Get your family hiking and camping this summer: It may be easier than you think.
Happy Tyke, Happy Hike
Article | Lisa Van Horne
To say that Alli Fronzaglia recommends exploring Boulder’s vast network of hiking trails with your children would be an understatement.
“Kids, with their boundless energy and curiosity, are natural hikers,” says Fronzaglia, co-founder of Boulder Hiker Chicks and volunteer naturalist and trail guide for the City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks. “Boulder’s Open Space is home to an incredible array of biodiversity, geological formations and historical sites just outside our back doors.”
And what better backyard could Boulder kids ask for? With 150 miles of hiking trails within the city and hundreds more countywide, Boulder is a natural playground ripe for discovery and excitement.
For kids, the benefits of hiking extend beyond providing valuable outdoor exercise.
“Children who have the opportunity to connect with nature are more likely to become environmental stewards as adults,” says Fronzaglia.
Promoting both fun and responsibility on the trails is a key mission and practice of Boulder Hiker Chicks and teaching children the importance of local regulations and principles of Leave No Trace is vital to ensuring the next generation of accountable hikers and passionate environmental advocates.
So lace up your kicks and use Fronzaglia’s tips to set yourself, and your tykes, up for a memorable hiking adventure.
Choose the Right Hike. Creating the best case scenario for your family’s excursion begins with choosing an appropriate trail. Kids crave feeling a sense of accomplishment, and your ideal hike should balance abilities and a little challenge. Kids might surprise you with their hiking stamina, and hikes abound with neat features will keep them motivated and engaged.
Go with Good Condition. Make peace with not being able to control the weather and, if your planned hiking day promises extreme heat or wet conditions, reschedule your outing.
Pack Wisely . Hiking preparedness means bringing along all the things you and your kids will need, as well as a few special items to enrich the hiking experience. Ensure hike safety with the staple Ten Hiking Essentials and fuel yourself and your kids with healthy snacks, but also pack some special treats they may not always get to indulge in. Also pack items to outfit your little explorer for discovery, such as a magnifying glass or journal.
Hit the Trails!
- Red Rocks at Settlers Park
From the Settlers Park Trailhead, discover ample natural sandstone areas perfect for little hikers to play on.
Distance: Nearly 2 miles of interconnected trails and mini-loops
Fun Factor: Rock slab cluster at the top of the hill perfect for scrambling
- South Boulder Creek Trail
From the Bobolink Trailhead, embark on a trail alongside meadows home to grazing cows and through an active prairie dog town.
Distance: 3.5 miles one-way or shorter out-and-back
Fun Factor: Creek-side exploration opportunities abound!
- Bald Mountain Scenic Area
Five miles up Sunshine Canyon Road, you’ll find a trail culminating in spectacular views and a satisfying sense of accomplishment.
Distance: 1.5-mile loop
Fun Factor! Kids can bag their first summit (30 minutes to the top, one hour round trip)
- Green Mountain West Ridge
Head seven miles up Flagstaff Road for this more challenging hike, best for ages eight and up, bringing you to the top of Green Mountain.
Distance: 1.3 miles one-way (with 850 feet of elevation gain), 2.6 miles round trip
Fun Factor! Swaths of wildflowers, seasonal raspberries
Camping with Kiddos
Article | Kara Deyoung
When my husband and I decided to brave our first camping adventure as a family, we had four kids ranging in ages from six years to three months. We suspected we’d have our fair share of disasters along the way — and we were right! There was the massive blow-out diaper in the middle of the night (baby wipes safely stored in our bear canister a hundred feet away), the toddler who woke up our campsite screaming at five a.m., and the night we spent huddled in a leaky tent. Today if you asked our family, though, we would all agree that is has been more than worth it. For every challenge we’ve faced, there have been dazzling rocky mountain sunrises and spectacular nights spent under the stars. Here are a few tips to get your family thriving in the great outdoors:
Just do it. It can feel daunting to juggle everything from sleep schedules to picky diets when venturing out with your kids. My advice? Just go for it. Kids are more resilient than you think, and chances are they will adjust with flying colors.
Get in the car. While we’ve known families that enjoy backpacking with younger kids, camping seemed much more doable when we made our minivan a part of the equation. Whether staying at a campground or a dispersed site, car camping allows you to take along all of the kid gear you need — from pack n’ plays to high chairs — and provides a quick getaway if everything goes south.
Make it fun. A little fun goes a long way, but don’t be afraid to keep things simple. Kick it old school with card and dice games; learn a new skill like finger knitting or whittling together as a family. Our little ones have never met a scavenger hunt they didn’t love — make up your own or find a printable online. Bring bikes and scooters if the terrain allows, and don’t underestimate the entertainment of a ball or frisbee to toss around. Remember: The most fun activities are the ones spent connecting as a family!
Get them in on the action. Kids can help by picking the campsite, gathering firewood, learning to set up the tent (or for smaller helpers, arranging sleeping bags and bedding), and keeping water bottles filled. Giving kids responsibility around the campsite empowers them — teaching responsibility, survival skills and teamwork. Talk about a win-win!
Go with the flow. Flexibility is key. Expect the unexpected and as much as you are able, meet the inevitable bumps and hiccups with a good attitude. Your kids will follow suit. After all, what they say is true: Attitude is the difference between an ordeal and an adventure!
Great Campsites for Families
- Pawnee Campground- Arapaho National Forest
- Pinon Flats Campground- Great Sand Dunes National Park
- Oh Be Joyful Campground- Crested Butte
- Turquoise Lake Recreation Area- San Isabel National Forest