Do you need to be an expert hiker in top condition to visit the arches up close? What are the recreation options in this this area near Moab, Utah, and why does it hold such a strong allure to outdoor enthusiasts? What’s the best way to catch a glimpse of the famous “delicate arch”? Here are my families’ favorite spots in Arches National Park, and what to expect on an outdoor day adventure.
Moab, Utah: Outdoor Recreation Mecca
Just outside of the small outrigger town of Moab, Utah sits the majestic Arches National Park. Moab rightfully declares itself a year-round, outdoor-lovers playground. The area’s surprisingly mild climate, unending and open trail system and majestic views beckon to mountain bikers, off-road jeep enthusiasts, white water rafters, and hikers galore. Yeah, it’s that magnificent!
Don’t worry if you don’t have the right equipment. Adventure guides and outdoor recreation gear rental companies are as numerous in Moab as the restaurants and hotels. They know it’s a fun place to play, and are ready to assist your family with any level of instruction and loaner gear you need. You can even rent a Jeep Wrangler or dune buggy to go tear around the red rock trails.
We typically stick to hiking and sightseeing in the area. But once our youngest gains a little endurance on his mountain bike, we’d love to also explore the legendary slick rock trails.
Moab, Utah is unique in that it’s nestled right in between two very nearby national parks: Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. If you are up for it, it is actually doable to visit both on the same day.
My family’s favorite for a day of outdoor adventure is Arches National Park, for rock “climbing” (more like scrambling) and short, easy trail access to impressive arches.
Arches National Park Visitor’s Center
Located just inside the main entrance fee area, we typically breeze right past the Visitor’s Center. But on our last visit, we were touring with our in-laws around so decided to drop in.
We discovered the Arches National Park Visitor’s Center is worth the stop.
You’ll find helpful maps available, an attractive gift shop, and park rangers on hand to answer questions or give touring advice. The building is beautifully architected to blend in naturally with its red rock surroundings. Animal displays and an educational movie shed fascinating light on the wildlife in the area, and how these impressive arches were geologically formed over the years.
Don’t forget to fill up at the free water station before you head out for your desert adventure.
Easy Access to Arches
Adding to the popularity of this National park is the ability to easily take in much of its splendor from the window of your car. Driving through is relaxing and scenic, with the often snow-capped La Sal Mountains on the distant horizon providing a delightful contrast to the bright red desert rocks immediately before you.
Pull off parking lots are numerous, and these typically provide very short hikes to see these fantastic structures up close. Its accessibly makes it enjoyable for almost any combination of family group you have along.
We’ve visited with babies, bringing along our child carrier backpack to tote them along. But we also always feel comfortable bringing along older friends who aren’t as active or keen on a hiking adventure.
Even with a group taking a slower, less aggressive pace we had plenty of fabulous photography opportunities and a chance at unique views that are a truly memorable park of experiencing the Wild West.
Famous Delicate Arch: Two Options To See It
Which brings me to the most famous Arches National Park scene: Delicate Arch. If you’ve seen a single photograph of Arches National Park, this is the arch you’ve seen. With that in mind, it will probably be on your “let’s go find that!” touring list for the day.
Here’s what you need to know: there are two, very different ways to see Delicate Arch.
With filled water bottles on hand, sturdy footwear, and some energy to burn, I highly recommend taking the hike-in route. Ranked as “difficult,” the Delicate Arch Trail allows travel right up and under this breathtaking structure.
Your second option is the drive-in viewpoint trail, located below the arch. This is the only trail we’ve been able to swing with our family circumstances thus far. Although it’s nice to be able to catch a glimpse of the famous Delicate Arch, it’s mildly disappointing when you discover how far away it is from this viewing spot.
Want to incorporate a short easier hike in your day? I recommend Double Arch trail. We’ve done this with toddlers, and it’s fantastic! Very doable, very little elevation gain along the mile long trail with a fun rocky area for kids to play at the end.
Arches National Park is a fabulous, year-round destination waiting to be explored. Pack some snack, bring a sun hat and camera, and go have an outdoor adventure with your family.