I won’t mince words: Utah is home to some of America’s most epic adventures. We’ve visited the state twice as a family and would gladly return to explore more. Few places offer so many unique places mile-for-mile as Utah!
This guide is the perfect place to start planning your family’s Utah adventure. You’ll get insider first-hand information on the best things to go in Utah with kids, how to get around Utah and even a map of top Utah attractions for families to help you put together your Utah family trip.
Getting to Utah
Which airport you should fly to for a Utah trip really depends on what you plan to do!
Utah’s main airport is in Salt Lake City, which is fairly convenient for accessing northern Utah.
If your trip will be focused on Moab, it may be worth checking prices to fly to Grand Junction, Colorado. We drove from Salt Lake City to Moab on our first family trip to Utah, while on the second visit we came from Grand Junction. That second drive was a lot easier and introduced us to one of my favorite things to do in Colorado with kids!
If your visit is focused on southern Utah, you may find Las Vegas to be the most convenient airport option (and you can often find bargain flights). That’s the closest airport to Zion National Park, while Bryce Canyon is equidistant between Las Vegas and Salt Lake City.
Utah is big and spread out, so it’s good to read this article to help you decide which things to do with kids in Utah and then figure out your flights. You may even find that an “open jaw” (with different arrival and destination cities) works best for you. Just be sure to verify rental car one-way drop fees in advance so you don’t get a big shock on your bill.
Don’t worry, at the end of this article I have a handy dandy Utah family roadtrip map to help you plan your route!
Getting around Utah with kids
Utah is huge and wild and wonderful and so spread out! A Utah road trip with kids is an experience you’ll never forget. But given the remoteness of the best places to see in Utah with kids, I think renting a car is the only viable option. There just aren’t meaningful public transportation options that’ll take him to the coolest places in Utah!
Read more: How to road trip with kids
We have found that driving a regular car in Utah is sufficient. My ancient CR-V was sufficient for our family’s most recent visit. A car with all wheel drive may be helpful if you plan on off-roading but we haven’t found it necessary. Keep in mind that much of Utah is hot, dry and remote so be sure you have emergency supplies in your car – including a few extra gallons of water for you and your car!
If you’re starting your Utah family roadtrip by flying in, be sure to book your rental car early. As National Parks and the entire western US have become more popular, rental cars have been in shorter supply! Click here to check prices for your dates.
As Utah National Parks have become more popular, some of them have instituted shuttle systems to deal with the peak season crowds. At times it is required in Zion and strongly recommended in Bryce.
What to pack for a Utah roadtrip with kids
Most of Utah is a desert, so come prepared. What can you expect? DRY DRY DRY.
Apart from the mountains, the climate in Utah is extremely dry year-round. You can expect hot days and cool to pleasant nights from May through September (higher elevations like Bryce Canyon can have cold nights even in summer). Winter temperatures in December and January can be downright cold and even the normally-scorching south can be blanketed by snow. Even in the cold, dehydration is still a concern because it’s so dry.
Bring this gear with you for your family trip to Utah:
-Hydration backpack ( his | hers | kids )
–Camera with zoom lens
–Sunscreen (in summer)
–SPF lip balm
Recommended clothing for an epic Utah family trip:
-Lightweight hiking pants ( his | hers | kids)
-Multiple layers – tank/short sleeve plus long sleeves for sun protection and warmth
-Long underwear base layer (top and bottom) if visiting October – April
-Hat – Sunday Afternoons has amazing options for the whole family
-Bandana or other neck protection (we love these!)
-Packable rain jacket July – September ( his | hers | boy | girl )
-Packable puffer at least October – May, but year round at higher elevations ( his | hers | boy | girl )
-Hiking shoes – for most trails, running shoes or even trail runners will suffice; if you’ll be doing longer or more technical trails, bring your favorite pair of hiking boots
Of course, don’t forget to grab a National Parks pass to save on admission to hundreds of federal lands!
If you’ll be taking a road trip around Utah, I always suggest throwing a few extra gallon jugs of water in the trunk of your car (even better if you have a hard-sided cooler and some ice packs). The region is incredibly remote and running out of water is the last concern you want to think about! You can fill up at visitors centers around the state and buy extra when the opportunity arises, but it never hurts to have extra with you.
Check out these awesome gifts for National Parks lovers!
Fun Things to do in Utah with kids
Arches National Park with kids
Arches National is so iconic that it’s shown smack in the middle of Utah license plates. If you’ve seen a photo of one place in Utah this is probably it, and I can’t recommend enough that you visit Arches National Park with kids.
What makes Arches with kids such a great experience? For starters, there are tons of hikes to choose from that are basically flat and they’re just as impressive and fun as the harder hikes.
The most popular hike in the park is Double Arch, which happens to be a family favorite. Be sure to watch your daredevil kids who might want to climb up into the window; one of our kids had no problem finding a route up but needed the guidance of some nearby experienced climbers to get down safely.
Another less-frequented hike is Sand Dune Arch, which mimics the slot canyons you’ll find around southern Utah but won’t be quite so daunting if you’re visiting Arches National Park with toddlers. The formations are a little different (walls versus arches) but kids will love the opportunity to run in the shade and play in the sand.
Arches National Park can get extremely hot and extremely crowded if you’re visiting during peak season. These days they are even turning some visitors away if they arrive too late in the day!
Be sure to bring full Camelbaks and extra jugs of water in your cooler. Other than the visitors center, services are limited in the park.
Bryce Canyon National Park with kids
Bryce Canyon National Park doesn’t have the same iconic status as Arches, but it’s no less unique! The most notable features are hoodoos, the vivid sandstone spires filling the park’s canyons.
We loved visiting Bryce Canyon National Park with kids! Even with just one day in Bryce Canyon you can explore so much of what this compact Park has to offer.
For those visiting Utah with toddlers, the walking trail between Sunrise and Sunset Points is stroller-friendly. There are copious viewpoints where you can stretch your legs and appreciate Bryce’s beauty.
If you’re visiting Bryce Canyon with a baby who rides in a carrier or you have older kids who are good for a few miles of hiking, there are several excellent day hikes that’ll take you down into the canyon.
As Bryce Canyon has gotten more popular, parking at many trail heads and scenic viewpoints has gotten more crowded. The Park now recommends that visitors coming in peak season Park in town or at the visitors center and hop on the free shuttle bus to explore the park.
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Zion National Park with kids
Thanks to Celine of Family Can Travel
Zion National Park, the most popular of Utah’s Mighty 5 National Parks, has plenty to offer families looking to enjoy nature. Zion Canyon, with its tall sandstone cliffs and stunning landscape, is enough to impress anyone, but Zion National Park is also home to two famous hikes: Angels Landing and the Narrows.
While these two hikes aren’t particularly family friendly, anyone visiting Zion National Park with kids will have plenty of other spectacular easy hikes to choose from. The Pa’rus Trail, Lower Emerald Pool Trail and Riverside Walk are easy, kid friendly hikes in Zion. For more of a challenge, the Watchman Trail leaves right from the Visitor Center and has some incredible views.
From March through the fall, the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is closed to public vehicles, but the shuttle takes visitors along the Scenic Drive in the park. It’s worth it to get to the Visitor Center early for parking and to hop on the shuttle to your destination. If getting up early to get a parking spot in the park doesn’t work out, there’s also the Springdale Shuttle that brings visitors from the town of Springdale to a stop near the Zion Visitor Center.
The town of Springdale is the best town to stay in when visiting Zion National Park. In Springdale, there are plenty of hotel, Airbnb or camping options. The Zion Canyon Campground and RV Resort is near the Springdale Shuttle Stop 3 or you can easily walk 10-15 minutes into the park. If you prefer to stay in Zion Canyon, there are a couple of camping options or the historic Zion National Park Lodge.
Capitol Reef National Park with kids
Capitol Reef is a great national park for families who don’t love to hike. While there are lots of good hikes, there are plenty of other things to do with kids in Capitol Reef National Park as well.
The park has a lengthy historical record visitors can explore, from the petroglyphs of the ancient Fremont Culture to mid-20th century farmsteads. If your kids love snacks (and let’s be honest, they all do) you can even go picking in the parks orchards or grab locally-made ice cream in one of the historic homes.
Capitol Reef is two hours from Moab (where you’ll find Arches and Canyonlands) and two hours from Bryce Canyon as well. It’s an easy day stop on a Utah family road trip! It’s also offers nice variety if you’ve been in the other nearby parks, as there’s plenty of greenery to set the landscape apart.
Canyonlands National Park with kids
Thanks to Celine of Baby Can Travel
When most people visit Moab, they focus on visiting Arches National Park. While Arches is spectacular, Canyonlands National Park is well worth spending an extra day or two. It’s quite incredible how the two national parks can be so close to each other yet have completely different landscapes.
Canyonlands has four districts: Rivers, Maze, Island in the Sky and Needles. While Canyonlands is full of longer and more challenging hikes, there are still plenty of options for families traveling with children. Mesa Arch trail is top of the list with the incredible views of the canyon through the arch. At only 0.75 miles long this is one even families hiking with toddlers can add to their list, just keep toddlers well away from the edge. Other popular hiking options for families include Grand View Point trail, Upheaval Dome trail and Slickrock trail. The Slickrock trail is in the Needles district, while all the others are in the Island in the Sky district.
With options for a backcountry 4WD tour, the Junior Ranger program and kid-friendly hikes, Canyonlands has more than enough to keep kids and parents enjoying a few extra days in Moab.
For visiting Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park, Moab is the best place to stay. Camping is one way to help with a family travel budget when visiting Moab, especially during high season. The Moab Rim RV Campark is a few minutes out of town, but the service is great and though the sites seem small, a large family size tent will easily fit.
Horsethief camping in Moab with kids
Thanks to Amelia of Tales of a Mountain Mama
When we visit Moab we almost always try to stay out of town for most of our stay (well except for a milkshake at the Moab Diner!). Getting out into more remote areas is one of the more unique things to do in Utah with kids, especially if you’re from a more populated area.
Our favorite place to set up base camp is Horsethief campground. Not only is it off the beaten path, but it’s surrounded by a fantastic network of mountain biking trails in a wide range of difficulties. Our kids who are riding balance bikes can zip around the trails close to the campground while older kids and adults take turns on the more rigorous trails that start right from the same area.
Horsethief is run by the Bureau of Land Management, which means that dogs are welcome even on the trails (unlike some National Park trails). Horsethief sits at a higher elevation than Moab so plan on cooler temperatures and more wind.
The campground is a first-come except for the group sites, which can be reserved in advance. If you arrive early in the day, there’s a good chance you can get a site but there are also many dispersed camping options further down the road if you don’t mind that. We usually visit in the early spring or late fall so bring our camper for cold nights, but there is a tent loop also. There is no water or hookups, but pit toilets are clean.
Mountain biking in Moab with kids
Thanks to Amelia of Kids Ride Bikes
Moab keeps calling us back for our family vacations simply for the fantastic family biking that cater to a wide range of abilities. The following are the Moab mountain biking trails we hit every time:
Horsethief Campground Mountain Biking Trails
- Rowdy and Wrangler are great for beginner riders with just a few spots they will need to stop and walk their bikes
- Kids also love doing loops on Chisholm also which is slightly longer, but has less rocks
- The parents like to take turns on Rodeo, which is a 10 mile ride that is flowy and fun
- I also love Mustang loop!
Moab Brand Trails
- The pump track there just was redone this spring (2021) and is great for keeping little kids entertained
- As a family, we always ride Lazy and EZ which are more of a challenge than the Horsethief campground trails. Little ones (under 7) usually ride these trails on a seat or a trail a bike. They are rocky, but still fun.
- There are also paved trails that go right by the Brand trails that go all the way into town. It’s a fun downhill ride to Moab with some great off-trail options too. We love to do this with a shuttle.
Moab River Trails
There are some great paved trails that go along the Colorado River. If you can score a camping spot here, they are fun to ride all the way into town. Sometimes we also just come to town and park at Lions Park to ride the paved trails.
Anasazi State Park Museum
For an up-close look at the earliest known inhabitants of southern Utah, pay a visit to Anasazi State Park Museum. We stumbled on this little gem only because it was down the street from our accommodation in the tiny town of Boulder.
There are two main features to the museum: a vast collection of artifacts and an outdoor area that includes both a partial excavation of the massive village that stood there a thousand years ago as well as recreations of Ancestral Puebloan dwellings. The site was, at one time, probably one of the largest communities in the West. You can walk the perimeter of the excavation and read signs to understand village life. In addition, kids will love being able to enter the recreated homes to get a feel for Pueblo life.
The museum contains thousands of artifacts that were uncovered during the archeological excavation of the site. Many kids will love the huge collection of arrow tips. There are also pottery and jewelry exhibits. Throughout the small but thoughtful museum there are interactive opportunities for kids. There’s also a great shop with books and locally-made Pueblo crafts.
Kanab with kids
Thanks to Preethi of Local Passport Family
Southern Utah has a lot of big names, but it also has some gems that are still fairly quiet – Kanab is one of them! This town on the east side of Zion National Park is a perfect home base for exploring Zion, Bryce, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and even sites in northern Arizona.
While in Kanab with kids, don’t miss visiting Pink Sand Dunes State Park. It’s perfect for climbing and sledding – basically a giant playground with little ones! Slot canyons and caves also dot the area. Moqui Caverns is a favorite that is short and fairly easy to get to with little ones.
When visiting slot canyons, be very careful with the weather as flash floods can be dangerous. There are a number of terrific slot canyon tours that will keep you safe and guide your family through the best experiences for your age and skill set. Some of the tours even provide other incredible opportunities like canyoneering – one of our kids’ favorite activities!
Kanab has several family-friendly accommodation options, including Holiday Inn Express and La Quinta Inn. Camping is also abundant. If you’re up for driving just a bit further, Zion Ponderosa Ranch has an incredible number of amenities and tours for families – it’s our favorite place to stay near Kanab!
Goblin Valley State Park with kids
Thanks to Jessica of Kids Camping Tips
For a truly unique Utah desert experience with kids, make sure to plan for at least one full day in Goblin Valley State Park. It’s unlike almost anything else on Earth and if your kids like to explore, they’ll be in absolute heaven.
Goblin Valley is made up of hundreds of sandstone hoodoos or “Goblins”. Without many designated trails, plan on doing a whole lot of exploring around the park as you climb hoodoos, shimee through slot canyons, and crawl into caves. Whatever you do, plan on getting nice and dirty and know that just about everything you wear will have a hint of orange on it at the end of the day from all the sand and dirt.
If you’re looking for a designated hike, start at the north end of the parking lot and head to the Goblins Lair. Here you’ll hike around to the backside of Goblin Valley and into a massive cavern. There’s no shade along the hike, so make sure that you plan to do this hike early in the day to avoid the heat.
The best time to visit Goblin Valley is during the fall and spring when the temperatures are warm, but not quite scorching hot like they are in mid summer. Always bring extra water and food with you, and be aware of your surroundings, since it’s really easy to get lost. Goblin Valley really is in the middle of nowhere, so camping with kids is the best accommodation you’ll find. Goblin Valley does have its own campground, complete with yurts that can be rented, or dispersed camping is available right outside of the park’s boundaries.
Snow Canyon State Park with kids
Thanks to Kirsten of Kids Are A Trip
If you’re heading to southern Utah, one place you won’t want to miss is Snow Canyon State Park. This is one of the best things to do in St. George, and the park is so amazing it competes with the local National Parks. Snow Canyon has a variety of geologic formations and kids and adults alike will love exploring all of its nooks and crannies.
There are over thirty eight miles of trails to explore at Snow Canyon, and each one offers a different experience. Jenny’s Canyon is a quick and easy hike for all ability levels. The trail leads to a slot canyon and an overlook, it’s a perfect hike for families with young children. All ages will love exploring Sand Dunes Trail with its rolling sand dunes and petrified sand dunes.
More adventurous families shouldn’t miss Lava Tube trail. Our kids loved climbing into lava tubes, but the terrain here is quite rocky and uneven. There are so many diverse landscapes to explore at Snow Canyon, it feels like several parks in one. Plan on spending at least a full day or more at this Utah gem. Families will love exploring every bit of it!
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Explore the Dinosaurs In Vernal
Thanks to Jessica of Bring The Kids
Utah has a fantastic amount of natural history that goes well beyond the amazing geology. If you’ve got a dino lover in your family, take them out to Eastern Utah to the town of Vernal. Here you’ll find everything dinosaur, from giant dinosaur statues all over town, dinosaur murals on the buildings, and an incredible dinosaur museum.
The culminating dinosaur experience is to head out to Dinosaur National Monument where a visit to the dino quarry is the highlight of the day. The dinosaur quarry is a massive rock quarry that has a building over the top of it, so it’s easy to check out all the bones. If you’re not a dinosaur expert, don’t worry as there’s always a ranger on hand to answer questions and the displays there are incredibly informative.
While you’re out in Vernal, plan on staying in the area for a few days. In addition to the dinosaurs, there are also some great kid friendly hikes, lakes and rivers to paddle around on, exciting mountain biking trails, and some amazing petroglyphs.
While you’re in town, make sure to stop at the Vernal Brewing Company for dinner and the best place to stay in town is the Dinosaur Inn! While many areas in Utah are really popular with tourists, Vernal is lesser known, so if you’re looking to beat the crowds on your trip, you’ll want to head here.
Skiing With Kids In Utah
Thanks to Jessica of Skiing Kids
Utah’s known for having the “Greatest snow on Earth”, but what they forget to mention is that it has some of the most family friendly ski terrain in North America. If you’re looking for a place to take a fantastic ski vacation, there really is no way to beat skiing in Utah with kids.
Within an hour of Salt Lake International Airport, are 11 different ski resorts. That means that you can easily hop on a morning flight and be on the ski hill by lunch time. The convenience and accessibility of Utah ski resorts is truly amazing. However, the most family friendly aspect of skiing in Utah is that at many resorts KIDS SKI FREE! Perhaps the best Utah ski deals are at Brighton where kids 10 and under ski free with a paying adult and Brian Head and Nordic Valley where kids 12 and under get a FREE season pass.
Since every ski family is a little different, here are some of our favorite family friendly resorts and where they SHINE!
Nordic Valley: Local hill, but really affordable. The best place to take a first time ski trip on a budget.
Brighton: The best terrain park and trick area for daredevils.
Snowbird: If you want to ski some seriously steep terrain, this is the place to be. They also have excellent beginner terrain, so this is a great choice if you have lots of different ability levels.
Deer Valley: If you want everything about your ski trip to be world class, and don’t mind paying for it, this is the place to ski with kids.
Solitude: The least crowded ski resort in Salt Lake, and an excellent option for kids who are already intermediate skiers.
If you’re looking for a resort with great ski in and ski out options, make sure to look into The Canyons at Park City for a wide variety of accommodation options.
Read more: Best to do in Park City with kids this summer
Mapping your Utah family roadtrip
Where to go next
If you’re interested in extending your family trip to Utah into other Southwest destinations, consider these options:
- New Mexico:
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