Spring Break 2023 was EPIC – my mom and I took the kids to Moab, Utah for a week and we had so much fun!! Here’s a recap of our week along with some hopefully helpful travel tips if you want to visit the area.
What do you need for a trip to Moab with kids
Snacks…that’s basically how we made it through the week. I packed 6 gallon sized zipper bags with miscellaneous snacks and we got down to the last bag before flying home. I also bought myself a 2 liter camelback for the trip which came in very handy. I took a water bottle for each of the kids and once we settled in at the hotel mom took the kids to the pool while I went to the grocery store and bought fruit, pepperoni, cheese, and 2 gallons of water (which we left in the car for emergency use). We also packed a small pop up cooler which we stocked each morning and that kept us from having to make lunch stops.
I did pack one of my older “nice” cameras but I never took it out of my suitcase – I just used my phone for photos the whole trip. I could have taken some nicer photos if I’d taken it with me each day but it wasn’t worth the extra weight in my bag.
A bag to hold change of clothes for each of the kids and a spare pair of shoes for each of them was nice to pack once and leave in the car all week, until it needed refurbishing. We did need the change for Ada once for getting wet crossing a creek and once for splitting her pants sliding down the rocks. The spare shoes also came in handy after having to cross creeks on a few hikes and having dry shoes for the kids was nice. I’m a flip-flops and sperries gal but I did take tennis shoes and I wore them some, they were worth having with me.
If you are planning to visit the National Parks you should look into an America the Beautiful pass. It’s an $80 pass that gets you into National Parks for a year, seniors can get a lifetime pass, and if you have a 4th grader or are military you can get a free one. There are other pass categories too – you can find out more HERE. Arches and Canyonlands charge $35/car and I know you can go back to the park for 7 days with the admission ticket BUT I don’t know if that crosses park to park. It’s worth considering, the website says it gives access to over 2,000 Federal Recreation Sites and I know Cumberland Island is one. If you live here in Savannah you can finally take that trip and get skip the NPS fee I mention in THIS BLOG!
Also, I suggest checking the weather for both Moab and Salt Lake City (if that’s where you are flying in to). I had light jackets for each of us because I think it’s chilly on airplanes but I didn’t have clothing for 30 degrees and snowing.
And…with kids in tow I’m going to note here that all the places I will mention through this post have easily accessible bathrooms at the trailheads unless otherwise noted.
How to get to Moab (Day One)
We flew into Salt Lake City for our trip. It’s about a 4 hour drive from there to Moab. Moab does have a small airport but when we did the research for getting to the area SLC was the closest major airport and we like to fly Delta so that’s what our main driver was. If you aren’t airline particular you can get to Canyonlands Field Airport (CAN) via United. A quick google search can help you make this decision.
Since we chose to fly into SLC and drive we spent the first night in town about an hour south of the airport – driving the full almost 4 hours after a full day of travel wasn’t high on my list of to-dos.
Driving to Moab from Salt Lake City (Day Two)
It was still snowy in SLC when we flew in, which excited us southern folk LOL. The first stop we had to make when we woke up Saturday morning was to find a spot to get out in the snow! We found a safe spot on the side of the road when we left the hotel.
Goblin Valley State Park with Kids
We decided instead of driving straight to Moab we would route to a place called Goblin Valley State Park, which is about 3 hours from Springville (which is where we spent Friday night). It was kind of out of the way but easily “on the way” and it was such a great stop, the kids absolutely loved it. They had such a good time climbing on the rocks and finding little hiding places. We spent about 2.5 hours at the park.
Green River, Utah with Kids
The drive from Goblin Valley took us through Green River, Utah – a small town about 45 minutes from Moab. We decided to stop at a small restaurant and the family at the table next to us told us about a geyser we should visit while we were in town. It was a small geyser and it doesn’t go off on a schedule but it was a good little stop on our way out of town. The geyser is called Crystal Geyser and is located off a dirt road near I-70. We were able to pull it up on the GPS and easily find it. No bathrooms here (that I saw)
Staying in Moab, Utah
We stayed at the Homewood Suites on Main Street in Moab. It was a great spot right in the middle of town, had free parking, and an indoor pool. We were able to walk to the Moab Food Truck Park for meals (which is where we ate most of our Moab dinners).
Grandstaff Canyon Hike with Kids (Day Three)
Sunday morning we used the time zone change advantage and started our first hike around 8 am. This hike was listed online at a 4.3 mile in and out moderate hike and several blogs I read about taking kids and dogs on this trail made me feel confident the kids could handle it. The trailhead is located off SR-128. From Moab head north on 191, take a right on 128, the parking lot is 3.1 miles ahead on the righthand side.
