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Utah National Parks Road Trip Itinerary For Families

Mother and daughter stand together with an expansive view of Zion National Park behind them.
Photo Courtesy: Gunjan Prakash

If you’re searching for vacation inspiration, check out this Utah National Parks road trip itinerary for families! From Zion to Arches, some of the state’s best outdoor destinations are all located within close distance of each other. That means it’s easier than ever to mix-and-match your itinerary based on your family’s preferences! For this exact reason, our Utah road trip itinerary is a flexible outline, including bonus trips to take outside of these national parks. For example, if your family flies into Las Vegas, it’s better to start your loop at Zion National Park. However, if you’re driving from Salt Lake City, start your trip the opposite way at Arches National Park and then loop around. Of course, everyone’s travel style is different, so please use your judgment when it comes to your kids’ best interests. Without further ado, here’s our Utah National Parks Road Trip Itinerary For Families! 

2 Days in Zion National Park

Planning a trip to Utah national parks with your kids? Two days is surely enough time to explore Zion National Park with kids! Here’s a brief itinerary that hits all of the park’s most famous spots. 

Day 1 in Zion National Park

Three people walk among large boulders along a river in the Narrows, a must stop on your Utah road trip itinerary!
Photo Courtesy: Jill Rippy Worden

Zion National Park is one of the most beautiful National Parks in the United States. Located in southwest Utah, it’s famous for its red-rock cliffs, natural rock arches, and expansive canyon. Zion National Park is also very family-friendly. There are many ways to explore the park with kids, including the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. In terms of hikes, the Riverside Walk, a 1.9-mile loop, is great for smaller children. This mostly flat path leads you to The Narrows – an awe-inspiring, thousand-foot-tall gorge. Hiking The Narrows is a must as it’s the most popular trail in Zion. The experience requires wading in the Virgin River surrounded by massive sandstone cliffs. Remember to wear sturdy water shoes, boots, and walking sticks, or rent them from right outside the park. It’s a great hike to cool off with kids in the warm summer months, but watch out for flash flood warnings. 

Pro Tip: Make sure to purchase a shuttle ticket in advance. Private cars aren’t allowed beyond a certain point. 

Day 2 in Zion National Park

Two people walk along a narrow trail in a Utah National Park.
Photo Courtesy: Leanne Carnegie

On your second day in Zion National Park, venture out to discover more kid-friendly spots. Another popular hike is the Canyon Overlook Trail. It’s one-mile-long, with a fence most of the way to provide rewarding views at the end. With incredible vistas, spring-fed pools, and multiple waterfalls, families can also hike the Emerald Pools Trail. Visit the lower, middle, or upper pool, and watch out for occasionally steep cliffs! If you’re looking to hike the famous Angels Landing with your little ones, we suggest hiking half of it. It’s wide enough for kids in the beginning but gets steeper further down. Hikers heading toward Angels Landing’s base can even branch off toward the Patio, an observation point that’s wider, flatter, and safer. Parents can also take small kids in their carriers on most of these hikes. The Pa’rus Trail is an easy hike for kids, plus it’s stroller-friendly. 

The Best Hotels Closest to Zion National Park in Utah for 2021 (Expedia.com)

Where to Stay Near Zion National Park with Kids

Zion National Park has plenty of nearby accommodations for families. For maximum convenience, try staying at the Zion Lodge, as this is the only hotel in the park. This also gives you access to a prime parking spot and a nearby place to rest in between excursions. Staying in Springdale is a fantastic option when you’re visiting Zion due to its proximity to the shuttle service and visitor’s center. We suggest Cable Mountain Lodge, SpringHill Suites by Marriott Springdale Zion National Park, and Cliffrose Springdale, Curio Collection by Hilton, among other options. The Zion Mountain Ranch is also great for kids since it has animals and horseback riding on-site for them to enjoy. Families can visit Zion and Kanab while staying at this hotel. It’s also 30 minutes away from the Zion National Park visitor’s center and shuttle. 

RELATED ARTICLE: Where to Stay in Zion with Kids (Hotels, Ranches, and Unique Options).

Optional Stops On Your Way From Zion

Outside of Zion National Park, there are a few optional trips families can take. Over 40 minutes from the park you’ll find Kanab, which is a must-visit location. You’ll need to rent 4X4 to reach its main point of interest, Peek-A-Boo Canyon. Kids will love exploring the slot canyons here and running around the area, quite literally playing peekaboo! If you have more time to explore, Coral Pink Sands State Park is another fun Utah destination close to the canyon. With scenic sand dunes receding into red rock cliffs, this is a super unique place to try sandboarding! Your kids will thank you!

