This is a guest post from Robert Miller, an avid hiker who lives in Fort Collins, CO. He and his wife have hiked over 75 miles with his 20 month old daughter, and his blog, the Two Knobby Tires Guide to Colorado Hiking, Biking, and Camping is a great resource for families planning an outdoorsy trip to Colorado. I think you'll agree that his passion around hiking, biking and camping really shines through!
Family friendly hiking trails provide an excellent opportunity to get the whole family out of the house and away from the Internet, TV, and video games. There are a countless number of fun hiking trails along Colorado's northern Front Range, many of which are suitable for kids. The following are hikes I found to be fun and challenging for kids old enough to walk and/or for parents with a kid in a child carrier.
- Bear Lake, Nymph Lake, and Dream Lake are three beautiful lakes less than a mile from Bear Lake trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park. The trails are wide and the elevation climbs are gradual. Further, Dream Lake has good trout fishing for families with diversified interests. The only drawback is sharing the trail with lots of other people. The trailhead is located inside Rocky Mountain National Park, which requires an entrance fee.
- Lily Lake and Lily Ridge Trails are conjoined trails that loop around Lily Lake. This is a destination for the whole family because it includes fishing, a perfectly flat trail, and an easy to moderate trail along a ridge. The trailhead is located 10 minutes outside Estes Park, CO and includes free parking.
- Wild Loop Trail is 2.5 mile loop inside Devil's Backbone Open Space that includes a keyhole with a view to the west of Longs Peak. The trail is primarily flat with a couple moderate climbs. Many of Larimer County's free guided hikes and nature presentations take place here. The trailhead is 10 minutes outside of Loveland, CO and includes free parking.
- Chautauqua Park has a myriad of interconnected trails with varying levels of length and elevation change. Similar to Bear Lake, this park's accessibility and beauty make it very popular and, thus, you will likely share the trail with many other hikers. Many of Boulder's free guided hikes and nature presentations take place here. The main trailhead is located 5 minutes west of Boulder, CO and includes free parking.
- Ramsay-Shockey Open Space has two trails near Pinewood Reservoir. One trail has an elevation climb of 300 feet and the other is flat and follows the western shoreline of Pinewood Reservoir. In addition, Pinewood Reservoir is a popular fishing destination. The trailhead is located 30 minutes southwest of Loveland, CO and requires a parking permit or day pass.
- Eagle's Nest Open Space trails are a hidden gem with their stunning scenery and limited park activity. There are five miles of trails with less than 200 feet in elevation change. The trailhead is thirty minutes northwest of Fort Collins and includes free parking.
- Lake Estes Trail is a 4 mile, flat, paved trail that loops around Lake Estes. In September and October, Lake Estes trail is a must-visit destination because elk are roaming around the lake. Parking is free and located just east of downtown Estes Park, CO.
- Gateway Natural Area has three trails positioned inside magnificent Poudre Canyon. One trail is a mile long, flat, and runs along the North Fork Cache La Poudre River. The proximity to the river makes it great for hiking/fishing hybrid families. The other two trails are steep but limited in distance at lengths of .25 miles and .75 miles. The trailhead is located 30 minutes northwest of Fort Collins, CO and requires a parking permit or day pass.
- Bobcat Ridge Natural Area has a four mile loop with less than 300 feet in elevation change. The trailhead is located 30 minutes southwest of Fort Collins, CO and includes free parking.
- Fossil Creek Open Space has three short and flat trails along the southern border of Fossil Creek Reservoir. Fossil Creek is an important bird sanctuary for several birds. It includes several information booths and, thus, is an ideal place for kids to learn about birds. Free guided bald eagle watches take place in November, December, and January. The trailhead is located 25 minutes southeast of Fort Collins, CO and includes free parking.