Family-Friendly Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park

Every year, more than three million visitors enter Rocky Mountain National Park, one of Colorado's most scenic mountain environments. Because many of them never leave the road, scenic view points or parking lots, and there is so much more to experience, here are a few family-friendly hikes to get your young hikers started.

Hiking together is a fabulous way to learn about nature, explore a new location, exercise, create lifelong memories and work up an appetite in Colorado' fresh air. Rocky Mountain National Park, located between the towns of Estes Park and Grand Lake, offers miles and miles of adventures. All you need to do is lace up a pair of comfortable hiking shoes and you're off.

Family-Friendly Hikes Lily Lake. Photo Courtesy Holly Collingwood

Lily Lake Loop: Great for Tots and Little Kids

The Lily Lake Loop is a family favorite because of its length and the easy parking access directly off Highway 7 south of Estes Park. The hike around the lake is 0.8 miles, so it is great for small children and even makes a nice stroll for a multi-generational event with the grandparent. The trail is smooth gravel, so it is stroller and wheelchair friendly.

This lake is sandwiched between Long's Peak, Twin Sisters and Lily Mountain, so there will be fabulous views any direction you look. You'll also see wildflowers, ducks, the occasional fisherman and ground squirrels. Log resting benches are scattered along the trail and make great snack stops or photographic opportunities. From the south side of the lake, be sure to look north towards Lily Mountain and you just might be able to spot rock climbers tackling difficult routes.

Ute Trail: Great for Ages 7+

The Ute Trail provides an opportunity to quickly hike above tree line into the alpine tundra environment and view Rocky Mountain National Park's finest mountain peaks without covering a lot of distance. The trail along Tombstone Ridge is approximately 4 miles roundtrip, but you can turn around early or go farther if you choose. It is rocky and the beginning is steep as you follow the Continental Divide, but once you are on top of the ridge the trail flattens out and the views are amazing.

On this hike you'll want to watch the weather closely, as it changes quickly above tree line. Tundra animals that you might spy along the way include pika, marmots and ptarmigan. The trailhead for the Ute Trail is located at Milner Pass/Ute Crossing which is about four miles west of the Alpine Visitors Center.

Gem Lake: Great for Tweens and Teens

The Gem Lake Trail is short and steep. Tweens and teens will enjoy the cardio challenge of the hike followed by the reward of the lake and its small beach to lounge on when they reach Gem Lake. Large rock outcroppings line both sides of the trail for a majority of its 3.5 mile roundtrip length and the views of the entire Estes Valley are mind blowing.

If you go with younger children, there is a rock 'boot' that marks the halfway point of the trail and makes a good turn-around destination. The trail for this hike begins at the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead on the north side of Estes Park.

Don't forget the water and snacks! Happy Trails!

*Featured Flickr photo courtesy sailn1

What family-friendly hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park would you recommend?
posted by
Holly Collingwood
Holly Collingwood is a freelance writer based in Fort Collins, Colo. She loves hiking, skiing, gardening, jelly beans and homemade guacamole. She grew up in Alaska, Montana and Oregon and was completely spoiled by their glorious mountains and wide skies. Find her on Twitter: @WriteColl
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