Rocky Mountain National Park is rich with beauty, wildlife and adventure. Whether you are taking your six month old baby or your 15 year old teens, Rocky Mountain offers lots of hiking and exploring for all. In this post I’ll share with you what hikes are great for the family and what you can do in each season. The hikes are organized in two categories : Rocky Mountain with young kids and Rocky Mountain with older kids.
Things to keep in mind:
Rocky Mountain is actually open year round! Depending on the season you planning to visit in, I sincerely recommend for the winter and fall to bring spikes for your shoes. Our family tried 4 different types of spikes and while the other three broke this one lasted the entire trip. When we went this November all the trails had ice. If you are bringing a baby our favorite backpack for carrying them in is the Osprey baby carrier. Its backpack offers a super comfortable ride for the kid and parent! The hight is adjustable so the baby can grow with it.
Rocky Mountain with babies, toddlers and young kids
You might be thinking that your choices are pretty sparse because you’ve got to carry a baby around. This however is not true. The two times we have visited the park (both in summer and winter) we have been able to do a list of hikes with two teens, a two year old and a six month old baby. I carried my six month old sister in her little carrier for all these hikes… so if I can do it- you can do it! Here are some of the best hikes you can do with younger kids:
Sprague Lake is stroller friendly and a fairly short hike (if you can even call it that). The views are beautiful with panoramic mountains on all sides, and you have one of the best chances to see wildlife such as moose and elk.
- Distance: 0.7 miles round trip (1.1 Km)
- Elevation Gain: 34 feet
- Type of Trail: Loop, Easy, stroller friendly
Alberta Falls was quite magical, especially in the winter when parts of the falls were frozen. This hike is not stroller accessible, so I recommend wearing a baby carrier if you have a baby that cannot walk. My two year old brother walked almost the whole thing, but if you are unsure if your toddler can do it definitely bring the infamous “backpack”. We try to teach perseverance and grit in our family, don’t get me wrong- but its no fun when you hear “I’m tired” in the whining voice…. You know what I mean. So just be prepared and do what you know your kids are capable of.
- Distance: 1.2 miles round trip
- Elevation Gain: 160 feet
- Type of Trail: Out & Back, Easy
NOTE: Alberta Falls can be busy and parking can be full. If this is the case you can take the free park and ride shuttle.
Bear lake is a very short and stroller friendly hike. It is a loop around Bear Lake and it is also the at the beginning of a trail head that takes you first to Nymph Lake, Dream Lake than Emerald Lake. Because it is at the entrance to most of the popular longer hikes, you might have trouble parking. If that happens you can take the free park shuttle.
- Distance: 0.5 miles round trip
- Elevation Gain: 20 feet
- Type of Trail: Loop, Easy
Nymph Lake is a one mile round trip hike that gives you an authentic experience to Rocky Mountain National Park. With their enchanting pine forest, mountain peaks and glacier lake this hike is short and worth it. It is a great hike for your kids to walk and enjoy the beautiful nature that surrounds it.
- Distance: 1 mile round trip
- Elevation Gain: 225 feet
- Type of Trail: hike and return, Easy
Best hikes for older kids and teens!
Dream Lake has such memorable views and stunning mountains. Whether you visit in the summer or winter, it has a magical element that will make your heart tremble. I loved this hike and recommend it if you are comfortable with carrying your kids in backpacks (for younger families) or packing a snack bag and some water for kids who can walk. FYI you will pass Nymph Lake as you head to Dream Lake.
- Distance: 2.2 miles round trip
- Elevation Gain: 425 feet
- Type of Trail: Out & Back, moderate
If you are up for a challenge definitely do Emerald Lake. Emerald Lake takes you past Nymph and Dream Lake and is filled with rocky stairs and walks through ponderosa pine forests and mountain overlooks. All that to say- once you arrive at Emerald lake you will be in awe before the jagged mountains that surround this crystal clear glacial lake. Plus, the lake has rocks on the shore and large pieces of drift wood- perfect for sitting on while enjoying a picnic celebration!
- Distance: 4.1 miles round trip
- Elevation Gain: 744 feet
- Type of Trail: Out & Back, Moderate to difficult (for families)
Let me begin by saying this hike is not for the faint of heart. It is a longer hike, but completely worth it. So far, this has been my favorite one because of its rushing waterfalls, heart trembling mountains and long glittering lake. You begin the trail at Glacier gorge parking lot (it is extremely small- so get there early for parking) the hike passes Alberta Falls in the beginning. If you are tired towards the end of the first leg- as soon as you reach the glacier carved gorge with its 360 view of mountains- trust me all the tiredness will leave (at least for 30 seconds.. ha ha).
- Distance: 5.3 miles
- Elevation Gain: 700 feet
- Type of Trail: Out and back, moderate to difficult (for families)
Lastly, The Alpine Tundra!
The Alpine Tundra is open around Memorial Day to October. It is a beautiful way to get a sense of the Rocky Mountains with its snowy peaks and wildflower meadows. The road getting there has cliff exposure on both sides at some points.. but once you get up the views are amazing! Keep in mind it has high altitude at the top (visitor center). Sadly we didn’t have a chance to visit the visitor center, but we hiked the Alpine Ridge trail for a total 1.5. You can turn back whenever you want. It leads you through alpine meadows with wildflowers and mountain overlooks.
That’s all I’ve got in my experience! I hope this article helps you to begin planning what to do in the Rocky Mountains. Please leave a comment for recommendations and experiences! I’d love to hear from you!