John Muir once said, “The mountains are calling and I must go.”  I know exactly what he means.  It was a childhood visit to the mountains that hooked me forever on wild places and national parks.  Whether it’s the beauty, or something else we can’t exactly put our finger on, mountains inspire us!  If you’re looking for a little inspiration for your family this fall, then consider heading to Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.

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Enos Mills, who fought hard to create the country’s 10th national park, once said, “In years to come when I am asleep beneath the pines, thousands of families will find rest and hope in this park.”  His vision became a reality as so many find both among the high mountain peaks and valleys a few hours outside bustling and busy Denver.  Home to elk, moose, bighorn sheep, bear, deer and more the kids can go crazy looking for wildlife here.  Listening to elk bugle during their rut (mating season) in the fall is an amazing experience if you’re lucky enough to hear it!  Drive to over 12,000 feet on the famous Trail Ridge Road, the highest paved road in the United States, and with over 300 miles of trail, be sure to get out of a trail, no matter you hiking level or ability.

There are many trails to choose from, but here are a few especially great with toddlers and kids:

nps-rocky-mtn-2Sprague Lake – This flat, packed super short gravel trail is great for the littlest hikers, but offers stunning views of the Continental Divide for the grownups.

Alberta Falls – In less than a mile you can be at a beautiful waterfall!  Aspens along the trail make this a great fall destination, too.

Cub Creek – Hike 2.3 miles roundtrip among blazing fall colors to a beautiful lake.

Lily Lake  – This 1.4 mile hike is accessible for strollers and wheelchairs and even offers a fishing pier!  From 9,000 feet elevation you’ll see great views of Longs Peak and Mt Meeker.

Bear Lake – This is one of Rocky Mountain’s most visited trails for good reason.  Hike around Bear Lake if you’re looking for a really short hike – or continue on to Nymph, Dream, or Emerald Lakes if you’re looking for something a bit longer.

Lake Estes Trail – If you’re based out of Estes Park, here’s a gem in town just for you.  This paved 3.75 mile trail offers views of the mountains and is perfect for leashed pets and jogging strollers.  In September and October watch for elk!

Since fall is the time many parks begin to close facilities down for the upcoming winter months, be sure to check the website or call ahead to verify opening and closing dates of restaurants, campgrounds, visitor centers and the like to avoid any unpleasant disappointments.  That said, fall is a wonderful time to visit most national parks as the summer crowds are gone and you can more easily find that peace and quiet you’ve been longing for.

For more details on these trails or others, check out Rocky’s official website at www.nps.gov/moro

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