Colorado might be known for 14ers, via ferratas, and other burly mountain adventures. But the pickings for family-friendly hiking options are also far from slim. If you’re in the area with young children who love the outdoors, you better suit ‘em up for some seriously good hiking. The following options offer not just jaw-dropping scenery but crème de la crème trail features. You know: ice cold creeks, cascading waterfalls, labyrinthine red rock formations, the good stuff. Plus, none of the trails on this list are too long or strenuous for trekkers with short strides.
Village Walk Trail
Where: Morrison/Matthew Winters Park
Distance: 1 mile out and back
Where: Colorado Springs/Garden of the Gods
Distance: .8-mile loop
This loop is one of the most popular trails at Garden of the Gods—one of Colorado’s most famous and photographed destinations. The majority of trails here are wide and composed of even, hard-packed dirt. This trail, however, is not suitable for strollers, as it meanders through fragrant scrub and juniper before reaching a series of low steps that lead to the star spectacle: a pair of ancient red sandstone hoodoos that do indeed resemble Siamese twins. The hike is short and the payoff, oh-so sweet.
Where: Royal Gorge/Canyon City
Distance: 3.2 miles out and back
Beginning in Royal Gorge Park (no fee required to access trails), Canyon Rim is a spectacular way to get up close to the gorge. In fact, this trail, located next to a picnic and rest area about 3.5 miles up County Road 3A off of Highway 50, meanders along the top of the gorge itself—which means the trail is relatively flat in both directions and the views are near-constant. After the first half-mile wandering through scrub oak and small pines, you’re right on the rim of the canyon. Enjoy the views of the sheer walls and cliffs across the way and a couple viewpoints of the narrow line of the Arkansas River far below, but don’t get too close to the edge.
The Colorado Trail at Junction Creek
Distance: As long as you want
We are not suggesting that you and your little tykes tackle the entire, 486-mile-long Colorado Trail, which runs between Durango and Denver. But you can still experience some of it from the Junction Creek terminus, which is relatively flat and gentle for the first 2.5 miles, taking you to a bridge that marks an ideal turning back point. The trail meanders directly alongside the actual creek, which features shallow pools in the summer, perfect for splashing and cooling off. Another bonus in Durango is the opportunity to shop at one of the Centennial State’s top independent gear stores. Backcountry Experience is Osprey’s first Osprey Pro Shop, meaning that it supplies every model and color of every type of Osprey pack, from child carriers to kids’ packs to backpacks for all manner of outdoor adventures.
The Waterfall Trail
Distance: 2.5 miles out and back
Located on the grounds of YMCA of the Rockies Snow Mountain Ranch, which requires a $25 ($10 for kids over the age of 5) day pass and offers a wealth of family friendly activities, including a fantastic mini golf course and year-round tubing hill, the Waterfall Trail is far less crowded than most Colorado routes leading to cascading water. Beginning on a flat dirt path that winds through aspen groves and wildflowers, the trail eventually reaches a lushly forested oasis and ends at the waterfall. Depending on the time of year you go, the cascade folds over the rock cliff above either in gentle sheets (in late summer) or at a mighty roar (in early spring).
Five Senses Trail
Where: Beaver Creek Ski Resort
Distance: 1.2 miles out and back
Beginning next to Centennial Express Chairlift at the base of Beaver Creek Resort, this manicured, walking-only trail follows the water of Beaver Creek and is speckled with educational signs teaching interesting facts about local wildlife and lessons in environmental stewardship. The trail ends at Floods Fishing Ponds, teeming with real specimens of wildlife – fish, insects, birds and the occasional marmot peeping out of the nearby rocks.
Dream Lake Trail
Where: Rocky Mountain National Park
Distance: 2.2 miles out and back
Keeping kids entertained comes with the territory in Rocky Mountain National Park, where the prospect of seeing deer, elk, and even moose is high. This out-and-back trail climbs for just over 400 feet, passing by three lakes, beginning at Bear Lake Trailhead and reaching Nymph Lake, which is dotted with bright lily pads in the summer. You’ll turn back at the serene Dream Lake, which makes for a fantastic picnic or snack spot with Hallet Peak and Flattop Mountain framing the water from a distance. Keep in mind that this hike is located inside a national park, so access fees apply.
Wherever you go with the young’uns in Colorado, you’re bound to have a grand time. You’ll also hopefully instill in them a life-long love affair with the outdoors. And who knows? Maybe in a few years time, it’ll be 14ers and burly mountain adventures in your family’s future. Until then, be sure to gear up for the short haul with Osprey’s line of kids bags. Happy Trails.
Written by Shauna Farnell for Matcha in partnership with Osprey Packs.