Spring is in the air, and one of the best ways to enjoy the great outdoors is to go on a hike in the beautiful state of Utah. For little legs that won’t hold up over many miles of terrain, here are nine gnarly trails that are child-friendly to enjoy in 2020 and beyond.
Along with this list of recommendations, you’ll find the location, total distance of the trek, possible suggestions for accessories to bring along for the hike and the best kids’ outdoor clothing choices available. We’ve also included tips and tricks for children to engage with nature and other ways to get the most during these journeys.
1. Adams Canyon
Location: Layton – 3.5 miles round trip
Starting off our list is a bit of a stretch with a much longer walk and somewhat rough road to begin as a journey for younger hikers. Ending at a sparkling waterfall, there are several switchbacks and gravel-covered portions on parts of the path. If there’s still snow present, you’ll want to put on a decent pair of crampons to complete the hike safely.
2. Birdsong Trail
Location: Ogden Canyon – 1-mile round trip
Part of a network of trails through the Ogden Canyon, the namesake Birdsong Trail is where you’ll hear the beautiful sounds of these winged creatures during this one-mile journey. Obviously birdwatching is an excellent opportunity for young hikers to enjoy while trekking through this wooded area. This short walk has plenty of shade along the way so you may want to outfit your little one with a warm and cozy hoodie.
3. Cecret Lake
Location: Salt Lake Valley (Little Cottonwood Canyon) – 1.7 miles round trip
They say the secret is out at Cecret Lake. Under two miles, it’s a decent hike for little tykes. For those who enjoy flowers, the trail is notorious for a plethora of plants blooming during springtime months. Cecret Lake is part of the Wasatch Watershed system so there’s no swimming allowed. To keep cool during the trek, consider adding a pair of comfortable walking shorts to your kids’ outdoor clothing collection.
4. Hickman Bridge Trail
Location: Capitol Reef National Park – 2 miles round trip
Two miles west of the Capitol Reef visitor’s center you’ll find a trail head leading to Hickman Bridge, a stunning, natural rock formation. There’s plenty of things to explore in this region before or after arriving at the big, red, rock bridge including:
- A scenic opportunity just past Hickman Bridge that overlooks the Fremont River
- A smaller rock archway crosses the path known as the Nels Johnson Natural Bridge
- Historic ruins among the Fremont granary and pit house from many days gone by
To access this part of the past, about a tenth of a mile before beginning up the lower slopes of the Waterpocket Fold, hikers will find a spur trail that runs about 30 yards to the east. This pathway leads to the granary and little explorers will love taking this side-trek to check out this blast-from-the-past.
5. Corona Arch
Location: Moab – 3 miles round trip
Another example of an excellent, natural rock creation delivered courtesy of Mother Nature is found along the Corona Arch trail on this namesake hike. Walkers will find another beautiful red-rock formation known as the Bowtie Arch while traveling on this trail. But this trek isn’t for the faint of heart or younger hikers since a portion of the journey involves using a ladder and rope to arrive at the next level. Don’t attempt this hike with little ones who might be fearful of this obstacle.
6. Goblin Valley
Location: San Rafael Swell – Distances will vary since there’s no real trail in the valley
The creepy-creature name alone (including the rhyming of Rafael and Swell) should have little boys (and girls) clamoring to check out all the weird rocks and rolls found in and around Goblin Valley. Parents and children alike will likely imagine this region as something straight out of a science-fiction film. Layered canyon walls surround weird, wacky, and odd rock formations found on the floor of this vast, beautiful valley.
7. Lake Mary
Location: Salt Lake Valley (Big Cottonwood Canyon) – 2 miles round trip
Since Lake Mary is actually a reservoir (again no swimming allowed) used to store water for the area, its volume will depend on the amount of water stored and the area’s current demands. Even when the lake is low, it’s still a stunning and scenic site. You might get lucky and see a native moose roaming the region although their numbers seem to be dwindling. Wildlife experts warn parents and other people:
- Moose mothers can be aggressive in spring months if they have offspring
- Males should be avoided in the fall during mating season
- Do not attempt to approach or feed moose to prevent potential conflict
8. Spectra Point Trail
Location: Cedar Breaks National Monument – 2 miles round trip
This trail tops out at 10,000 feet so lowlanders might not be used to this lofty altitude, but the amazing view is worth some potential huffing-and-puffing from hikers. This is also an opportunity for grown-ups to teach their kids about the differences our bodies experience at higher altitudes or how flora and fauna change at different levels. Parents will want to pack and apply sunscreen to protect little faces from possible burning at higher elevations.
9. The Watchman Trail
Location: Zion National Park – 3 miles round trip
Wrapping up our list in Zion National Park, hikers will see plenty of pink shades on the walls when traveling through the canyons on the Watchman Trail. Many who have taken this journey suggest soaking in the sights during early morning or late afternoons to witness some stunning sunrises and settings. Be sure to adjust your walking time accordingly so you won’t get stuck in the dark, or take headlamps for the descent at dusk.
Featured Image – Corona Arch, Moab, Utah. Photo by Clay Banks.