The hike wasn’t bad but some recent? flooding led to us taking 5.8 miles to complete the journey instead of the widely advertised 4.3 miles. We have no idea how we got off course but it took us 2.5 hours to get to the bridge and only 1 to get out so your guess is as good as mine on that haha! With that said, I would totally do this hike again and the kids didn’t complain about the milage at all! We were tired when we got finished but the hike itself was shaded and not really a difficult journey, we are pretty sure the harder parts we traversed on the way in were off trail since we didn’t have to climb some of the same rock formations on the way out and we didn’t have to cross the stream in some of the same places on the way out.
Dinosaur Tracks in Moab
After the hike we rode down to the Willow Springs Dinosaur Tracksite, which was about 20 minutes outside of Moab. It’s probably a stop to visit if you have access to 4WD (although we didn’t need to use it) but the higher clearance of the Tahoe we rented was beneficial. I’m not sure if we were all just tired or if this should get labeled skip it but ehhhhh… to get here map to Willow Springs Trail and follow the dirt road/signs for dinosaur tracks. We passed through a camp area on the way to the tracksite (sorry I don’t have more than that to offer) No bathrooms here.
Canyonlands National Park – Islands in the Sky with Kids
Since we spent the morning hiking we decided to head to Canyonlands National Park after visiting the dinosaur tracksite. The Islands in the Sky section of the part is on that side of Moab and was only 30 or so minutes from the dinosaur tracks spot. We didn’t plan to do much (or any) hiking in the park so we thought riding in the car for the afternoon would be a good plan.
We mostly rode around and didn’t do any “hiking”. The Mesa Arch, which is located in the park, is easily accessible from a parking lot trail – I think it was 0.6 mile round trip. To get to Canyonlands NP – Islands in the sky take 191 north out of Moab, turn left on 313, and ride until you reach the pay booth. Everything is marked well – cell service really isn’t a thing outside of Moab so they do a nice job in the whole area with signage.
Dead Horse Point State Park
Dead Horse Point State Park is a state park out by Canyonlands NP that boasts a gooseneck river turn overview and that’s about it. It was $25 for us to go and it wasn’t a complete waste but at the end of the day it was like looking at the same canyons we’d looked at in Canyonlands just from a different angle.
We also did an Easter egg hunt for the kids while we were there. I brought the eggs – it wasn’t a park event.
Moab Giants and Arches National Park with Kids (Day Four)
On Monday we had our timed entry into Arches NP. If you are going to Moab and haven’t gotten your timed entry pass for Arches better get on it. You cannot enter the park between 7 am and 4 pm without one. This could be seasonal but you need to check and double check just to make sure – and you need to check early. I got our timed entry about a month out and the only time I could get was a 12-1 entry time.
LISTEN!!! take a picture of your timed entry when you are still at home in the comfort of 5G and wi-fi because having to drive back to Moab from where ever you have ventured to get a signal and download the QR code stinks – ask me how I know…
We started our Arches morning with a visit to Moab Giants. It’s a little park on the corner of 191 and 313 – you can’t miss it. They had over 100 life-size dinosaurs, a museum, a 3-D movie about the solar system stuff, and a 5-D walk through aquarium where a megladon tries to attack at the end. Taking an almost 4 year old and a 7 year old into a 5-D theater to laugh while they almost die via megladon is worth the price of admission… I’m still laughing thinking about them screaming LOL
It was a good spot to spend 2 hours while we waited for our timed entry time to come up. Could we have spent more time there, maybe, did we need to – nah.
Arches National Park with kids
Arches NP is located on 191, coming from Moab it’s on the right hand side. You honestly can’t miss it. We started our day there around 12:15 with the classic photo in front of the sign. We weren’t sure how backed up the traffic would be getting in since there are x number of timed entries given out in an hour but we drove right up to the pay booth without having to wait in line. We did skip the visitor’s center on the way in because it looked packed!
Double Arch Hike with Kids
We started our Arches adventure with Double Arch Hike, you get a map from the park ranger when you pay so I’m not going to road map the park here. The parking lot for this hike is sort of shared with The Windows hike. When you pull in the area The Windows parking lot is on top and the Double Arch parking lot is on the bottom. The are connected via stairway but if you can find parking in the “right” area you can save yourself a million stairs. We ended up doing Double Arch and skipping The Windows because we couldn’t find parking “upstairs” and knew we wanted to push the limits with the kids so the stairs were out. Also – it looked like a lot of stairs and we were sore from our 5.8 mile hike on Sunday.