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1 Day in Bryce National Park

A dad holds his young son on his shoulders looking out onto Bryce National Park.
Photo Courtesy: The Passport Parents

Located roughly an hour and a half from Zion, Bryce National Park is truly one of the most mind-blowing landscapes in Utah. As a lesser-visited National Park, it’s equally as unique, with even fewer crowds. You’ll be blown away by the beautiful hoodoo formations and stunning scenery! If you’re short on time, spend one day or a half-day here. Drive to Bryce’s many beautiful outlooks, such as Sunrise Point, Inspiration Point, Bryce Point, and Sunset Point. This is a fantastic option for a multi-generational trip or when traveling with small children. Outside the entrance, you’ll also find the Mossy Cave Trail, an extremely short hike recommended for youngsters. The Rim Trail provides spectacular views too. For older kids, go down from Sunset Point through Queens Garden, do the Peekaboo Loop, then hike up Navajo Loop. We recommend watching the prettiest sunset ever from Sunset Point before departing Bryce National Park. 

Pro Tip: You could also take the shuttle to navigate the park in the warmer months. We highly recommend this, as it can be difficult to find parking during Bryce’s peak season. 

Optional Additions to Bryce National Park

Suppose you have an extra day in Bryce National Park with kids, or you can fit more excursions in one day. In that case, we recommend horseback riding in the park from Sunrise Point, then starting your descent into the Canyon. Kids will love this special experience! 

Where to Stay Near Bryce National Park with Kids 

Bryce National Park provides families with a variety of different accommodations. Though a 45-minute drive away, we suggest you shake up your adventure by staying in a luxury tiny home (Escalante Escape) or well-appointed yurt (Escalante Yurts). They’re conveniently located on the way to Capitol Reef National Park. 

Find Hotels Closest to Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah using Expedia.

1 Day at Capitol Reef National Park

A dad stands between his two kids looking at into a huge rock canyon in Capital Reef National Park.
Photo Courtesy: Gunjan Prakash

Located two hours from Bryce National Park, stop at Capitol Reef National Park. Known for its white sandstone domes, striking rock formations, and deep canyons, the drive to this family-friendly park takes place on a steep windy road. It also showcases some kid-friendly hikes, such as the Grand Wash Trail, a 2.2-mile easy walk that leads you through Deep Canyon. This flat, short, and spectacular hiking path is easily doable on the way to Arches National Park. You don’t even need to pay the entrance fee since it’s accessible outside the park from Highway 24. If you decide to visit Capitol Reef National Park, make sure to drive to Gooseneck, park, and then hike over to the Gooseneck Overlook. Afterward, head over to Sunset Point, where you’ll find an incredible 360-degree view. With light reflecting off the rock walls, the panorama is ever-changing until it goes dark.

Where to Stay Near Capitol Reef National Park with Kids

Looking for somewhere to stay with kids near Capitol Reef National Park? If you don’t want to drive to Moab on the same day, we recommend staying at a hotel near the park. Families love the Cougar Ridge Lodge, located a little over ten miles away in Torrey. 

Optional Stops On Your Way From Capitol Reef

For an optional trip near Capitol Reef National Park, head toward Goblin Valley State Park. Located just over an hour and fifteen minutes away, this is such a one-of-a-kind place for families to visit. It features very unique hoodoo formations and even some easy hikes for kids. It was initially called a Mushroom Valley due to its unusual appearance, and the park still lives up to this name today. It’s sure to pique your child’s curiosity! 

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2 Days in Arches National Park

Arches National Park is over 2 hours away from Capitol Reef National Park. Nearby, you’ll also find Canyonlands National Park, which we recommend combining with your trip to Arches and staying in Moab. Here are our family-friendly suggestions for your Utah road trip itinerary! 

Day 1 in Arches National Park

A young boy wanders a stone path in Arches National Park, a must stop on your Utah road trip itinerary!
Photo Courtesy: Patience Byers

Famous for its stone arches and red-rock cliffs, Arches National Park is very kid-friendly. Hike the one-mile-long Park Avenue Trail on your first day, which is mostly flat except a few beginning stairs. Kids will stare in amazement at the towering walls of red sandstone! After, drive to Balanced Rock to take a short walk to a balanced boulder. With spectacular views all around, this paved path is also stroller-friendly if you avoid the top. Afterward, drive to The Windows Section, a one-mile loop next to Double Arch. Watch out for three main attractions: North, South Window, and Turret Arch. It’s a flat and easy walk with kids, accessible from the same parking lot as Windows. Or, drive to the Fiery Furnace Viewpoint for a family picture. Nearby, the Sand Dune Arch will become your kid’s favorite spot. Take off your shoes, climb on rocks, and play in the sand! 

