26 Best Utah Hikes for Kids

Following the cairns in Elephant Canyon (Canyonlands National Park – Needles District)

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Hiking as a family was one of the most looked forward to and rewarding activities as our kids were growing up. Utah is one the best places to find hikes to do with kids, especially when you are just beginning to have them hike on their own. Whether your kids are 2 or 12 (or older), It’s never too late to get out on the trails as a family. In this post, you’ll find 26 Family-Friendly Utah hikes and all you need to get out on the trails that will have your kids asking when is the next time you’ll go for a hike.

Zebra Canyon Grand-Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Tips for your Family-Friendly Adventure

Change Your Mindset

Remember that the first few times out on the trail will set the precedent for how enjoyable your little ones will think hiking is. You need to be ok with not hiking at your usual pace and let your child(ren) be excited about being in nature. The hike will become just as much about the journey as it will be about the destination. Let them take the time to investigate that hidey-hole on the side of the trail, check out the stream, or examine the bugs or other wildlife. Take breaks as needed. Bringing along friends is always a good idea. It helps the miles sail by.

Sheets Gulch-Capitol Reef National Park

Plan

You want your first experiences to be a success, so plan on a trail well inside your child’s capabilities. They will leave feeling proud of themselves for reaching the goal and see the joy of reaching a cool destination. When selecting a hike for novice hikers, what they experience on the journey should excite them to see more. I always look for trails with water features (streams, ponds, waterfalls, and best of all, swimming holes), cool places to explore like arches, caves, old car wrecks or ruins, or anything that provides that sense of discovery for your kids.

Pleasant Creek – Capitol Reef National Park

Prepare

Really this goes for any hike, but when you are hiking with kids, even a slight discomfort can turn into a big deal. Especially if they are already out of their comfort zone.

When hiking, always be sure to pack the Ten Essentials. Not only are these important for emergencies, but they make great tools or motivators on the trail.

  1. Navigation (map and compass) We have these features on our phones. Using an app like Alltrails can even enable us to follow our progress on the trail. Kids enjoy tracking their progress, and if you bring a paper map and compass, they might even enjoy playing the explorer and following the trail. Maybe even put them in charge of being the navigator.
  2. First Aid Kit Nothing will derail a family-friendly hike than a scrape or cut that doesn’t receive the proper care of a bandaid.
  3. Sun Protection Don’t forget the sunscreen, lip balm, hats, and sunglasses.
  4. Headlamp or Flashlight Not only is one of these good to have in case of emergency, but they can be great motivators to have your child flash the light on cool things they find out on the trail or to explore tiny nooks.
  5. Nutrition Not only will this keep their energy up, but fun snacks are always a great motivator!
  6. Hydration. Always bring more than you need. Find what worked best for you. Some people prefer water bottles, others hydration reservoirs with tubes so you can sip along the way. Regardless, it’s always a good idea to have your child help carry their own snacks and water so they can access them easily. the added benefit for littles is this makes them feel so grown up carrying their own backpack.
  7. Matches or firestarter
  8. Multitool or knife
  9. Extra Clothing Make sure you have a jacket in case the weather makes a sudden turn, and it starts to rain, or the wind picks up.
  10. Emergency Shelter A bivy is a space blanket shaped like a sleeping bag. You can get these for about $5 on amazon.
Jenny’s Slot Canyon in Snow Canyon State park is a perfect first time adventure at .3 miles.

Teach Responsible Stewardship

As we enjoy all these beautiful places we want to teach the next generation to recreate responsibly so we can care for the land and they remain pristine. Teach your children to stay on the trail, pack out all trash and waste, respect wildlife, don’t mark up trees or rocks or pick the wildflowers. You can learn more about the seven principles of Leave no Trace at lnt.org

26 Family-Friendly Utah Hikes

Looking for salamanders in Cecret Lake.

Northern Utah

Lower Bell Canyon Reservoir

Fall Evening at Lower Bell Canyon Reservoir

Lower Bell Canyon Reservoir via Larry’s Trail

 A beautiful tree-lined reservoir comes into view after less than a mile of hiking with valley views. The loop around the reservoir will take you through aspen forest, with a bridge crossing over.

Trailhead: Granite Trailhead

Distance: 2.4-mile loop with 495 ft. elevation gain

Other Trail Information: Bathrooms at the trailhead. No dogs because of the watershed.

Best Seasons: Year-round, Spikes suggested for winter hiking.

