Epic Colorado Family Vacations

Epic Colorado Family Vacations

What’s your family tourist destination this summer? Can I suggest several Colorado family vacations? I’m a little biased, but I really think Colorado is the perfect state for family vacations. If you’re a nature person or not, kids THRIVE when they’re outside and near a stream or in the mountains. Whether it’s hiking, fishing, kayaking, riding whitewater rapids, camping, or reading a book by the mountain lake, it’s an ideal spot for kids’ activities and empowerment.

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

Colorado family vacations pin

This summer we’re all about exploring and appreciating our own backyard. By that, I mean a good time to appreciate all the awesome travel destinations nearby our home in northern Colorado! We’ll be heading to Grand Lake for a few days, be doing some camping in various locations, getting the kids out to summer camp with their peers, and doing day trips to Denver. Of course, we have some more travel lined up, but that’s another post. We can’t wait!

Therefore, I thought it would be appropriate to start my list of EPIC Colorado family vacations close to home. My own hometown, in fact, Greeley, Colorado. If you haven’t, dive into my blog post linked below, and if you have, still read all about it. With an insider’s perspective, you’re sure to find something new and fun to explore!

Simply EPIC Colorado Family Vacations

 

Things to do in Breckenridge, Colorado with kids

Breckenridge snowboards with slope in background

Have you been to Breckenridge, Colorado? When you hear the name, what do you think? If you think skiing you’re right on. However, did you know Breckenridge is one of those amazing mountain towns with a TON of stuff to do for families in any season? I have to say I think summer’s my favorite season in Breckenridge. The old town’s fabulous, and did you know they hold an excellent summer music festival? If you are at all into concerts every night with beautiful mountain scenery, this is the place for you!

We were in Breckenridge, Colorado most recently in spring at the end of the ski season. There was still a good dose of spring snow on the ground, but we found a ton of fun family activities even without skiing. To learn more things to do in Breckenridge, Colorado with kids, see the blog post here.

 

What to do in Grand Lake, Colorado

Colorado family vacations, Grand Lake, Old Baldy

Grand Lake, Colorado is one of my favorite places on earth, and I’ve been to visit very nearly every summer since I was about six years old! There are many places I might tire of going that often, but not Grand Lake. For us as a family, it’s the perfect place to relax, be in nature, and enjoy the small mountain town and its residents. Kids can build castles on the beach, swim, fish, make s’mores, play on the playground, hike, marvel at the moose walking by the cabin, and just be a kid in the Rocky Mountains. As a mom, this is an incredibly relaxing trip because the kids are so easily occupied, and I can enjoy my morning coffee staring out over the lake with Mount Baldy (Mount Craig) looking down!

Learn more about Grand Lake, Colorado and read the blog post here!

 

Why we love Estes Park, Colorado

View of Estes Park, Colorado

Estes Park, Colorado is another amazing Colorado destination for families. I have SO many memories from my own childhood and now with my own kids in this popular town. If you want to shop, play miniature golf, head out to the local YMCA, and so much more all in a spectacular Rocky Mountain paradise, you need to head here.

We LOVE to get out and hike so click here to see the Best Estes Park hikes for kids.

Half the fun of travel is eating, right? Click here to learn more about Estes Park restaurants with character.

 

Secrets of Rocky Mountain National Park in winter

Hollowell Park in Rocky Mountain National Park is perfect for snowshoeing in winter. #familytravel #rockymountainnationalpark

If you love Estes Park, no doubt the family with also fall in love with Rocky Mountain National Park. You’ll find wildlife such as elk, coyotes, or bighorn sheep in any season, and it’s a great place to camp in one of the park campgrounds. We love it any time of year but especially in winter when the crowds are down slightly and you have time to explore.

Read all about what there is to do with kids in Rocky Mountain National Park in winter here.

 

Visit Mesa Verde National Park

1 Day Mesa Verde Map Itinerary, self-guided tour for families #mesaverde #familytravel

Our family absolutely loves to visit national parks and Mesa Verde is definitely one you don’t want to miss! Can you imagine, some of these cliff dwellings were built at the same time as some of the oldest European castles? What a super-rich history we have in Colorado and are lucky to learn about the Puebloan people.

Make a day or 5 of it, but definitely glance over this 1 Day Mesa Verde Map Itinerary to get all the best spots to stop as a family!

Planning a trip to New Mexico?

Check out the family-friendly, beautiful Ruidoso, New Mexico!

