Colorado Vacations 
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Your Guide to Visiting Colorado with the Kids
Best Family Attractions
in Rocky Mountain National Park
Best Attractions for Families in Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park has a big, long list of great attractions for families.

Aside from knock-your-socks off pretty views at every turn, the rangers have put together some great museums, visitor centers, and scenic drives.

Mother nature, on the other hand, provides families with really super fishing holes, hiking trails, and out-of-this-world star gazing.

All in all, a family with kids can hardly find a better natural playground than Rocky Mountain National Park.

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d You Know?

Colorado has 41 passes over 10,000 feet above sea level.

Many can be traveled by passenger car, though some can only be accessed by 4-wheel drive vehicles.

Vail Pass offers great views of the Gore Range in Colorado
Families on vacation in
Colorado can travel right over
10,662-foot Vail Pass on I-70.  

ocky Mountain National Park preserves some of America's richest scenery in the grandeur of its massive peaks. Attractions in these mountains appeal to all kinds of visitors, from rock climbers on Longs Peak's Diamond Face to quiet artists sketching in a meadow. Here is our list of attractions best suited for families with kids.

Fall River Visitor Center

New in May of 2000, the Fall River Visitor Center and adjacent facilities are a family friendly partnership between private and public entities. The log frame buildings, located near the Fall River Entrance Station, house a large gift shop, a sit-down restaurant and restrooms. The visitor center has rangers to answer questions and help with trip planning. Interpretive exhibits about the park’s history and wildlife help families who stop in to understand the park better. Kids love the Discovery Center with its dress up section. There, they find clothing to try on from different periods in park history plus exhibits they can touch and smell. (Pee-euw! Check out the trapping display.)

Beaver Meadows Visitor Center (Park Headquarters)

Located just inside the park boundary on US Highway 36, the Beaver Meadows Park Headquarters and Visitor Center is the only structure in the Park Service to be designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Built in 1966, it is now listed as a National Historic Landmark.

Inside, helpful staff and literature send families up the right path as they head into Rocky Mountain National Park. An exhibit showing a large topographical relief map of the area lets you get a feel for the lay of the land. Rangers behind the counter have maps and all kinds of flyers describing hiking trails, campgrounds, historic sites, wildlife viewing spots, life zones, scenic drives and much more. A 20-minute film describes the park and a small bookstore offers reference brochures, pamphlets, and books. Restrooms are available, and the women’s room has a diaper deck.

Trail Ridge Road  

Traversing 48 miles between the villages of Estes Park and Grand Lake, Trail Ridge Road is one of America’s most famous alpine skyways. Its broad sweeping curves lift drivers through a series of life zones from montane and sub-alpine forests to alpine tundra. Several turnouts allow families to pull over and enjoy vast panoramas. Along the way, picnic grounds, wildlife viewing spots, and hiking trails tempt folks to leave their cars and explore mountain wildlands and wonders. Steep drop-offs along the side of the road in some spots make even seasoned mountain drivers grip the wheel tightly and breathe a little faster.

Old  Fall River Road

Old Fall River Road is the original auto-route to Fall River Pass, which rises 11, 796 feet above sea level. Built in 1921, this gravel track winds through several hairpin curves and steep sections to emerge above timberline in glacier carved terrain. The road is so narrow that  vehicles cannot pass each other safely, hence its one-way-uphill designation. Its curves are so tight that your car must be shorter than 25 feet to navigate them. With a speed limit of 15 miles per hour, the fourteen miles feel kind of like a nature hike as much as a drive. Still, it is worthwhile to get out of your car and put your boots to the ground at the Chapin Creek Trailhead. When you lift your eyes from the path, they will appreciate the view.

Alpine Visitor Center

pen from Memorial Day through mid-October (when the snow gets too deep), the Alpine Visitor Center perches at 11,796 feet
above sea level on a steep, glacier-gouged mountainside. It overlooks the junction of the Old Fall River Road and the newer Trail Ridge Road, plus mountain ranges that stretch into Wyoming and all over Colorado. Families will find an extensive gift shop and bookstore there as well as a big snack bar and vault toilets. Rangers lead interpretive talks and walks through the alpine landscape and answer visitors’ questions.

Bear Lake

rail Ridge Road aside, the Bear Lake Corridor is arguably the most visited part of Rocky Mountain National Park, and for good reason. Shuttle buses, ranger hikes, church groups, families, photographers, hikers, backpackers, mountain climbers, fishermen, and a
couple of parking lots the size of Wal-Mart’s still don’t spoil the gorgeous wild beauty of the place.

The scenic drive from the Beaver Meadows entrance passes through 10 miles of montane forests and open meadows. It crosses ancient glacial rubble piles and winds through thick, shady spruce-fir forests. You can drive the whole way and fight traffic and pray for a parking space, or you can catch the shuttle and skip the hassle.

