Let nature be the teacher. To help children learn about the importance of conservation and the protection of our valuable national parks, both Arches and Canyonlands National Parks offer Junior Ranger programs for kids ages 6-12. “Explore, Learn, and Protect” conveys the importance of protecting natural resources through fun and engaging activities. When children complete activities in the Junior Ranger booklet, they receive a Junior Ranger badge and join in protecting our parks for future generations. Stop by the visitor center for more information.
Take Them Swimming
Kids love to swim and the Moab Aquatic Center has a wonderful pool for them to splash around in, plus a fabulous inflatable obstacle course. The course is over 50-feet long and has several different obstacles to navigate. The facility also has a six-lane pool, one-meter and three-meter springboards, 18ft-high spiral water slide and numerous water features, and a shallow-water area.
The outdoor pool is open May through end of September. There is an outdoor lap pool with adjoining current channel, a bubble pool, and large leisure pool for the little ones. Childcare is available by reservation. They have a locker rooms with showers.
Daily aquatic or fitness rates for nonresidents: $5 seniors 55+, $7 adults, $4 youth 4-17, $1 children three and under. SilverSneakers participating facility. 435-259-8226, moabcity.org.
Let Them Play
The skate park at Swanny City Park is super popular among locals and visitors alike. There are plenty of banks and rails to keep your heart pounding. The park also has seven acres with a large playground, two barbecue grills, covered picnic tables, covered gazebo, public restrooms, drinking fountains, lots of wide-open green space, and big, old shade trees. Sorry, no dogs allowed in this park. Located next to Moab Recreation & Aquatic Center, 374 Park Ave. 435-259-8226, moabcity.org.
Float Their Boat
Although it is called The Mighty Colorado, “The Daily” section of the river is calm and perfect for a family river trip.
Older kids can try standup paddle boarding or share an inflatable kayak with their younger siblings. The calm waters of “The Daily” are the perfect setting to learn. Check for minimum age.
Canyon Voyages Adventure Co., 435-259-6007, canyonvoyages.com, or NAVTEC Expeditions, 435-259-7983, navtec.com, or Wild West Voyages, 435-238-4257, wildwestvoyages.com.
Float the Colorado
Canyonlands By Night & Day rents river tubes so you can have some family fun floating on a hot day. A great trip for kids is about a two-hour float.
The tubes have a mesh bottom, two handles, and are made of a sturdy fabric. Canyonlands By Night & Day will shuttle you to your put-in. You can rent an extra tube to carry a cooler and extra gear. Rental costs are $20/day and include a PFD and shuttle. 435-259-5261, canyonlandsbynight.com.
On the Ropes
Wild West Challenge Course features a high ropes challenge with 17 different vertical and horizontal elements, a climbing tower, cargo climb, and a giant swing. All in your harness under the guidance of a professional facilitator, walk across a log 35-feet above the ground, test your balance and coordination on a single cable, try to overcome a fear of heights, or work with a group to support each other through each challenge.
There’s something for everyone ages six and up, and you can enjoy an adrenaline rush or simply play! A perfect two-hour activity for families, camps, couples, or travel groups. “Ropes-n-Boats” rafting combo package available. 435-238-4257, wildwestvoyages.com.
Hummer of a Ride
High Point Hummer offers guided Hummer tours with no minimum or maximum age requirement. Kids under two go free. The tours are designed with no large bumps that could jar little ones. You can be safe and have fun at the same time while spending two fun-filled hours cruising over rolling petrified sand-dune hills, climbing exciting obstacles, and even exploring prehistoric dinosaur tracks.
Their professional guides take you to Moab’s famous Sand Flats Recreation Area and explain all of the beautiful features you will be seeing. Tours are a blast for the entire family.
For all the details contact High Point Hummer & ATV/UTV Tours, 435-259-2972, highpointhummer.com.
Tracks of Time
The Potash Road Dinosaur Tracks (also known as the Poison Spider Dinosaur Tracksite) are about six miles from US Hwy 191 along Utah Hwy 279. Two rock slabs contain the tracks of different meat-eating dinosaurs.
The Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite is a short walk with interpretive panels along the trail and boardwalk. Each panel describes unique dinosaur tracks that can be seen at this site, including eight different types of dinosaurs. Drive 15 miles north on US Hwy 191. Turn left on the dirt road marked “Mill Canyon.” Follow signs for the next .8 miles to the parking lot for the trail.
The Mill Canyon Dinosaur Bone Trail is just past the tracksite about a half mile. This short, unpaved trail offers visitors the chance to see real dinosaur bones embedded in the rocks along the trail. Signs have been placed along the way to help visitors recognize what they are seeing. This is a good trail for families with young children. The loop trail is easy and the dinosaur bones are near enough to the ground for children to see them up close.
Moab Giants, at the corner of US Hwy 191 and Utah Hwy 313, is a crossroads to adventure and learning! This dinosaur park features an interactive museum, 5D PaleoAquarium, and an outdoor trail with life-size dinosaurs! Perfect for creating memories with your family. 435-355-0288, moabgiants.com.
Kids love rocks, so take them to the Moab Rock Shop. Inside the shop, you’ll find rocks, minerals, and fossils from Utah and around the globe. The staff loves answering questions about the geology of the area. 435-259-7312, moabrockshop.com.
Keep Kids Engaged While on Vacation
It’s vacation time with your family. You have made the decision to get back to nature, to unplug, and spend quality time together. I was once a camp counselor and reached out to my camp friends for their thoughts on engaging kids on vacation. Here are some tools from some of the best summer camp counselors in the industry.
Not Just for Kids
We all need a break from technology and to connect to the outdoor world around us. Some of the best conversations come while on a hiking trail or adventure. Take advantage of this to create deeper connections with family and friends.
Kids (as well as adults) will have some separation anxiety from their devices. So be intentional about the engagement. Go into the day’s activity knowing you are replacing the device with something better — time together and time in nature. If they just can’t physically go on a hike without their phone (in this area, there isn’t reliable service anyway), then make them the official photographer of the day and then have them put an album together for everyone.
Positive Mental Attitude
The idea here is that you can increase your results through an optimistic thought process. Having a vision of good-natured change in one’s mind will reject negativity, defeatism, and hopelessness.
Have everyone find a positive story or quote and share it with the group. Share one individual goal and one group goal to improve positive mental attitude.
Knowing that someone might be scared about an activity can help the rest of the group encourage them and cheer them on to succeed.
Give each child or person an assignment or responsibility. This gives them purpose and allows them to contribute and not just feel like they are following orders. This will also teach them valuable skills. Kids (and adults) will feel more engaged if they are part of the planning.
Gotta Love Games
Make up games that also teach about the activity. Create a bingo card with all of the things you could find or see during the activity. Creating the bingo card alone can be a fun activity. Whoever fills their bingo card first wins something fun, like ice cream.
Their Own Story
Make up stories during the activity. When you see a bird soaring in the sky, start a story about the bird, his or her name, and what it’s doing. Each person gets to add to the story with other things you spot during the activity. Ask if they can imagine all that the bird can see from that high in the sky.
Around the Campfire
At the end of the day, talk about the day and what everyone experienced. What did they see? What was their favorite part of the day? What do they feel was the most important thing they learned? Choose a word for the day, and then see who used the word the most creatively in describing the day. Go back to your positive word or quote for the day. Did it work?
Using these tools to engage with your family, and even your friends, will boost connections that stay with you long after your vacation is over.