Ski Apache view, Ruidoso, New Mexico

Things to do in Denver, Colorado with kids

Downtown Aquarium, Denver, Colorado. #denver #denveraquarium

If you fly into Colorado or most of the time even drive, you’ll probably head through our beautiful capital, Denver, Colorado. Denver has SO many amazing things to do with kids like the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, the Children’s Museum of Denver, the Botanic Gardens, the Butterfly Pavilion, and more! We make day trips fairly often as a family and are so lucky to be nearby to take advantage of all the interactive educational opportunities for kids. Denver is always a great base for a Colorado vacation or a vacation itself.

If you’re heading to Denver check out my articles on:

The PERFECT Denver Zoo trip and

The AMAZING Denver Downtown Aquarium

 

Visit Santa’s Workshop

Santa's Workshop Colorado elves

Is Christmas the favorite holiday at your house? Well, you will want to make the day trip from Colorado Springs to North Pole, Colorado. Santa’s Workshop is a theme park set in the mountains where it’s always Christmastime and full of fun! Don’t expect a modern day Disney World or Six Flags, this is a place built in the 60’s, and it truly feels like a nostalgic step back in time. Be a kid again. There are SO many rides for the young and old; it’s a great day out.

Click here to see more and get my tips for visiting Santa’s Workshop

 

Family camping tips and free printable packing checklist

Campsite sunrise view, feature

Near all of these scenic family travel destinations, there are opportunities for camping. If you have an RV or love tent camping, you’ll find the perfect spot. So pull out those sleeping bags and hiking gear and let’s get ready for summer!

Sign up for the Explorer Momma newsletter and get the free printable camp packing checklist as a bonus! Check out my family camping tips and free printable packing checklist here

 

What to do as a family in Greeley, Colorado

Centennial Village, Greeley, Colorado

Recently, I was given the opportunity to collaborate with a fellow blogger and guest post on her website A Book Lover’s Adventures. Do you know what I was asked to do? Write a blog post for tourists from an insider’s view of my own hometown. How many of you think about your hometown as a travel destination? To be honest, I certainly hadn’t much. I LOVE my hometown and am proud of it, but it’s always been Denver or the nearby Rocky Mountains that seem to be the more natural tourist draw. If you have the chance to come through I know you’ll love it too.

Click over to A Book Lover’s Adventures to read all about Greeley, Colorado and other hometown tourists!

 

Are you convinced? Go Colorado family vacations

I hope you plan several perfect Colorado family vacations or camping trips! The sun will lift your mood, the mountains will call, the trees will rustle, and if you’re like me, you’ll be in your happy place. I think it’s so important to teach kids to appreciate nature and take care of it for the future. Also, they will love, or at least appreciate, the joys of an active outdoor lifestyle and have the chance to embrace it for themselves.

Now, I have to admit I haven’t covered nearly enough of the state and need to remedy that. Where else are your favorite Colorado family travel destinations?

 

Tell me in the comments, where shall we adventure next?

Things To Do In Breckenridge, Colorado With Kids

Things To Do In Breckenridge, Colorado With Kids

Are you planning a mountain vacation? Do you need things to do in Breckenridge, Colorado with kids? There’s always skiing, but what else is there to do in winter or even summer? We’ve got you covered! Recently we had the opportunity to visit Breckenridge for a long weekend and had a blast with the kids.

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This past weekend we got a deal on a hotel and decided it would be a fun weekend to explore Breckenridge but not make it a ski weekend. We wanted to relax, hang out as a family, and have fun! There are not a lot of places in the world with a better view than Breckenridge so my arm doesn’t need a lot of twisting to head on up there.

As a kid, I remember heading up to Breckenridge usually in the summer. My favorite thing to do was to ride the alpine slide, or sleds on rails, down the ski slopes. Most of the ski areas around have one as a part of their summer activities to draw in tourists.

Another thing I’ve always loved about the town is that there’s ALWAYS some festival or event going on. The Breckenridge Music Festival is fabulous if you are at all interested in orchestral music. One year, I think I was a freshman in high school, I attended a weeklong music camp and focused on flute and piano all day. Every evening of the camp we attended the nightly music festival performance, and I was in heaven.

Things to do in Breckenridge, CO with kids

8 things to do in Breckenridge, Colorado with kids

This last time we were in Breckenridge, it was the end of the ski season. Still a good snow, but at the very end before it starts to turn to mud. Since we weren’t determined to ski the whole time we were able to find quite a few great activities to do as a family. If you head up I hope you try some of these things to do in Breckenridge, Colorado too!

1. Breckenridge Gondola

First of all, the Gondola. The Gondola is a great thing to do with kids once or more a day because hey, it’s FREE!! During the ski season, it runs from 9 am to 6 pm seven days a week. You can ride from the base parking all the way up with stops at Shock Hill, Peak 7, and Peak 8. It’s great even if you’re not skiing to go up to the top to eat, explore and see the views, check out the new hotels, or to take it up to go snowshoeing.

