Capitol Reef Waterpocket fold view

Explore the Great Outdoors with Your Kids: Top Kid-Friendly Hikes in Utah's Big 5 National Parks

Are you looking for a fun and exciting way to spend time with your kids while also enjoying the beauty of nature? Look no further than Utah's Big 5 National Parks! With towering red rock formations, cascading waterfalls, and sweeping vistas, these parks offer some of the most stunning landscapes in the country. And the best part? They're all kid-friendly! With trails of varying difficulty levels, there's something for everyone, from the littlest hikers to the most experienced. Whether you're looking for a leisurely stroll or a challenging hike, Utah's Big 5 National Parks have it all. So pack your bags, grab your hiking boots, and get ready to explore the great outdoors with your kids – we've got the top kid-friendly hikes to help you plan your next family adventure!

Capito Reef National Park with kids

Important safety tips for hiking with kids

Before heading out on a hike with your kids, there are a few important safety tips to keep in mind:

  1.  First and foremost, make sure everyone is wearing appropriate footwear and clothing. Hiking boots with good ankle support are essential, and clothing should be lightweight and breathable. Sunscreen and hats are also a must, especially during the hot summer months.
  2. When choosing a hike, be sure to consider your family's experience level and physical abilities. Stick to trails that are appropriate for your group, and be prepared to rest or to turn back if anyone becomes tired or uncomfortable. 
  3. Bring plenty of water and make sure everyone stays hydrated throughout the hike. Pack extra water to refill water bottles in the car.
  4. Pack plenty of snacks, (something sweet and something salty) especially if you are hiking in the desert, or in this case Southern Utah. 
  5. Have each child carry their own hiking pack. Pack the essentials in each pack: water, personal snacks, nature journal/sketchbook, and small baggie with band-aids.(basic first aid) The adult packs will carry anything else you feel you need as well as water and snacks for adults.
  6. Finally, be aware of your surroundings and stay on designated trails. Encourage your kids to respect the environment and wildlife, and avoid disturbing any plants or animals you encounter.

Utah Big 5 National Parks

Overview of Utah's Big 5 National Parks

Utah's Big 5 National Parks consist of Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches, and Canyonlands National Parks. Each of these parks has its unique features and landscapes, making them all worth a visit. Zion National Park is famous for its towering sandstone cliffs and narrow canyons, while Bryce Canyon National Park boasts a surreal landscape of hoodoos, spires, and other rock formations. Capitol Reef National Park, located in south-central Utah, is known for its unique geology and stunning vistas. Arches National Park is home to over 2,000 natural sandstone arches, including the famous Delicate Arch. Finally, Canyonlands National Park features a vast network of canyons, mesas, and buttes carved by the Colorado River and its tributaries.

Enjoy our top 5 picks for traveling the Utah Big 5 below!

Utah Big 5 Zion National Park with kids
The Narrows Zion Big 5 National Park
Hiking the Narrows with kids

#1 Zion National Park

Zion National Park offers a variety of kid-friendly hikes, ranging from easy strolls to more challenging treks. 

The Narrows-: This is the highlight for kids exploring the park. A hike that is all about splashing through water along tall canyon walls. Hike for as long or far as you want then turn back. Yes the water is cold and you will get wet! Hike this in the summer and bring a change of dry clothes.

Riverside walk: 2 miles round trip trail. This is one of the most popular hikes for families, a flat, paved trail that follows the Virgin River through a scenic canyon. This trail is perfect for young kids.

Pine creek waterfall- Short .5 mile round trip hike. The trailhead and parking is located at the bottom of the last switchback as you drive down from the tunnel. This is a fun trail to climb around on some rocks and splash in some water.

Emerald pools: 2.5 miles round trip hike that leads you behind waterfalls. This is a great hike to cool off in the mist.  

Canyon overlook trail - 1 mile round trip. This moderate trail is just over a mile round trip and offers stunning views of the canyon below. Kids will love scrambling over rocks and exploring the trail's many twists and turns. There's even a small cave to rest and cool down. 

Delicate Arch with Kids

#2 Arches National Park-Top 5 kid-friendly hikes

Arches National Park is home to over 2,000 natural sandstone arches, making it a must-visit destination for families. 

  1. Delicate Arch Trail: 3 mile round trip. This hike is best at sunrise, so it will be crowded. This hike is still worth doing early when its not hot. You can see petroglyphs, tall canyon walls, hike up slick rock, walk along boulders and relax while taking in the stunning view of Delicate Arch.

  2. Sand Dunes Arch Trail: .4 round trip. This is one of the shortest arch hikes in the park. This arch is a great place to cool off in the shade and play in the sand.

  3. Double Arch Trail: .75 round trip. This is my favorite arch. It's a fun place to climb around rocks, relax, and if you're lucky, see kangaroo rats. The sunsetting through this arch is incredible.

  4. Devils garden trail to landscape arch: 1.6 mile round trip hike. Landscape Arch is the longest arch in the park.There is s shaded rock area just before the arch where kids can climb on rocks and cool off.  There are also short side trails on the way to landscape arch leading to Tunnel arch and Pine Tree Arch.    

  5. Park Ave Viewpoint Trail: 2 mile round trip. This is a great trail to see something besides arches. This is a fun riverbed hike that  takes you through a scenic canyon with towering walls and interesting rock formations. Kids will love exploring the many side canyons and rock formations along the way.

Cassidy Arch Capitol Reef National Park

#3 Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park is one of the lesser-known parks in Utah's Big 5, but it's no less beautiful. It is the home of the Waterpocket Fold, 100 miles of colorful raised layered cliffs caused by buckling in the earth's crust and water erosion. 

