Willis Creek Slot Canyon

As much as I love our National Parks, some of my favorite trails are just outside the parks, down dirt roads, and just on the border of a new strange land.

Willis Creek Slot Canyon is a place you wont want to miss and just so happens to be amazingly kid friendly.  My son still talks about this hike ALL THE TIME!  He can’t wait to go back.  Walking through water makes it fun for the summer heat and it is just outside Bryce Canyon National Park.

We decided to check out this trail last summer on a camping trip to Bryce Canyon National Park during the Astronomy Festival and we were glad we did.

The last 6 miles to the trail head are on a dirt road.  I recommend a 4 wheel drive, high clearance vehicle for any dirt road in Utah because then you are more prepared for unknown conditions.  Can cars make it okay on this road?  Yes, depending on the conditions, but I just don’t like taking that risk.  I’ve been the person in a car with a flat tire in the middle of the desert before and it isn’t fun.  It can be rocky at parts, some washboard, and you make a couple small stream crossings.  But don’t let this scare you away, it wasn’t terrible at all!

The trail head is about 25 miles outside of Bryce Canyon National Park.  The trail is part of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument but there are no fees or permits required.  It can get super hot in the summer and depending on the time of day you will probably not have much shade (besides some shade of the canyons).  Wear water shoes, clothes that can get wet and dry quickly, and sunscreen!  Bring plenty of water, snacks, and GPS (my favorite app is Gaia GPS).  Have fun exploring!

Little Mountaineers Rating: Easy-Moderate. 2.5 + miles round trip depending on how far you go.  Most of the trail you are literally just walking in a shallow river through the beautiful canyons with minimal elevation gain.

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Hidden Gem In Moab

The great thing about living in Utah is that I feel we never run out of new adventures.  We are always discovering new favorite places and it is so fun!

Our most recent trip to Moab included exploring Hunter Canyon and it did not disappoint.  We were in desert heaven and we had the place practically to ourselves.  That’s saying a lot because we went over Fall break and Arches National Park was a zoo.  Finding solitude in nature is so refreshing but it’s not always easy in a popular place like Moab.

I feel like I don’t even need to describe this place.  The pictures speak for themselves.  We didn’t do the whole hike because it got dark, but we could have easily spent all day here.  Next time you’re in Moab check it out!

You do have to take a dirt road to get to the trail head, but it’s doable with most cars.  I just had my Honda Civic and we did fine.

Little Mountaineers Rating: Easy-Moderate. 3 miles round trip and very little elevation gain.  Lots of sand to play in, rocks to climb and tunnels to explore.

Arches National Park

We had a chance to visit Arches National Park this February and all I can tell you is that my kids were absolutely in love.  I’ve always loved this park and it was fun to see it differently through the eyes of my children.  I have a good friend who lives in New Mexico and the other day we found out that Moab, UT was the half way point between us.  What better reason to plan a fun weekend getaway.  Just moms and kiddos this time (2 days,2 moms, 5 kids 7 and under).  Needless to say things were crazy, but we had a blast.  I hope these kids cherish these memories, I know I will.

Here is a link to the current Arches National Park guide.  This park is so family/kid friendly.  You’ll notice that there are 7 trails 1 mile round trip or less and 3 trails 1-2 miles roundtrip!  Don’t worry, there are also some great longer/harder trails too.  The drive through the park is a gorgeous scenic drive and you’ll feel like you hundreds of miles from civilization (you kind of are).  You’ll also probably feel like you took a trip in the time machine back to when dinosaurs roamed the red rock.

wp-1487903383426.jpgThe animal statues at the visitors center were a real hit with the kids.  They were hugging and kissing them goodbye.  Awe, to be a kid again.

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Our first stop along the scenic drive through Arches NP was Park Avenue!

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Little Mountaineers Rating:  Easy Moderate (2 mile round trip, 320 ft elevation change, section of rock stairs, some rocky/sandy areas)

Picture above is majestic Park Avenue trail.  This 2 mile round trip trail is so surreal.  Don’t let the stairs scare you, they aren’t too bad!  My kids actually loved the stairs, so much that my daughter kept asking to go back to them.  You can start this trail from either end and even have someone pick you up at the end so you only do 1 mile.  Even if you don’t do the whole trail it is definitely worth the stop and the view.