Eight people can fit in the enclosed gondola cars, and I found everyone in our cars always eager to encourage each other and share their experience so far in town. A lot of the people we ran into were escaping offices in Denver for the weekend and just could not quit smiling they were so happy to be up in the mountains. The Breckenridge Gondola is one of many awesome things to do in Breckenridge, Colorado with kids.

Breckenridge gondola winter view

2. High Line Railroad Park and Playground

189 Boreas Pass Road, Breckenridge

Do you have a Thomas the Tank Engine obsessed child in your household? While my son is not quite so into it as he once was, this High Line Railroad Park was a HUGE hit. On display, just outside in the park, you’ll find Engine No. 9, one of the few remaining narrow gauge engines that once braved the precarious mountain passes. Think Skarloey and Peter Sam. As a bonus, it’s even fitted with a huge snowplow just like Thomas is always grumbling about. If that means nothing to you just move on, but it’s a fun tie-in for young kids! 😉

Breckenridge narrow gauge steam engine

You’ll also find a caboose and various other cars and memorabilia around. It’s so much fun to see the engine detail up close and to try to figure out how it all works. We actually easily explored the area with snow on the ground, and it was a much-needed play time for my kids. The playground next to the trains was a lot of fun, a good way to get in some more exercise and laughter.

3. Stephen C. West Ice Arena

If your kids want to try out some ice skating, head over to the Steven C. West Ice Arena. It’s right next to the High Line Railroad Park and has a ton of fun options for everyone. They’re open seven days a week, but I would call (970-547-9974) or check the website beforehand to verify the daily schedule. However, there are choice activities for the entire family. Join the free skate indoors or outdoors. Maybe you’re into figure skating or want to try your hand at curling! They have something for you!

Ice arena & railroad park, Breckenridge

Love Colorado mountain towns?

Read all about the perfect family-friendly mountain getaway in Grand Lake, Colorado!

Grand Lake, Colorado best of 2017

4. Carter Park Sled Hill

300 S. High Street, Breckenridge

Are you still looking for things to do in Breckenridge, Colorado with kids? I hope so because this is a good one! We got an insider tip from a woman working at our hotel about this great sledding hill just over at Carter Park. We brought a sled with us, but the hotel also had stacks of them you could borrow while you were there.

Things to do in Breckenridge, Colorado sledding

Many locals use this hill for a fun afternoon of sledding. However, on the day we went out there, the sledding hill had only two other families out there with us. I was shocked because it was one of the busiest, craziest days of the ski season, and the ski slopes were more than a little packed.

Plan to get your exercise because yes, you have to walk back up the hill. It didn’t seem to bother the kids too much, and in fact, they wanted to stay on there into the evening! Unfortunately, my husband wore out pulling the child up the hill in one of the sleds, but while they did that I got to admire the magnificent view. This is a place to see. Have fun!

5. Ready Paint Fire

Okay, switching gears here. Do you like to paint? Make pottery? Fire things in kilns? Well then! Take a rest from all the outdoor activities and check out Ready Paint Fire. Have you always wanted to make a mosaic or fuse glass together as abstract art?

This place is awesome! Truly, it’s a place to be enjoyed by the entire family ages 3-80. Plan to spend a couple of hours and make a piece of art and share fun and laughter with the family. It’s a very different activity and one the kids can really get into.

Tip: Check the local guidebooks found at most hotels for coupons because there is a studio fee along with different costs depending on what you want to do!

Breckenridge Rail Road Park view

6. Breckenridge Recreation Center

If the kids get sick of the hotel pool or yours doesn’t have one, you need to visit the Breckenridge Recreation Center. After all the fun in the snow switch to warm and water! What kid (or dad) doesn’t like an excellent water slide? It’s obviously perfect in summer too.

If swimming’s not your thing, they also have an indoor rock-climbing wall, gymnasium, racquetball court, indoor track, and aerobic/dance studios. I even heard mention of fencing classes. Check out their website for complete information here. Tempting!

7. Hiking, snowshoeing, and bike trails

Breckenridge is well-known for being great for bike-riding. There are paved trails through town and well-maintained trails all around the area. My family loves to snowshoe, and so in winter, many of the bike trails double as awesome snowshoe hikes. It depends on the age of your kids, but even a short walk or hike can be memorable for them up in the beauty of the mountains. My son tends to remember it for making him TIRED, but you know, it’s good for them! Am I right?!

