Hiking With Kids In Colorado

Tips for hiking with kids in Colorado

This originally came from a great blog post on Mile High Mamas by guest blogger, hiker and author, Maureen Keilty. Here is a portion of the content of that post. For the full post go here

After more than two decades of hiking with her own son and his friends and writing several guidebooks on hiking with kids in two states, Maureen Keilty has become a bit of an expert on the subject. Here are her suggestions for making the experience the best possible. For more, check out her guide, “Best Hikes with Kids Colorado” (The Mountaineers Books).

Be safe and pack smart. Start early, know what to do in a lightning storm and carry sunscreen. Bring the “10 essentials” — a list of which can be found in the guide as well as at the Colorado Mountain Club’s website at cmc.org — along with snacks, toilet paper and a plastic bag, a whistle for kids to carry in case they get separated and rain gear.

Bring a buddy. “Kids are naturally competitive, and you can use this to your advantage,” Keilty says. “They will try to outdo each other in terms of not getting tired or staying on the trail.” They also will keep each other motivated and interested in their surroundings.

Set small, easily obtainable goals. Things as simple as a reward for getting to the next switchback or going for 10 minutes before lunch. “Games such as, ‘Does anybody see anything pink that matches my shirt,’ things like that,” Keilty says. “It keeps them away from, ‘I’m getting tired, I hate this.’ The key is to keep them from starting to say that in the first place.”

Discourage sitting. “Once they start, it’s hard to get them back up again,” she says. “It’s energy-draining, and the more they’re going to start feeling lazy and think, ‘OK, I can just keep sitting here.” Motivate movement with games and rewards for meeting goals, and stand at rest stops and water breaks.

Stay enthusiastic. If you aren’t excited, they won’t be either. When your kid finds something they are interested in, respond in kind. “I was up on a trail recently and a little girl had found a banana slug,” Keilty said. “I think they’re really gross, but I was like, wow, look at that, can you find its ear, how does it move?”

Look for hiking areas with nature centers for younger kids. Nature centers are becoming “more sophisticated,” Keilty says. “They’re like going to cartoons these days, as an adult… we love them as much as they do.” When kids tire of the trail, they can cool off, mess around with interactive exhibits and use the restrooms.

Keilty also listed her top hikes in Colorado in the same blog:



Inner Canyon-Lake Gulch Loop, Castlewood Canyon State Park, Franktown

Why: It’s got year-round appeal, it’s a loop, and it’s close to both Colorado Springs and Denver. “It’s a boulder-scrambling, pond-probing, quiet canyon getaway,” Keilty says. “It’s got a little historic feature, an old dam, a great nature center, and this stream that pools, so it’s really fun to explore.” She adds that the canyon walls are warm in the winter and offer shade in the summer.parks.state.co.us/parks/castlewoodcanyon, 303-688-5242

Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, Commerce City

Why: Also year-round, this hiking oasis in the former chemical-manufacturing complex offers a wide variety of options, from the “incredible” nature center to multiple loop hiking options and a lake where kids can “walk” on water. “It’s a floating walkway that’s just amazing,” Keilty says. “Kids just love it.”fws.gov/rokymountainarsenal, 303-289-0930

Paint Mines Interpretive Park, Calhan

Why: Still close to the metro area, this picturesque and unique area to the east of Colorado Springs is described by Keilty as looking like “rainbow sherbet melting into the prairie.” She explains that it’s called the Paint Mines because American Indians would use the rocks to make paint. “This is a place where hiking is time-sensitive,” she says. “In late May, right around dawn, pulling up here is just magical. The temperature, the colors, it’s so intense.” elpasoco.com/parks, 719-520-6375

Rifle Falls State Park, Rifle Falls

Why: Located midway between Grand Junction and Eagle, the Coyote Trail here is a showcase of waterfalls. “You walk over this suspended walkway, and the kids can hang out over the waterfall and look down,” Keilty says. “It’s so cool.” She adds that this is an ideal destination for beginning campers, because the campground here is “very civilized,” and the nature center and fishing are top-notch. parks.state.co/us/riflefalls, 970-625-1607


Bear Lake-Glacier Gorge Loop Trails, Rocky Mountain National Park

Why: Keilty calls these her answer to the question, “Hey, we’re going to Rocky Mountain National Park, so what should we do there?” She believes these are the best of the best in the park for kids: they offer waterfalls, ponds, a “Japanese-style view of trees over a foggy, misty pond.” nps.gov/romo, 970-586-1206

Chapungu Sculpture Park, Loveland

Why: It’s the most unusual of all the hikes in the book, and possibly the state — a mall-side trail lined with stone sculptures from Zimbabwe. “They’re really fun-looking, imagination-provoking statues,” Keilty says. “They placed them in different kinds of settings. I just figured, that’s kind of unusual, the kind of hike people can only do with their kids.” chapungusculpturepark.com, 970-461-8020

