25 Best Utah Adventures With Kids

Utah is home to some of the most diverse landscapes and adventures in the United States. From rugged deserts to mountaintop ski resorts, there’s a little bit of something for everyone. With over 15 ski resorts and 5 National Parks, you can always find one of the best spots to take your kids on an adventure.

If I’m being honest, one of the main reasons that we moved to Utah was for the easy access to adventure. We looked all over the United States and no other place could compare to Utah. Whether you’re a Utah local like we are, or an out-of-town visitor looking to maximize what you do on your Utah vacation, you’ll love the ideas we’ve compiled or you. As a parent of 5 very active kids, these are some of our kids favorite adventures and their top recommendations for amazing things to do in Utah.

delicate arch hike

Why is Utah a good place for adventures?

You can get a taste of everything in Utah. While the southwest may be known more for its harsh deserts, there are plenty of places to find filled with green trees and loads of moving water. On top of that, there is some incredible skiing spread all over the state with some of the best ski resorts in the country. 

Within just a couple of hours of our home, we can be biking some of the most amazing singletrack in the country, escaping all the crowds in a backcountry wilderness, shimmying through a desert slot canyon, rafting a wild and scenic river, scaling epic mountains, or soaking in a wild hot spring. My son always likes to say is that the best thing about living here is that he can ski a powder day in the morning, and a few hours later he can be shredding singletrack in Moab, so he never has to pick and choose his favorite adventure.

Prepping for an adventure in Utah

There are a couple of basics that you’ll need for any adventure that you want to do in Utah.

The first is to always check the weather. If you’re new here, the weather in Utah can change drastically within a 20 minute period. Knowing the weather for your exact location is essential, especially in the desert where flash floods from storms 60 miles away can be lethal where you are. Do you r homework and know what the risks are where you’ll be.

Second, make sure you have good shoes. All of these adventures are very active, so if you take care of your feet, they’ll take care of you. We’ve put together a list of the best kids hiking shoes and the best active sandals for kids to help you get a start on taking care of feet.

Third, always carry plenty of water with you. Dehydration can make for a short day, especially in the high altitude of Utah, so always be prepared. A spare jug of water in the car is a great idea for adventures so you can always be ready to stay out longer. 

Fourth, a good backpack to carry around town or out on the trails. Just about everything mentioned below is easier with a good backpack.

1. Hike through a slot canyon

Utah is known for its slot canyons that seem to appear out of nowhere throughout the desert.   While some of these canyons require a good amount of technical knowledge with rappels, climbing, and even swimming through icy potholes, there are plenty that are non–technical. For example, Spooky and Peekaboo slot canyons are perfect for younger kids. 

Slot canyons can be hiked all year round, though make sure you do your homework so you know what to expect. If you are hiking a canyon where you will have to swim in potholes, avoid going in winter as they will likely have ice in them. Also, never go into a slot canyon when rain is in the forecast for the entire drainage area, as flash floods are very likely and often deadly.

2. Skiing in the Cottonwood Canyons

Skiing utah

Utah’s well known for having “The Greatest Snow on Earth”, and this isn’t just a marketing ploy. The low moisture content makes a light and fluffy snow that’s the prime recipe for perfect powder days. Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons have incredible terrain that has a wide variety of terrain for beginners and experts alike. 

The resorts here (Solitude, Brighton, Snowbird, and Alta) are a quick 25-minute drive from downtown Salt Lake City, making it easily accessible for everyone. The best times to get out to Utah for skiing are January through March.

3. Explore Goblin Valley’s hoodoos – Our Kids #1 Favorite

To get some time feeling far out of this world, head out to Goblin Valley. The hoodoos that fill the valley will literally make you feel like you’re on another planet, as this is a great place for kids and adults alike. There are lots of little side canyons, caves, and rocks to explore.  We try to visit at least once a year because our kids love it here so much.

Goblin Valley can make a great trip on it’s own, combined with hiking through Little Wildhorse slot canyon, or it also makes a great day trip from Moab. Just check this place out in the spring or fall as the summers can get absurdly hot, making for a miserable trip. 