The “hike” to double arch was 0.6 mile round trip through a nicely maintained trail. We spent at least an hour at the arches climbing on the rocks and playing around. I think this was probably the one of the kids favorite spots.
Landscape Arch with kids
Our second Arches Hike was to see landscape arch. This hike starts at the Devil’s Garden Trailhead. Walking to landscape arch is a 1.8 mile round trip on a hard packed well maintained, busy trail. There are other arches to see via spurs and more trails in this area but for our level landscape arch was good.
Sand Dune Arch with kids
This was easily the kid’s favorite arch! The walk from the parking lot was easy (so easy that we went back one night in the dark…more about that later) and playing in the sand kept the kids entertained for at least an hour. This spot is a 0.4 mile roundtrip from the parking lot. The lot was full when we got there but there were a few spots for parallel parking across the road from the lot.
Delicate Arch with kids
Actually…Delicate Arch viewpoint, insert sad face here. I really wanted to do the 3 mile roundtrip hike to see Delicate Arch up close but my mom didn’t think the kids could do it and we ran out of time. I 100% believe in the kids, although Ada had made it pretty clear by this point in the trip she’s not a fan of hiking but at the end of the day I lost out to time. We didn’t want to risk starting too late in the afternoon and not making it there and back before dark. We opted for the Delicate Arch Viewpoint and even then opted for the lower viewpoint which is 200 ft from the parking lot.
Hummer Tour with Moab Adventure Center, Lasal Loop, and Canyonlands Needles District with kids (Day Five)
I think we are at Tuesday but it’s been a long week already LOL! We began the day with a Slickrock Hummer Safari with Moab Adventure Center. We found this tour while watching We’re In the Rockies YouTube videos about the area and Christopher kept bringing it up so I decided to surprise everyone with a booking. If you are planning a trip specifically out west check We’re in the Rockies YouTube channel out – worth watching for realistic advice without crazy fluff and tons of endorsements.
This trip…both scared the bejesus out of me and made me want to go back and do it again. I don’t know any other way to describe it. Our driver/guide was Chad and not only did he remember everyone’s name in the hummer after asking one time he spent time chatting with everyone on board while coasting straight down the rocks making the journey fun and keeping nerves down. Ada LOVED this tour – even though she did give Chad a few of her fun looks haha!!
Our tour guide made a suggestion to the group about driving the Lasal loop and we knew we all needed a hiking break so we decided to take off and do that after the hummer tour – plus we wanted to see more snow!!
We left town heading south and started the loop from that direction. This was another drive where GPS didn’t really help but the directions were well marked throughout the journey. There was only one place when we can off the loop on the north side of town that wasn’t clearly marked. I turned left and we made it back to town.
Canyonlands National Park – Needles District with kids
When we finished up the Lasal Loop both of the kids were asleep and we decided to go ahead and drive out to the Needles District of Canyonlands NP. It’s about 90 minutes from Moab so we knew the drive out would be a good chance for the kids to catch up on some much needed sleep. To get to CNP – Needles take 191 south out of Moab and make a right on 211 after 40 miles, there are signs pointing you in the right direction.
Our first pull off when we got near the park was for Newspaper Rock. It’s a neat stop where you can see petroglyphs on a rock right next to the parking lot. My mom has all these great stories about what the drawings are, my sister and I think it’s pre-historic graffiti LOL. Regardless of your take it’s worth stopping – Christopher actually enjoyed seeing it more than I thought he would – his favorite is the hunter on the horse shooting the arrow into the deers hind end. Ada stayed asleep.
The Needles District had a few hikes but for us it was mostly driving and looking. One of the arches looks like a wooden shoe – that was kind of the highlight tbh.
The only hike we attempted was the Cave Spring Trail. Seeing the old stuff under the rock where people used to camp was neat and the trail had a ladder for the kids to climb to get on the rock. We didn’t do the whole trial though – mom couldn’t remember if it was a loop and once we got to the top of the ladder the only way to go would have been manageable in one direction but I didn’t think we could sling Ada back across if we had to backtrack. For the record, it’s a loop.