Breckenridge bicycle path with snow

Just next to the gondola you’ll find one of the paved bike trails, and you can easily get a map of those online, from a local store, or your hotel. For some snowshoe trail options, click here. I remember when I was younger and came up with a good friend of mine, we brought our bikes. Her dad loaded all the bikes and drove us to the top of one of the slopes, and we got to ride our bikes downhill all the way back to town. I thought it was such a good idea, thus avoiding the difficult uphill climb!

8. Dog Sledding or Snowmobiling

When you were young did you read Jack London and imagine you were going to be in that great sled dog race the Iditarod? Scott O’Dell, Jack London, and several other authors I read gave great accounts of the preparation and entire Iditarod experience, and at about age 10 I was determined to participate.


While unfortunately, that dream didn’t come true, did you know there are places where you can at least go dog sledding? Oh, yes, my friend. You too can mush the dogs and pose for an action photo of you seriously fighting the cold and bonding with your trusted sled dogs.

At Good Times Adventures you can take the whole family dog sledding or snowmobiling. This is one of my favorite things to do in Breckenridge, Colorado. For more information see here!

BONUS!

2 Below Zero

I know I said 8, but here’s another possible awesome thing to do in Breckenridge, Colorado with kids! If you head on over to 2 Below Zero you will have an amazing sleigh ride or chuckwagon ride (depends on the season) with a chuckwagon dinner, musical and/or comedy entertainment and fun! The winter sleigh ride is about 2 hours and 15 minutes or so and includes a sleigh ride, dinner, and musical entertainment. My family LOVES these kinds of places, and it’s so awesome to make an event out of your location, its cultural history, and FOOD! 

Breckenridge sunny day, snowy mountain

What other things to do in Breckenridge, Colorado will you try out?

I absolutely LOVE being in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Moreover, the more you get kids out in nature the better I tend to think. Teach them an appreciation of nature, a love of exercise and the outdoors, and they have an outlet for life. So many problems can be solved with a good hike and time to think.

Where are your favorite family vacation destinations to get the family outside and moving?

Things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado

Things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado

Are you ready to start planning the perfect summer family vacations and adventures? A lot of times I start planning much earlier in the year, but when spring hits I allow myself to really dig into the details and begin to daydream about summer days on the lake. We love to find new things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado, our absolute favorite lake retreat!

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Did you know Grand Lake is the largest natural lake (meaning not man-made) in Colorado? Also, it’s on the western side of Rocky Mountain National Park so can be a great base to avoid the crowds of Estes Park and explore not only the Grand Lake area but the Park as well. There are just so many things to love about Grand Lake, from the historic boardwalk to the burger and ice cream shop on the beach, to the spectacular hikes nearby.

So let’s dig in. What are some of the best things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado as a family?

Things to do in Grand Lake Colorado for the perfect family vacation. Near Rocky Mountain National Park and perfect for hiking, fishing, kayaking, and playing! #coloradotravel #familytravel

Where to stay: Grand Lake Cabins

To start off, where should you stay in Grand Lake? There’s Grand Lake Lodge and smaller hotels around. However, we always prefer to stay in a cabin, if possible right on the lake. There are many ways to find a cabin in Grand Lake. Here are our preferences.

1. Lemmon Lodge

Lemmon Lodge, Grand Lake, CO #grandlakeco #lemmonlodge

Lemmon Lodge is by far our favorite place to rent a cabin each year. To be honest, I’ve stayed in one of their cabins almost every summer since I was eight years old. It’s the perfect family location, a group of cabins right on a private beach. Also, it has a fabulous fishing spot where the river enters the lake and a kids’ play structure. There’s even a fire pit where you can make s’mores! 

2. Airbnb

We’ve had good experiences with Airbnb in the past and you can find some good cabins. My advice is to make sure you look for places with plenty of good reviews and use your best judgment. If you are new to Airbnb you can use my link here to sign up and get $40 off your first booking. Click here for the link to sign up.

3. VRBO

Click here for their website. I’ve noticed that many Grand Lake cabins are now also listed on VRBO so it’s another good option.

Why do I love Grand Lake so much? For me, it’s the perfect little mountain town on the lake with charm and old-time character. It’s not pretentious, and nearly everyone’s friendly and ready to enjoy themselves on the lake. In addition, it’s super kid-friendly. Did I mention it’s also the most beautiful idyllic spot? So, if you get tired of reading a book in your beach chair by the lake or your kids drag you away, here are some fun and entertaining things to do. Grand Lake for kids and families.

