Rocky Mountain National Park
Adventure awaits on top of the world! Ponderosa pine forests. Aspen groves. Tundra. Lakes. Waterfalls. Rocky Mountain National Park encompasses more than 415 square miles of mountain majesty topped off with 350 miles of hiking trails. With most of the park being at least 8,000 feet high, it’s easy to soak in views from every angle. As for activities, they’re endless: hiking, biking, zip lining, fishing, canoeing, swimming, horseback riding, camping, wildlife sightings and more. It’s a must to ascend the Continental Divide if you’re visiting—you can access it by driving up Trail Ridge Road, which cuts across the park east to west. Along the way, kids will see the variety of ecosystems within the park as they change before their eyes. (For little ones still napping, this could be a great time to crash out!)
Mesa Verde National Park
Climb into the lives of Colorado’s ancient tribes. Mesa Verde National Park was the first national park established to “preserve the works of man”. Today, the park preserves about 5,000 archeological sites of the ancestral Pueblo people who lived here more than 700 years ago. There are 600 cliff dwellings, mesa top sites and artifacts from almost eight centuries ago. It’s literally a walking, climbing and talking history lesson for kids on ancient Native American life and culture. Kids will have a blast exploring cliff dwellings as they begin to grasp how people used to live. Your family will walk away with a true taste of American history.
Garden of the Gods
The only park where you’ll find Kissing Camels. The Garden of the Gods is Colorado’s top geological site and a designated National Natural Landmark. You can walk, drive or bike through the park to view unique, natural red rock formations, gaining a sense of wonder for the beauty of the rocks as well as the way the movement of the Earth put them all together. You can learn how the rock formations were made either in the park’s museum or on a guided tour, and seeing them opens the door to a geology lesson for kids (and adults). In addition, the rock formations are fun shapes with names like Kissing Camels and Sentinel Spires. There are 1,364 acres to explore and more than 15 miles of hiking trails. The Perkins Central Garden Trail—a 1.5-mile trail that runs through the heart of the park—is paved and stroller/wheelchair accessible. Admission is always free.
Theatre Hikes by Arts in the Open
Mix the arts and nature with a fun family hike. Every spring and summer, Chautauqua Park in Boulder is home to Theatre Hikes, run by Arts in the Open. A two-mile (easy) hike with views of the flatirons is paired with a fun, family friendly show. The audiences, along with the actors, are taken on a hike while scenes from a production are performed along the way. It’s a unique experience that may inspire a life-long love of the stage or nature.
Walk in the footsteps of Stegosaurus, Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus Rex—literally—when you visit Dinosaur Ridge. Young paleontologists can explore more than 300 dinosaur footprints and dozens of other fossils. In addition to the Trek Through Time indoor exhibit hall, families can do a self-guided hike up Dinosaur Ridge Trail, home to hundreds of dinosaur tracks, including the Dinosaur Ridge Bone Quarry where the world’s first Stegosaurus was found. The shuttle bus tour allows visitors to ride along the trail and stop to admire the fossils.
Great Sand Dunes National Park
S is for sandboarding, sand sledding, sand castle, swimming and stargazing! The Great Sand Dunes National Park is home to the tallest dunes in North America; a 30-square-mile dune field with five sand dunes more than 700 feet tall. There aren’t very many places in the world where kids can hike up sand dunes then sand board or sled down, and then cool off in the creek at the base. You can enjoy non-motorized activities in the creek, including splashing, surfing, wading, skim boarding, floating and sand-castle building. If you stick around the park in the evening hours, you’ll be treated to stargazing like you’ve never seen before. Rent a campsite at the park, and this can become an entire evening activity.
Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park
Fly high above Iron Mountain on the highest elevation roller coaster in North America or climb deep into the geological wonders of the caves within. Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is located atop Iron Mountain in Glenwood Springs. Visitors can ride a rollercoaster at the highest elevation in the U.S.—the Cliffhanger Coaster is perched on the edge of Glenwood Canyon at 7,100 feet. Take a ride on Giant Canyon Swing that whirls riders out 1,300 feet over the canyon and Colorado River, offering up breathtaking views for the adrenaline junky. Visitors can also tour the underground caverns at the park complete with stunning stalactites and stalagmites. After a day at the park, hit the Glenwood Hot Springs pool to cool off (or warm-up).
There is a lot more to understand about that penny in your pocket. Ever wonder how a coin is made? There’s a lot more to it than you might think. Denver is home to one of the six United States Mint facilities and is one of two that offers public tours. The free, 45-minute guided tour explains the history of the United States Mint, how coins are produced, the craftsmanship required from the original designs and sculptures to the actual creation of the coins.
The Old Hundred Gold Mine Tour
Experience gold mining in action. Mine tours are one of the best ways for families to go back in time and learn about an era that shaped the state of Colorado—the Gold Rush. They’re also a great way to escape a hot summer day and potentially strike it rich. The Old Hundred Gold Mine dates back to 1872 and offers an hour-long guided tour into the heart of Galena Mountain. You can ride a vintage, electric-powered mine train, watch demonstrations of mining equipment dating back to the 1930s and pan for gold in the sluice box. There are several additional top-rated mine tours in Colorado including the Hidee Gold Mine in Central City, the Country Boy Mine in Breckenridge, Argo Gold Mine and Mill in Idaho Springs and the Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine in Cripple Creek.
The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
All aboard! Take a ride on a classic steam train with million dollar views. This historic train has been in continuous operation between Durango and Silverton since 1882, carrying passengers behind vintage steam and offering views of Colorado’s mountains inaccessible by highway. The most popular ride includes a 3.5-hour train ride from Durango into the historic mining town of Silverton where you’ll have two hours to explore the town, or do a mine tour. The ride back into Durango is an additional 3.5 hours.