State Forest State Park, Gould

Why: One of her top favorites in the state, Keilty points out that this one is “way out there.” West of Fort Collins, it’s still a popular spot year-round, a 71,000-acre park with “so much going on there,” she says. “I was stunned. They have a great visitor center, where you can be nose-to-nose with a stuffed moose, then go out and spot a real one.” The park also offers fishing and camping (yurts, too), as well as an elaborate geocaching program. “Plus it’s a great winter destination,” she adds. parks.state.co.us/parks/stateforest, 970-723-8366


Mica Mine, Grand Junction

Why: “We went to this desert canyon in the middle of July and lucked out on this one,” Keilty says. “It’s like diamonds. That’s isinglass, and it even looks like snow in some places.” There are stream crossings and a cave in this extremely kid-friendly place. blm.gov/co, 970-244-3000

Sharkstooth Trail to Centennial Peak, San Juan National Forest

Why: It’s hard to get to, but the name alone usually gets kids excited. The trail passes mini waterfalls and takes you to a mining camp; it also offers views of Mesa Verde National Park and Sleeping Ute Mountain at the summit. “The summit is pretty easy, and it’s got this grand panorama,” Keilty says. “It’s worth getting to, because there are so many options and so many appeals, and the trail is really well designed.”fs.fed.us/r2/sanjuan, 970-882-7296

Highland Mary Lakes Trail, Weminuche Wilderness

Why: One of Keilty’s top picks for a family overnighter, Highland Mary Lakes can take one night or two, and it’s a toss-up as to whether you’ll see more elk or wildflowers. “You’re up on this broad tundra, and the lakes and streams and flowers, wow,” says Keilty. “This is an ‘oh, I just love it up there’ kind of place.” fs.fed.us/r2/sanjuan, 970-247-4874

Boulder Families Events: April 27 to May 4


Listed here are some great family events. Most are free. They are all opportunities to be together as a family and engage your kids of all ages.

Have a fantastic week!

Friday, April 27

  • Children’s Storytime at the Main Library. 10:15 to 11:00am. Free. Ongoing activity.
  • Family Game Night. Meadows Branch Library. 4:00 to 6:00pm. Fun for the whole family!
  • Lego Kids Fest @ The Colorado Convention Center. All ages. Tickets for the event are sold out for the first session Saturday. Check for ticket availability.

Saturday, April 28

  • Tulip Fairy Parade: Pearl Street Mall, Boulder. Parade starts at 3:00 p.m. at the 1300 block of Pearl Street. Pre-parade tunes courtesy of Jeff Kagan and Paige Doughty, face-painting, coloring and other children’s activities. The parade will be led by Boulder’s very own Tulip Fairy, accompanied stilt-walkers from Frequent Flyers and your tiny tulip fairies and elves. A performance of Waking the Bear courtesy of Open Space & Mountain Parks.
  • Boulder Farmer’s Market. 8:00 to 2:00pm. 13th Street between Arapahoe & Canyon Blvd. Map. Great opportunity for families to purchase locally grown produce, eat delicious food, listen to live music and so much more! A Boulder kids’ favorite.
  • The Spot (bouldering gym) Family Instructional Day. The whole family climbs for $25, including shoes. This is a great deal! Go check out this well known bouldering gym with your family & see if climbing is a sport the whole family can enjoy. Make reservations to ensure space.
  • Beatlemania Family Day at the CU Natural History Museum. Hands on exploration of our natural environment. All ages. Free. 1:00 to 4:00pm.
  • Children’s Storytime at the Main Library. All ages. Free. 10:15 to 11:00am. Ongoing activity.
  • Family Dance Party. This is a first time event but sure to be a big hit. Organized by local children’s music instructor. 2 free tickets at the website. For more info click here.

Sunday, April 29

  • Fishin’ Fun! Join Boulder’s OSMP to learn about fishing techniques, equipment, and places to go fishing in and around Boulder. They provide equipment. Ages 6+. 9:00 to 11:00am. Call for reservations 303-441-3440.
  • Walker Ranch Homestead Spring Days. All ages. Free. 10:00 to 4:00pm. A great opportunity to learn about homesteading at this historical reenactment. I love this event!!!
  • Denver Art Museum is FREE today in honor of Dia de Los Ninos. All day. Free.

Monday, April 30

Tuesday, May 1

  • Children’s Storytime @ George Reynolds Branch Library. 10:15 to 11:00am. Free. Ongoing activity.
  • Lap Babies at the Main Boulder Library. Babies up to 12 months explore books & stories with their caregivers. No older children, please! Free. Ongoing activity.

Wednesday, May 2

  • Nature Kids: Critters, Crafts, Songs & Fun for kids who love the outdoors. All ages. 10:00 to 11:30. Chautauqua Community House. Tickets are for sale–$10/adults & $5/kids up to 10.

  • Children’s Storytime @ Meadows Branch Library. 10:15 to 11:00am. Free. Ongoing activity.

    • Cruisers & Crawlers @ Main Boulder Library. 10:15 to 11:30am. 9 to 24 months. Ongoing.