Awesome things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado

1. Trail Ridge Road

To get to Grand Lake, we like to head west from Estes Park, through Rocky Mountain National Park. A highway to the sky, Trail Ridge Road is the 48-mile portion of U.S. 34 between Estes Park and Grand Lake, Colorado. To me, this is one of the most beautiful stretches of road and mountains you will ever see. 

Not only are there views of majestic mountains, valleys, and snakelike rivers, but also a variety of wildlife and plants. You will see the pine trees, the flowers, and grass of the tundra, and so much more I can’t begin to identify. Personally, when traveling the road I’ve seen moose, elk, deer, coyotes, bighorn sheep, marmots, chipmunks, and all sorts of birds.

Trail Ridge Road, Things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado

In just a few minutes you travel up from Estes Park and drop 20-30 degrees. The awesome mountain tree-covered landscape changes to tundra as you go higher and higher. At the top point, 12,183 feet in elevation, the wind whips and even in summer cars drive by walls of snow.

If you’re anywhere nearby plan a day of it. Take your time and get out of the car to enjoy the scenic views or take one of the short hikes. The Alpine Visitors Center is almost at the top on the Grand Lake side and worth a stop if nothing else but for the photo op. Stop to take pictures, explore the visitor’s center, or take the Alpine Ridge trail hike at the top. It’s not a long hike, only .6 miles roundtrip; however, you gain 200 feet so can be a bit of a climb. Slow down and breathe in the views. 

One of my favorite places on earth, don’t miss Trail Ridge Road.

2. Play on the beach

Shoveling sand in Grand Lake

Here’s a great way to stay relax and enjoy the view as you read a book and drink your coffee next to the lake. There are a couple of sand beach locations, one in town and open to the public between Grand Lake Marina and Headwaters Marina. We like to stay in one of the cabins in Lemmon Lodge with its own beach and kids’ play structure. Grab a floaty and some sand castle supplies, and the kids are set for the afternoon!

My morning coffee spot Grand Lake, Colorado

3. Hike in and around Rocky Mountain National Park

There are some awesome hikes around Grand Lake, at many different levels depending on who in the family is going. I can’t think of many better things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado than some good hikes. Here are some suggestions to try with your family.

A. Adam’s Falls – easy

Adam's Falls, Things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado

From the East Inlet Trailhead, Adam’s Falls is a great short hike with an impressive reward at the end. I like this hike because it’s accessible to nearly everyone, and kids feel a good sense of accomplishment when they reach the falls. When I was little I remember my father hanging off the side taking pictures, and I was scared to death he was going to fall in. I think he enjoyed that. However! Since then they’ve added more stone walls to block off dangerous areas and make it more kid and family friendly. Also, it doesn’t take very long if you need an activity because it’s only .9 miles roundtrip.

B. Cascade Falls – medium

Grand Lake wildflowers

If you start at the North Inlet Trailhead, Cascade Falls is a good 6.8-mile roundtrip hike with amazing views and falls. I like it because there’s only a 430-foot elevation gain and doable with older kids. In this area, we’ve seen moose and deer and other wildlife so be on the lookout! It’s also a good trail to spot wildflowers along the trail.

C. Shadow Mountain Lookout – hard

Shadow Mountain Fire Lookout

I’m classifying this hike as hard because it’s difficult for me, and at the ages of 5 and 9 my kids would not get very far. However, it’s a beautiful hike with far-reaching views from the lookout point at the top, and I do recommend it for adults or older, experienced kids. The hike begins at the East Shore Trailhead and is about 9.6 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 1,635 feet. Good luck!

View from Shadow Mountain

There are many more hikes around, and it’s always good to ask in one of the local hiking shops which hike is good at the moment. For people who are on them all the time, they can generally tell you which ones are in good shape or difficult to navigate because of snow or mud. I also like to hear which area is their current favorite. You can get some good recommendations!

Hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park #grandlakecolorado #rmnp

Are you also headed to Estes Park, Colorado?

Estes Park hikes for kids, mountain with golden aspens

4. Fish with the kids on Grand Lake and Shadow Mountain

Fishing is my husband’s favorite activity when we get to Grand Lake. There are great opportunities to catch trout, especially rainbow, brown, and lake trout. I’ve been advised the best time is early morning and the best spot where the river runs into the lake. Of course, there are many great fishing spots from land or even from a boat on the lake. If you forget to purchase a Colorado fishing license, most marinas, fishing tackle shops, and even some gas stations sell them. Currently, kids and seniors fish for free, although seniors must still obtain a license. When you get your license, be sure to also grab the year’s Colorado Fishing Brochure containing regulations and information on the area.

Fishing things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado

My son told me recently he’s planning to catch a lot of seaweed and sticks because he doesn’t want to put a hook in the fish. A kind soul.

