Best Hikes for Young Kids Near Boulder, Colorado


November 25, 2017

There is nothing more rewarding than enjoying my favorite activities with my sons, so when we have a good hiking experience around our home, I am always excited and happy. Hiking with the boys is not always easy, mainly because they’re not (and I’m not) convinced that they like it. Normally they come around after a little bit, but I do try to choose good hiking trails for them.

What makes a good hiking trail for young kids? Well, for my boys, it means no super steep hills, especially right at the beginning of the hike (like the one up Chautauqua in Boulder). I also have found that they do better with a hard-packed dirt surface, instead of one with medium-sized rocks all over the place (tripping hazard). If it’s hot out, I think shade. And if it is super windy, I’d probably just stay home.

Keep reading for the best hiking trails for young kids in the Boulder, Colorado area.

Great Family Hike Number 1 — Heil Valley Ranch’s Lichen Loop

I enjoy taking my boys to this hiking trail that is several miles north of Boulder. The Lichen Loop is a short, easy 1.6 mile loop. No mountain bikes are allowed on this particular trail (and neither are dogs, just FYI), which is always one less thing to worry about as I hike with the kids. There are several boulders that make great stopping spots to play on or take a snack break on.

The trail has a Nature Detectives Mystery Guide. This is a club put on by Boulder County aimed at 4-11 year olds to help foster their appreciation of nature. (Just some of other area hikes that participate in this self-guided program include Betasso Preserve, Pella Crossing, and Walden Ponds.)

One con about this hike is that we have had a hard time finding parking at the trailhead a few of the times we have tried to hike there. Be sure to arrive on the early side of a weekend day.

DIRECTIONS: From Boulder, head north on Highway 36, and turn left (west) on Lefthand Canyon Drive. Turn right onto Geer Canyon Drive and take this road into the park and the main parking area.

MORE: Restrooms available. Mountain bikes not allowed on this trail. No dogs.

Great Family Hike Number 2 — Heil Valley Ranch’s Overland Loop

As I just mentioned, the Lichen Loop parking lot can fill up at Heil Valley Ranch. If it does, parking close to the Overland Loop and starting on that hike is a good back-up hiking option at Heil Valley Ranch. The loop is rated moderate and is 2.3 miles long. Mountain bikes are allowed on most of the hike (but dogs are still unwelcome).

My boys loved it because part of the hike is an old fire burn zone (from the 2003 Overland Fire), which was incredibly fun to see for two fire-fighting loving kiddos.

My husband and I did have to carry our guys for about a third of this hike. The next time I would turn around after the burn zone ends and try to get them to hike out by themselves.

DIRECTIONS: From Boulder, head north on Highway 36, and turn left (west) on Lefthand Canyon Drive. Turn right onto Geer Canyon Drive and take this road into the park and the main parking area.

MORE: Restrooms available, especially in the main parking lot area closer to the Lichen Loop trail. Mountain bikes allowed on part of this hike. No dogs.

Our oldest plotting our hiking route at Heil Valley Ranch outside of Boulder, Colorado.

Great Family Hike Number 3 — Rabbit Mountain in Lyons, Colorado

My boys love heading to Rabbit Mountain, although I am not sure why. The hill that we hike at the beginning is a bit steep. It levels out for a bit, and then families have the choice of going up a super steep hill to a scenic look-out (the 1.5 mile Little Thompson Overlook Trail) or checking out more rambling trails (the India Mesa Trail or the Eagle Wind Trail). The trails are often rocky and full of hiking hazards, and there is no shade along these hiking trails.

I think the reason they enjoy this area is the name, as well as us going on slow and leisurely hikes here. We amble along, taking in the views (Front Range mountains, prairie dogs, horseback riders) and turn around before the boys get too tired or cranky.

DIRECTIONS: From Longmont /I-25, take CO-66 west, turn right on North 53rd Street, and follow it 2.9 miles to the trailhead on the right. On CO-66. You have gone too far if you get to Highway 36. From Boulder, take Highway 36 to Lyons. Turn right at the intersection of 36 and CO-66. Turn left onto North 53rd Street, and follow the road 2.9 miles to the trail head on the right.

