Before we go on and on about how awesome Bryce Canyon is, we'd like to save you from future embarrassement in front of your hoighty-toighty geologist friends. Bryce Canyon is NOT actually a canyon. It’s an eroding, retreating plateau margin. Share that tidbit with the kids, and they'll be on the fast track to an Ivy League future--or something just as impressive. Take the entire troupe on a trip through Utah’s tallest national park that shows off brilliant colors by day, and shimmering starlight by night. Escape into a mystical landscape of bizarre views and baroque rock formations, not to mention the world’s largest concentration of hoodoos. Hoodoos? What the heck are those? Kids love hoodoos. That's all you need to know.
We'll give you a hint: you can walk amongst the hoodoos. Here's some of our favorite Bryce Canyon hikes and viewpoints:
1.Plan for your kids' future and make a sound investment in the other “Wall Street” (iconic switchbacks on the Navajo Loop Trail.
2.Let Thor’s Hammer lift you (a glorious way to end the Navajo Loop Trail on your way to Sunset Point).
3.Trek through Queens Garden and watch your little ones fall in love with this piece of red-rock paradise.
Guided Adventure & Sweet Sleep
Need a place to wrangle in the entire family and fall fast asleep? This one's a no-brainer-- Ruby’s Inn is the quintessential Bryce Canyon basecamp. Sleeping isn’t the only pastime at this joint. They offer guided horseback rides (totes amazeballs), covered wagon rides, ATV rentals for thrill seekers, and a good ol' fashioned cowboy atmosphere to immerse the entire family in. Bonus: indoor pool.
Eating Homemade Pies
Need a sweet treat? That's as easy as pie. Bryce Canyon Pines. Made especially for you and your kids by owner Ethyl Rich. There isn’t anything in life much better than a warm, delicious homemade slice of pie after a long day of unforgettable sightseeing with your favorite people. Trust.
And if you want to do it right, do it in the fall. The crowds are small and lodging rates are low. You’ll practically have the place to yourselves, and Ethyl won’t run out of your favorite flavor of pie. Your family will think you’re a hero. Winning.
We know. You’ve been there. There's sun. There’s golf. There’s Zion. You’ve experienced it. Your kids have experienced it. Wrong. Have you hiked, climbed or had a picnic at Pioneer Park? Have you played tag on the sand dunes in Snow Canyon? Or have you introduced yourself and your naturalist kiddos to the jaw-dropping views of Kolob Canyons? If you haven’t, wonderful. We’re here to enlighten you, newbie. Here’s a red rock weekend itinerary.
99% of the time, there’s no snow. And 100% of the time it’s a year-round playground. Sure, Zion National Park is the big dog around these parts (and also awesome to visit in the fall), but Snow Canyon would be a national park in the other 49 states. A volcano (seriously) will cause an eruption of selfies. A sand dune offers a canvas for castles, or you can just roll your kids down the sides. The only potential stress around here is choosing which hiking trail to conquer. We recommend Johnson Canyon, but only if you think your family will like a natural spring, black lava flows, and a super cool arch.
It's a short jaunt from Interstate 15 north of St. George, but definitely off the beaten path. Here, you’ll find a majestic, scenic section of what is technically still considered part of Zion. Most people fly by this seldom-exited exit. But not you. You’re smart, and you’ve got a fear of missing out (you know, FOMO), which happens to be the perfect combo for experiencing Kolob Canyons. If your family is up for a slot canyon hike, try Spring Creek Canyon. 5.5 miles round trip. Short on time? Take the scenic drive, and tell the kids to put down the handheld electronic devices so you can replace screen time with serene time.
This isn’t your typical jungle gym and wood chips park. It’s a 52-acre community park overlooking Zion National Park and downtown St. George. If that isn’t enough to convince the kids, tell them they’ll be able to see Arizona from there (it’s true, you can). Considered a mecca for those crazy people who like the thrill of climbing rocks, it also offers tons of slot canyons and hiking trails for the whole family, as well as a connection to the Red Cliffs Desert Preserve (which is actually way cooler than it sounds). Pack a picnic.
There’s a "suite" place to stay right in the middle of all this awesomeness. Coral Springs Resort offers massive rooms – one that sleeps up to 12 (no, they don’t call it the local Utah family suite). Another favorite is Clarion Suites. Make sure to try the cookies in the lobby.
Want to grab a treat? Try Swig. Unique flavored soft drinks, ice cream, and the best cookies you’ll ever taste (the sugar cookies are legendary).
If you haven’t been to Ogden lately, it’s time. You’re overdue. Which is silly because it’s a perfectly family-friendly mountain city you’ve been missing out on this whole time. Recently, Forbes named it one of the best cities for raising a family (#8!). We recommend you get there ASAP to experience the plethora of natural and manmade thrills. Who knows, maybe some of that good juju will rub off on your own unruly clan.
History, Museums & Aerospace
On the list: Union Station, otherwise known as the unofficial headquarters for guns, trains and cars. You and your crew can stroll through the Utah State Railroad Museum, Eccles Rail Center, John M. Browning Firearms Museum, and the Browning-Kimball Classic Car Museum, all in one place. And, if you’re in the mood for the ultimate quintfecta, tack on the Hill Aerospace Museum (open seven days a week). It’s just waiting to be drooled over by your young, enthusiastic prospective pilots. The Salomon Center, located in the heart of downtown Ogden, boasts Flowrider (indoor surfing) and iFly (indoor skydiving). There’s also bowling and movies. Weather-resistant fun.
Ogden’s best enjoyed outside. Head up the canyons for some beautiful late autumn hiking with the fam. Think Christmas card photo op. With quick and easy access, the kiddos won’t even get a chance to ask “Are we there yet?” There are a number of trails for all hiking skill levels, but if you’re with a four year old, or a whiny teen, we suggest Birdsong.
When Kids Get Hungry
All this adventure is bound to make you hungry. Ogden takes its eats seriously. Check out Roosters for some solid good eatin’. Scruds Gourmet Grub if you’re a fan of baseball or of great burgers. Bonus points if you like both. Pro tip: Skip the desserts, and take the kids back in time. Farr Better Ice Cream, decked out 1950s style, is a must-visit Ogden staple for homemade ice cream. Tons of flavors and totally worth every calorie.
Snag a two-queen suite at Ogden’s recently renovated Comfort Suites. Room for six, free hot breakfast, and an indoor pool. Fall rates are low. Service level is high.