For families with older children, taking a longer or more strenuous hike is not only an option, but a welcome adventure to the kids. Parents are no longer held to strict schedules for nap times, which means they can drive a bit further to trailheads, and older kids can both walk unassisted and carry their own weight up the trail. While kids can be likewise wowed by beautiful vistas, it is good for parents to select a trail that offers additional characteristics to help maintain their interest and motivation.
Dinosaur Ridge Trail
Perhaps one of the easiest trails on the list, Dinosaur Ridge Trail is a great option for parents looking to introduce their dinosaur enthused kids to hiking. The trail itself is relatively short as well; it will only take hikers roughly 1-2 hours to complete the 2 mile trail. But there is a lot to look at and explore along the way. Kids can awe at geologic features and also see real dinosaur tracks while they walk, which is sure to get them excited about the natural world.
Devils Head Lookout
Located approximately 20 miles southwest of Sedalia (about an hour and half away from Denver), Devils Head Trail is only about 1.5 miles one way, but it has a fairly large elevation gain of 940 feet. The trail itself winds through aspen groves and beautiful open fields, and ends with scaling 143 red steps to reach the top. The fire tower is over 100 years old and is the only operational fire tower left standing of the original 7 that were built. At the top, you will be rewarded with 360 degree views of beautiful mountains and vistas. It’s advisable to go early as parking fills up fast and the trail is fairly popular.
Fourth of July Trail
The longest trail on this list, the Fourth of July Trail to Diamond Lake is a 6 mile round trip out and back hike. The trail is situated in the beautiful Indian Peaks Wilderness, about 45 minutes west of Boulder and up 4 mile dirt road from Eldora. The path itself offers scenic views from the very beginning of the trail, and kids will enjoy scrambling over rivers, playing in mountain creeks, and trying to name the numerous wildflowers dotting the scenery (be sure to bring a wildflower guide). While Diamond lake might be the ultimate destination, even if little legs get tired or weather starts to role in over the mountains, there is enough to be seen along the way that no one will be disappointed if there is a shorter turn around.
Located in Boulder inside Chataqua Park, the Royal Arch hike is a favorite among locals. At only 3.5 miles long, the hike itself may seem like a short distance to cover. However, the hike is strenuous and arduous at points, and it does require a bit of rock scrambling along the way. The path begins with a beautiful view of Boulder’s flatirons, and it quickly gains elevation at the starting point, and goes up over 1200 feet along the way. Those who make it to the end are rewarded with a natural red rock arch and beautiful vistas of Boulder.
No matter the hike you choose, be sure to bring lots of snacks and water and beware of signs of altitude sickness. Hikers in Colorado know to start early as the weather can become unpredictable fast. Keep your eye to the sky so you can be aware of incoming weather, and follow the Colorado rule of “up by noon down by two.”