Day 2 in Arches National Park

A man of color smiles while holding his young son in a backpack on a hike in Arches National Park.
Photo Courtesy: Patience Byers

Use your second day in Arches National Park to hike some more kid-friendly trails. One popular choice for older kids, teens, or experienced hikers is The Delicate Arch Trail. With over 2,000 arches in the whole park, this particular spot seems straight from a Utah postcard. In fact, it’s the largest free-standing arch in the whole park! Just keep in mind it’s a 3-mile round trip to see it, and can be particularly strenuous with younger kids. Make sure to bring a baby carrier if you do try with younger ones. Either way, the resulting view from the Delicate Arch Lookout will be worth it, accessible via the trail. An easier, scenic hike your family can consider taking is the Landscape Arch Trail. Featuring beautiful wildflowers, this 1.6-mile trail provides breathtaking views of the park’s natural stone arches. Definitely add it to your family’s Utah National Parks itinerary! 

Pro Tip: Other things to do in Moab with kids include taking a Colorado River Jet Boat Tour, white-water rafting (only offered during the summer months), biking, 4×4 riding, or an off-road Jeep tour that passes through stunning sandstone arches and other areas where most visitors don’t usually see.

1 Day at Canyonlands National Park

Two kids sit smiling near a low arch within Canyonland National Park, a must stop on your Utah road trip itinerary!
Photo Courtesy: Gunjan Prakash

Located over thirty-five minutes from Moab, Canyonlands National Park is next on our Utah National Parks Road Trip Itinerary. For an overview of the park’s best sights, you could drive the scenic road with a few stops for photos. Opposite the visitor’s center, the Visitor’s Center Viewpoint is the first and last viewpoint with stunning views over the park. Take a quick stop to see this impressive view from Shafer Canyon Overlook and the Shafer Trail Viewpoint on the way to Mesa Arch. This is the most famous landmark within Canyonlands National Park, which you can reach via a 30-minute hike to see some picturesque panoramas. Luckily, the hike is extremely easy, relatively flat, and very kid-friendly. Morning is the best time to visit Mesa Arch, but it can become crowded. On the way out of Canyonlands National Park, visit Dead Horse Point State Park to see a spectacular sunset. 

Pro Tip: In the Canyonlands backcountry, there are hundreds of miles of unpaved roads to reach various campsites, trails, and lookouts. These can only be accessed by a high-clearance, low-range four-wheel-drive. Please do the appropriate research before exploring this option.

RELATED ARTICLE: Where to Stay in Moab with Kids (Hotels, Ranches, and Unique Options)

Where to Stay Near Arches and Canyonlands with Kids

Need a place to stay near Arches and Canyonlands National Park? We recommend resting your head in  Moab during this leg of the trip. It’s a great base to visit Arches National Park and Canyonlands together as a family. Some kid-friendly hotels you can choose from are the Hoodoo Moab, Curio Collection by Hilton, and Hyatt Place Moab, among other spots. If you’re looking for a ranch experience in Moab with kids, Sorrel River Ranch Resort is an excellent place to stay.

RELATED: Canyons & National Parks With Baby – Here’s what you need to know!

Happy Travels!

A family of five stands along a cliff with a sweeping view of Zion National Park behind them.
Photo Courtesy: Sarah Casper

We hope you liked this Utah National Parks Road Trip Itinerary For Families! When planning a trip to Utah national parks, there is a lot to consider – we hope this list helps you narrow down what your family will enjoy most! Whether you’re looping from Zion to Arches or vice versa, we’re sure your family will have a blast together. Enjoy Utah with your kids!

Find the lowest rates on home rentals in Utah using VRBO.

*Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the things on this list may have reduced services or may temporarily close at times. Please ensure availability before making your decision.

This post may contain affiliate links that may earn us a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Affiliate links in no way inform the hotels, sights, products, or other recommendations included in our articles. All opinions and recommendations expressed here are compiled from submissions submitted by the generous members of our Families Who Love To Travel community.

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