5. Water activities on Grand Lake

There are many options to get you and your family out floating on Grand Lake. Truly, there are so many things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado. As a family, we like to sometimes take the tour boat from the Headwater’s Marina next to the public beach. We like to take it around the lake because the drivers give you the history of the area, lake facts like depths and fishing, and they also point out all the cabins and the famous people who’ve lived there. You’ll also get random facts about which ones are accessible by road or only by boat or snowmobile.

Swimming in Grand Lake Colorado

At several of the marinas, you can rent a canoe, paddleboat, motorboat, pontoon boat, kayak or the newest fad – a stand-up paddleboard (SUP). Have you tried out a stand-up paddleboard? They’re those things that look like big surfboards you stand on with a paddle. I’ve even seen people doing yoga on them, but so far I’ve been a chicken to try one. Therefore, this summer’s the time! I will get out on an SUP, and it’s really not the end of the world if you fall in, right? 😉

Kayaking on Grand Lake, Colorado #grandlake #coloradotravel

6. Go on a nature and wildlife hunt

Momma and baby moose, things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado

My kids always love to go out on what we call a “nature hunt”. This is one of their favorite things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado. You can do this on a hike, around town, or just as you wander around your cabin. Be on the lookout for animals such as hummingbirds, deer, elk, moose, coyotes. We try to take pictures when we can, and my daughter likes to draw a picture of each animal spotted in your journal. There are also some beautiful wildflowers and plants to see around, and we always love seeing the Colorado state flower, the Rocky Mountain Columbine.

7. Kauffman House Museum

I’m a complete history geek and love to check out local museums when we travel. The Kauffman House Museum is conveniently located near the lake just up from the public beach. It was built in 1892 and run as a hotel by the Kauffman family until 1946. Now it’s run by the Grand Lake Area Historical Society as a museum and open most days from 11 am to 5 pm. Check their website here for more information and hours.

Kauffman House Museum, Grand Lake Colorado #historiccolorado #grandlakecolorado

The museum is a fun activity for history buffs like myself and for older kids interested in how people lived in the area over 100 years ago.

8. Visit the Holzwarth Historic Site

Another interesting hike and interactive historic site for the family to visit is the Holzwarth Historic Site, also sometimes called Never Summer Ranch. The trailhead and parking area to visit the ranch is located a little over 7 miles north of the Grand Lake Entrance on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s about 1.3 miles roundtrip from the parking lot to visit the site and historic structures.

Holzwarth Historic Site

During the summer, volunteers help visitors connect to the Holzwarth’s story, the German family who immigrated to Colorado and settle the original homestead and began the ranch. They also teach the homestead way of life and what early dude ranches were like on the border of Rocky Mountain National Park. You might even get to have your picture taken in a period giant bearskin coat!

9. Grand Lake boardwalk and shopping

Still wondering what to do in Grand Lake? Another fun activity is to wander up and down visiting the shops along the historic Grand Lake boardwalk. You may be on a mission to find your perfect cabin style souvenir or just window shop, but it’s a must-do activity for our family. There’s also a conveniently located park and play area for kids about midway down the boardwalk, so a good resting place.

There are so many other things you can find to do if you want such as putt-putt golf, bowling, making s’mores, card games, and fun restaurants to try.

Snack bar on the beach, Grand Lake, CO #grandlake #coloradotourism

10. Our favorite restaurant – The Fat Cat Cafe

I’ll do another post later on restaurants and food in Grand Lake, but I have to point out the Fat Cat Cafe here too. Of all the wonderful things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado, of course, you have to eat. Do NOT miss the Fat Cat! We absolutely love the food and the people who run this place. Truly, I don’t know how she does it, but the sausage, yes I said breakfast sausage, is to die for. I love pretty much any of the food, but I’d also recommend especially any of the homemade pies. Like the banana cream. The last time I was there I bought a whole one on our way out of town to take home with me it was so good.

Does spring make you want to travel?

Yesterday I walked around my backyard with my son, just sort of to survey the yard work we need to get done. I was also trying to get him to burn some energy because he’d been going crazy being inside so much lately. Did you know that children actually grow faster in spring than other times of the year? So says the book Spring: A Spiritual Biography of the Season by Schmidt and Felch, and I really believe it to be so. Kids have been cooped up more all winter and are ready to run and grow!

Back to our explorations, we discovered some tulip and crocus leaves starting to peak out through the old leftover fall leaves we planned to clean out. I LOVE spring flowers, lilac bushes starting to bloom, and the sun warming off the chill in the air. It’s spring, and do you know what that means? Yes, indeed, it’s time to plan a trip to Grand Lake, Colorado!