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Next up was The Windows trail.  This easy trail takes you on a path to explore two large windows and Turret Arch.  While we were there we were able to see researchers in action on top of the first Window, they used parachutes to send their equipment down and rappelled off the side.  Pretty neat!

Little Mountaineers Rating: Easy (1 mile round trip, mild climb with some areas with stairs)

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The Windows come with some pretty amazing views!

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We were lucky to be here during great weather!  Blue skies and low 60’s.  February can be hit or miss with weather.  As we were leaving it was raining which even turned to snow on the way back to Salt Lake City.

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Sibling love!  I’m glad these too get to share these memories together!

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Above you can see both the North and South Windows.

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Turret Arch is also a part of this short hike.

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The red rock desert is so stunning against those blue skies!

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After we said our goodbyes to our New Mexico friends we were getting ready to head home.  Well my children decided there was no way they wanted to head home yet.  We still had a few hours so we headed back to Arches to do a couple more trails on our own.

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Our first stop was Delicate Arch.

Little Mountaineers Rating: Moderate (3 mile round trip to Arch, 480 ft elevation change, multiple areas of uphill climb, steep slick rock climb area, some rocky/sandy areas, some ledges/drop offs.  No shade, this hike becomes more difficult in harsher weather conditions)

My son has a rock book he got for Christmas and there is a picture of Delicate Arch in the book.  He was eager to see it in person so we decided to head out.  I knew my 3 year old daughter was not going to be able to do this trail on her own, so she got to ride in our Onya Baby Pure carrier.  The guide says to give yourself 2-3 hours for the trail.  We completed this trail in under 2, partly because it wasn’t sunny or hot and apparently my son was an energizer bunny that day!  Weather can make this trail deadly.  In the summer I would advise going early in the morning or later in the evening and bringing plenty of water and snacks.  I’ve hiked this hike in August when it is extremely hot, but we did it as a sunrise hike, even then it was warm.  I loved this hike in February, it is nice not to have the heat!  This hike isn’t too long and has a few areas of uphill climb to give you that great leg workout and get your heart pumping, but I don’t consider it an extremely difficult hike which is why I gave it a moderate rating.  I would definitely plan on carrying your baby/toddler/preschooler age child and make sure you rest when needed especially during the steep climbs.

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Different rock formations to see along this trail!

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Once you see this little window you know you are almost there!

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Delicate Arch!  Even more stunning in person.  My son’s reaction when he rounded that last corner was priceless.  He was truly in awe and couldn’t believe how big it was in real life.  He was such an amazing hiker this trip!   It’s so fun to watch them grow and learn.

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It always seems a little windy near the arches.  Guess that makes sense.  Here is our lovely windy Delicate Arch selfie.

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If you don’t think you are ready to tackle this hike you can still take your kids to see the cool rock art panel, it is at the start of the trail and doesn’t require any uphill climb.

We decided to tackle another quick trail before we headed home so we headed over to Skyline Arch.

Little Mountaineers Rating:  Easy (.4 mile round trip flat and sandy areas)

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Of course whenever my kids see rocks/boulders they have to climb them.

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Just like pretty much everywhere we go, we left wanting more.  Moab has so much to offer, even more than just Arches National Park.  We only touched on a few of the trails this post but I can’t wait to share more later on.  We only spent 2 days here this time, but it was definitely worth it, there is so much to see even in a short period of time.  Happy hiking!

Check out our little bonus adventure below!

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You thought dinosaurs were extinct…well not in Moab!  We decided to take all the kiddos to Moab Giants Dinosaur Park after our long drives to let them play and get some energy out before we checked into our motel.  We didn’t pay for the museum or any of the indoor stuff, we just did the Dinosaur Trail to see all dinosaur statues and there is also a playground area for kids to play on.  To do this portion of the park it is 12$ for kids 4 and older and 16$ for adults.  The dinosaur statues were really cool, and looked liked they fit right in with stunning Moab as the backdrop.

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Winter at Snow Canyon

While we have really been enjoying the snow around here, sometimes it is fun to escape during the winter and head south to slightly warmer weather.  During winter break last month we decided to escape the snow and inversion and head down to St George.

