As a Utah native, it’s a rite of passage to hike Delicate Arch in Arches National Park with your kids. This 3-mile hike is breathtaking and surprisingly do-able for every age. Here are some tips to make it a fabulous memory for your family.
Of all the places that you visit in Utah and even in the United States, you won’t be disappointed with Delicate Arch.
#1: Visit the right time of year
More than 1.5 million visitors come to Arches National Park each year, and that number is growing. Between March and October, you can expect limited parking at all destinations. Parking at popular trailheads are usually full most of the day, according to the National Park Service.
If you come during the first week in April (like us), you’ll run into all the families in northern Utah visiting during Spring Break. In other words, it’s packed.
With that being said, the weather was only 70 degrees and the wait to get into the park was only about 20 minutes. I would NOT recommend visiting in the middle of the summer. With smoldering 100-degree weather, you’ll find little reprieve, especially with the little ones. Here’s a helpful guide to all things Arches.
#2: Take lots of snack and water breaks
The entire hike is about 1.5 miles in and 1.5 miles out. The first half is gradual incline the entire way walking on a gravel trail at first and then all redrock after that. It’s a relatively easy hike for adults, but little kids get tired and emotional very easy (see photo below). So, bring lots of snacks and water and take lots of breaks.
#3: Bring a hiking backpack for little ones
During our hike, I saw families with children of all ages. There were moms with babies to toddlers to teenagers. We even saw someone pushing their adult disabled child in a special needs stroller. Our youngest is three years old and although he thought he could make it the whole way, he spent about half the time in our hiking backpack. I would think kids ages four and up should be able to handle the hike fine. If you’ll be visiting during the summer, bring a backpack with a sunshade on it. There’s virtually no trees to find shade on the trail.
#4: Go to the bathroom before you start
This might seem obvious, but with little kids, you never know. Make all of them go because there aren’t really any trees or places to go on the trail without giving everyone else a show. Plus, if you pee outside near the trail, it doesn’t rain that often and it starts to stink pretty quickly.
To avoid long lines at the trailhead, there’s another parking lot about a mile further down the road with additional bathrooms. Go there first and then come back down and park.
#5: Follow the cairns
If there’s lot of people hiking, it won’t be hard to see where to go. However, if by chance it’s not as busy, the park service has set up cairns on the red rock section since there is no clearly marked trail on the ground.
#6: Keep a close eye on little ones at the top
The trail narrows near the top so you’ll want to keep a close eye on the whipper snappers.
Once you arrive, it opens up to a large “bowl” area that kind of looks like a toilet bowl and the arch is on the edge of it. This area is a bit deceiving because it’s still rather steep. We avoided the bowl and admired Delicate Arch from a distance so our kids wouldn’t hurt themselves. However, kids five and older can probably handle it just fine with supervision.
#7: Take in the amazing view of Delicate Arch
Some places that you visit in the world are pretty yet predictable, but Delicate Arch is something that has to be seen in person to appreciate it. It’s breathtaking. There’s a reason it is plastered on every Utahn’s license plate. As you come around the last bend, it hits you like a ton of bricks. You won’t regret dragging your kids all the way up there.
I hope these tips help you on your next visit to Arches National Park and Delicate Arch. Here’s some other helpful links to all things Southern Utah:
- Nine Things to do with Kids near Moab
- If you had one day in Moab with kids
- Family fun at Goblin Valley State Park
Related link: Ashland, Oregon: 7 reasons why it’s worth the drive