Welcome to our National Park series, where each week I will be highlighting a national park that my family and I have visited in 2020/2021. This year my son is in 4th grade which meant that he qualified for the Every Kid Outdoor Pass. The Every Kid Outdoor Pass is a free pass for 4th graders that gives 4th graders and their families free access to hundreds of parks, lands, and waters for an entire year! This includes our National Parks and many other government agencies. This year was our year of National Park vacations and since September we have visited over 10 parks with plans to visit more this summer! If you are also interested in visiting some of our national treasures, I hope that my experience can help you to prepare and have a great family trip.
Ok, I have to admit something to you, National Parks and the "great outdoors" isn't really my cup of tea, I know, I know, who am I? While they aren't my thing per se, I do think it is something we all have to experience at least once in our lives. I have some great memories from the National Parks that I have been too, there are more I want to see, and I am so happy that I have taken the time to check them out. Now, why do I bring this all up? Arches National Park was a completely different experience for me. I absolutely LOVED it and would go back in a second if I could. Located near Moab, UT, Arches National Park has over 2,000 natural stone arches and hundreds of soaring pinnacles, massive rock fins, and giant balanced rocks. Allow at least a day to tour the park. Here are 4 ways to have family fun at Arches National Park!
Before we start, I want to talk about actually getting into the park. Arches National Park is a small park that is very popular. The park regularly fills up and they will close the park. The advice I got from local residents was to either get there early (Before 8:00 am) or wait until the late afternoon/evening when people are leaving. Arches National Park is normally open year-round, 24 hours a day. Also be aware that once you get into the park, the parking lots and trailhead parking will full also, so pack lots of patience.
1. Scenic Drive - Cue up your GyPsy Guide app and take an 18 mile scenic drive. This drive takes you past the best features in the park and allows many opportunities for you to get out and really enjoy the scenery. It will take several hours depending on how much and how long you stop.
2. View Delicate Arch - Delicate Arch is one of the most popular features in Arches National Park. It can not be viewed from the road, so you will have to do some hiking to get to the different view points.
- Hike to Delicate Arch - You can hike directly to Delicate Arch, the hike is not recommended for novice hikers and can get very warm depending on the weather. This trail climbs 480 feet (146 m) up a steep slickrock slope. The trail has no shade and some exposure to heights. It can take between 2-3 hours round trip. We were going to attempt this hike, but when we got to the trailhead parking, it was completely full and it was full most of the day. That is one that you want to get there early, not just for parking, but also for cooler weather. Don't forget lots and lots of water!
- Visit Delicate Arch viewpoints - This is the one we ended up doing. It has two sections; a flat accessible trail leads to the lower viewpoint and a longer, moderately strenuous trail climbs steeply 0.5 mile (0.8 km) to the upper viewpoint, separated from Delicate Arch by a canyon.
3. Hiking - There are many more awesome walks and hikes in Arches National Park. Click here for a list of all the hikes and more information about them. I think the favorite of the kids was the Sand Dune Arch. A short hike to a secluded arch among fins of rock. This is a shady spot with deep sand on the ground. You get to walk through some narrow paths between rocks to get in and once through it opens into this big sandy area with a beautiful arch. The kids had fun playing in the sand. We did have to empty all the shoes before getting back into the car.
4. Be A Junior Ranger - Free junior ranger booklets are available at the visitor center, or you can download one here. You can also pick up Explorer Packs at the visitors center for the whole family yo use. These packs are designed for families who like to learn together while they explore the park. They contain binoculars, a hand lens, a naturalist guide, a notebook, and activity ideas. Completing at least three activities is another way to earn a junior ranger badge.
- Be sure to leave some time in your trip to head over to Canyonlands National Park and take some time to look around Moab, it is a neat little town.
- Bring food and water in with you. Many National Parks have food service and stores with water and snacks. Arches National Park is not one of them.
I hope you have a great visit to Arches National Park!
Check out the other parks in our National Park Series