Canyonlands with Kids!

Building Cairns on the Cave Spring Trail- Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

Building Cairns on the Cave Spring Trail- Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

One of the most asked question at the Sportsmen’s and Travel Shows that my office did this year on the Wasatch Front was definitely about hiking with kids and asking for suggestions on kid-friendly hikes in our area- specifically in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park.  This is a regular question that we get asked, but the number of people who asked this year was off the charts!  At one point I had 3 families in a row come up to my booth and ask that exact same question!

As luck would have it, the timing was perfect because at one of those shows I also met Kathy Dalton, the founder of a blog and called, Go Adventure Mom, and an online magazine called, Go Adventure Magazine.  I was really excited when she asked if I’d like to write an article for her magazine, and based on all the questions about hiking with kids I was being asked, I knew that that was exactly what I needed to write about!  The article I wrote for Go Adventure Magazine covered hiking and things to do with kids near Monticello, Blanding, and Bluff and you can read the full article HERE, but I wanted to just share a part of it on my blog as well…

Although my husband and I have always considered ourselves to be avid hikers, I have to admit- I HATED hiking as a kid. I’m not sure if it’s because we started hiking suddenly when I was about 10, or if it was because my Dad, a Forest Service employee, insisted that camping was to be done in the wilderness, NOT in campgrounds with amenities such as vault toilets, running water, and firepits, but I do know that I absolutely hated it. To this day, I still swear that my older sister (the one on the left in the photo below) broke her toe on purpose the day before we were scheduled to go on a backpacking trip and I spent years trying to get her to admit it, but to this day she still insists it was an accident. Likely story.

I'm the one on the right... do I look like I was having fun? Not so much...

I’m the one on the right… do I look like I was having fun?  (1983)

Fast forward to college- I suddenly realized that I got to pick where I was going to hike, and I got to pick the length of the hike, and I loved it! Not long after my husband and I started dating, we took a 6 week road trip through the west, logging 100+ miles of hiking to places like Havasu Falls in the Grand Canyon, Zion, Death Valley, Sequoia/King’s Canyon, Yosemite, Redwoods, Crater Lake, and many other places. Our hiking style has changed quite a bit since having our son 2 ½ years ago- we used to do quite a bit of overnight backpacking, which I’m sure we’ll get into again once our son is a little older, but for now we’re happy to take it a little slower, and do shorter hikes that we hope will help our son develop the same love of hiking that we share! Lucky for us we live in Utah’s Canyon Country, with endless hiking, exploring, & adventure opportunities in every direction! Here are a few of my favorite family-friendly hikes in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park:

Enjoying the View! Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

Enjoying the View! Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

Cave Spring
At only .6 miles, this short loop trail is a great hike for kids. The trail first takes you past an old cowboy camp nestled in an alcove with tables, dishes, a cookstove, and many other items still in place. As you continue down the trail you’ll come to Cave Spring, which is one of the few year-round water sources in the area. If you look closely, a smoke blackened ceiling and pictographs confirm that this area was used by the Ancestral Puebloan Indians long before the cowboys came along.

Trailhead of Cave Spring- Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

Trailhead of Cave Spring- Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

Old Cowboy Camp- Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

Old Cowboy Camp- Cave Spring Hike- Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

Cave Spring- Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

Cave Spring Hike- Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

After passing Cave Spring, two ladders take you up onto the slickrock above and provide you with amazing panoramic views of the Needles Rock formations, North and South Six-Shooter Peaks in Indian Creek, and the Abajo and La Sal Mountains. This hike provides a great opportunity for kids to learn first-hand about the history of Canyonlands. It’s long enough to get to see lots of cool stuff, but short enough that they won’t get bored or feel like they’re being punished! (As a kid who hated hiking, this is very important if you’re hoping to take them out again in the future!)

Climbing one of the two ladders- Cave Spring- Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

Climbing one of the two ladders on the Cave Spring Trail-Needles District of Canyonlands

Cave Spring Trail- Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

Cave Spring Trail- Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

Cave Spring Trail- Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

Cave Spring Trail- Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

Family Photo

Family Photo

Pothole Point
Pothole Point is another great hike for kids in the Needles District of Canyonlands. Again, at only .6 miles, there’s no time for kids to get bored on this hike, especially if you go after an early spring or late summer rain when the potholes are full of water and creatures such as Fairy Shrimp, Beetle Larvae, Tadpoles, Snails, and Tadpole Shrimp. Since water never lasts long around here, the potholes provide a great opportunity for learning about the life cycle and adaptations of these desert dwelling organisms.

It hadn't rained recently, so the potholes were empty when we visited!- Pothole Point- Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

It hadn’t rained recently, so the potholes were empty when we visited.

But there were still cool rocks to hid behind!- Pothole Point- Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

But there were still cool rocks to hid behind!

For children ages 5 and up, there’s also the Junior Ranger Program that they can complete to earn a special Junior Ranger Badge! Just pick up a booklet at the Visitor Center when you arrive!
While you’re in the area:                                                                                                             Be sure to check out ‘Finders Keepers’ at the Hideout Golf Club in Monticello. Every year from Memorial Day through Labor Day, locally made Cedar Mesa Pottery is hidden along the paths on the golf course and if you find it, you get to keep it! My husband and I have gone out looking for years and have yet to find anything, but the golf course staff always assures me that it IS out there! (549 S Main St, Monticello, UT Admission: No charge to walk the paths)

Chasing Bunnies, er, looking for pottery at the Hideout Golf Club

Chasing bunnies, er, looking for pottery at the Hideout Golf Club

 

Distance from Canyonlands Needles District Visitor Center to lodging in San Juan County, Utah:

For more information or to request travel brochures, please call Utah’s Canyon Country at: 800-574-4386

Or e-mail us at: info@utahscanyoncountry.com

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This entry was posted in Canyonlands, Canyonlands National Park, Hiking, National Parks, National Parks & Monuments, Things to do for FREE!, Things to do with kids, Travel, Utah and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Canyonlands with Kids!

  1. Ingrid says:

    Congrats on being published. Needles is a part of Canyonlands we have yet to explore. I like the idea of shorter hikes if we have to drive a ways to get there. Great post and bookmarked for our trek from AZ to CO in a few weeks. We never seem to spend enough time in Utah 🙂

    • Allison says:

      Thanks! I really like the Needles for hiking- since they have so many interconnecting hiking trails, it’s easy to make hikes any length you want. Please let us know if there’s anything we can help you with when planning your trip through the area!

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