Ask Me: Where Should We Take a Family Hiking Trip in Early Spring?

Hi Michael,

Just wondering if you had any ideas for where we might take a family hiking trip for spring break in mid-March. Last year we did Joshua Tree, Death Valley and Yosemite. We lucked out with the weather at Yosemite. But weather in most places is very unpredictable at this time of year. Any suggestions?

Mounds View, MN


My son, Nate, underneath Double Arch in the Windows Section of Arches National Park.
My son, Nate, underneath Double Arch in the Windows Section of Arches National Park.

Hi Rod,

Our kids have spring break in March, and for the past few years we’ve gone to southern Utah and always had a great time. Weather can be iffy, but mostly it has been sunny with temps 50s to 70s, though we’ve camped a few sub-freezing nights.

Some ideas for you:

Arches National Park has really fun, short to medium-length dayhikes, and Canyonlands National Park has a range of excellent dayhikes and short backpacking trips. See my story about our family trip to Arches and The Needles District of Canyonlands.


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Capitol Reef (see lead photo at top of story), one of the most under-appreciated and uncrowded national parks, has gorgeous dayhiking and one of the easiest (there’s water available) three-day backpacking trips in canyon country. See my stories about a couple of family trips, this story about a week we spent entirely in Capitol Reef, and this story about spending a week in that park, Escalante—including backpacking Coyote Gulch, another beautiful, three-day hike with water much of the way—and Bryce Canyon National Park, which is worth a day or two.


My daughter, Alex, hiking the Navajo-Queens Garden Loop, Bryce Canyon National Park.
My daughter, Alex, hiking the Navajo-Queens Garden Loop, Bryce Canyon National Park.

Also in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, dayhike a very cool pair of slot canyons, Peek-a-Boo Gulch and Spooky Gulch (watch this video). They’re not technical (no special gear needed), usually dry, and you can hike them in three hours. The start looks scary but was a breeze for our kids and another family.

Have you been to Zion National Park? It’s really unbelievable and the hiking is very accessible, plus it’s lower and warmer than the other Utah parks. Check out this photo from Angels Landing and this Ask Me post where I offer advice on my favorite dayhikes in the Southwest, including Zion.

Also, go to my All Trips By State page and scroll down to Utah.

Going all the way from Moab-Arches-Canyonlands to Zion in a week means a lot of driving time. Assume you’ll go back to southern Utah again another year. Do either Arches and Canyonlands, or Capitol Reef to Escalante and Bryce, or Escalante-Bryce-Zion to maximize fun and minimize driving.

The Grand Canyon’s South Rim is open, but it’s at 7,000 feet and will be cold in mid-March. You’d probably run into snow and ice at the rim and need microspikes to hike trails there.

Thanks for writing and have a great trip.


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2 thoughts on “Ask Me: Where Should We Take a Family Hiking Trip in Early Spring?”

  1. Secret must be out on Capitol Reef now. I was there over Spring Break last year and the popular trails were extra popular. Parking lots for both ends of Grand Wash (and Cassidy Arch), Capitol Gorge, Hickman Bridge & Navajo Knobs, Chimney Rock, and so on were all beyond their capacity and the trails were parade routes reminiscent of other popular trails elsewhere such as Delicate Arch. Fruita was also loaded with people, of course. Campground was full and they had to open the little pasture across the barn up to use as overflow parking for all the visitors wanting to picnic, hike up into Cohab, hike the Fremont River trails, visit the homestead shop, etc.

    With my wife being a descendant of the father of Capitol Reef, and my in-laws living in Torrey, I visit Capitol Reef quite often and I’ve never seen it so busy and so full in all the areas accessible by car as I had during last year’s Spring Break. So, I don’t think its safe to refer to it as “one of the most under-appreciated and uncrowded national parks” anymore. At least not in the context of where to go for Spring Break. It’s not uncommon now to be in a place and overhear talk of every single campground and hotel in all of Wayne County being all booked up.

    • Hi Wasatch Will, thanks for that news. I think Capitol Reef has been seeing a steady growth in visitors in recent years, especially, of course, at accessible trails and public areas during prime seasons. It may reflect an overall leap in public interest in visiting national parks, many of which saw record visitation last year. Visitation at Capitol Reef, I believe, still doesn’t approach that of the other parks in Utah, like Zion. My experience for many years has consistently been that I see many fewer people the farther I get into the backcountry and outside of prime seasons and weekends.