If you are looking for an incredible Utah get away that is a bit off the beaten path, our family LOVED Capital Reef National Park. We had spent the weekend in Fish Lake, so we only had one day at Capitol Reef, but we certainly made the most of it.
If you go for one day with kids in tow, here are my recommendations (forgive our “roll out of bed” look):
1. Stop at the Visitor’s Center. Pop in for a few minutes and watch the video. I know, sounds like something you would skip, but it is about 18 minutes and so informative about the area. I love having historical context when we travel and my boys enjoyed it too. They were also incredibly helpful and knowledgeable. Don’t feel shy about asking questions either…they gave us great pointers for hiking and exploring with kids. There are restrooms and drinking fountains at the Visitor’s Center too, which we used for pit stops and to refill water bottles. There is a geological tour at 10 am that we wish we would have known about.
2. Hike Cohab Canyon Trail. We found this was the perfect hike with kids. We found a few animals hiding at the start of the trail, which always excites my boys. After the animal caves, there are some rather impressive switchbacks but the trail is well worn and easy to navigate so even little feet won’t have too much of a problem hiking up or down as long as you have some patience or a good backpack. The views are fantastic from every point of the trail and we all found ourselves saying, “Look how amazing!” over and over again. After the climb to the top, you are inserted into a slot canyon where the terrain changes. One thing we have learned about hiking with little ones is the more variation the better! My boys were crazy about climbing inside the slots and we all appreciated the shade and cooler temperature. There are some areas with sand where we sat and played, buried a couple of boys and tested our own echoes.
The trail (one way) is 1.7 miles, but after you have seen enough of the slots, you can turn around at any point. There was so much beauty to take in! We all agree that Cohab Canyon is one of our favorites…challenging, interesting and fun. If you only have time for one hike, this is the perfect one. (For a guide to all the hikes and trials, click here).
3. Try the Junior Ranger Program. Capitol Reef National Park is so family friendly! My boys participated in one of the Junior Ranger talks and thought it was awesome. They learned all about geology and how the canyon was formed. It was quick and engaging. If you are sticking around for awhile, it’s a nice way to break up the day.
- Ripple Rock Nature Center where the kids can spin wool, pretend to milk a cow, make cornmeal on a prehistoric grinding stone, identify fossils, play with animal puppets.
- Visit the historic schoolhouse and the Gifford house and eat some homemade pie!
- Bring $5 in cash to get into the park.
- Bring PLENTY of water bottles! It is hot and the elevation is high, so you will need more water than you think you will. You can fill up at the Visitor’s Center, but have plenty for your family for as long as you will be out.
- Sunscreen and more sunscreen…hats too!
- Bring a backpack and food for your family. You can bring a cooler in your car, but a backpack is necessary to carry water and snacks for little ones. We have found that a pocket full of gummy bears keeps an almost 3 year old walking.
- Kids can only handle one long hike per day (or that is all ours can handle). We should have done more of the other stuff instead of forcing the second hike.