5 Days in Moab With Kids
Planning a family trip to Moab with kids is a great way to experience some of the best the west has to offer.
Moab justly claims the title of the adventure capital of the west with good reason. It has spectacular scenery and plenty of activity choices for adrenaline junkies, those wanting to get out in the wild, and families wanting to make life-long memories. We spent 5 days in this wonderful city but you could spend a week or more without getting bored.
The best time to visit Moab would be in fall and spring. Summer can also be popular but it’s hot and you may not be able to enjoy the outdoors as much mid-day. There are some great choices for lodging. Staying near the downtown area would be ideal but we choose a patio home from AirBnb just outside of town. It saved us some money, was still convenient and the pool was a huge plus to help beat the August heat.
By Foot, By Bike, By Boat and By Jeep
The hardest thing about a vacation in Moab is narrowing down your activity choices. There are 2 national parks, state parks, boating activities, bike and hiking trails, ballooning, horseback riding and many more. Plus you can always just hang out by the pool and stroll around town. For our 5 days we visited Arches National Park, Rode a jet boat down the Colorado River, biked Dead Horse Park and rented a Jeep. With one day saved to soak in the pool – it was a well rounded vacation.
Arches National Park
Arches National Park is probably the most popular stop in Moab and with good reason. The park itself is a manageable as a half day trip and contains many of the fabulous arch structures that Moab is famous for. If you’re in a hurry, you can see the main rock structures in 2 hours. I recommend setting aside extra time to get a better experience and add in some extra hikes. Try going earlier in the day to avoid the crowds (and the heat). Kids (and adults) who love climbing will love this park.
If you have the time Canyonlands National Park is massive and has some amazing views. The diversity of the scenery is also surprising. This park is separated in to several district including Island in the Sky (with canyon rim vista overlooking a vast landscape of deep canyons below), Needles (remote with tall column structures that raise up from the desert floor – requires hiking or 4wd), the Maze (very remote and only accessible on multi-day hiking or 4wd trips). Horseshoe Canyon, and the Rivers.
Dead Horse Park
You’ll find one of the best views in Moab (that’s saying a lot) in Dead Horse Point State Park. This state park is located at the top of a canyon rim and overlooks the Colorado River. The sunsets here are fabulous. We arrived a few hours before sunset and enjoyed a really fun (and easy) family bike ride before getting some great photos as the sun went down. This is probably one of the easiest of the areas scenic bike trails and it’s a good place to get everyone’s bike legs started. There are drastic cliffs nearby so watch out if you have a young runner and I recommend children be good enough on their bike to confidently stay on the path.
As a side note – Dead Horse Point is the filming location of several movies including the end scene in Thelma and Louise. Since it’s not as long across the Grand Canyon, it films and photographs better.
Jet Boat on the Colorado River
Taking a jet boat on the Colorado River with the family can be a great way to get a different perspective of your wonderful surroundings. We had a 2 year old with us so we chose a family friendly option and skipped the super fast one. The “slow” one was plenty fast for us. If your kids are a little older, rafting would be a good choice as well.
Jeep Trip down Shafer Trail
My favorite day in Moab was the day we rented a Jeep and took on Shafer Trail. We consider ourselves “Jeep people.” We’ve owned 3. When we rented the jeep we asked for a family friendly scenic trail that was just enough challenging to keep us “Jeep people” entertained. The “beginner” trails of Gemini Bridges and Shafer Trail were what was recommended. Apparently “beginner” means totally different things in Moab then it does in the rest of the country.
The Gemini Bridges trail starts just outside of town with a brief climb up a manageable hill/cliff. You’ll have some nice views looking back and just a taste of what is in store for the rest of the day. We followed the trail until we saw markers. We parked and explored until we found the Gemini Bridges. Basically this is a set of two natural stone “bridges” with a very, very far drop below them. I recommend having a tight hold on young kids in this area. There rocks in this area arch over the drop below. There are not guard rails and it is not obvious that there is such a severe drop until you are right next to the drop. We followed the trail to the highway and down to the entrance of Canyonlands.
After exploring the Canyonlands visitors center we decided to tackle Shafer Trail. It’s a “beginner” trail after all – and it use to have mining trucks drive up and down it. Shafer Trail is breathtaking (both in beauty and if you happen to be prone to panic attacks). Before this trail I thought I was pretty brave about taking high roads. We’ve tackled many in Colorado – including Independence Pass, Mt. Evans, and Trail Ridge Road. This trail definitely stomped all over my comfort zone. Basically you start at the rim of the canyon and switchback down the canyon wall until you find yourself at the canyon floor. Some switchbacks required 3-5 pt turns with no room for mistakes. It was beautiful and I’m glad we did it.
At the bottom of the canyon, the road goes through some fabulous desert scenery. There are not facilities (except 1 port o potty – just after we gave up on finding one … ooops). Make sure you bring food, plenty of water, emergency supplies and keep an eye on the weather.
The Town of Moab
The town of Moab also has plenty to offer. It’s restaurants, breweries, shopping and galleries are worth setting aside some time. Many of the restaurants have quirky vibes and friendly staff. Regardless of which family friendly and fun activities you choose. Moab is sure to give you some great family memories.
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We’re a family of 5 taking a gap year from normal life to travel. For blog posts, locations, and more information on how we did it and how you can to click here.
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