Bear Canyon Suspension Bridge

Bear Canyon Suspension Bridge in Draper, Utah

Bear Canyon Suspension Bridge via the Bonneville Shoreline Trail

The joy of this hike is it starts at a park. Nothing like some playground time at the end of a hike to motivate the littles on the return. Other highlights along the way include a wooden bridge over Little Willow Creek, a Rock Tunnel, and sweeping views of the Salt Lake Valley, Antelope Island, and the Oqquirh Mountains. Alternatively, a shorter route starts the Orsen Smith Trailhead but is steeper and doesn’t have the fun features of the Bonneville Shoreline Trail route.

Trailhead: Hidden Valley Park in Draper, Utah

Distance: 3.3 miles RT with 508 ft. elevation gain

Other Trail Information: Bathrooms at the trailhead. No dogs because of the watershed.

Best Seasons: Fall and Spring. It can be really hot in summer unless you go early when the mountain shades the trail.

Donut Falls

Donut Falls from within the cave

This is arguably one of the most popular trails in the area for a good reason. This family-friendly gem pays off with a scenic river and beautiful cascades after a relatively easy hike. Caution and experience are advised if you choose to navigate up the slippery rocks to enter and view the falls coming through the “donut hole” hole in the small cave-like dome.

Trailhead: Mill D North off Hwy 190 in Big Cottonwood Canyon

Distance: 3 miles roundtrip with 498 ft. elevation gain

Other Trail Information: Bathrooms at the trailhead. Dogs are not permitted.

Upper Farmington Canyon

Caution is advised if you use the rope to go to the Upper Farmington Canyon Falls base.
The 2nd Car Wreck is my favorite.

Hiking Upper Farmington Canyon is a whole adventure! It is also locally known as the Car Graveyard hike because of the 6+ car wrecks that can be found hidden in the trees along the trail. They toppled from the road high above. Some of the wrecks are probably from the early 1900s. Also on this trail is a small cave and two creek crossings with smaller cascades! Make sure you follow the social paths after the creek crossing so you don’t miss any wrecks. All that in the 1 1/2 miles before you even reach the falls! You’ll hear the falls near the trail’s end before you see them. Going to the base of the falls requires negotiating a steep hillside with the aid of a rope. Proceed at your own risk.

Trailhead: First hairpin turn on Farmington Canyon Road, Farmington, Utah

Distance: 3 miles roundtrip with 948 ft. elevation gain

Other Trail Information: No bathrooms. Dogs Permitted.

Best Season: Year-round. Add 2 miles in winter because the gate is closed.

Lisa falls

Lisa Falls in June

Lisa falls is accessible to just about anyone. At a mere .3 miles for the road, you can bring a picnic and make an afternoon out of it. What makes these falls so fascinating is the sharp turn the water takes part way down and then how the water divides and cascades down the rock. One side of the fall gushes, while the other side just slides down the rock. It’s just mesmerizing to watch.

Trailhead: Opposite the Little Cottonwood Creek Trailhead up between mileposts 6 and 7 in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Park on the left side of the road.

Distance: .3 miles round trip with 121 ft elevation gain

Other Trail Information: No swimming or wading or dogs (watershed). No bathrooms at the trailhead.

Best Season: Best viewed in spring while runoff is flowing but open until Mid November. Never hike this in winter because of avalanche danger.

Paper Airplane Trail

Paper Airplane Trail

What could be cooler than Top of the world views and a larger-than-life paper airplane sculpture?

Trailhead: Just off Horizon Run Road at the Powder Mountain Ski Resort in Eden, Utah

Distance: 1-mile loop with 246 ft. elevation gain

Other Trail Information: No bathrooms at the trailhead.

Best Season: Late June to End of September

Gloria Falls

Multi-tiered Gloria Falls

Gloria Falls is also located in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Another local favorite, you won’t have the trail to yourself, but it’s a favorite for a good reason, and you don’t want to miss it. You’ll first descend a short walk down to the river and cross a bridge over the roaring Little Cottonwood Creek. Then you’ll climb for about a mile, where you’ll see signs right before the trail appears to dead end at the creek. Just past the sign for White Pine Lake, you’ll see a sign for Red Pine Lake. Follow that trail over the bridge and immediately take a left following the social trail to the falls.

Trailhead: Park in the White Pine Trailhead 5.3 miles up Little Cottonwood Canyon

Distance: 2.8 miles round trip with 584 ft. elevation gain

Other Trail Information: No swimming or wading or dogs (watershed). Bathrooms at the trailhead.

Best Season: Spring through Fall. The Falls become buried by snow in the winter.