At least, that’s what it means to me. Flowers coming up through the snow are the clear signal I’m allowed to begin dreaming of our June trip to Grand Lake. It’s truly one of my favorite spots on this earth, and I hope you get to visit one day. Try out any or all of these activities, and if you discover something else awesome I’ve left out please give a shout-out in the comments below!

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Awesome things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado. Perfect family vacation destination with fishing, kayaking, hiking, and more! #grandlakecolorado #ilovecolorado

Things to do in Grand Lake Colorado, Mount Baldy

Things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado.

 

Best Estes Park Hikes For Kids

Best Estes Park Hikes For Kids

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I was such a lucky kid to have many memories hiking around Rocky Mountain National Park and other areas near Estes Park, Colorado. Quite often I think about how fortunate I was to grow up near to such a beautiful place. Naturally, I want my kids to love it as much as I do, and so it’s necessary we explore as often as possible. Of course, we don’t get up there nearly as much as I’d like!

Estes Park hikes for kids elk pin

Flashback!

I close my eyes and flashback to my childhood. My parents and I drive up to Estes Park and eat lunch at a local restaurant. Then, we head into Rocky Mountain National Park to drive around and look at the leaves or the elk, and stop at a hiking trail to explore. My father bends down with his black Canon camera to take close-up pictures of leaves and rocks along the trail. Squeal! I see a chipmunk, and my day is made.

What’s in it for you?

Together, my kids and I adventure out to explore the same trails and others in the Rocky Mountains. For you, we’ve put together a collection of our favorite Estes Park hikes for kids. Why? Because I want you and your family to have a fabulous Rocky Mountain experience. If you’re nearby or plan to vacation next summer and come in from across the country these are must-see beginner hikes. I hope you will love and protect these areas too.

How could you not love it?! Really.

The hikes we’ve listed are an easy introduction to hiking and meant for families to do together. Consequently, they are each no more than a mile or so in distance and fairly level. They were selected intentionally so a 4-year-old can walk them with Mom and Dad, and Grandma can join in if she wants. Try any or all of these Estes Park hikes for kids your whole family will love!

Our 8 favorite Estes Park hikes for kids

1. Lily Lake

Estes Park hikes for kids, Lily Lake

Lily Lake is an absolutely magical place in the Fall. I highly recommend going there anytime, but if you are in the area in late September this is a must-see. There are yellow and orange aspens all about the lake and a nice flat walking area all the way around (about 3/4 of a mile). This is a handicap accessible trail, and you are in for some great photo ops!

Lily Lake is located about 6 miles south of Estes Park on Colorado Highway 7. There’s a convenient parking area very near the entrance to the trail. Everyone in the family will enjoy this one.

Hiking at Lily Lake

Bonus! The historic Bald Pate Inn is just nearly across the street and makes some of the most awesome pie I’ve ever eaten. Read about the Baldpate Inn here.

2. The Knoll

This is a good hike if you’re actually staying in Estes Park or spending a lot of time in town. Maybe you check out the historic Stanley Hotel, go on the ghost tour, and then the kids are ready to run. Park your car in the small parking lot or on Wonderview Avenue, just across from the Stanley Hotel. You will be able to access the trail from the parking lot. FYI – Dogs are not allowed on this trail.

Estes Park hikes for kids, Stanley Hotel

First, start off going south on the trail to the Knoll. Don’t you just like that name? “The Knoll…” What it is really is a view of downtown Estes Park and what’s left of an old stone cabin. For those of you who like histories, I was told it was originally built in 1907 by a former editor of the Denver Post. The elaborate cabin had a huge porch and fireplace, maybe too big, since it burnt down at the end of that year.

Next, go back north on the path until you see a downhill trail to the west. Follow it until you find the cabin built by the editor, Mr. Birch, to replace the one burnt in the fire. This one was built in 1908 and used by the Birch family into the 1980s. It’s is a fun path to scout out and to see some great views of the Stanley Hotel and downtown Estes Park.

3. Lake Estes Trail

Did you bring dogs with you on vacation or your bikes? You can walk with your furry friends around Lake Estes or have a fun family bike ride. When the fog and mists are down you almost imagine yourself in the Scottish Highlands (especially if the Scottish Festival is going on in mid-September, and you can hear the bagpipes over the lake!).

Estes Park hikes for kids, elk #estesparkcolorado #kidshike

4. The Downtown River Walk

The Estes Park Downtown River Walk is a fun “hike” with the kids along the river. There are cafés and restaurants with tables set up should you need refreshment. Also, parents can peruse the gift shops as you walk, and kids can explore with another adult or take a rest at one of the many wooden benches with a fabulous view and sounds of the river running by.

