For parents with kids who are used to hiking and have a fair bit of experience, there are a number of great opportunities for hiking near Denver in the front range mountains to delight and challenge them. As kids move from adolescence into their teen years, they are better able to sustain their energy for a longer hike and manage the elevation changes that come alongside that challenge. The hikes listed below are not the best for those with young children or who are not skilled or experienced hikers themselves, and parents should ensure all members of the family are acclimated to Denver’s altitude and up to the challenge.
Mt. Bierstadt: Denver’s Most Popular Fourteener
For many Coloradans, summiting a fourteener is a right of passage to becoming a true Colorado resident. While Bierstadt isn’t necessarily the easiest fourteener to ascend, it is located close to Denver, roughly 12 miles outside of Georgetown, which makes it fairly accessible. The hike itself is only 7 miles round trip, but it is a difficult 7 miles with roughly 2,850 feet of elevation gain. The first portion of the travel is fairly level, but hikers will face a drastic ascent as they begin to work their way through rocky switchbacks. Climbing a fourteener is indeed both an accomplishment and a challenge, and parents should ensure that all members of the family have enough skill and endurance for the process. Be careful to start out early, watch for quickly changing weather, bring plenty of food and water, and look for signs of altitude sickness or other maladies. It’s better to miss the summit one day and still be able to attempt it at a future date than to push on.
While perhaps this hike is better suited as a moderate or medium level hike based on length (roughly 2 miles round trip), the hike itself is quite strenuous and rocky. Located about 10 miles east of Glenwood Springs, roughly 3 hours from Denver, Hanging Lake is one of Colorado’s most popular hikes, which adds another series of complications. The trailhead is only accessible on eastbound I-70, which means that those traveling from Denver will have to exit and re-enter the highway to get to the parking lot. Due to the popularity of the hike, the parking lot fills quickly, and parking anywhere other than designated spots can result in a hefty fine. Finally, there are some fairly strict regulations against dogs, swimming, or disturbing the delicate eco-system of the lake. However, those who follow regulations and traverse up the 1000-foot incline are treated to one of Colorado’s most beautiful lakes filled with beautiful blue water clinging to the edge of the cliff.
Horsethief Falls and Pancake Rocks
On the other side of Pikes Peak lies a hiking gem in Horsethief Falls and Pancake Rocks where hikers can see both a beautiful waterfall and unique geological formations. Located west of Woodland Park and 9 miles south of Divide, the trail itself is roughly 7.5 miles round trip. The hike is accessible to all members of the family (including the furry ones), but hikers should bring plenty of water and snacks and should keep one eye to the sky to be on the look out for changing weather.
As kids get older and develop stronger hiking skills and endurance, parents can look forward to bringing them along to some of Denver’s more challenging hikes, enabling them to enjoy more of what Colorado has to offer.