From the parking lot/shuttle stop at the top, walk a few feet over a rise to where the trees part and chunky, cliffy peaks soar over the blue waters of Bear Lake. Its scenic enough to stop right there, and many folks do, but they are missing the incredible hiking that starts at that point. Trails easy, moderate, and difficult lead to some of the best scenery Colorado has to offer. Bear Lake, pretty as it is, is only the beginning. Rangers are often stationed at the parking lot to offer advice and ideas to fit your family’s interests and abilities. Marked posts and a booklet take families on a self-guided nature hike around Bear Lake, itself. 

Sprague Lake

heelchair accessible also means stroller accessible, and at Sprague Lake, the ½ mile, level trail and the vista of soaring peaks make for one pretty family stroll. A level path leads from Glacier Basin Campground to the lake, or you can drive to the trailhead of the lake’s loop. Along the circular route, kids can check out the transparent water, the fish that live in the lake, the marshes that border the pond, and the jagged, mountainous backdrop. A self-guided nature trail helps families to understand and appreciate what they are seeing, and picnic tables offer a place to eat. Families who want to take a horseback ride will find a livery there as well.

Moraine Park Museum

ig picture windows on the second floor of this historic log building frame a scene that looks like a living Bierstadt painting. When a summer snowstorm blows through or afternoon showers dampen spirits, the view is made all the more lovely by the warm, stout walls that provide escape from the elements. An excellent educational stop anytime, the Moraine Park Museum is a perfect port for families caught in a mountain storm.

Interactive exhibits help kids to understand the geologic and biological processes that created the view outside the windows. A small gift shop and bookstore sells guidebooks and souvenirs, while restrooms offer a place to go potty. When the weather clears, a nature trail, just over ½ mile in length, winds through the montane forest behind the museum. Benches along the path offer a place to rest and take in the scenery.

Longs Peak

The highest point in Rocky Mountain National Park, Longs Peak is an icon for the park and for Colorado as well. About 20,000 people summit the 14,259-foot peak every year, and many more attempt it but never make it all the way. The keyhole route is a non-technical climb on nice days, but still extremely challenging. It has sections where climbers must traverse a narrow ledge exposed to a lethal drop. Passable in dry weather, it is dangerous when snowy, icy, or wet. In any weather, the 16-mile round trip with an elevation gain (and descent again) of 4, 850 feet is a grunt even for very fit climbers. Check out the park service brochure on climbing Longs Peak and get advice from a ranger if you have such lofty aspirations.

Wild Basin

lace names in Wild Basin suggest that this area, tucked into the southeast corner of the park, is a great spot for bird watching. And it is true that Ouzel Creek is full of the chubby grey birds that have a habit of diving into waterfalls. But Pipit, Junco, Bluebird, Ouzel, and Finch Lakes offer much more than feathery wildlife viewing. Easy and moderate trails meander through forests, and over brooks beneath the 13,176-foot crags of Copeland Mountain. Here streams and ponds are full of the native Greenback Cutthroat Trout, which once teetered on the edge of disappearing from our world.

Great for family hiking any time of year, in the winter, cross country skiers and snowshoers soak in the frosty air and Wild Basin scenery as well.

Kawuneeche Visitor Center

ocated at the west entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park, the Kawuneeche Visitor center helps families orient themselves to the park and to plan their trip. A large relief map provides an overview of the mountains and valleys in the park, while exhibits help explain the geology and wildlife of the area. Cultural displays show how people have interacted with the landscape here over the years. Visitors settle into comfy auditorium seats for two excellent orientations films. “Colorado Secrets of the Source” is 50 minutes long and shows daily at 1:15 p.m. Its outstanding wildlife photography, including footage of kingfishers and dippers diving into and “flying” underwater, captivates and thrills viewers.  The slow motion sequence of a mountain lion chasing a hare through the snow had my kids on the edge of their seats. Rangers and volunteers at the information desk help you find answers and plan your visit. In the auditorium, ranger talks are held on Saturday evenings throughout the summer. Accessible restrooms, drinking water, and a small bookshop are also available.

Holzwarth Trout Lodge Historic Site

A historic guest ranch, the Holzwarth Historic Site gives visitors a feeling for life in the Kawuneeche Valley at the turn of the twentieth century. Walk the level, stroller friendly 0.5-mile trail from the parking lot to the old log buildings and ranch implements. Short, volunteer run orientation tours are held throughout the summer. A historic taxidermy shop on the premises shows kids how folks make those deer heads that stick out from the top of fancy lodge walls. Pick up a brochure at the Kawuneeche Visitor center and read the interpretive signs at the site.

On the way back to the car, stop
on the bridge that crosses the Colorado River, still a small creek at this point. It offers a unique perspective of this deep glacier-dug trough in the earth’s crust that is the Kawuneeche Valley.

Next Page >>> Ranger Programs for Kids in Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park Travel Guide for Families:











Related Links:

Colorado National Park Directory
Colorado State Park Directory