Salt Lake City is an amazing destination for families. There are many national parks near Salt Lake City, making it is an outdoor lovers paradise. We’re happy to have Jason from Carltonaut’s Travel Tips, sharing his favorite day trips from Salt Lake City.
My family loves to take day trips. Although it often involves a lot of time in the car – at least more than the kids would like – living near Salt Lake City gives us endless opportunities for easy and enjoyable day trips with the kids.
Best Day Trips from Salt Lake City
Capitol Reef National Park
Utah has the “Mighty Five” of national parks (Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef), several national monuments and state parks. Capitol Reef National Park is one of the less popular – but still as cool – national parks. You’ll experience smaller crowds, without sacrificing the number of hikes and things you’re able to explore.
There are two hikes I would strongly recommend in Capitol Reef: Hickman Bridge and Grand Wash Trail. Both are perfect for kids – meaning they’re not too long and aren’t too steep.
HICKMAN BRIDGE: The 2-mile roundtrip trail allows kids to not only hike, but to explore many of the holes and tunnels in the rocks. When you reach Hickman Bridge, there are large boulders to crawl on, and you get to grab a quick photo at your destination before turning back.
GRAND WASH TRAIL: The narrow canyon is great for kids to be able to hike and explore – without any real elevation change. The total trail is 2.2 miles long (one way), but you can hike until your kids are done and turn around anywhere along the trail.
If you’re looking for the best hikes in Capitol Reef, you’ll want to check out these kid friendly hikes in Capitol Reef National Park.
Bonneville Salt Flats
You’ve likely heard of the Bonneville Salt Flats or seen it in movies of car commercials. It’s one of those unique places to explore and play. It’s only a 2.5 hour drive west, which makes it a perfect day trip from Salt Lake City.
You can access the Bonneville Salt Flats in two places – there’s a rest stop along I-80 where you can park and then walk out onto the Salt Flats; or take the nearby exit and head north to a larger expanse of the area.
However, if you chose to head north, be careful before venturing out onto the actual Salt Flats with your car. If there’s been a lot of rain, the ground becomes soggy and many cars have become stuck. If it’s dry, it’s solid enough for cars to set land-speed records.
While there isn’t anything specific to play on at the Salt Flats – other than flat ground made of salt – you may want to bring some activities. You could fly a kite, have some fun with a camera, or see if your kids can set their own land-speed record.
Dinosaur National Monument
Dinosaur National Monument is only 3.5 hours east of Salt Lake City. In addition to some hiking trails in the area, visitors can explore the fossil quarry that’s a short shuttle-bus ride from the visitor’s center.
Kids can learn about how dinosaur bones are discovered, excavated, and preserved. They can even see how they stack up to the size of a dinosaur leg bone. Between the visitor’s center and fossil quarry, kids will come away with a better knowledge of the prehistoric creatures.
Arches National Park
Delicate Arch is likely the most iconic landmark of Utah. A day trip to Arches National Park (which is only 3.5 hours from Salt Lake City) will allow you to make the trek to the arch and explore some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.
Arches National Park has a variety of hikes, ranging from .5 miles to 10 miles or more. If your kids are adventurers, they can make some of the longer hikes or play in the sand dunes. If shorter hikes are your thing, a walk around Balanced Rock or down Park Avenue would be perfect. These are some of our favorite kid friendly hikes in Arches National Park.
Other day trips from Salt Lake City may include Bear Lake, Goblin Valley State Park or one of the other national parks or monuments throughout the state.
Jason Carlton, founder of Carltonaut’s Travel Tips, loves to explore places near to and far from his home in Salt Lake City. Whether it’s hitting the road to visit nearby national parks or flying the family of seven (two adults, five kids) to New England for a family vacation, he’s always looking for his next travel fix. He uses those trips to share travel tips with others via his blog and social channels. Follow his blog for family adventures, couples getaways or ideas for the business traveler.