MORE: It looks like Rabbit Mountain will be closed to the public Monday through Wednesday from September 11, 2017, through January 31, 2018, to allow hunting. I’ve been going here for years, and this is shocking news to me. Research for yourself before you go on those weekdays in case I am misunderstanding the notice on the Boulder County website. Restroom at trailhead, mountain bikes allowed, pets allowed.

Great Family Hike Number 4 — Enchanted Mesa / McClintock Trailhead.

Chautauqua is one of my favorite places to visit in Boulder…especially because my husband and I got married there. And it has so much to offer families…a General Store that sells ice cream in warm weather months, large lawns for flying kites, and great playgrounds. But the main hikes near the Ranger Cottage have never worked for my kids. Too much steep/work at the beginning for them.

But, the McClintock trail, which starts at the picnic area just south of the Chautauqua Auditorium, when combined with the Enchanted Mesa trail, makes a great (approximately) 1.5 mile easy loop.

Parking has changed at Chautauqua over the past year. If planning to do this hike on a summer weekend, you may need to take a bus to get to Chautauqua, or else pay for parking. The city of Boulder did a pilot shuttle/parking program over 2017, so check out their website to see what 2018 will bring.

DIRECTIONS: In Boulder, take Baseline Road heading west. Just past 9th Street, turn left into Chautauqua Park. Head towards the Auditorium and park near the picnic shelter if you are visiting on a winter weekday. If in the summer, good luck.

MORE: Chautauqua has several restroom options. Dogs are not allowed on a section of the McClintock trail. No mountain bikers here.

Great Family Hike Number 5 — Dakota Ridge > Sanitas Valley Trail Loop

Dakota Ridge is a fun hike for families. The trail definitely has hazards along the way (large rocks perfect for tripping on and big rugged steps), but the views are gorgeous, and we love to run down the Sanitas Valley Trail (and, yes, a child will most likely trip and fall on the run down). There is limited shade (like most Boulder hikes), so do this one on a mild day or else early in the morning, or early in the evening.

By combining the two trails, you get about a 2.5 mile loop that is pet-friendly, but no mountain biking.

DIRECTIONS: In Boulder, head to 4th Street and Dakota Place or Valley View. I park along 4th Street, and head to the trailhead by walking west on Dakota Place from 4th. Trail access will be on the left.

MORE: No restrooms on the loop, but nearby at the bottom of the Mount Sanitas trail. No mountain bikes. Dogs allowed.

Great Family Hike Number 6 — Bobolink Trail

This is a great hike for kiddos. It meanders under big trees along South Boulder Creek, and is very flat. The distance from the trailhead to South Boulder Road is 1.5 miles, so you can get in an easy 3 miles, or turn around whenever you want in hopes that the kids will still have energy to make it back to your car. (Or bike, if you are a Boulder native.) I am a fan of the trees, the water, and the flatness for this trail walk.

DIRECTIONS: The trailhead is located just west of the intersection of Baseline and Cherryvale Roads in Boulder, Colorado.

MORE: No restrooms, dogs permitted, and bikes allowed for at least half of this walk.

Great Family Hike Number 7 — Flagstaff Mountain

This is a super secret hike that I am about to tell you about. So secretive that I am having a hard time finding details on-line. So you’ll have to trust me on this one. But, first, why I like this hike for young kids: the trail is nice with few tripping hazards and there is shade!!! I did this as an out and back hike, and turned around at no spot in particular. There is a cool stone building with picnic tables that kids love.

DIRECTIONS: Drive up Flagstaff Mountain to the entrance to the Amphitheater. Park right at the entrance, in the small parking lot. Cross the road you just drove up, and look for a trail on the other side of the road. Take it.

MORE: After spending at least 30 minutes researching online to make things more concrete for you, I am thinking the hike I am referring to is the Ranger Trail. The parking is at Realization Point (isn’t that the greatest name for an outdoor hiking spot?!). Restrooms near the amphitheater, yes to dogs, no to mountain bikes.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]This is a cool resource by the City of Boulder for families hiking in Boulder. It provides links to help kids connect to nature through puzzles, games, humor, and good old information.

Best Boulder Area Hikes for Families with Young Kids.
Best Hikes For Kids Near Boulder, Colorado.

Do you have any Boulder-area hikes to share that are family friendly? If so, we’d love to know! Or, if you have taken your family on one of these best hikes for young kids, please let us know what you think.

Comments +

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *