Family Vacations at Arches National Park

Last updated 3rd May 2018

Why Go?

Discover more than 2,000 arches in this national park. There are arches that act as massive gateways spanning over 300 feet from one side to the other, arches that reach over 100 feet above the ground, and arches that are forming from the smallest of cracks. The entire park looks like magic!

In actuality, it’s the unique combination of the absorbent Entrada Sandstone stacked on the rich clay layer, mixed with salt layers and just the right amount of rain that makes these arches possible. And it’s not just arches that are a result. The wind and rain also shape the sandstone into Tafoni (or, as we call it, Swiss cheese rock), hoodoos, and more. Summer is the busiest time of year for this park, but it can be incredibly hot. Spring and fall are the best times to visit.

Where to Go

Devil’s Garden is the only established campground in Arches National Park, with 51 sites. Reservations for campsites are taken up to six months in advance during the summer months and sites are first-come, first-serve from November to February. Outside of the park there are a number of commercial campgrounds as well as other state parks, national forest and camping options. There are also backcountry backpacking campsites in the park. The nearest lodging to the park is in Moab, just five miles from the park entrance where B&Bs, condos, hotels, resorts, vacation homes, and guest houses can be found.

What to Do

The most family-friendly activity in Arches National Park is driving the scenic 18-mile park road and stopping along the way to hit hikes appropriate for your group. With the speed limit between 30 and 45 mph, this whole drive can be done in about an hour. But with dozens of viewpoints, trails and side loops, that 18-mile drive could take up a few days of extensive exploring.

The park offers a number of ranger led programs from spring to fall. Some are open to all ages and some are a little more strenuous and limited to ages five and older. Another way to see the park is through commercial tours. The tour operators permitted for Arches National Park can be found on the park web page, ranging from guided hiking adventures to 4×4 tours.

For families with older children there is backpacking, horseback riding, photography, and even canyoneering. Canyoneering or canyoning is the process of starting (usually) at the upper end of a canyon and then following it down through wherever it may go into the rock. There are wet and dry canyons, technical (rappelling, rock climbing, etc.) and non-technical (walking and maybe some light scrambling) canyons. Arches National Park does not have any pure “slot canyons” like those that can be found in nearby Capitol Reef National Park, but there are a few fun places to explore. Canyoneering requires a permit from the Park Service.

Getting Around

Most visitors drive Arches National Park, but there are some alternative options. Try biking the park, just make sure to stay on the roads. If you’re looking to mountain bike, there’s plenty of that elsewhere near Moab. Some of the commercial operators for the park offer tours and will pick up in Moab for a driving-free experience of the park. There are also commercial shuttle and taxi services for visitors from as far away as Grand Junction, Colorado and one-way options for those wanting to be dropped off for a multi-day backcountry experience.


Adventure Correspondent Cameron L. Martindell is a freelance travel and expedition writer, photographer and filmmaker focused on family and adventure topics. He and his wife Jordan are based in Boulder, Colorado, and are parents to Rosie, 3, and Rey, 3 months. Visit Cameron’s personal travel page, Off Yonder.