4. Mountain bike the WOW Trail

biking utah with kids

Some of the best mountain views are found in the Wasatch Mountains near Salt Lake City. The WOW Trail in Wasatch Mountain State Park will give you premier access to some of the best views you can imagine. 

This advanced intermediate trail starts at Guardsman Pass outside of Park City and continues down into Pine Canyon in MIdway. Along the way, you’ll race through groves of aspen trees, stare in awe at the huge peaks all around you, and see some of the best alpine views in Utah.

This mountain bike trail is typically done as a shuttled ride, since it’s primarily downhill, so make sure to enlist a friend to help with the drive, or plan to ride Pine Canyon Road up. If you’re looking for an easier ride, check out these great bike trails in Park City and Heber Valley. Suggested age 9+ with good mtb experience.

5. Raft the Gates Of Lodore on the Green River

Gates of lodore

Rafting down the Gates of Lodore section of the Green River is one of our favorite ways to create a lasting memory for everyone in the family. The river meanders through the towering canyon walls of Dinosaur National Monument, providing some astonishing views along the way. 

This section of the river takes from 3-5 days to float down and gives you a taste of some serious whitewater as well as some nice calm stretches where you can enjoy the Canyon beauty.  Permits are required to float this section so unless you have extensive whitewater experience, it’s best to go with a guide when floating this section of the Green River. Suggested for ages 8+.

6. Swim in the Great Salt Lake

There aren’t many places where you can swim in a body of water as salty as the Great Salt Lake. Because the Great Salt Lake is even saltier than the ocean, it’s easy to float along in the water. Try this out in the summer and avoid the biting gnats by going after June.

It’s not a day at the spa, but it is an adventure. You’ll likely run into some bugs and of course a bit of smell from all the brine shrimp in the lake. Bring along enough sets of swim goggles to protect your eyes from the salty water!

7. Hike the Zion Narrows

The Narrows is a hike through the narrowest section of Zion Canyon with the Virgin River flowing through it. There is no trail, just a river…and that’s what you hike up. This hike is absolutely stunning and is a great way to cool down from the Southern Utah heat.  Good shoes for hiking in the water are a must and many hikers also take along a hiking pole to get better stability when hiking through the river.

Try hiking the Narrows in late summer or early fall as the waters get incredibly cold and you might not make it very far in the waters that way.  Spring runoff usually brings too much water down The Narrows for safe hiking, so keep that in mind when you’re planning. Best for ages 8+.

8. Hike to Delicate Arch

delicate arch hike

Delicate Arch is located inside Arches National Park and is one of the most iconic hikes in the area. It is, however, the arch from the Utah license plate, meaning that there are bound to be a lot of people headed out to see it with you. The hike is 1.5 miles each way and is pretty easy overall. There is a bit of exposure at the end, but with supervision, it’s suitable for all ages. We love hiking this trail with our kids because it has such an impressive ending at Delicate Arch. Try heading out early in the morning or right before sunset to miss the crowds and the heat. Make sure to read our guide to hiking Delicate Arch.

9. Go on a hike in Moab

Moab brands trails

Moab is an outdoors lover’s dream. There are plateaus surrounding the city with trails passing every which way. Whether you want to go hiking through a canyon or on the top of some slickrock, it’s something you have to check out while in the area. There are loads of different trails in Moab, and many of them are kid-friendly! With both Arches and Canyonlands National Parks and Deadhorse Point State Park located right outside of Moab, there is no shortage of incredible places to hike in Moab with kids. There are some great mountain biking in Moab too.

10. Go Boating at Lake Powell

While Utah often seems like the desert, Lake Powell reminds you of how much water there really is in the state. It was created when they damned up the Colorado River and Glen Canyon was filled with water. Before that, Glen Canyon looked very similar to many parts of the Grand Canyon. The shoreline is hundreds of miles long and holds plenty of secret canyons and trails off of it.

Bring some kayaks or rent a boat and spend a fun family day on the water. If you rent a houseboat, it’s easy to spend multiple nights out on the water without ever noticing that they’re passing by.  This is a great activity for all ages, and our favorite is to spend 3-5 days here just relaxing and camping at Lake Powell.