    • Discovery Days at the Longmont Museum & Cultural Center. Ages 2 to 5. Low cost [$3.50 to $4.50/child]. Drop-in sessions: 9:00 to 10:15, 10:15 to 11:30, 12:30 to 2:00.

    • Barnes & Noble Storytime. Ongoing activity. 10:00am.
    • Gymboree Storytime @ Barnes and Noble. Stories, movement and more. Ongoing activity. 1:00pm.

      Thursday, May 3

      Grandrabbits Playdate. 10:30 to 11:15am. Ages 2 to 6. Free. Ongoing activity

  • 50 Free Things To Do This Summer!

    Here is a great list of 50 FREE things to do this summer in the Denver/Boulder area. Most of them are family friendly. Some will surprise even those of us who have lived here for a long time. Others will just be a reminder of things we have been wanting to do, or places we want to revisit–maybe now with kids. No need to pay. Just go. Have an adventure. Try something new. Have fun! What else is should we add to this list?

    The FREE list includes:

    • Art Fairs

    • Exhibits
    • Concerts
    • Attractions
    • Tours
    • Day Trips

    I would add:

    • Boulder Farmer’s Market

    • Band on the Bricks
    • Live music at 29th Street Mall
    • Pearl Street [playing at the fountain, on the animal statues, at the rocks]

    Here’s the link to 50 FREE Summer Things To Do!

    A big thinks to http://www.denver.org and @iknowdenver!

    Boulder Events for Families: March 16 to 22, 2012

    Listed here are some great family events. Most are free. They are all opportunities to be together as a family and engage your kids of all ages. Let me know what you liked. Let me know if there is something I should add. Have a great week!

    Friday, March 16, 2012

    Saturday, March 17, 2012 [Happy St. Patrick’s Day]

    • What’s for Dinner? Colorado Food Past & Present Family Day at the CU Museum of Natural History. Hands on activities for the foodies out there. All Ages. 1–4pm.

    • French/English Storytime at the Boulder Main Library. 10:15 to 11am.
    • St. Patrick’s Day at the WOW Museum. Join them for a special presentation by the McTeggart Irish Dancers. 11 to 2pm.
    • Peter Pan: The British Musical, presented by Rocky Mountain Theater for Kids. All ages. May be sold out.
    • Wings of Spring: Bird Watching. All Ages. 7:30–10am. Boulder Parks and Open Space program. Meet at Sawhill Ponds, 0.6 miles north of Valmont on 75th St. Bring binoculars, dress warmly.

    Sunday, March 18, 2012

    Monday, March 19, 2012

    • Read to the Dog. All Ages. 3:30 to 5:30pm. Bring your child to read to a this well trained and gentle dog. Reservations Required. [Boulder Meadows Branch Library]

    • Grand Rabbits Play Day. Free for kids 2 to 6 with guardian. Flatirons store. 9:30 to 10:15am.

    Tuesday, March 20, 2012

    Friday Musings: Deals, Project Ideas, and Print Media Suggestions

    Family Friendly Deals: These are some great deals happening right now!

    Livingsocial screaming deals: Punch cards to Om Time Yoga [$32/5 classes] and Tickets to Denver Firefighters Museum [$9/4 tickets].

    Weekend Project Ideas: Make something together this weekend!

    Create Nontoxic Paint to make and use with your kids. This looks like a really fun project to do and then the kids get to go outside and paint the driveway or sidewalk. I have not tried it, but I cannot wait to try!

    Make Pinwheels with your kids. Engaging project for the 6 to 10 year old set. These are fun to make & use.

    Family Print Media Ideas: I love these two parent/family oriented magazines!

    Taproot Magazine is the new creation of Amanda Soule, a creative parent and blogger [check out her blog!]. I have to give a shout out to Brain, Child Magazine, one of my all time favorites, This offers smart literature and research on a wide range of parenting topics.

    Upcoming Give Away: I am so excited to be collaborating with a very old friend!

    Look out for a give away by Mountain Mama in the near future! They have a great line of maternity technical wear and the most adorable baby gear. I am psyched about this give away!

    Awesome Boulder Events for Families: March 9 to 15, 2012

    Listed here are great family events. Most are free. They are all opportunities to be together as a family and engage your kids of all ages. Let me know what you liked. Let me know if there is something I should add. Have a great week!

    Friday, March 9, 2012

    Saturday, March 10, 2012

    Sunday, March 11, 2012

    Monday, March 12, 2012

    • Read to the Dog. All Ages. 3:30 to 5:30pm. Bring your child to read to a this well trained and gentle dog. Reservations Required. [Boulder Meadows Branch Library]

    • Open Space Story Hour at Chautauqua. Nature-themed story book [1-1:30pm] & Nature Detective Scavenger Hike [1:35 to 2pm].
    • Grand Rabbits Play Day. Free for kids 2 to 6 with guardian. Flatirons store. 9:30 to 10:15am.

    Tuesday, March 13, 2012