The Best Way to See Arches National Park in One Day with kids - 1 day itinerary for Arches National Park

The Best Way to See Arches National Park in One Day

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Are you visiting the Moab area but only have one day in Arches National Park? This is the best way to see Arches National Park in one day.

With so many things to do in Arches with kids, it is hard to know exactly the best approach to the park with limited time. We have actually been to Arches National Park with the kids a couple of different times. Each visit we cover a little more ground. For this article, I picked the highlights and a one-day itinerary for families.

The best way to see Arches National Park in 1 day.  Things to do and see in 24 hours at Arches National Park.

This is part of our series about Moab. You can read the other articles in the series to help plan your family vacation to the Moab area:

About Arches National Park 

Arches National Park entrance is located about 5 miles north of Moab, Utah. The park is most well known for the more than 2,000 unique natural occurring arches.

Soft red sandstone was left behind nearly 150 million years ago following the evaporation of the sea. Since then, natural forces have been changing the landscape and wearing away the sandstone to create amazing rock formations.

The concentration of natural sandstone arches in this park is greater than any other place in the world. In addition, you will be in awe of the sandstone fins, balanced rocks, pinnacles and spires.

When Should I Visit Arches National Park?

Weather conditions and crowds can significantly influence the quality of your visit to the park. Arches National Park has more than 1.5 million visitors per year.

Keep in mind that this park is located in Utah’s desert. Consequently, temperatures can go as high as 100 degrees during summer, thus making it quite uncomfortable. Although if summer, when your kids are out of school , is your only option, don’t let it stop you, just be prepared.

It also gets really cold during winter and the paths can be icy. On the other hand, the landscape is beautiful in the snow and you will have the park almost to yourself.

Our last visit was in late November after waking up to 4 inches of snow. For this reason, the middle of winter might not be an ideal time to visit the park but late fall is wonderful. 

Spring (April to May) and fall (September through October) are beautiful times to visit and the weather is very mild. The temperature ranges from 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. This time would be ideal for tent camping.

You will be dealing with crowds though because everyone wants to catch the best weather.

Our favorite time to visit is late fall in November when the days are still warm and the park is relatively quiet. This time of year is perfect for RV camping with kids or staying in a hotel or rental house.

The Best Way to See Arches National Park in One Day

As previously mentioned, there are more than 2,000 sandstone arches in this national park. Arches is a fun kid-friendly destination with stunning scenery, educational visitor center, short hikes and plenty of sand to play in.

Whereas this is great, you might find it hard to decide what exactly you would like to do at the park within a day.

Therefore, you need an excellent kid-friendly itinerary for your visit to Arches National Park. After multiple visits with baby, toddler, kids and even while I was 7 months pregnant, I have come up with the best things to do in one day in arches national park. 

1. Watch the Sunrise from Delicate Arch 

View of Delicate Arch at Arches National Park from the Lower Viewpoint 4X4 road
View of Delicate Arch from the Lower Viewpoint

If you are an early riser and have kids that can hike a good distance, you can kick off the day watching the sunrise at Delicate Arch.

Delicate Arch is well-known for its stunning sunrise and sunset views from the park. I would suggest that you plan to visit Delicate Arch in the morning as it is usually less crowded compared to in the evening during sunset.

Note: Since the visitor center opens at 9 AM you will have to pass by and head to the trailhead. Alternatively, you might have camped in the park and get a jump on the day.

Delicate Arch, which measures 46 feet in height and 32 feet in width, is one of the most popular hiking activities at this park. This geological feature is widely recognized as one of Utah’s identifying symbol. Your kids will likely recognize it from the Utah license plates.

Unfortunately, the trail leading to the Delicate Arch is about 3 miles. Our small children and pregnant mama could not make this hike. So instead, the older kids hiked to the Upper Viewpoint and I walked to the Lower Viewpoint. Sunrise or sunset is still beautiful from this view.

I would advise that you enjoy viewing Delicate Arch from the Upper Viewpoint, which is only 0.5 miles or the Lower Viewpoint which is a very short walk from the parking lot. These viewpoints are less busy, so sunset may be a better option for families with small children.

Pro tip: If you have a 4X4 you can drive a short distance on the dirt road from the parking lot and get an even better view of Delicate Arch without leaving the car.

While you are at the trailhead for Delicate Arch, don’t forget to stop and see Wolf Ranch and Ute Petroglyphs. For history buffs or for kids who have not seen ancient rock art, I highly recommend this short hike.  You can see an original 1800’s homestead cabin and corrals.