11. Visit Calf Creek Falls

Calf creek falls by escalant utah

If you’re heading down near Escalante (a great area for kid friendly slot canyons), you absolutely cannot miss a visit to Calf Creek Falls. It’s only about a three-mile hike and it’s one of the best desert hikes you can find in Utah. The canyon you hike up brings you to one of the most stunning waterfalls you can imagine. The water stays quite frigid until midsummer, but if you like the cold, you can always head out in the spring or early summer.  If you do decide to come here during the heat of summer, make sure to bring water shoes so you can stop and play in the stream that runs alongside the trail to cool down.

12.  Explore the Najavo Loop at Bryce Canyon National Park

Hiking bryce canyon

Bryce Canyon National Park is one of the most geologically unique places in all of Utah. With just a simple hike, you can get up close and personal with some of these unique fins, hoodoos and rock striations.  

One of the most popular hikes, which will take you down into Wall Street is the Najavo Loop. While you can do this hike in just a couple of hours, make sure to stay at least 2 full days to explore all the unique features in Bryce Canyon National Park.

If you want to beat the crowds, check out Bryce Canyon in the winter. It takes on a new persona and not many people know about it, though do come prepared for the cold. It is in the middle of the desert, but Bryce Canyon National Park in winter regularly has snow.

13. Hike in Big Cottonwood Canyon

There’s no need to go far from Salt Lake City to get some incredible hiking in. Big Cottonwood Canyon is one of the best places to hike and explore in the Wasatch Mountains, and it’s only 25 minutes from the city. 

Little Cottonwood

In the summer, head up to the alpine lakes of Brighton Resort for an instant escape from city life. Catherine and Blanchard lakes are some of the most beautiful, and this area is quite popular with hikers on the weekends.  This area is so stunning, that you’ll probably forget that you’re just 20 minutes away from Salt Lake City.  If you want to avoid the snow, go between May and October. Or, you can always bring your snowshoes and hike in the winter – just make sure to check the avalanche risk for the areas that you’ll be hiking since some of these areas are dangerous to hike during certain winter conditions. There are also some great hikes is Little Cottonwood Canyon.

14. Hike Mt Timpanogos

hiking timpanogos with kids

This is the mountain that you see from pretty much everywhere you go in Utah and Wasatch County. It’s a massive peak that holds some of the greatest hikes in all of Utah. To summit, you need to commit to a 15-mile round-trip hike with a lot of elevation gain. 

The views along the way make the hike well worth it. Make sure you bring good hiking shoes along with you so you don’t end up with blisters at the end of a long day. It’s best to go do this hike in late summer or early fall to avoid any snow. Most people plan to start this hike before sunrise to avoid the risk of afternoon thunderstorms that would cause you to turn around.

15. Paddleboard or kayak Flaming Gorge

paddleboarding deer creek

Northeastern Utah is a region of hidden gems that a lot of crowds don’t get up to. Flaming Gorge Reservoir is a great spot to go paddleboarding or kayaking to soak in all of the incredible views. In fact, they’ve created some paddling trains along teh south part of the lake so that you can see some of the most beautiful places on the lake while you paddle around. If you want some more places to go paddleboarding, check out this article all about paddlesports at Park City.

16. Discover dinosaur fossils

dinosaur museum vernal

A visit to Dinosaur National Monument is a must-do (yes, even for adults), where there is so much to learn and explore about dinosaurs. You can get up close and personal with a wall filled with dinosaur fossils and even let your kids touch them. There aren’t a lot of places you can do that! This is one place where kids will learn a ton if they do the Junior Ranger Program. While you’re in the area, make sure to check out the State Field House in Vernal where there’s an incredible dinosaur museum that’s perfect for kids.

17. Try a Ropes Course in Park City

utah olympic park ropes course

If you’ve got some adrenaline lovers in your family, head up to the Utah Olympic Park in Park City for tons of fun. They have several different ropes courses for all ages and difficulty levels. This was an amazing bonding experience for our family and the kids keep asking to go back and try it again. While you’re there, make sure to go inside to the free Olympic ski museum.

18. Rock Climbing in Little Cottonwood Canyon

Utah will keep any rock climber busy for most of their life. You can push your limits, or simply climb fun and playful routes. Little Cottonwood Canyon is packed full of tons of routes for when you want to go climbing.

