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Denver is a fantastic city for enjoying the outdoors. Within 15-20 minutes, it’s simple to escape the big city and breathe in some fresh air out on the trail. Here are five of our favorite kid friendly hikes in the Denver area.
Lair ‘O The Bear Park / Bear Creek Trail-
This is our #1 favorite hike to do with our kids. It’s short enough that you can go there on a whim, but exciting enough to let you feel like you had an adventure. Our favorite is playing in the giant tree and scaling all the branches (about .1 miles east of the parking lot right before the bridge). On hot days, we often take our shoes off and play in the river at the end of our hike.
The loop is almost 2 miles and goes up along the mountainside. There are a few hills, but most kids can handle them. Also keep in mind that parts of this trail are popular with mountain bikers, so use caution. Also, this park gets really crowded on weekends, so go early.
Directions: Head west out of Morrison on Highway 74 for about 4 miles. The park is on the south side of the road a little past Idledale.
Alderefer/Three Sisters Trail
If you are looking for options, this is a great place to go and hike. With a variety of interwoven trails, you can choose a hike from 0.2 miles up to 2.5 miles, depending on what you are up for. You get an awesome mix of boulders, pine trees, and meadows that will keep your kids interested and excited about all the different things that they will see.
Directions: Travel south of Evergreen on HWY 73. Turn west of Buffalo Park Road and travel about 1 mile to the trailhead.
White Ranch Park –
This is another area with a lot of hiking variety. For the ultra ambitious, you can start at the base of the mountain and hike all the way up. Usually, we just start at the top and hike around one of the many loops there. From the top, there are spectacular views, and I feel like you can literally see all the way to Kansas. Most of the upper trails are through meadows and pine forests, with deer sightings frequent. The loops vary from 0.5 miles to 4.5 miles. One fun part about this is that there are 2 hike-in campgrounds. Both are free and have water and bathrooms at them, making them a great introduction to backpacking with kids (it’s high on our list to do).
Directions to the base: Travel on HWY 93 north out of Golden for 1.7 miles to 56th ave. Turn west and travel for 1 mile to the Trailhead
Directions to the top: Travel on HWY 93 for 1 mile out of Golden to Golden Gate Canyon Rd. Travel west for 4 miles to Crawford gulch, and follow the signs to White Ranch.
Red Rocks Amphitheater Park –
If you live in Denver, you’ve undoubtably heard of Red Rocks for concerts, but did you know that it’s also an awesome place to hike too? Every time we hike there (which is a lot since it’s only 10 minutes away), I feel like I’ve been transported to a desert playground full of crazy rock formations and sandstone. It’s awesome! All throughout the park, you will find little trails and places for kids to explore. The main trail is the Trading Post trail and it’s about 1.5 miles. It’s got a few ups and downs, but is something most little ones can handle. It’s a great loop to do if you want a nice overview of the area without all the crowds that can be found stair-running at the amphitheater.
Directions: Take I-70 west to exit 259, turn left at the bottom of the Morrison exit ramp, cruise on downhill 1.5 miles to the Red Rocks Park entrance. Coming from south Denver, take C-470 to the Morrison exit, turn west and follow the signs to the Park entrances. The trading post trail starts just to the east of the trading post visitors center.
Lookout Mountain Nature Center –
This is a great venue to educate your kids about the Denver area and throw in a little hike all at the same time. The nature center offers lots of interactive and hands-on exhibits to really connect kids (and adults) with the natural world. They also offer a variety of wonderful educational programs you can sign up for here. After you get excited about exploring nature, head outside and enjoy the 1.5 miles of trails that are adjacent to the center. Easily an outing that can keep your family happy for a good chunk of the day! Note: the nature center is closed on Mondays.
Directions: From I-70: Westbound, take exit 256 and turn right. Eastbound, use exit 254 and turn left. Then follow the brown highway signs.