Ruth Lake

Reflections on Ruth Lake

Ruth Lake is the perfect hike for families. At only two miles roundtrip, everyone can enjoy the satisfaction of reaching a destination after only one mile of hiking. Once you reach the lake, you can enjoy the day on the water, fishing, floating, hanging in your hammock, and even a picnic before heading back to your car blissed out by your afternoon spent by this alpine lake.

Trailhead: Ruth Lake Trailhead off Highway 150 35 miles east of Kamas.

Distance: 2 miles RT with 285 ft. elevation gain.

Other Trail Information: Bathrooms, Dogs are permitted on leash. $6 Fee or free with your National Parks Pass.

Best Season: Highway 150 typically opens in mid-June until the snow falls (Check with UDOT for up top date conditions)

Tony Grove Lake Nature Trail

Tony Grove Lake

Tony Grove Lake Nature Trail is just bursting with wildflowers at peak season. The trail is a little rocky and trickier to negotiate for a short section on the far side of the lake. Come for the day and bring a picnic. There are six picnic sites in the area. You can also float or fish on the water after your hike!

Trailhead: Tony Grove Lake Day Use Area in Logan Canyon

Distance: 1.3 miles loop with 59 ft elevation gain.

Other Trail Information: Bathrooms, Dogs are permitted on leash. $10 Fee or free with your National Parks Pass.

Best Season: Opens in July until the snow falls.

Moonshine Arch

Moonshine Arch

Moonshine Arch really has it all for kids some small caves, a grotto, a fun echo, and they can walk on top of the arch! (Watch your littles on this one it’s narrow up there) make sure to plan plenty of time for this one because once the kids get there, they’ll want lots of time to explore.

Trailhead: 6.5 miles outside Vernal pullout off Highway 191. Use directions from Alltrails or this brochure.

Distance: 2 miles roundtrip with 252 ft. gain

Other Trail Information: No bathrooms at the trailhead. Dogs are permitted. I suggest bringing a downloaded map or the brochure because the trail is not marked.

Best Season: Spring or Fall Can hike in summer or winter just be prepared for the weather and trail conditions.

Battle Creek Falls

Be sure to stand under the spray at Battle Creek Falls.

This hike is moderate difficulty but short. You’ll know you’re almost there after the wide path crosses the footbridge. After you enjoy the falls from the base, make sure you take the trail to the top of the falls for the incredible view of the valley and Utah lake below.

Trailhead: Dead End of Battle Creek Drive in Alpine, Utah.

Distance: 1.6 miles roundtrip with 606 ft. gain (for both top and bottom of falls)

Other Trail Information: Bathrooms are available in the nearby park; dogs are permitted.

Best Season: Year-round. Early spring is best for wildflowers and big flows. Bring spikes in winter.

Stewart Falls

Do you see me standing at the base of the first tier of Stewart Falls?

Another crowd-pleaser of a hike, this trail rolls through aspen groves and pines with views of majestic Mount Timpanogos and the Sundance Ski Resort before you round the bend to view the 200-foot, two-tiered cascade. After you enjoy the overlook, proceed down the switchbacks for an up-close view of these spectacular falls. The kids love to play in the spray of the falls.

Trailhead: Aspen Grove Trailhead or Ride the lift at Sundance Ski resort and take their trail.

Distance: 3.4 miles roundtrip with 930 ft. elevation gain

Other Trail Information: $6 forest service fee (or free with your national parks pass),

Bathrooms at the trailhead. Dogs permitted.

Best Season: Spring is best for wildflowers and big flows. Hiking in winter is not advised due to avalanche danger.

Wall Lake

Wall Lake is popular with families for paddling and cliff jumping.

Wall lake is named after the tall Granite Wall lining one side of the lake. There is a shelf on this wall that is popular with cliff jumpers (at your own risk). It is also a popular spot for fishing, kayaking and stand up paddle boards because of its large size and mountain views and clear water.

Trailhead: Park at the Crystal lake trailhead off Hwy 150. (Make sure to follow the sign to Wall lake since this parking area has multiple trailheads.)

Distance:  2.5 miles roundtrip with 147 ft. elevation gain

Other Trail Information: $6 forest service fee (or free with your national parks pass),

Bathrooms at the trailhead. Dogs permitted.

Best Season: Whenever Hwy 150 opens (typically mid to late June) until the snow flies. Usually October.

Silver Lake Loop

Autumn at Silver Lake

Probably the best thing about hiking the Silver Lake Loop (Besides the gorgeous views, water, and wildlife sightings) is the accessibility. Besides the boardwalk, wide packed gravel makes this trail appropriate for those with mobility issues. Enjoy your walk around the water and stay to fish, extend your hike to other nearby lakes, enjoy the naturalist displays in the visitors center, anus use one of the picnic sites for lunch. The tiny Brighton store just across the street sells food and ice cream if you are looking for a post-hike treat!

Fishing at Silver Lake

Trailhead: Silver Lake Visitors Center at the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon.

Distance: .9 miles roundtrip with 55 ft. elevation gain

Other Trail Information: Bathrooms at the trailhead. Picnic tables. No dogs because of the watershed.

Best Season: June-October. Winter for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

Cecret lake

Fireweed blooms and mountain reflections at Cecret Lake

Cecret lake (Yes, it’s spelled that way) is not a secret, but this popular hike is worth the effort for the beautiful lake that sits hidden in a bowl surrounded by breathtaking mountain peaks. Keep your eye out for moose on the trail and salamanders in the water.

Trailhead: Cecret Lake Campground Trailhead at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon.

Distance: 1.8 miles roundtrip with 465 ft. elevation gain

Other Trail Information: $10 amenity fee (goes towards road and trailhead maintenance)

Bathrooms at the trailhead. No dogs because of the watershed.

Best Season: July through September (when the road to the trailhead is open.)

Southern Utah Hikes

Corona Arch

Corona Arch is every bit as impressive as Delicate Arch but 1/3 of the miles.

Not only is Corona arch a kid-friendly hike but you don’t need to obtain a timed-entry permit to see is because it is outside Arches National Park. You’ll climb ladders and moki steps (steps carves into rock) and across a wide sandstone shelf and two “smaller” arches to reach this impressive arch.

Trailhead: Corona Arch Trailhead 10 miles down Hwy 279.

Distance: 2.5 miles RT with 482 ft elevation gain

Other Trail Information: No fees, Toilets across the street at the gold bar campground. Dogs on leash permitted.

Best Season: Year-round but hot in summer.

Kanab Sand Caves

Kanab Sand Caves is a Child’s playground.

These manmade caves have 6 arch openings to views of the surrounding area. Kids love the scramble up the sandstone to access the caves.

Trailhead: Pullout off of Hwy 89 five miles north of Kanab.

Distance: .5 miles RT with 124 ft elevation gain

Other Trail Information: No fees, Dogs on leash permitted.

Best Season: Year-round but hot in summer. Can be icy in winter.

Red Reef Trail

Negotiating the Moki Steps with the aid of a rope on the Red Reef Trail.

This short hike has slot sections, moki steps, alcoves to explore, and feels like a playground amid the red rock of Southern Utah. After storms there may be waterfalls and water in the waterpockets like the one pictured above. It’s hot here in the summer, so if you choose to visit then go early.

Trailhead: Day Use Parking area in the Red Cliffs Campground. The campground is found in the Red Cliffs Conservation area 15 minutes north of St. George, Utah

Distance: 2.2 miles RT with 223 ft elevation gain

Other Trail Information: $5 fee payable by cash or check or free with a national parks pass, Toilets across at the campground. Dogs on leash permitted.

Best Season: Year-round but hot in summer.

Maple Box Canyon and Arch

Towering walls and rock climbers await in Mable Box Canyon.

This is really two different hikes but their both short and close together so it worth tackling them both on the same day. Fall is a gorgeous time to visit with red and orange leaves against the rock walls. These hikes are fascinating because unlike the usual sand stone walls in a slot or an arch these features or made of multicolor conglomerate rock!

Trailhead: Day use parking area up Maple Canyon near Fountain Green, Utah for the Arch. Make sure to take the Middle Fork trail. For the Maple Box Canyon there is an unmarked pullout about 1 mile up Maple Canyon.

Distance: Maple Canyon Arch: 1.6 miles RT with 580 ft elevation gain, Maple Box Canyon 1 miles RT with minimal gain.

Other Trail Information: $5 fee payable by cash or check or free with a national parks pass, Toilets at the Middle Fork Trailhead. Dogs on leash permitted.

Best Season: Year-round but hot in summer.

Kanarra Falls

Upper Falls in the Kanarra Slot Canyon.

The first time I hiked this canyon was during a family reunion before the hike was permitted. There were 20 of us and the youngest was 4. Once we got past the initial section of the trail and to the water, the kids practically ran up the trail. They loved walking through the water and “discovering” what was around the the next bend between the towering red rock walls. Make sure you have sturdy hiking or water shoes. And never enter a slot if there is a chance of flood. Check local weather here.

Trailhead: End of 100 North in Kannaraville, Utah

Distance: 3.7 miles RT with 753 ft elevation gain

Other Trail Information: $12 permit per person (part of the fees benefit Utah schools!) You can obtain the permits here. Plan ahead. They go fast. Please make sure to read all the notices on the website carefully. No dogs

Best Season: Year-round but hot in summer. Not advisable in winter.

