Come Away With Me {Child-Friendly Front Range Hikes}


Hiking trails post header2

Are you itching to get out of the hot city? Are you wanting to explore the great outdoors with your little one? You may have seen my last post about tips for hiking with kids and you’re thinking, ok, I’m ready to give this a try, but where should I go? This is where I get a little giddy and a bit indecisive because we have such an abundance of incredible trails to choose from along the Front Range. While I found it tough to select only five, I finally narrowed it down! Drumroll please, here are my top 5 local, child-friendly hikes:

1. Matthews/Winters Park – You can start out on the Village Walk (.3 miles) and then continue onto the Red Rocks Trail. From the trailhead, the first mile is a fairly mild, undulating trail – a perfect section for the kiddos to use their little legs to burn some energy. About a half mile in, you’ll find a giant rock, an excellent spot to stop for a picnic or just play around. At just about the 1 mile mark, you’ll be met by another little creek (though it’s usually dried up by August), a delightful stop for the kids to splash or for you all to soak your feet. If you want to get some elevation gain, you can continue on up, up, up the switchbacks on the Morrison Slide Trail for a gorgeous view at the top and then continue on down the backside where you can turn back North (left) on the Red Rocks Trail to complete the 4.6 mile loop.

Favorite Features:

  • A small creek and picnic area are located at the trailhead {sometimes we go up there just to play in the creek and have a picnic}
  • Trailhead bathrooms {always a bonus when hiking with kids}
  • Giant rocks to play on along the way
  • Views of the city from the top
  • A second creek at mile one

Things to Consider:

  • Exposed trail with little shade, making for a great early/late season hike when the temperatures are cooler
  • Hike it early in the morning or evening during the summer
  • There are a fair number of mountain bikers, especially late afternoon
  • Rattlesnakes like to sun-bathe, so be on the lookout during peak sun hours

DSC_03372. Lair O’ the Bear Park – Kids will love running, skipping, and exploring all along the first mile of this trail {Creekside Trail & Bear Creek Trail}, which is flat and fairly shaded, winding along Bear Creek. The Bear Creek trail then begins to ascend into the woods, a great hiking option for a hot summer’s day. You can continue on this trail for miles, meandering up and down and around through the forest. You could also opt for the 1.8 mile Bruin Bluff trail to catch a quick view from the bluff.

Favorite Features:

  • Picnic areas along the creek
  • Trailhead bathrooms
  • Flat first mile
  • Fairly shaded trail
  • A perfect spot for anglers and mini-anglers to cast a line along the way
  • The Creekside Trail is Hiker-only, affording kiddos the opportunity to run free without having to worry about bikes or dogs
  • Playing on the massive tree near the Education Shelter {East of the parking lot and bathrooms} is a bonus at the end of the hike.

Things to Consider:

  • Due to the shade, trails are often muddy in the early season or following hard rains
  • You may encounter mountain bikers.

3. Elk Meadow Park {Evergreen} – From the Lewis Ridge Rd. parking lot, you’ll discover a host of trails conducive to both the feet and stamina of little munchkins, including Painter’s Paws trail, Sleepy S trail, and Founder’s trail. Living up to it’s name, it’s likely the park will grant you a peek at an elk herd grazing in the meadow, especially during the early and late summer seasons. For the go-getters out there, the nearly 9 mile {round-trip} hike up to 9,708 ft Bergen Peak, with its sweeping views of the Continental Divide, is definitely worth the arduous climb.

Favorite Features:

  • Cooler than many Front Range trails due to its higher elevation
  • Bathrooms at both trailheads; Abundance of wildlife
  • Diverse trail experiences, including options for short/easy/flat hikes, as well as long/difficult/steep ones
  • If you’re bringing your furry friend along, there’s an off-leash dog area and short trail from the Stagecoach Blvd Trailhead

Things to Consider:

  • Due to the higher elevation, you’ll want to bring extra layers to wear
  • All trails are multi-use, so you will likely encounter some bikers
  • The drive to this trailhead is a bit longer from Central Denver, but it makes for a fantastic excursion on those hot summer days

IMG_65354. Chautauqua Trails {Boulder} – Not only is Chautauqua home to the renowned Flatirons, endless hiking trails, and spectacular views of the city of Boulder, but the Chautauqua Association is also host to lodging, dining, cultural and educational events, and fantastic summer concerts. Enjoy a picnic and throw a frisbee on Chautauqua’s vast green lawn before or after heading up the .6 mile Chautauqua Trail. After meeting up with the Bluebell-Baird Trail on Bluebell Mesa, you can continue up the First-Second Flatiron Trail or South toward the Mesa Trail. Your options from Bluebell Mesa seem endless, as do your views. A trip to Boulder would not be complete for our family without a post-hike stop at the historic Boulder Dushanbe Tea House to sip a tasty chai along Boulder Creek.

