Denver Hikes the Whole Family Will Love
posted by: Mile High Mamas
My guidebook, Hiking with Kids Colorado, comes out next month, featuring 52 of the state’s best hikes for families. That’s one hike for every week of the year, and yes, I completed all of the hikes with my own children over the course of a year. (Scroll down to enter to win a copy!)
I’d like to say we enjoyed every moment of every hike, but the truth is, there were plenty of times I wished I’d pitched a series on hiking alone with a six-pack of Raspberry Sours!
My kids complain about everything, including hiking. Despite the complaints, we trekked on, and the real payoff came just a few weeks ago, on a lazy Saturday morning, when my oldest son crept out of bed, found me at my “standing desk” in the kitchen, and asked, “Hey, Mom? Can we go hiking today?”
Here’s the beautiful thing: The more you hike with your kids, the easier it gets to hike with your kids. I’m sharing a few of my favorite hiking routes in this blog post, giving you a sneak peek of what you’ll find in my new book. For these specific hikes, all you’ll need is water, snacks, SPF, and a sense of adventure.
Family Hikes Near Denver
The Braille Trail Loop (Genesee)
Distance: 1.65-mile lollipop
Hiking time: 1–2 hours
Finding the trailhead: I-70 bisects Genesee Mountain Park. Take exit 253—bypassing the Genesee Park exit (254) if you’re coming from Denver—and drive north to Stapleton and Moss Rock roads. Turn right onto Stapleton Road. Follow it for about 0.5 mile to a parking lot, on the left.
There’s a lot to love about Genesee Mountain Park, especially the Braille Trail, a short route that’s perfect for beginner hikers. Kick things off at the Bison Overlook (across from the trailhead). In 1914, when bison and elk neared extinction, Denver acquired herds at Yellowstone Park to introduce into the city’s very first mountain park.
The hike begins near the outhouse, at Beaver Brook Trailhead. We’ll reach the Braille Trail via the historic Beaver Brook Trail, bordered by wild lupine and Queen Anne’s lace. Begin walking slightly downhill. Make a sharp right at the intersection at 0.4 mile, and descend to a service road.
After crossing the road, you’ll come to a Braille Trail sign and guideline. The Braille Trail is an accessible route designed for hikers with vision impairments. In addition to the waist-high guideline, the trail’s interpretive signs are written in Braille.
This incredible trail slopes downhill alongside a babbling creek. Be mindful of rocks and roots during the descent. After passing several barricades and following stairs to the creek bed, you’ll reach a cute wooden bridge and a fork. Go left at the fork to complete the Braille Trail Loop. Back at the beginning of the loop, turn right, cross the service road, and retrace your steps to the trailhead.
Pine View Trail (Pine)
Distance: 2.5-mile loop
Hiking time: 1.5–3 hours
Finding the trailhead: From Conifer, take US 285 south for 6.7 miles. At the Pine Junction County Store, turn left onto Pine Valley Road. Cell phone service is spotty. In 6 miles, turn right onto Crystal Lake Road; follow the signs to Pine Valley Ranch Park. Park in the third lot at the end of the road. The trailhead is near the outhouse.
Anchored by Pine Lake, Pine Valley Ranch Park is an 883-acre treasure with miles of secluded trails shaded by thick strands of conifers growing along the north edge of Pike National Forest. All the park’s trails are easy to follow, but Pine View is especially fun for families looking for a low-mileage hike with a backcountry feel.
After snapping a photo of your kids on the bridge (just past the parking lot), follow the wheelchair-access sign to merge onto the Pine Lake Loop. Stroll alongside the stream until the paved sidewalk becomes a dirt path.
Turn left at the staircase to begin a steep ascent up Park View Trail. Watch young kids closely on near the ledge. Switchbacks ease the final push toward the top then Park View Trail flattens out significantly.
The trail dips into Pike National Forest before ending at 1.1 miles. Bear right onto Strawberry Jack Trail to loop back to Pine Valley Ranch. It’s all downhill from here as the trail drops into a dense aspen grove.
Turn right onto Buck Gulch Trail. When you reach the junction at 2.15 miles, go either way around Pine Lake, a popular stop for anglers. If you have a pole, cast a line on one of the piers post-hike. A Colorado state fishing license is required. The beautiful stone pavilion overlooking the lake is an ideal place for a picnic.
Lookout Mountain Trail (Golden)
Distance: 3.5 miles out and back
Hiking time: 2–4 hours
Finding the trailhead: From Golden, at the intersection of 6th Avenue and 19th Street, drive west on 19th Street, which becomes Lookout Mountain Road. Wind up the National Scenic Byway for 3 miles, until reaching a pullout parking area labeled “Windy Saddle.” Park along the road if the pullout is full.
Through a dense ponderosa pine forest, past Buffalo Bill’s stone grave, and straight into a nature preserve, the hike up Lookout Mountain Trail strikes a balance between outdoor adventure and touristy fun.
Two trails depart from Windy Saddle Park. The one you’re looking for is near the outhouse. Shaded by thick forest, the first segment of Lookout Mountain Trail can be treacherous in early spring. Do not attempt this trail when there’s ice.
Look right for sweeping views of the park’s namesake saddle, and snap a photo before beginning a breezy ascent. This park definitely lives up to its name, with strong drafts blowing from the Continental Divide.
The soft dirt trail becomes rocky. At 0.85 mile, take a detour to Buffalo Bill’s famous gravesite. The site’s fee-based museum is touristy, but interesting, and the grave itself is free to view. To get there, follow the Buffalo Bill Trail to a stone staircase leading to a large parking lot. On the opposite end is a two-story gift shop. Buffalo Bill’s gravesite is past that. Follow the signs.
Back at the stone staircase, retrace your steps to the intersection of the Buffalo Bill and Lookout Mountain trails. Go left at the fork to push to the summit. When you reach Colorow Road, carefully cross the street, enter Lookout Mountain Nature Preserve, and walk across the parking lot to visit the nature center. Behind the nature center, a beautiful preserve features miles of hiker-only trails, open from 8 a.m. to dusk. Now all that’s left is an easy descent to the car.
If you like what you see, Hiking with Kids Colorado is available to purchase on falcon.com/books, and through Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Books-A-Million.
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