Sheets Gulch/Slot

This hike is an adventure for kids. They love finding the petrified would strewn throughout the canyon and there are fun obstacles to climb as you proceed up the canyon. Located off the Notom Road in Capitol Reef National, Sheets Gulch is a long one, but you can just hike as long as you think your group would enjoy and then return the way you came.

Trailhead: Signed pull out 21.5 miles down Notom Road

Distance: 13.8 miles RT with 757 feet elevation gain

Other Trail Information: No fees, no toilets, no dogs (but loads of adventure!)

Best Season: Year-round but hot in summer. Best times are Spring and Fall.

Strike Valley Overlook

On a clear day you can see all the way to Lake Powell from the Strike Valley Overlook

Even the drive to get to this trailhead is a beautiful adventure. There are three arches along the spur road so have the kids see who can spot them first. Once you arrive at the trailhead follow the signs to the Strike Valley Overlook. Look for the cairns (stacked rocks) that mark the trail. Please, please, please stay on the trail so not to destroy the cryptobiotic soil its an important organism for the desert ecosystem. Also don’t build cairns. It can cause other hikers to lose the trail and get lost.

Trailhead: End of Upper Muley Twist Spur Road (4WD with high clearance advised) off the Burr Trail Road.

Distance: .6 miles RT with 100 ft elevation gain. If you need to walk the spur road its 6.2 miles.

Other Trail Information: No fees, No toilets or water. No dogs.

Best Season: Year-round but hot in summer.

Cohab Canyon

Cohab Canyon is nature’s playground for kids.

Cohab Canyon has some stellar overlooks over Capitol Reef National Park, hoodoos, and short-side slot canyons. It’s a playground for kids to climb and explore. Don’t forget to stop at the historic Gifford Farmhouse afterward for homemade pies and ice cream.

Trailhead: Cohab Canyon has two trailheads. If you have two vehicles, I would park one at each end, then start at the trailhead across from the Park Campground, do the short climb, then all downhill to the Highway 24 trailhead (1.5 miles). If you only have one car park in the Hickman Bridge parking lot off Highway 24, hike uphill while the kids’ legs are fresh. When you reach the top of the trail, take in the views but don’t go down to the campground trailhead. Return the way you came.

Distance: As a through hike (with 2 cars), 1.5 miles with 574 ft gain or 3 miles RT with 794 ft elevation gain.

Other Trail Information: Bathrooms at the Hickman Bridge trailhead. No dogs.

Best Season: Year round

Mill Creek Waterfall and Swimming hole

Swimming in Millcreek Canyon (Moab)

Head up the canyon. Cross the stream a few times and be prepared to get wet swo=imming at this oasis in the desert below the falls. (Keep an eye out for poison ivy.)

Trailhead: Dirt pull out at the end of Powerhouse Lane in Moab, Utah Directions here.

Distance: 1.8 miles RT with 65 ft elevation gain

Other Trail Information: No fees, No vehicles longer than 22 ft down the road to the trailhead. Dogs on leash permitted.

Best Season: Year-round but hot in summer.

Lower Calf Creek Falls

Make sure to wear your swimsuits so you can take a dip in the swimming hole at the base of Lower Calf Creek Falls.

Six miles round trip is long but doable for most kids. Just make sure it is not their first hike! To reach this swimming hole oasis under the 126 ft falls, you hike 3 miles (one way) following the creek under the towering sandstone walls. Interpretive signs along the route draw your attention to the area’s flora, fauna, and history. It’s always fun for the kids to hunt for the signs to see who can find the next one first. Keep an eye out for the Pictographs! You know you’re getting close when the trail begins to surround you with greenery. The trail is sandy much of the way, so don’t forget to bring your swimsuit. You’ll want to enjoy a cool dip after this warm hike.

Trailhead: Park in the lot near the Calf Creek Campground off UT-12, 11 miles south of Boulder and 15 miles east of Escalante ($5 fee). Go early. The lot fills up quickly.

Distance: 6.7 miles with 866 ft elevation gain.

Other Trail Information: Dogs on leash permitted. Bathrooms at the trailhead.

Best Season: Year-round. But it can be cold in winter.

So which hike would you like to try first. I’d love to hear why in the comments.

Looking for more Utah Gems check out my Ultimate Insider’s Guide to Capitol Reef National Park. It’s our favorite Utah National Park and has so many kid friendly hikes!

Want more Uintas hikes? Check out Day Hiking the Uinta Mountains.