Top Colorado Hikes For Families [Doesn’t Include Boulder] by Maureen Keilty

Author, hiker and mom, Maureen Keilty, has written many books on hiking in Colorado. She has also authored the book, Best Hikes With Children In Colorado, so she seems to be somewhat of an expert in the field. Here are her suggestions for hikes around the state of Colorado. For more detail on some great hikes in Boulder with kids see my post on the Top 5 Hikes With Kids In Boulder.

Top Colorado Hikes for Families

METRO

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

CENTRAL
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

NORTH
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

WEST/SOUTHWEST

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

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