Arches National Park
The best way to see Arches National Park is the old-fashioned way, by driving through. Pick up a map at the ranger station—most of the iconic arches like Delicate Arch, Corona Arch, and Devil’s Garden are just short hikes from roadside parking spots. Ambitious adventurers will want to plan ahead and get a permit to check out Fiery Furnace, an area in the northern part of the park with narrow canyons that kids love to sneak through. The labyrinth, while beautiful, can be difficult to navigate, so first-timers should consider taking a guided tour with a ranger. While you’re at it, try to snag one of the very few camping spots in the park, as there’s nothing quite like watching the sun rise over the rock formations (or getting to the more famous spots before the crowds).
Bike Slickrock Trail
Slickrock trail is the epitome of Utah’s famous mountain biking. There’s no dirt trail to follow, as you’re cruising directly on the rocks, so you’ll follow a spray-painted dash line for most of the ten-mile lollipop trail. Slickrock is rated as technical, and while there are a few gnarly moments, amateur bikers who aren’t embarrassed about walking through a few steep sections can finish it easily. For advanced adrenaline junkies, there’s also the decidedly non-kid-friendly Porcupine Rim trail. Moab Cyclery offers rentals, guided trips, and shuttles.
Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands National Park was formed when the Colorado River and its tributaries wound their way through Utah’s soft sandstone, leaving towers and pinnacles of striped red rock in their wake. The park itself is divided into four sections: Island in the Sky, the Needles, the Maze, and Horseshoe Canyon Unit, each of which is separated by the Colorado or Green Rivers (and there aren’t bridges in the park) so they each have to be accessed separately—it definitely takes a few days to explore the park fully. Island in the Sky, a mesa that rises more than 1,000 feet above the surrounding landscape, is great for hiking and Jeeping; it’s also home to Willow Flat, an accessible campground in the park. Experienced bikers might try biking the Island’s White Rim Road, a famously scenic bike and four wheel drive road that can be covered over the course of a few days. The Needles (which looks just as its name would have you suspect) is home to Squaw Flat Campground, which is a great basecamp for hikes to famous rock formations like Tower Ruin, Confluence Overlook, and Elephant Hill. As with…
Colorado River Rafting and SUP
Moab is a short drive from the confluence of the Colorado and Green Rivers, both of which make for great rafting. Before the confluence, both rivers are slow and mellow, making for Lazy River-style trips that are safe for little kids. After the rivers converge, the force of their combined strength creates dramatic whitewater and a more adventurous ride that’s fun and exciting for older kids. Moab Adventure Center offers both options, plus self-guided SUP and kayaking on the calmer waters.
Moab’s rock features and gorgeous scenery make it one of the world’s best places for exploring by Jeep, and the BLM land surrounding the two national parks is snaked with off-roading trails. While it’s tempting to rent a Jeep from one of the many outfits and head out on your own, we actually recommend booking a tour on a multi-passenger vehicle. Professional drivers can take you on the most difficult terrain (and show off what the crazy all-wheel-drives are capable of) with the added bonus of circumventing any back-and-forth safety conversations between parents. Dan Mick’s Jeep Tours is a family-run operation staffed by local experts with plenty of stories to color the ride along the way.
Mill Creek North Fork Canyon
On hot days (which are frequent here), locals head out to a swimming hole called Power Dam. The spot itself is off 400 E—take Mill Creek Drive to Powerhouse Lane and park at the end of the road—and it’s a short one-mile hike up to the water. You’ll find a lower section where slippery rocks form a makeshift slip ‘n slide and an upper section where braver kids can jump from tall overhangs into the water; jumps are as low as ten feet or as high as 40 feet, so you can build up your courage over the course of the day. Photo: Tyler McFall
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