While the St George area is very well known for it’s proximity to Zion National Park, not everyone knows about all the other incredible State Parks and Recreational Areas that Southern Utah has to offer.  One of our favorites is Snow Canyon State Park.  We were absolutely blown away by our visit this December.  It was stunning and we practically had the whole park to ourselves.

Snow Canyon is extremely family friendly.  It is less than 15 miles from St George and it is only $6 per vehicle.  Click here for the website with even more info!

This park is perfect for kids of all ages.  There are sand dunes to play in, mini slot canyons, petrified sand dunes, moss covered canyon walls, red rock, white rock, climbing opportunities and volcanoes!  There are so many short trails which are great for the younger ones!  No need to worry about hauling your kids miles and miles to get to something interesting.  If you are up for longer and more challenging trails, you’ll find them here too, there is something for every level.  You will find something unique around every corner.

December temps were in the upper 40’s when we went and it was perfectly enjoyable.  We stayed all afternoon and even had a picnic lunch.  We left with the longing to return, and can’t wait until next time.  Below I’ve highlighted a few of the trails.  Enjoy!

Link to park brochure and trail guide.

JENNY’S CANYON TRAIL

Little Mountaineers Rating: Easy (.5 mile round trip, sandy trail with some rocks)

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PIONEER NAMES TRAIL

Little Mountaineers Rating: Easy (.5 miles roundtrip, sandy trail with some rocks, rock scaling up to the actual name carvings is not easy)

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PETRIFIED DUNES TRAIL

Little Mountaineers Rating: Easy Moderate (1.2 miles round trip, some steeps slopes/uneven surfaces)

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WHITE ROCKS AMPHITHEATER TRAIL

Little Mountaineers Rating: Easy Moderate (1 mile round trip, some steep/rocky slopes and uneven surfaces)

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Valley of Fire State Park: Part 1

Little Mountaineers Rating: Moderate (1 mile loop, sandy trail and rocky decent)

Last week we ventured to Henderson, Nevada for spring break to visit family, and enjoy some warmer weather.  We have spent many vacations in the Las Vegas area and I always get asked what we do.  When most people think of Las Vegas they think of the Strip and Casinos, not quite what they would consider a family friendly destination.  The Las Vegas area actually hosts some of the most beautiful and interesting outdoor adventures.  Each time we go we find new places to explore.  I can’t wait to share some of our past experiences as well.

Just over an hour outside of Las Vegas you will find Valley of Fire State Park.   Click HERE for more information on the park.  We were excited to venture out to this park for the day and do some exploring.  We looked up the map of trails, decided on a few we wanted to try, and left after breakfast.

We may have been overly ambitious thinking we could take on 3-4 trails that day.  We ended up doing 2 and arriving home around 3:30 pm exhausted.  Here are some tips if you want to venture to Valley of Fire State Park with your family.

TIPS

  1. Hiking in sand is much more difficult than hiking on nice hard flat ground, especially for young children.  Almost all of the trails at this park include sand, and lots of it.  The sand was especially difficult for my 2-year-old and we carried her part of the time.
  2. Many of these trails have little to no shade.  This is probably not the best park to visit in the middle of summer.  Sunscreen, hats and plenty of water is a must.
  3. The age of your kids will matter here.  Young kids will maybe be able to finish one hike.  You will probably have a more enjoyable time just hanging out in the sand, exploring rocks, and having a picnic, rather than doing a full hike.  Older kids will be able to do more hiking, but plan on it being longer and more tiring.

Driving through the park is a beautiful scenic drive on its own.  Even if you didn’t do any hiking and just drove around, had a nice picnic, and did some exploring it would be more than worth it for the beautiful scenery.

The first trail we decided to take on was the White Domes Loop.  A mile loop trail that included unique rock formations, a narrow slot canyon, and lots and lots of sand.

WHITE DOMES LOOP

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So much sand!

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The trail starts off with a fairly steep rocky decent.

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My son was always on the lookout for shade, sometimes you had to be a little creative.

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The kids loved playing in the sand.

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This is just a short slot canyon, but it was still fun to venture through.

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My 2-year-old has to follow my 6-year-old everywhere, and she’s pretty good at it!

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The desert is a beautiful place.

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We found the perfect spot for a nice break to refuel.

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Despite the sand, my kids managed to survive and we finished the whole loop in about 1.5 hours.  Stay tuned for part 2 of this adventure where I go into detail about the 2nd hike we explored.