by Jeanne DeFauw
Arches. Canyons. Dinosaurs. Oh, my! Moab, Utah, has everything you need for a fun family adventure.
My family and I spent 6 days exploring Southeast Utah during fall break, October 2016. The drive from our home near Denver took a little over 6 hours, including several stops along the 1-70 mountain corridor through Colorado. A playground in Avon, near Beaver Creek, provided a wonderful spot to take a break and have a picnic. The fall leaves had just passed their peak, but there were still plenty of yellow aspens to make the mountains even more gorgeous than usual.
The first few days were spent exploring Arches National Park, a 15 minute drive from our rental condo just south of Moab. The kids' favorite places were the Sand Dune arch and Double Arch.
Sand Dune Arch is towards the end of the park, but the drive is worthwhile. The towering sandstone formations provide shade from the blazing Utah sun, while the soft, red sand and climbing rocks provided two(!) hours of entertainment for the boys. Broken Arch is a short hike away from the Sand Dune Arch. The uncrowded trail was a relief, after the crowds at all of the other arches.
Double Arch is a very popular hike. The easy trail allows you to easily see several arches and windows.
Some tips: The parking lots are usually full in the afternoon, so try to arrive in the morning or evening. The afternoon is hot and crowded. Make sure to bring more water than you think you'll need, food and a hat. Purchase a Southern Utah park pass if you plan to visit additional National Parks or stay more then 2 days. Red sand will be everywhere! Shoes, socks, pants, your car - you name it. Watch out when you take off clothes and shoes after a day at the park.
Their slogan is: Walk with the Dinosaurs! And you do. The 1/2 mile trail has over 300 life size sculptures of dinosaurs. The kids will love their playground and fossil excavation spots. Plus, there is a movie, museum and a paleo aquarium (might be scary for little kids). We spent most of a day there and felt it was money and time well spent. More info
Mountain bikers rejoice! Canyonlands is a popular spot for bikers, and Moab is full of companies willing to take you there. We passed on the biking! The 7 year old and I hiked the Island in the Sky overlook trail, which involved more rock scrambling than I anticipated. The views to the massive salt crater was worth it, though.
Make sure to stop by Mesa Arch. The easy trail ends at this amazingly wide arch. Watch out for the cliffs, though!
The views over the canyons reminded me of The Grand Canyon, except with less people. There are overlooks and trails along some of the rims.
Make sure to have plenty of water, food, and gas. There is nothing for miles, except the Park Visitor Center.
Some highlights from Moab:
Rotary Park features a musical playground, as well as the usual slides and monkey bars. It's a great place to have a picnic and lets the kids burn off some energy.
MOYO: Moab Frozen Yogurt: The friendly owner will chat with you while you enjoy a treat.
The Village Market: a grocery store with healthy options and some pre-made meals.
Susie's Branding Iron: BBQ and burgers, plus a patio for the kids to play.
The Atomic: Cocktails, ribs and sweet potato fries. The perfect end to a day in Arches.
VRBO: We stayed in Spanish Valley, just south of Moab. The 3 BR condo had access to a swimming pool, hot tub and small playground. I highly recommend staying there. https://www.vrbo.com/175802
Negro Bill/Morning Glory hiking trail: This is a perfect hike for kids. The trail winds along a river, with red cliffs towering above you. At the end of the trail is a natural bridge.
Moab Castle Creek Winery: Located about 30 minutes from Moab, this small winery is tucked in a canyon along the Colorado River. Children are not allowed in the tasting room. There is a large grassy area where we let our boys run around after the tasting. The winery is on the same highway as the Negro Bill trail and makes a nice place to relax after the hike.
Our trip ended too soon, and we had to drive back over the Rocky Mountains and back to reality. The trip was fun for the family!