5. Moraine Park Discovery Center Nature Trail

As you enter Rocky Mountain National Park, hold onto that map and newspaper the ranger hands you after you pay your fee to get in. The newspaper lists a ton of hikes and activities you can participate in during your visit. Certainly, take a look at your map if you need to, and head on over to the Moraine Park Discover Center.

Rocky Mountain National Park Visitor's Shuttle, Estes Park Hikes for kids #estespark #colorado

After you park, you’ll find an easy half-mile trail the kids will enjoy just behind the Discovery Center. Before you begin, be sure to find a ranger in the center and get the activity booklet for kids to complete as they explore. You can get other great ideas from the rangers here for things to do with kids, and in the summer there are activities like Discover Days and Discover Hikes led by the rangers.

Another awesome program is the Junior Ranger Program where kids can complete a booklet, speak with a ranger, and earn a Junior Ranger badge. Lots of fun! For more information on the Junior Ranger program click here.

6. Sprague Lake

Sprague Lake trail

Sprague Lake, oh how I love you! Sprague Lake is located in Rocky Mountain National Park up Bear Lake Road. This is a fabulous place to go for a leisurely picnic by a stream. We like to go to Sprague Lake in the fall, generally mid-week when it’s less busy. Although, as long as you can find a parking spot there are many picnic tables and a nice path around the lake. We always have a good time whether it’s busy or not.

Estes Park hikes for kids, Sprague

First of all, you can enjoy your picnic, and then put your lunch stuff in the car. There’s even a well-kept bathroom with regular toilets during the summer, which is always important with kids! From there, head over to the path around the lake. It’s about 3/4 of a mile all the way around, and my kids love it! You’ll find log benches placed every 50 feet or so to sit and take in the magnificent views. Not only that, but it’s wheel-chair accessible, stroller friendly, and ready for the perfect photo op! A couple of weeks ago when we visited, my son stopped at every bench, rock, sign, flower, whatever, then plastered a smile on his face and yelled, “Picture!”

Sprague Lake view and tree

Therefore, take your camera or phone. You’ll get some great shots.

7. Bear Lake

After you finish at Sprague Lake if everyone’s still full of energy head up Bear Lake Road until you get to the Bear Lake Trailhead. The loop trail around Bear Lake is not to be missed, and even though it’s only about .6 miles, it’s a bit more challenging than Sprague Lake and others. I don’t mean it’s incredibly difficult, but it’s not completely level and may be harder for younger kids.

Bear Lake, summer Estes Park hikes for kids

Word of warning. Bear Lake is INCREDIBLY popular all times of the year so I would suggest going early, or late in the day, mid-week. There are a lot of other fun more lengthy trails that start out here, but they’re more advanced. For example, Nymph Lake is only .5 miles away, but it has an elevation gain of 225 feet. You can look at RMNP’s list of trails here.

 

8. Copeland Falls

If you’re heading out of Estes Park to Meeker or Allenspark south on Colorado Highway 7, you’ll want to pay a visit to the Wild Basin Trailhead. It’s about 12 miles south of Estes Park, then turn right off of Colorado Highway 7 onto Wild Basin Road. From there, drive about half a mile more and take another right into Rocky Mountain National Park. Keep going to the Wild Basin Trailhead just a couple more miles from the park turn-off.

In our experience, this trail is not nearly as busy as some of the others. Moreover, it’s conveniently located near Allenspark and one of my absolute favorite restaurants, the Meadow Mountain Cafe, a rather fabulous gem you should definitely check out (read about it here in Estes Park Restaurants With Character). But enough tangent there, back to the hike!

So you’ve made it to the Wild Basin Trailhead. The trail will eventually take you all the way up 2565 feet and seven miles to Lion Lake. However, with the kids we like to hike to the Lower, then the Upper Copeland Falls, only about .3 to .4 miles up the trail. There’s an elevation gain of 15 feet so pretty manageable! From the main trail, you will want to branch off to the side trail to take you right by both parts of the falls. After you pass by the Upper Falls it will reconnect back to the main trail without having to backtrack down by the falls on the same path. There are more lakes, cascades, and falls the farther up you go, but it’s also a lot steeper so I’d wait until the kids are quite a bit older to tackle those.

Sprague Lake purple flowers

Now go hike!

There you have it! Those are 8 of our favorite hikes in and around Estes Park, Colorado. Give them a try and let us know what you think. OR if you have another kid-friendly hike suggestion in the area PLEASE let me know because we’d love to try them out!

Estes Park hikes for kids pin-

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