  1. Hickman bridge trail: This is a beautiful arch that can be found on a 2 mile round trip hike. You also get a good view of the Capitol Dome, the park's namesake, on the hike back from the arch.
  2. Petroglyph boardwalk: This is a short, easy way to see petroglyphs. It's also one of the few walks with shade in the park. 
  3. Try a fresh baked pie and pick apples at the You Pick Apple Orchards: Stop at Gifford House for your choice of fresh baked pies. This is our kids favorite activity in the park. Go early as they sell out by noon on most days. There are also apple orchards in the nearby campground, where you can pick your own apples and if you're lucky see deer!
  4. Cassidy arch trail to top- 3.4 mile round trip. We hiked this trail with a 6, 9 and 12 year old and loved it. This is a harder hike along a cliff, and is mostly uphill. We took a lot of breaks for snacks and water. Only do this trail if you're up for a challenge or have older kids.
  5. See the view of the Waterpocket Fold at sunset at Sunset Point: .6 mile round trip hike to the viewpoint and back. Plan ahead to see this. You will need to arrive more than an hour before sunset to get the best view of the Waterpocket Fold while it is glowing with the setting sun. If you wait too long the fold will be in the shade.
Bryce Point Viewpoint Bryce Canyon National Park

#4 Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park is home to some of the most surreal landscapes in the country, and there are plenty of kid-friendly hikes to explore. 

  1. Navajo loop and Queen's Garden Trail going through Wall Street Slot Canyon combo: 2.6 mile loop trail. The trailhead starts at Sunrise Point and takes you down into the canyon  and through a maze of towering hoodoos and offers stunning views of the surrounding cliffs and valleys. Keep a close lookout for trail signs so you stay on the correct trail. Navajo Loop then Queen's Garden then Wall Street.
  2. Bryce Point- This is short .2 mile round trip walk to the overlook. This is a must see spot as it offers you and your family almost 360 degree views of the canyon. Warning: If you are scared of heights this may be a challenging viewpoint.
  3. Inspiration point: This is a short .6 mile walk that takes you through a series of three overlooks. 
  4. Scenic drive: This beautiful drive is 38 miles long and can take 3-4 hours to drive out and back and see a handful of viewpoints and do a short hike. Plan well with your time, water and available snacks.
  5. Mossy Cave Trail to cave and waterfall: This 1 mile round trip trail  is another great option for families. It is located outside of the park entrance. A 7.6 mile drive from the Bryce Canyon NP Visitor Center. While the cave itself isn’t very impressive, the waterfall is a fun place to visit and play. 
Mesa Arch Canyonlands National Park

#5 Canyonlands National Park-Top 5 kid-friendly activities

Canyonlands National Park is home to some of the most breathtaking landscapes in Utah's Big 5. 

  1. Mesa Arch: .5 mile loop best at sunrise. One of the best kid-friendly hikes in the park is the Mesa Arch Trail, an easy hike that takes you to a stunning natural arch perched on the edge of a cliff. The trail is just under half a mile round trip and offers stunning views of the surrounding canyons and mesas.

  2. Aztec Butte - to Puebloan Granaries: 1.5 mile round trip with a fun scramble up a slickrock dome. 250 elevation. This trail takes you to a pair of ancient Ancestral Puebloan granaries perched high on a butte. Kids will love climbing up to the granaries and exploring the surrounding cliffs and valleys.

  3. Upheaval Dome. .3 mile round trip to first overlook or .8 mile for both overlooks.  This takes you to a mysterious crater that scientists believe was caused by a meteorite impact. Kids will love learning about the park's geology and exploring the unique landscape.

  4. Green River Overlook: This is a short walk from parking area. This overlook offers large boulders to sit on while you enjoy the view.

  5. Grand View Point: Short walk to view point. Its a quick stop by the  parking area. This view point offers almost 360 degree views of the canyon.

Mesa Arch with kids

Making memories and inspiring a love of nature with your children.

Utah's Big 5 National Parks offer some of the most stunning landscapes in the country, and there's no better way to explore them than with your kids. From easy strolls to challenging treks, there are plenty of kid-friendly hikes to choose from, and each offers a unique opportunity to connect with nature and make memories with your family.

So pack your bags, grab your hiking boots, and get ready to explore the great outdoors with your kids. Whether you're hiking through a narrow canyon, marveling at a natural arch, or climbing to an ancient granary, you're sure to find adventure and inspiration in Utah's Big 5 National Parks.

Hiking with kids Capitol Reef
Exploring an alcove with kids Capitol Reef

Hiking the Utah National Parks is a great activity for kids

Hiking is a wonderful activity for kids of all ages. Not only does it allow them to explore the great outdoors and connect with nature, but it also provides a host of physical and mental benefits. Hiking helps kids develop strength, endurance, and balance, as well as improve their cardiovascular health.

In addition to the physical benefits, hiking also provides a valuable opportunity for kids to learn about the environment and their place in it. Hiking teaches kids about the natural world, including plant and animal species, geology, and weather patterns. It also helps kids develop a sense of stewardship and responsibility for the environment, encouraging them to protect and preserve our natural resources for future generations.

Other outdoor activities for kids in Utah's Big 5 National Parks

In addition to hiking, there are plenty of other outdoor activities for kids to enjoy in Utah's Big 5 National Parks. Rock climbing, mountain biking, and horseback riding are all popular activities in the parks, and many outfitters offer guided tours and rentals.

For a more relaxed pace, consider taking a scenic drive through one of the parks. Each park offers stunning vistas and unique landscapes, and there are plenty of pullouts and overlooks where you can stop and take in the views.

Finally, don't forget to take advantage of the parks' many interpretive programs and ranger-led activities. From guided hikes to campfire talks, these programs offer a fun and educational way to learn about the parks' history, geology, and wildlife.

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