From a walk past life-sized dinosaurs to rafting the Colorado River, your family trip to Canyonlands and Arches national parks will be full of adventure. Here are our top 9 family activities to do in and around the Moab area.
1. Hike to Delicate Arch in Arches National Park
See the arch on Utah’s license plates up close by bringing the family on the 3-mile roundtrip hike to Delicate Arch. At 64 feet high and 45 feet wide, it is Arches National Park’s largest freestanding arch.
Along the way, you will pass the Wolfe Ranch cabin and a wall of Ute Indian petroglyphs, giving you a sense of the diverse groups of people who inhabited the area before it became a national park on Nov. 12, 1971.
Three tips: be sure to bring a lot of water for everyone in the family to drink as well as snacks to fuel everyone going there and hiking back to the car. Second, arrive early to avoid intense heat and crowds. While the parking lot was expanded in 2015, it still fills up quickly. Your best guarantee for parking is getting there early in the morning. Third, pack sunscreen, sun hats and sunglasses. With virtually no shade on this hike, you will be really exposed to Utah’s relentless sun.
2. Become a Junior Ranger at Arches or Canyonlands National Parks
Make exploring the area’s national parks fun for your kids by having them participate in the Junior Ranger program. More than 800,000 kids participated in this popular program last year in participating national parks.
Pick up a Junior Ranger booklet at any visitor center in Arches and Canyonlands or download it before you leave home. When your kids have completed five or more of the booklet’s activities in the park, visit a visitor center, have a ranger sign your child’s certificate located in the back of the booklet and get a Junior Ranger badge.
Kids also can check out Explorer Packs for the day, which include binoculars, hand lens, a naturalist guide, a notebook and activity ideas. They can be returned at any visitor center in Arches National Park or at the Island in the Sky visitor center in Canyonlands National Park.
3. Discover Dinosaurs at Moab Giants
Walk among life-sized dinosaurs on Moab Giant’s incredible outdoor walking trail or head indoors to the Tracks Museum to learn all there is to know about their fossilized footprints. This new interactive museum features great exhibits as well as a 3-D movie that covers everything from the Big Bang Theory to the age of the dinosaurs that began 220 million years ago.
To get there, drive 9 miles north of Moab on Hwy. 191. The museum is located at the turnoff for Dead Horse Point State Park and Canyonlands National Park.
4. Go River Rafting on the Colorado River
For a family-friendly water adventure, go on a river rafting half-day trip on the Daily section of the Colorado River. Gentle rapids make this outing fun for everyone. Kids must be 40 pounds or heavier to go on area river trips. Moab has a number of river rafting companies offering trips, so you can stop by their offices in town or do research online to find the company that best meets your needs.
5. Rock out with Ancient Art Petroglyphs at Courthouse Wash
You don’t need to go to a museum to see ancient Native American art. In Moab, there are a number of places to view rock art outdoors. Courtwash Wash is easily accessible from town and offers a fantastic display of ancient Native American art. The art panel spans 19 feet high and 52 feet long.
Vandals defaced these drawings in 1980, but National Park Service archaeologists restored the panels. During the restoration process, archaeologists discovered older drawings behind the white shields held by figures. This finding and the research done has advanced archaeological understanding of the order in which individual drawings in ancient panels were painted.
You can get see the panel by heading north from Moab on Hwy. 191 and crossing the Colorado River Bridge. Drive .5 miles to the parking area. From there, walk across the small bridge that connects Courthouse Wash on the gravel foot path.
6. Swim in a Stunning Outdoor Pool at the Moab Recreation and Aquatic Center
Lounge in a pool chair under a bright blue umbrella and watch the kids splash around at the new Moab Recreation and Aquatic Center. The outdoor pools are open mid-May through end of September and feature everything from a small-child pool with a waterfall flowing over red rocks to a lap pool for adults. The indoor pool features a huge covered slide.
Be sure to bring towels and water-friendly shoes because the outdoor deck really heats up.
Moab Recreation and Aquatic Center
7. Mountain Bike in Dead Horse Point State Park
Find out why Moab is known for its excellent mountain biking. Head to the family-friendly Intrepid Trail System at Dead Horse Point State Park, 32 miles from Moab. Three loops offer something for everyone from the easy 1.1-mile Intrepid Trail loop to the harder 4.2-mile Great Pyramid Trail loop and finally the most challenging Big Chief Trail that brings you on a 9-mile loop ride.
Along the way, you will ride on slickrock and through sandy washes on a single-track trail. Don’t forget to stop and take in the great views of Canyonlands National Park and the Colorado River below.
To get there, nine miles northwest of Moab on US 191 and then 23 miles southwest on Utah 313 to the end of the highway.
8. Stay Cool on Grandstaff Canyon Trail Hike
For a beautiful hike along a year-round stream, head several miles out of Moab to the Grandstaff Canyon Trail, formerly known until 2018 as Negro Bill Canyon trail, which leads you on a 4-mile roundtrip hike to Morning Glory Natural Bridge. Spanning 243 feet, the natural bridge is the nation’s sixth-longest. However, be on the look out for the poison ivy that grows below the pool under the bridge. Do not touch its green shiny leaves that grow in clusters of three. When you get hot, head to the stream to cool down.
To get here, take Hwy 191 out of Moab and then turn right on to Hwy. 128. Drive for three miles. The trailhead will be on your right.
9. See the Stars
Whether you are camping or staying in a hotel, don’t forget to spend some time looking up at the sky after night falls. You’ll find some of the darkest skies in and around Utah’s national parks. With a star chart, you and your family can learn more about the star formations overhead. You also can download the SkyView® Free app for iPhone or Android to identify stars by pointing your phone at them.
For more information about Moab:
Moab Area Travel Council