Estes Park is a quaint town in northern Colorado that serves as a base camp for Rocky Mountain National Park. An incredible destination boasting stellar views and an abundance of cozy Estes Park vacation rentals to stay in, the area is also in proximity to one of the most visited parks in the country. Accordingly, Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park are two premier outdoor wonderlands to explore with kids during summer. Choose from plenty of great family hikes in Rocky Mountain National park. Get started on your adventure by trekking on these fantastic, family-friendly hiking trails in Estes Park, Colorado.
1. Bear Lake Trail
The dramatic glacial valleys and granite summits are part of the reason Bear Lake is one of Rocky National Park’s most popular destinations. Kids and adults alike will find the vistas breathtaking, for there are few that compare to Bear Lake’s majesty. If you’re traveling with young children, try an easy jaunt around the lake. It’s about 0.5 miles, so even the youngest hiker won’t have too much trouble. Or, for more of a challenge, start off on the Bear Lake trail and continue on to Alberta Falls, which has kid-friendly terrain, but is triple the distance.
2. Lily Lake Trail
The Lily Lake Trail is a family favorite because it’s not too long or too short, and offers a variety of incredible views. The fairly level trail goes for about three-quarters of a mile around Lily Lake and the nearby wetlands. From the main loop, hikers can stand on the shore of the lake to see Estes Cone and the two highest peaks in the national park: Mt. Meeker and Longs Peak. Families can even make a day of a trip out to Lily Lake by packing lunch to enjoy in picnic areas along the trail, or going fishing (though the lake has a catch and release policy).
3. Sprague Lake Trail
The Sprague Lake trail is just under a mile on a flat, gravel surface. It’s considered suitable for wheelchairs and strollers, and also has several benches along the way where the weary can get their rest. You could also just sit for a while to take in views of the Continental Divide, Half Mountain, Taylor Peak and Flattop Mountain. If you have some early risers in your family, plan an early morning hike to see the sunrise, and capture the best photos of the mountains reflecting off the lake.
4. Copeland Falls
See two waterfalls in one go by hiking the Copeland falls trail. The entire trek round trip is less than one mile, with the Lower Copeland Falls about one-third of the way into the hike. Upper Copeland falls is just a bit further upstream, along the North St. Vrain Creek. The kids can feel like explorers by hiking on the side trail that goes to both the falls, or you can play it safe and stick to the main trail. Start from the Wild Basin Trailhead (a bit more remote).
5. Alpine Ridge Trail
The Alpine Ridge Trail is short, a little over half a mile, but steep. It’s best for high energy kids and parents who can tackle what’s sometimes called Huffers Hill. The trail rises across steep terrain; hikers must ascend 225 steps to get to the top of the mountain. But the sights are enough to distract you; you’ll be walking in a field of flowers if you visit during the spring or early summer. Wildflowers including forget me nots, primroses, and sunflowers cover the hillside, and a beautiful view of the alpine tundra stretch across the horizon.
6. Coyote Valley Trail
For an easy stroll, walk the Coyote Valley Trail through the Kawuneeche Valley. Kids will enjoy spotting various wildlife from the trail and splashing around the Colorado River. Elk and moose make their habitat in the valley. Deer, coyotes, beaver, osprey and even river otters can sometimes be spotted as well. A picnic area near the river offers a prime spot to rest and enjoy the scenery, as do the rest stops along the way.
7. Lake Irene
After a picnic at the Lake Irene Picnic area, head for the trailhead that will take you around the lake. Lake Irene is relatively small, so the entire hike is just under one mile. The hiking path winds past the lake to a side trail that leads to an overlook. From there, visitors can see mountains in the distance and a large meadow nearby. It’s a fairly easy trail that will give you a varied selection of scenes.
8. East Inlet Trail
Follow the East Inlet Trail to Adams Falls, a gorgeous waterfall that drops through a series of steps into a rock gorge. The East Inlet Trail, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is one of National Park Service’s naturalistic designed trails. This means the park service used local materials to create a trail through the area. Taking the man-made path could prove to be a different type of educational experience for your family. While you and your kids learn about the surrounding forest environment of pine and aspen, you can also discover how naturalistic designed trails serve the park.
9. Holzwarth Historic Site Trail
The story of the Holzwarth Historic Site begins in the early 1900s, when a German immigrant brought his family to the Kawuneeche Valley. The Holzwarth family settled near the Colorado River and opened a guest ranch, which eventually became known as the Never Summer Ranch. Along the trail to the historic site, sweeping views of the valley, wildlife such as moose and the Colorado River await. Then, hikers can meander through the property and imagine what life was like for the Holzwarths.
10. Bierstadt Lake Loop Trail
Sometimes, reaching a worthy reward requires a bit of effort. While the Bierstadt Lake hike isn’t recommended for very young children, it’s a fine challenge offering incredible views of the Continental Divide. The higher you climb, the more spectacular the scene gets, until you reach the top of the Bierstadt Moraine. The entire hike is 3.2 miles round trip, a longer distance than most other hikes on this list. But the trail crosses a variety of different landscapes you won’t want to miss, from Bierstadt Lake to a pleasant forest.
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