Whether you’re new to hiking with your baby or toddler, or you’re looking for a new trail to explore, the Hike it Baby community is a valuable resource for finding family hiking trails around the country. In this article, we share three beautiful hikes in Colorado to explore with babies and young children.
Hiking with young children (under five years old) is different from hiking with school-age children. These three hikes in Colorado offer families of young children beautiful trails to explore while considering the unique ways young children hike, wander, dawdle and explore.
Garden of the Gods (Colorado Springs)
Located in the heart of Colorado Springs, Garden of the Gods is a registered National Natural Landmark and boasts 15 miles of hiking trails ranging from easy to strenuous. In addition to hiking, this park offers jeep and trolley tours, a popular junior ranger program, bike tours, plentiful rock climbing and bouldering opportunities, and a visitor and nature center with interactive exhibits.
The Perkins Central Garden Trail is a 1.5-mile wheelchair- and stroller-friendly concrete walkway in the center of the park that loops around the base of the highest, most breathtaking rock formations in the park. Another favorite is the Siamese Twins Trail, which is an easy 1-mile loop around the famous Siamese Twins rock formation, which offers incredible views of the park and Pikes Peak. Looking for a more strenuous option? Combine trails throughout the park (such as the Chambers, Bretag and Palmer trails) to increase distance and elevation gain. You really can’t go wrong when choosing a route in this gorgeous, unique park!
- This park can get VERY busy during the summer and on holidays. If you are visiting at these times, it is best to get there early in the day and choose a weekday if possible.
- Since the location of the park is over 6,000 feet above sea level and many of the trails offer little shade, sun protection (such as sunscreen, a hat, etc.) is a must when hiking here!
- The trail system and road through the park can be confusing, so be sure to have a paper copy of the map with you. You can pick up a free color map at the visitors center or print off a copy here.
Photo by Rebecca Hosley.
Paint Mines Interpretive Park (Calhan)
Located less than 40 miles east of Colorado Springs, Paint Mines Interpretive Park is listed as an Archaeological District in the National Register of Historic Places. Studies indicate that people have inhabited the paint mines for nearly 9,000 years. And throughout the history of the park, people have visited the area to gather the colorful, natural clays in hues of red, orange, yellow, purple and gray to produce ceramics.
There are over four miles of hiking trails within the park. A popular route that is jogging-stroller friendly leads visitors from the north parking lot south for about 0.7 miles to the incredible rock formations. From there, you can continue on the same trail to view more formations and a field of windmills (this section is hilly and not recommended for jogging strollers) or return the way you came, enjoying the formations and wildlife (rabbits are abundant in this section of the park!).
- This area is quite exposed and can be very windy at times. Sun and wind protection are recommended when visiting.
- While the southern trails of the park are less exciting, the windmills make for a fun, educational experience for kids to learn about alternative forms of energy. Here is some extra information on wind energy from National Geographic.
- Looking for more information on the history and geology of the park? Check out this park brochure, complete with information and a park map.
Photo by Rebecca Hosley.
Dream Lake Trail, Rocky Mountain National Park (East Entrance from Estes Park)
The Dream Lake Trail starts at the Bear Lake Trailhead and is one of the most popular hikes on the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains. The trail is 2.2 miles roundtrip and takes you past Nymph Lake, which is a half-mile uphill hike from the trailhead. As its name implies, Nymph Lake welcomes you with a small lake filled with lily pads and an aura of childlike magic surrounding its beauty. Another half mile up is Dream Lake, which offers a breathtaking and picturesque panoramic view of Hallett Peak and Flattop Mountain. This is a great spot to take a snack break and appreciate the views (but watch your food … the chipmunks are sneaky!).
If you have time and your group has the energy, continue another 2/3 mile up to Emerald Lake and reward your kiddo with water play at the shallow water’s edge. The hike down offers breathtaking views of the valley and peaks as far as the eye can see. Finish your hike with a leisure stroll around Bear Lake for more outstanding views. Or hike down another mile to Alberta Falls where you’ll walk through an aspen grove and cross a few streams. On your return trip, you have the option to hike back up to the Bear Lake Trailhead or follow signs to the Glacier Gorge Trailhead and take the shuttle back to your car.
- Get an early start as parking fills up quickly. There are several shuttle stops to take up to Bear Lake, with shuttles running every 10-15 minutes, depending on the time of year and how busy the park gets.
- It’s all uphill so if you’re not used to the elevation gain, slow your pace and take breaks if you need to.
- There are no restrooms on the trails, so make sure your entire party takes advantage of the restrooms at the Bear Lake Trailhead. Rangers are on hand at the trailhead for any questions you may have.
- Because you’ll be at 9,910 feet in elevation, make sure you cover up with a hat and wear sunscreen to protect from the sun’s harsh rays.
Photo by Vong Hamilton.
More Resources for Families with Young Children
- Hike it Baby calendar (or connect with the local branch)
- Colorado State Parks
- Hike it Baby: 100 Awesome Outdoor Adventures with Babies and Toddlers – New Book by Hike it Baby Founder Shanti Hodges
- 3 Kid-friendly Trails in Kansas for Young Children
- 3 Amazing Hikes for Young Children in Oregon
- 3 Kid-friendly Hikes in Iowa to Explore with Young Children
What are your favorite hikes in Colorado for families with babies, toddlers and young children? Leave a comment below!
Written by Rebecca Hosley and Vong Hamilton.