The area is made up of large granite slabs, and the access is easy since many are close to the road or just require a short hike. ou get a brand new climbing experience up here and it’s well worth checking out. 

19. Drive a 4×4 in Moab

The area around Moab is full of 4×4 trails, making it an ATV lover’s paradise. The slickrock really puts you and your rig to the test – it’s really the ultimate playground for grown-ups, but it’s so fun to bring the family along. Whether you’re into rock crawling or scenic trails, there’s so much variety that you’ll easily find something to love. Interested in trying out some great 4×4 trails in Moab, but don’t have a tough off-road vehicle? You can easily rent a 4×4 to get a taste for the adventure everyone else is out there having! Most of them have the capacity to seat at least 4, so you can bring the kids along too!

20. Explore the Lava tubes at Snow Canyon State Park

snow canyon lava tubes hike

Snow Canyon State Park is located just outside of St George in Southern Utah.  While this may seem like an unlikely area to find lava tubes, that’s exactly where they are.  There are several lava tubes, which are really just like large caves, that you can explore in Snow Canyon.  The tubes range from about 15 to 50 feet deep and can get quite dark inside, so make sure to bring a flashlight with you. Our kids always ask to visit them when we’re in the area, and since they’re only about a 10 minute hike from the trailhead, it’s an easy St George adventure with kids. If you have 30 minutes extra, make sure to also take a quick hike to Jennys Canyon while you’re in Snow Canyon State Park.

21. Hike the High Uintah Wilderness

Ruth lake uinta mountains

Only an hour outside of Salt Lake, you can get into the Uintah National Forest and the High Uintah Wilderness. This is some of the most pristine wilderness around, making it the perfect place to escape the crowds. Whether you’re looking for a multiday backpacking trip through the wilderness, or a simple afternoon hike with the kids, you can find a bit of everything in the Uintah’s. Tucked into this wilderness areas you’ll find dozens of lakes, massive mountains (including Kings Peak, the tallest mountain in Utah), and lots of beautiful little rivers. For a true nature fix without the crowds that you’ll find in the Cottonwood Canyons of Salt Lake, the High Uintah’s are the place to visit!

22. Mountain bike Park City

Biking the Wow trail

Park City has one of the best mountain biking systems in the entire nation.  There are mountain bike trails EVERYWHERE and the whole town is really bike-friendly.  If you’re looking for a beginner area, make sure to head to Round Valley, and for some advanced downhill rides, head to the lift serviced trails at Park City Resort. 

If you want an area that has something for everyone, make sure to check out the Trailside Bike Park. There are short trails there to help every level of rider, and the playground and park there make it incredibly family-friendly. 

23. Backpack in Dixie National Forest

Whether you head out on long trips all the time or you want to introduce it to your kids, Dixie National Forest is a great spot to do both. There are kid-friendly trails all over that you can use to help get kids comfortable on the trail. This forest is full of pinyon pines that bring a bit more color into the desert. Remember, this is a bit further south than Salt Lake City, meaning it’s going to be HOT in the summer. Bring lots of water, or check it out in the spring and fall. 

24. Float up to Rainbow Bridge National Monument

Rainbow Bridge National Monument is a really unique area since the main way to access is it by boat! It’s right in the middle of Lake Powell and you can take a tour to get there on a day trip, or if you have your own boat, you can drive there on your own. It’s really in the middle of nowhere, but the coolest part is that you’ll get to see a huge portion of Lake Powell, that most visitors usually skip.

25. Go Tubing in the Mountains

For a winter adventure off the slopes, make sure to take the family snow tubing on your next Utah trip. Our favorite hills are Woodward in Park City or Soldier Hollow in Midway. Both hills have several different lanes for you to race down as well as a conveyer belt to take you back up to the top. While both hills are really fun, we prefer Soldier Hollow since it’s usually much less crowded than you’ll get at Woodward in Park City. While you’re there, head just down the hill and visit the Midway Ice Castles, go ice skating at Utah’s largest outdoor skating rink, or swim in the Homestead Geothermal Crater.

Leave a Comment