Just a bit further are the well preserved Ute petroglyphs. These are different than many other more ancient petroglyphs in the Moab area. The modern style includes scenes of horse and rider surrounded by bighorn sheep and dogs.

2. Visit the Arches Visitor Center 

Arches National Park Visitor Center educational display and view from inside
Arches National Park Visitor Center

For the second stop of the day, (or the first if you did not make it to sunrise) you should make time to stop at the famous Arches Visitors Center.

It is open 9AM to 4PM every day of the year except for Christmas day. The restrooms, drinking fountains, and outdoor exhibits are available 24 hours a day.

I am constantly surprised at the quality of the visitor centers in the National Park System. Arches National Park Visitor Center is no exception. The inside of the building has an enormous window wall with a view of the red sandstone rock face.

The displays are all educational and interactive. The kids enjoy learning about the hydrologic system, geology, and history with the interactive displays. Kids also enjoy looking through the free binoculars out the picture window.

In addition, the park’s film “Window in Time” as it plays every 30 minutes. This provides a fun, educative activity for your kids as they can understand how the arches were formed.


3. Join the Junior Ranger Program

booklets for the junior ranger program at Arches National Park
Arches National Park Junior Ranger program booklet

While you were at the visitor center the kids can pick up their booklets for the junior ranger program. Each booklet consists of different activities to complete during your visit to the park.

This can make hikes or drives more exciting for your kids as they can fill the activity book while at different stops in the park.

All of our kids participate in this program. The booklets have activities for all ages, so my preschooler, kindergartner and grade school kids can all compete the pages required for the badge.

At the end of your visit, you return the booklet to the Ranger at the visitor center. Each kid will then be sworn in as a junior ranger and given a cool badge specific to Arches National Park. They can also stamp their booklets to verify their junior ranger status. If your day is longer than closing time for the visitor’s center, you can mail in the booklet and receive your badge.

4. Hike to Balanced Rock 

Balanced Rock makes for the perfect place to be your next stop. Have your kids watch out the window for the balances rock to appear. You will see it from the road as your drive towards the parking lot.

The Balanced Rock trail is flat and makes for a perfect short 0.3-mile hike for small children.

This geological wonder stands at 128 feet tall and appears to defy gravity. The intriguing part about the Balanced Rock is that its upper part seems to be balancing on a narrow spire.

There are fears that one day, this eye-catching feature might not be there anymore. 

Another reason why I recommended Balanced Rock as your next stop is because across it there is a picnic area with many picnic tables. By this time of the day, your kids might be feeling a bit hungry. They could, therefore, have something to eat as they catch a breath.

Please note that there are no restaurants or water within the park. For this reason, I advise that you carry enough food and drinks to last you for that day. 

5. Enjoy the Scenic the Drive

After seeing Balancing Rock, you should drive the main road towards almost to the end of your next hike. Along the way stop at some of the must-see overlooks to get a great view of the different features of the park.

Some of our favorite pullouts and overlooks are Panorama Viewpoint, Salt Valley and Fiery Furnace. Fortunately, these are all on the way to your next stop.

Fiery Furnace is an area of fins and spires that requires a permit to hike in. The view is spectacular.

Your drive will take you to Sand Dune Arch, just before the campground. Here you can decide if you would like to stop and eat lunch at a picnic area or if you would like to move along to Sand Dune Arch.

The picnic area is in the campground just ahead. If you choose to picnic first skip ahead of Sand Dune trailhead and then return after lunch.

6. Play in the Sand at Sand Dune Arch

After enjoying a snack and a little drivetime, your next stop should be Sand Dune Arch. We did not make it to this hike until our second visit to the park. This is so much fun, especially for young kids, that I would recommend it be at the top of your list.  

This Arch is located within high canyon walls. You have to walk through a narrow fin to get there, giving it a very secret feel.

Be aware that it tends to get overshadowed due to the narrow path leading to the sand dune arch. You will enjoy the cool refreshing location in the heat of the day. When we visited, on a snowy day though it was cold and we were adding clothing layers. Of course, this did not stop the kids from playing in the soft sand though.

Your kids will especially enjoy this part of the park as they can play in the sand. I recommend carrying a few light toys for your kids to play with.

7. Picnic at Devil’s Garden Campground

When you get hungry for lunch, whether before or after Sand Dune Arch, its time to stop and eat. Given you are now 45 minutes from the entrance of the park and the closest restaurants are in Moab, a picnic lunch is your only option.

