Just because the sun is sinking behind the Rockies, the family adventures don’t have to end. There are still plenty of escapades to go on in the evening hours. Try these after-dark experiences:
Go on a Sunset Hike
Watch the sunset from one of your favorite hiking or walking trails. Take a headlamp (or two) and choose a familiar trail; you may be hiking back to the car via headlamp light. Wide open trails free from obstacles are your best bet. Inspiration Point Park in Denver, open until 10 p.m., and Daniels Mountain Park in Douglas County, open until one hour after sunset, offer sweeping views of the Front Range, perfect for watching the sun sink. Be sure to check trail hours before choosing a location; some trails are open only from sunrise to dusk and may have gates that are locked at sunset.
Take a Full Moon Paddle
Whether you choose a SUP, kayak, or canoe, paddling under the light of the full moon is a magical experience. Join Rocky Mountain Paddle Board at Union Reservoir, on select days through September, 7 to 10 p.m.
Search the Night Sky
Warm nights are made for stargazing. Denver Astronomical Society hosts public nights and open houses for families at the University of Denver’s Chamberlin Observatory. Learn more about stargazing and telescopes, and tour the historic observatory. Also, look for special programs at Rocky Mountain National Park throughout the summer, including Astronomy in the Park, Stars and Meteors, and Stories Behind the Moon & Stars. Black Canyon of the Gunnison and Great Sand Dunes National Parks are both certified International Dark Sky Parks offering many programs for star lovers.
Relax by the Campfire
Whether you throw a s’mores party by a campfire or read stories by a fire pit, an evening in the light of a glowing fire makes staying up late special for kids. Join Majestic View Nature Center for evening campfire programs; view the moon through a telescope and roast marshmallows on June 14, or learn about slithery snakes during Snakes Alive Campfire on June 29. Watch the website for more mid-to-late summer activities.
Hunt for Nocturnal Animals
Grab those headlamps or flashlights—with a red filter for best results—and turn up your listening ears while searching for owls, kangaroo rats, bats, and other nocturnal animals known to live in Colorado. Open space areas and even your neighborhood are perfect places to look around. Denver Audubon offers a family-friendly nocturnal wildlife hike on June 28, exploring the area around the South Platte River for animals that are most active in the dark of night.
Float a Lantern
Participate in the Water Lantern Festival on July 20 at Carpenter Park in Thornton, and create a magical new summer tradition. Decorate your paper lantern—write your dreams, a message of peace, or a letter to a loved one. Then, watch it float out onto the lake with hundreds of other lanterns reflected on the water.
Visit a National Park at Night
All four national parks and a few of the national monuments in Colorado are open 24 hours a day, weather permitting. Rocky Mountain National Park has many nighttime ranger-led programs through the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center. At Great Sand Dunes National Park, hunt for the elusive kangaroo rat, slide down the dunes on a sand board, or hike the dunes by the light of a full moon. Kids ages five to 12 earn a special Junior Ranger Night Explorer patch by completing an activity booklet, available at the Sand Dunes visitor center. Visitor centers are not open 24 hours a day, so plan accordingly.
Catch an Outdoor Movie
Summer in Denver brings opportunities to watch favorite family movies outside under the stars. In its 20th year, Film on the Rocks shows a popular movie with an opening band and a comedian on select evenings at the world-famous Red Rocks Amphitheatre. This year’s lineup includes Ghostbusters (June 3), Mean Girls (June 17), Top Gun (July 1), and The Mighty Ducks (August 5). Check local parks and shopping areas for other night time movie opportunities.