Favorite Features:

  • Picnicking on the Chautauqua Lawn
  • Flatirons {need I say more?}
  • Variety of trails and terrain
  • All trails are hiking only, so no mountain bikers
  • Plenty of mostly shaded trails
  • Expansive views
  • A fantastic day trip from Denver

Things to Consider:

  • Active wildlife, including bears and mountain lions, so be sure to keep your kiddos and furry friends close by
  • Bring extra layers, especially if you decide to hike up to one of the Flatirons or Royal Arch

5. South Valley Park Trails – With giant craggy red rocks bolting upwards toward the sky and stunning outcroppings dotting the hillside, these mellow trails are perfect for hiking with the wee ones. From the main parking lot on South Valley Road, let your kiddos run wild and explore on the Swallow Trail and if they’re feeling up to it, continue onto the Coyote Song Trail to complete a 2.8 mile loop.

Favorite Features:

  • Bathrooms
  • Covered picnic area adjacent to a few big boulders for kids to climb on
  • Unique landscape and gentle terrainIMG_6200

Things to Consider:

  • Trail is totally exposed, so it gets very hot by mid-day
  • With the heat comes the rattlers, so just keep your eyes and ears alert

Living in the Front Range, we are fortunate to have easy access to a multitude of incredible trails. The ones named here are but a few.

What are your favorite trails to hike with kids? Show us how it’s done and share a pic of you hiking with your kiddo, tag us @denvermetromomsblog and use the hashtag #DMMBhikes -We’d love to see you out there!


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Melissa is an adventurer at heart, seeking to embrace the beauty and wildness of this life with her co-adventurer and husband of 8 years, Tom. When she’s not splashing in a mud puddle with her boys, ages 4 and 5, or cleaning the remains of a diaper gone awry from the hallway walls, Melissa works part-time as a Licensed Professional Counselor, striving to empower women through her practice, Rise and Shine Counseling. Give her a mountain and some free time and she’ll find a way to play, embracing every opportunity to run the trails, ski the slopes, and bike or hike the hills. A great day for Melissa would include a pre-dawn trail run, a cup (or maybe 3) of coffee, brushed teeth, some belly laughing with her boys, a little uninterrupted (what’s that?) time to read and write, and sharing in some good conversation over a glass of bold red wine with her hubby. Her faith, her people, and her sense of humor, carry her through the peaks and valleys of this life. She attempts to chronicle the journey over at her blog,


    • Dawn, is it a BOB stroller, with big tires? You could take one on the first mile of Lair o the Bear, and first mile of Matthews/Winters. You could also easily take it on the South Valley Trail.

  1. What are your thoughts on taking an 18month old on some of these hikes? Any suggestions for which might be best? Thanks!!

    • Dani, my husband and I recently took our 18 month old on the Elk Meadow hike, and had a blast! We plan to do Lair O’ The Bear Park soon too! I would recommend a good backpack carrier with a sun shade and plenty of water and snacks for your little one! When you go, please share your pictures– tag us @denvermetromomsblog and use #DMMBHikes so we can see you out there!

    • Dani, S. Valley is a lovely little mellow hike – good for the little one to explore, but also a pretty easy 3 mile loop if you’re carrying the babe too. Also, Lair O’ the Bear is great because that first mile is flat and the section of the trail that goes the other direction (east) towards the education shelter is not near the creek, which may be good with an 18 mo old because the creek is still running big right now.

  2. We did Elk Meadow Park on Father’s Day, and it was BEAUTIFUL– not too hot, and lots of shade on the way up to Bergen Peak. {That was some serious work for my husband, carrying the toddler in a pack!} Can’t wait to do it again late summer, so we can see the elk

  3. Thank you Melissa. Reynolds Park is another great hiking spot (about 2 miles) meandering over a stream. My kids yelled “STREAM” every time they got to cross it, which was about 20 times. Very fun. Out by Aspen Park so a short drive to get there.

    • Thanks, Gina! I have only been to Reynolds a long time ago pre-kids. I will have to get back there to explore with my kiddos!


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