Are you thinking about visiting Canyonlands with kids? The Moab area is full of incredible things to do including national parks, one of them being Canyonlands National Park. However due to the terrain and conditions in the park it definitely takes some planning and forethought. In this guide we will tell you the best things to do in Canyonlands National Park with kids alongside tips on where to stay, what to pack and more!
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Planning a Trip to Canyonlands National Park with Kids
Canyonlands National Park can be a little overlooked. It is often overshadowed by the nearby Arches National Park.
In fact Arches National Park gets double the amount of visitors to Canyonlands National Park every year. Arches is closer to the nearby town of Moab and is perhaps more famous due to it having landmarks such as Delicate Arch and the Balanced Rock to name just a couple of Arches NP must sees.
However despite their close proximity, the two parks have dramatically different landscapes and it is well worth setting time in your Utah Road Trip itinerary to see both of these amazing parks.
So how do you go about visiting Canyonlands National Park with kids?
Where to Stay for Visiting Canyonlands with kids?
Canyonlands is a pretty remote park being around a 40 minute drive from the nearby town of Moab.
Due to the landscape and terrain in the area we recommend picking accommodation near central Moab to base yourself out of for exploring Canyonlands with kids.
Staying in MOab will give you access to lots of shops and restaurants, and most hotels in this area will have pools which you will definitely want to use if you are exploring the Utah national parks in summer.
We recommend staying on the side of Moab closest to the Arches National Park entrance as this will give you easier access to both Arches and Canyonlands.
The closest hotels to the Arches National Park entrance with a pool are:
- Springfield Suites
- Fairfield Inn and Suites
- Holiday Inn Express
- Aarchway Inn- has a free local shuttle into town
- Super 8 Moab- this is the most budget option we could find near Moab that still had access to a pool.
But if you are looking for something a little bit different and actually somewhere slightly closer to Canyonlands National Park then we would suggest checking out Moab Under Canvas – a beautiful way to sleep under the stars in the desert.
However we do not recommend staying here if you are visiting Moab with toddlers as the accommodation is really set up for those traveling as adults or with older children.
Best Time of Year to Visit Canyonlands National Park
I always think there is never a wrong time to visit a National Park, but with Canyonlands there are certainly better times than other.
That is because Utah, and Canyonlands in particular get very hot during summer. In fact during the hottest months of July and August, the temperature can exceed 35 degrees, and it can feel hotter due to the lack of shade in the park itself.
My personal recommendation for visiting Canyonlands National Park is to go in a shoulder season of either Spring or Fall. This is when the temperatures are most pleasant for hiking i.e. not ttoo hot in summer and without the added hazards of snow in Winter.
But also this way you will avoid the worst of the crowds. As despite the heat in Moab in Summer you will find summer to be peak season in this area.
And you will find that some of the easier hiking trails and landmarks such as the Mesa Arch get very crowded at peak times.
And remember, that like Arches National Park, Canyonlands also requires timed entry tickets during peak season.
The season for reservations usually runs from the beginning of April to end of October at Canyonlands and is required for anyone who want to visit the park between the hours of 7am and 4pm so be sure to make reservations early to get the time you want.
What is the best area of Canyonlands National Park for kids
When we were first planning our trip to Canyonlands National Park with kids, we were surprised to find out the size and scale of the park.
In fact Canyonlands NP covers an area of 27,598 acres. So it is safe to say that you will not be able to see all of Canyonlands in one day!
In order to make the park more manageable, it has been split into 3 main regions. These are:
- The Islands in the Sky area
- The Maze
There is also the Rivers area but if you are traveling with kids it is unlikely that you will be able to access this area.
Most people who visit Canyonlands will Islands of the Sky and the Needles area as these are the most accessible areas.
However if you are visiting Canyonlands with kids I would recommend sticking to the islands if the sky district, especially if you are visiting Canyonlands with a toddler or baby.
From Central Moab, it takes around 40 minutes to drive to the Islands in the sky visitor center.
To get to the Needles Visitor Center by comparison, it takes nearly an hour and a half. This is a long time to be traveling with kids to get in and out of the park and once you are there the hikes are slightly more challenging.
For this reason we recommend visiting the Islands of the Sky district of Canyonlands with kids as this is a better use of your time.
Tips for Visiting Canyonlands with Kids
Canyonlands National Park can get busy, although no where near as busy as its’ neighbour Arches National Park. I
recommend visiting any National Park early in the morning as it is a better time to see wildlife, to beat the heat and beat the crowds.
For Canyonlands in Summer you really need to be in the park before 9 and finished your hikes by 11-12 otherwise your little ones will struggle with the heat.
Also if you want to get great pictures at some of the more famous landmarks such as the Mesa Arch you will need to get there very early unless you want to be surrounded by crowds.
Buy a National Parks Annual Pass
If you are planning to visit more than one national park in the year (you are going to do at least two being based in Moab if you follow our Moab itinerary) then you might want to consider getting an annual national parks pass as if you are planning to visit multiple parks it is likely going to be a money saver.
Hiking in Canyonlands Tips
Be sure to pack plenty of water and stay hydrated as it gets very hot. Also be sure you have plenty of sun screen and hats as Canyonlands is pretty exposed so you won’t find much respite from the sun!
If you are hiking in the summer months, then I would definitely recommend getting in the park early and aiming to have all your hikes finished by 10am. By this time the park is really starting to heat up.
For more information on the best hikes in Canyonlands National Park check out this post.
What to Pack for Canyonlands NP With Kids
Good Walking shoes
Whether you are going on the marked or primitive trails you will definitely want good hiking shoes for the whole family at Canyonlands National Park.
This is even more necessary if you are visiting outside of summer when trails could have snow or ice on them too.
There is not much respite from the sun at Canyonlands. Therefore you will want to have lots of water with you in a reuseable bottle and be sure to refill when you see a fountain at the beginning of trailheads.
Sun Protective Clothing
As I mentioned above there is not much shade in Canyonlands National Park or places where you can get respite from the heat and sun.
For this reason it is really important you wear the right clothes.,
We recommend selecting clothing made only out of natural fabrics as these are way more breathable and will reduce sweating and be sure to have a wide brimmed sun hat with you to protect your face from the sun.
A good pair with UVA protection is an absolute must.
As the sun is strong in Utah in you will need lots of sunscreen with you and remember to reapply it to the whole family regularly to avoid burning.
Carrier or Hiking Backpack
If you are visiting Canyonlands with toddlers then safety has got to be the first concern. As the trailheads at Canyonlands are not stroller friendly we recommend taking a carrier with you for babies or a hiking backpack for hiking Canyonlands with toddlers.
And if you do opt to use a carrier we recommend using a hot weather carrier as this will keep both you are your baby cooler.
Also for when our toddler was hiking at Canyonlands, we put her in a toddler backpack with reins. This way she felt like she had some freedom but we always had a good hold on her.
There is nothing worse than hiking with a hangry kid and at Canyonlands there is very little in terms of amenities and places to stock up on snacks. Therefore we recommend bringing a plentiful supply of snacks that don’t go off quickly and storing them in a cool box to keep them fresh.
Best Things to Do in Canyonlands with Kids
As I mentioned above we recommend prioritising the Islands in the Sky Area of Canyonlands when visiting with kids.
Therefore most of what we recommend doing in this section are in this area. Where we suggest things outside of this area it will be noted.
Now it should come as no surprise that most people who go to Canyonlands do so to go hiking. And for is this is the appeal even when traveling to Canyonlands National Park with kids.
Now there are lots of great trails at Canyonlands but below are our favorite ones to complete with kids.
Undoubtedly the main attraction in Canyonlands National Park is the Mesa Arch.
The Mesa Arch is the most famous and most photographed point in the park, especially if visiting at sundown.
Now if you have already visited Arches National Park, in particular if you have done the hike to Delicate Arch with kids, you may be surprised by the small size of this arch by comparison. However MEsa Arch is not famed for its size but for the view under the arch.
The panoramic view of Canyonlands it perfectly frames is an absolute sight to behold. However please beware that while the Mesa Arch offers great views of the park the arch is on the edge of a sheer drop so please be sure to exercise common sense at the site.
We saw many people who were not exercising caution especially with kids. The sheer drop is very dangerous and therefore you need to ensure that you are paying close attention to your children and keeping them / holding them close to you.
But don’t let this put you off going, the photos you get here are stunning and being just a 0.5 mile trail it is one of the easiest hikes to do in Canyonlands National Park with kids.
Grand View Point Trail
Another of our favorite hikes to do in Canyonlands is the Gran View Point Trail.
The reason that we loved this hike is because it is relatively flat and therefore easy to do even with toddlers at Canyonlands.
This trail is around The 2.1 mile (3.4km) in length however it is easy to do because of the flatness and you will be rewarded with great views of the Canyon towards the Needles district on every step of the trail.
It is however worth noting that hiking boots should be worn on this trail as although at the beginning it is well maintained the terrain does change to become more gravel as the trail progresses.
Also please note: although there is a picnic area on the trail, there are also chipmunks which are relatively aggressive so you will want to keep a close eye on your kids and your food.
Upheaval Dome Trail
My geology loving husband particularly loved this trailhead. That is because there is some debate about how this geological formation came into being.,
HOwever I loved it as it was relatively easy to do with kids. Also there are a couple of overlooks on this trail which means you can customise it based on how tired everyone is, the heat and what your days itinerary looks like.
The first overlook on this trail is only 0.25 miles away from the parking lot, so easy to do even with toddlers. The overlook is up some uneven steps but we didnt find it too challenging.
Overall however it is only about a one mile round trip which is really easy to do with kids.
Green River Overlook
A slightly misleading name as you can only just see the green river from the overlook! What is great to see at this lookout however is how the river has carved through the rock!
Buck Canyon Overlook
Although I recommend going into the park early, the second best time to visit the park is for sun down! If you want to get the best photos at sundown then Buck Canyon Overlook is the best place to do this because of its orientation!
Best Things to Do in The Needles District of Canyonlands
If you only have one day in Canyonlands then I definitely recommend sticking to the Island in the Sky area because it is closest to Moab.
However if you have more time then I would recommend taking the one and a half hours drive from Moab to The Needles Area. This area does have a visitors centre, however the trails in the Needles area are very exposed and often more primitive than it’s Island in the Sky counterparts. Be sure to take plenty of water and be prepared for the sun.
Join the Park Ranger Program
Now my little one was too young to take part in this but the Junior Park Ranger program is something I have admired for a long time, and will definitely be introducing my little one to as soon as she is old enough.
Basically this program will involve picking up the park ranger program leaflet which has instructions and activities for you to complete in the park. Once completed you have to return your leaflet to the visitors center and your little ones will have earned their Canyonlands Park Ranger Badge.
Go Stargazing in Canyonlands Dark Skies
Canyonlands is a dark sky park. This means it is one of the best places to go stargazing! You can go stargazing at Island in the Sky or Needles but Island in the Sky is the easiest and closest that want to stargaze with kid.
FAQS About Canyonlands with Kids
Can you visit Canyonlands with toddlers?
You can absolutely visit Canyonlands with toddlers however you need to be prepared and take some time to plan what to take and what hikes to do.
We definitely advise using a carrier over a stroller at this national parks as there aren’t many stroller friendly trails here.
We also recommend taking a backpack with reins to Canyonlands with toddlers to help keep better hold of them.
And the trailheads that we find most toddler friendly at Canyonlands are:
- Mesa Arch Trail and
- Grand View Point Trail.
Is Canyonlands Stroller Friendly?
Canyonlands is not a stroller friendly national park as none of the trails are really suitable for use on any trailheads. for that reason if you are traveling to Canyonlands with a baby or toddler then you will want to have a carrier or hiking back pack with you instead.
Is Arches or Canyonlands better with kids?
Arches and Canyonlands, despite being very close to each other are very different in terms of landscape and attractions.
If you could only visit one park with kids I would opt to visit Arches over Canyonlands simply because it is closer to Moab and has more easy trails. However if your Moab Itinerary allows I would always recommend visiting both with kids.
Have you been to Canyonlands National Park with kids? What are your top tips and recommendations?
Further Moab Reading
- Best Things to do In Arches National Park (including hikes)
- Best Things to do In Canyonlands National Park (including hikes)
- Moab Packing List
More Kid Friendly National Park Inspirations