A picnic area is located among Slickrock outcroppings at the Devils Garden campground. Picnic tables are available or there is space to spread a blanket and sit on the ground. We found plenty of tables available in November and we’re happy to take a sunny location.

In summer the campground has water to refill your water bottles before heading off on more adventures.

8. Hike to Double Arch

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The trail to Double Arch

The next stop back towards the visitor center is the parking lots for the Windows and Double Arch. One on either side of the road.

Double Arch is an amazing geological formation of two arches joined by one pillar. The trail is level and short, less than 1/2 mile round trip. The kids love the walk there and climbing inside the arches.

Climbing on the sandstone and going off-trail are generally forbidden at Arches National Park. A rule my kids, especially the boys, had a hard time following. So they were happy to climb inside the huge opening between the two arches.

Climbing on the slick rock can be difficult and climbing down even more challenging. We did get pictures under the arch but I was quite nervous because the other side drops right off.

I advise you to use your best judgment, especially with small children, and only go as far as you feel safe.

9. Watch the Sunset from The Windows Arch 

To wind up your one day in Arches National Park, I highly recommend that you catch a glimpse of the beautiful arches as the setting sun illuminates them. One place to enjoy this serene view is at The Windows and luckily you are already in the right spot.

The trailhead is across from the Double Arches.

We enjoyed visiting this spot as it does not have as many people at sunset as compared to other places such as the Delicate Arch.  Plus you are closer to the park exit once the sun goes down and everyone is tired.

This trail includes North and South Windows and the Turret Arch. The hike is short but has some steps to navigate. The kids think its funny how the North and South Windows look like a pair of glasses and a nose.

Note: If you did not make it to Delicate Arch in the morning, you could visit the Lower Viewpoint at sunset. You will be ending your day at #1 and skipping #9 The Windows.

Ending Your One Day at Arches National Park.

In conclusion, I have tried to give you an idea of the best way to see Arches National Park in one day. Arguably, the most exciting thing about this park is that it provides you with many out-of-the-ordinary experiences.

Where else can you enjoy a scenic drive while overlooking some of the red-stone wonderlands that make part of the 2,000 plus natural arches within the park? 

At the end of the day, everyone will be so tired. Depending on the time of year, you may have already had a picnic dinner or will be heading out for dinner.

If you are camping in or near Arches National Park – its time to head back to camp. If you are staying in town you may be going back to your rental for dinner or going out to eat.

You will need a place to stay for the night. Camping is available in and near Arches National Park. Hotels and rentals are available in Moab.

Camping options near Arches National Park include:

Here is a list of other private campgrounds in the area if you would like to check availability and pricing. 

I gathered a list of family-friendly accommodations in Moab that offer more convenience than camping

This article is part of our series based on our visits to the Moab Area. More resources for planning your trip are here:

Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky Entrance with Kids
Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky Entrance

Arches National Park certainly provides a fantastic opportunity for you to create beautiful memories with your family. I hope this itinerary helps you know the best way to see Arches National Park in one day with kids. Of course, depending on the age and abilities of your family you may fit more or less into one day.

Please use our Free travel planning guide to plan your Utah trip.

Plan an unforgettable vacation with this free printable family trip planner
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    By the end of that one day in Arches National Park with kids, you will not only have experienced a lot of nature’s glorious beauty but also learned a lot about geology.

    Visiting the Arches National Park is an experience that can help you create life-long memories with your family even if you have only one day.

    Shauna Kocman founder Family Travel Fever
    Shauna Kocman founder of Family Travel Fever

    Hi, I’m Shauna – Welcome to Family Travel Fever.  We are a large family, that was bitten by the travel bug!  I take the kids by myself because I don’t mind flying or driving solo with my crew to discover the coolest places.

    Sign up for our email list for my best travel tips plus get the family travel planner free. 

    NOTE*** The content on this page may contain affiliate links, we may make a commission. And, as an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.  More information: disclosure page.

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    1. I can’t even tell you how MUCH I appreciate this VERY, VERY, VERY, VERY, VERY specific and detailed blog post! (I was kind-of hoping you would also tell me exactly what to pack my family for lunch, too!) 😉
      I am going to try to do EVERYTHING the way you said! Sounds like you’ve got it all down to a science!
      Thank you again!
      Christy, GA

      1. Thanks! I hope you enjoy your trip! RE lunch: Freeze your ham and cheese sandwiches so they stay cool for lunch😉

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