Corona Arch Hike with kids (Day 6)
We started the 6th (and final) full day in Moab by hiking the Corona Arch Trail. Research said this was a well marked moderate 3 mile in and out trail and I would say the descriptions I read online were accurate. This is a hike you should NOT do in full sun, in the middle of the day, or without a significant amount of water. The 3 main hurdles we faced while trekking were the first 300 feet out of the parking lot (to be honest, if you can do that you’re fine for the rest), the ledge about 3/4 mile in, and the chain to climb the rock. With that said, we didn’t to the last 1/2 mile because we thought the view of the arches was nice at the mile mark and the kids got to do the chain and the ladder so they were satisfied. To get to the trailhead take 191 north out of Moab, take a left on 279, the parking lot is 9.9 miles ahead on the right.
Ada split her pants on the way down the rock by the chain – she loves the climbing but dislikes the hiking to get to the fun parts. Expect to see that middle pose in the next senior sneak peek I post!!
This hike is where I drank the most water while walking during the whole trip. We started around 9 am and thankfully it was overcast so we didn’t feel the full wrath of the sun. This is for sure an early morning or late afternoon hike.
Mill Creek Waterfall Hike with kids
My mom is a waterfall nut – anywhere we go she’s looking to see if there are waterfalls in the area. I didn’t think we would be able to include a waterfall hike in the desert but guess what…we found one. This hike was right in Moab and I would give better directions except now when I’m trying to find it on my phone it’s not coming up. I did just plug it into maps while we were there and maps took me right to it.
To say the directions/instructions/online readings about this hike were misleading would be an understatement. Everything I read talked about a peaceful 20-30 minute walk from the parking lot to the falls…HA. No. Not even close. In all fairness, recent flooding is the cause for the actual hike being different from what we hiked but that would have been nice to know before we went. We totally would have still done it but we would have been a teeny bit more prepared aka I wouldn’t have worn jeans and tennis shoes.
The water was allegedly a lot higher than normal which meant the rock wall we had to shimmy across usually isn’t part of the hike and the 3 knee deep (and freezing) creek crossings are usually just ankle deep or less. I ended up doing most of the hike barefoot with my pants pulled up as high as I could get them and we had Christopher out testing the depth with his hiking stick at the crossings. The kids said this was their favorite hike.
Rotary Park – Moab
One of the things our hummer guide pointed out while we were on the tour was a playground called Rotary Park. There is a section with a slew of musical instruments and we thought it would be fun to take the kids and let them play for a little while after we finished our creek hike. I’m not a huge “let’s find playgrounds while on vacation” person but this one did seem interesting and we needed something for the kids to do for a little while so we didn’t have to go back to the hotel and sit. It’s worth checking out if you have kids and are in town for a stretch.
Arches after dark
We talked throughout the week about going to Arches NP to see the sunset and stars but we put if off all week and on our last night in Moab we made sure we did it. If I could give one piece of advice that sticks in your brain it would be this…go to Arches at night early in your trip not the last night. That way if it’s overcast you can go back another night, or try each night you are there until you get a clear night. We waited until our last night and we got overcast.
The Windows for sunset
We went to The Windows for the sunset for two reasons. First, because we didn’t do that hike on our day in Arches and second, because they have a north and south window so I knew the sunset view would be in a good spot at that specific area. At the end of the day I imagine there aren’t many bad places in the park to watch the sunset.
After the sunset we drove around the park looking for wildlife. The Skyline Arch (pictured below) was pretty cool at night and Christopher and I hiked back to Sand Dune Arch in the pitch black. He kept getting on to me for making noises while we were walking and I think he was pretty scared but I also think he had a good time and will brag to his friends that he hiked at night.
Back to Salt Lake City (Day Seven)
The next morning we packed it up and headed back to SLC. We didn’t check the weather well so we were a bit surprised when we got closer to town and it was 30 and snowy…yeah, in our hoodies. For lunch we felt like we had to try In-N-Out and it was good but I’m not sure why people make it seem like the all time best fast food burger ever. Ada liked the hat and they both got a free hot chocolate.
I wish I had some pointers on things to do in Salt Lake City with kids but we ended up taking them to see a movie then going right to the hotel. I did order delivery from a restaurant called Blue Lemon and it was the best meal I’ve had in a long time – even in a to-go box after being driven around for 30 minutes by the Uber Delivery person.
We had a great time on our trip!! I always say we don’t take vacations, we take trips and this was no exception. I hope the kids remember our time out west and want to go back again someday!
Want more travel blogs?
Check out these posts on other trips we’ve taken, including Cumberland Island – where you can use that America the Beautiful pass you bought for your Moab trip!