To be honest we didn’t think it was worth it to take this detour. Instead just turn around and head back and if it is getting to be dusk keep an eye out for bats!!
Another fun hike to do is Cassidy Arch. Here you can legally walk out on one of the arches. AMAZING and scary!! The hike is hard and a little questionable in a few spots for young kids but we were able to do it and just kept a close eye on the kids. Our youngest was 4 at the time.
This hike has a 400 foot elevation gain in under 1 mile so you are trekking up hill but the beautiful scenery around you keeps you occupied so you don’t think about how hard it is. The Bridge is massive and you are able to walk down below and up over to the other side to get a closer look.
There is a cute little shop in the park where you can stop to learn about the history of the park and area and also buy some pastries or ice cream. Great incentive for the kids if they know they are getting ice cream after one of the hikes!
If you are there in the right season they also have apple picking in this area.
Zion National Park has a little bit of a Disney World feel to it. It is VERY busy and everything is organized by a bus system that takes you through the park. Given the popularity of this park and the location in southern Utah it has a LOT of visitors each year.
It makes sense how they have it laid out but our preference was the less busy and open feel of Capital Reef. All that aside it is still well worth it to visit. It is a beautiful park. Here are some places we recommend going:
The Narrows in Zion National Park is a very unique experience. The hike is through a river the whole time that is in an amazing slot canyon. Yes, your feet get very wet and cold. But it is worth it. The Narrows are beautiful with greenery growing on the sides of the stone walls and all the beautiful rock formations.
As crazy as it may sound you can go hiking down the river late in the season. However, it is recommended that you rent wetsuit boots and a wetsuit for the trip. If it is cold that is a good idea. There are multiple places around Zion where you can rent the wet suits.
Utah offers the perfect terrain to take your bike out for a spin. The state has hundreds of miles of biking trails. Looking for a thrill seeking ride how about a 3,000 descend on the Bunker Creak Trail in Zion National Park. The trail starts at over 11,000 feet and gradually takes you down to the Panguitch Lake.
Weren’t able to bring your bike with you? No worries there are multiple bike and gear rental places throughout the state.
Emerald Pools Trail
Along this trail you will come to a dripping cannon wall. I have seen pictures of it in winter and it looks amazing when the water is frozen into icicles. The hike continues and takes you to the emerald pools that are pools of water located up in the mountain.
They were cool but we weren’t overly impressed with it. Maybe it was because there were so many people . . .
Navajo Loop/Queens Garden Trail
Make sure to make a stop in Bryce National Park to hike the Navajo Loop/Queens Garden trail. You get to walk through the hoodoos and then make your way up Wall Street to get a view from the top. Wall Street is a set of switchbacks leading up the orange colored trail. It is so cool!
Take note, getting down into the canyon with the hoodoos is pretty easy – but getting back up is a work out. So be ready.
This hike is a little out of the way since you actually have to leave the park to find it. But at only 1 mile roundtrip with a gorgeous waterfall it is worth it to add it to your list.
There are a variety of view points throughout the park and if you want to observe those your best bet is to get in the car and drive around the park, stop at the viewpoints, get out and take a look and move on to the next one.
Utah is a state that makes you feel like you are on a whole other planet. The Landscape is out of this world and the vast open spaces make it a relaxing and fun place to visit. We were definitely sad when we drove out of the state and started to get into busier places with more people. We missed the quiet and unique beauty of Utah!
There are also a large variety of national monuments, the Grand Staircase, Glen Canyon, Monument Valley and a variety of national recreation areas like Glen Canyon, Flaming Gorge and Lake Powell to visit. Once you are done with Utah you can head right down to the Grand Canyon!
And if you are looking to take your kids hiking we have some great tips on hiking with kids here: 15 Tips For Hiking With Kids.
And here is a list of awesome National Park hikes with kids from around the country.
Pin This Post: