travel

Arches National Park: 6 Tips to Hitting the Highlights in 3 Hours or Less

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Travel—One of our favorite parts of having our kids go to sleep away camp each summer at Sanborn Camps is our road trip to and from Colorado. We go different routes each time and stop at different destinations along the way.

This year, we traveled back via Highway 70, winding through the Colorado Rockies, passing resorts like Steamboat Springs and Vail and towns like Grand Junction and Green River.

Once we were back in Utah territory, and only with an afternoon to spare (we needed to make it back in time for the first day of school), we veered off the highway and headed toward Moab, spending an afternoon in Arches National Park.

 

If you haven't been to southern Utah before, I recommend right now that you put it on your life list. The natural beauty is truly out of this world and like nothing I've ever seen.

 Arches National Park is one spot among many to visit. I kept saying that it looked like Mars... at least what I'd expect Mars to look like minus the vegetation. And the rock formations were astounding. Other areas to check out in the region include Canyonlands, Monument Valley, Zions National Park, Bryce Canyon, Lake Powell, and the Grand Canyon. Visit utah.com for location information, reviews, and photos.

Tips for Hitting Arches National Park Highlights in One Afternoon

If you only have an afternoon, you won't have a lot of time to hike. So, here's one recommendation for how to hit the highlights in a hurry while not feeling rushed:

1. Stop at the scenic view points (like La Sal Mountains Viewpoint shown below) for photo opps. We let our kids take a few minutes to play with the rocks, run around, and climb at each stop.

2. Drop off all those in your party who want to stretch their legs and get up close and personal with nature  at the Courthouse Towers trail . Send them off with bottles of water and instructions to meet you at the other side. While they are taking their 15-minute walk, stop and take pictures of the La Sal Mountains and The Organ (shown below). You'll pick them up at a parking lot, located at the end of their walk.

3. Delicate Arch is a more advanced and longer hike, if you only have an afternoon, consider the shorter, less strenuous walk. This won't get you up close and personal with the arch, but will put you close enough to snap a pic, even if it's far off in the distance.

4. The short hike at the Fiery Furnace is breathtaking, simple, and provides lots of great photo opps. I went with my 10-year-old and we loved it. More advanced trails and longer hikes are available in this area, so if you have more time, consider those. But for a quick afternoon visit, this short hike was awesome.

5. Regardless of what you do in the first couple of hours, make sure to leave at least an hour or more at the end to visit Sand Arch. Giant rocks jet out of the ground in this area with soft sand in between them, perfect for kids to run and play on.

In addition, rocks are everywhere, perfect for climbing.

This area, recommended by Aimee from Greeblemonkey.com, by far was our boys' favorite part of the park. The shade from the rocks and the sand make for a cool spot to rest while your kids play.

6. My biggest tip though? Just have fun! Whether you are there for an afternoon or several days, make it a vacation to remember.

Where does your family like to vacation? Tips for creating the most memorable family vacay?

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An active part of the Mom It Forward team, Jyl primarily writes about parenting, social good, and all things travel related. In a past life, Jyl was an award-winning copywriter and designer of corporate training programs for Fortune 100 companies. Offline, Jyl is married to @TroyPattee; a mom to two teen boys and a beagle named #Hashtag; loves large amounts of cheese, dancing, and traveling; and lives in the beautiful Rocky Mountains. Topping her bucket list is the goal to visit 50 countries by the time she's 50.

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