I just love summer time in Colorado! There are so many fantastic ways to spend time outdoors with your family being active or just soaking up the sun/environment. Below is a list of some of the things we enjoy doing and a brief description. Please know this only scratches the surface of things you can do outside in our state.
Jefferson County Open Space trails offer a wide variety of options for all ages and abilities from a casual walk—even for toddlers—at Lair of the Bear, to a more difficult hike outside of Pine or Conifer. We just discovered Staunton State Park off of 285 between Conifer and Pine over Memorial Day Weekend. Even my three year old could handle the path we took to the lakes (still under construction, but a great path).
Red Rocks offers many trails as well, but they have a bit of elevation gain at the beginning so be ready with little ones. However, my seven year old can handle it just fine. Pack lots of water, hat and snacks as it can be exposed. If you want to drive a little further, head to Evergreen. Three Sisters and Elk Meadows are wonderful trails. For more details, get on the Jefferson County website to see all the options.
The Cherry Creek Trail is easy and fun for families to do. If you take it all the way down to Confluence Park you can watch the kayaks and canoes on the river and even ride the trolley on weekends after 12:00 p.m. Washington Park and City Park are other great places to ride at your own pace, plus you always have the playgrounds afterwards for a break. If you want a trail that is a bit more rugged, try the Highline Canal. You can pick it up in many locations, so look online for the best spot near you as it winds through the city.
My boys love the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden. There are many trains to see and some to get into and even pretend to be the engineer. There are a few exhibits inside and a fantastic model train downstairs. The boys love to run from train to train, eat lunch (pack as there are no food/drink sales) and on the weekends ride a train. It gets us outdoors as a family and satisfies the love of trains as well. (Indoor museums are great for active exploration on rainy days, too!)
4. Denver Events
If you check the Entertainment section of the Denver Post on Fridays there is a list of events for the weekend. You never know where you may find a festival or concert. For example, City Park has free jazz concerts every Sunday evening from 6-8 p.m. Be sure to pack dinner and a blanket.
5. Wild Animal Sanctuary
The Wild Animal Sanctuary has been on our list to do for the last year and I intend to make it happen this summer! This is a rescue and educational area with more than 300 large carnivorous roam-free animals. It's located in Keenesburg, 45 minutes or so from Denver, but I've heard it's well worth the trip. What a great place to see animals in their natural habitat since we can't get to the Safari!
6. Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge
If you don't want to drive to Keenesburg, a bit closer, just outside of Commerce City is this great find. At the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, you can see buffalo roam free and other smaller animals. There are miles of paths to walk on and even a lake or two. Free for all ages.
Yes, we are landlocked, but Cherry Creek and Chatfield Reservoirs can provide a "beach" for the family to enjoy. Pack food and drinks, as there are limited sales at each location. You pay a state park fee to get in to each of them, but it is well worth it for a day of fun in the water and sun.
We escape regularly to the hills during the summer to avoid the heat of the city, enjoy the fresh air, hike and soak up the scenery. Each mountain town has weekend activities for the family, so do a bit of research to see what is going on in your favorite mountain town. If you can get away for the weekend, try to avoid traffic by leaving on Friday before dinner and don't come home until Sunday after dinner. CDOT's website can tell you the traffic patterns to guide your departure times. For a day trip, just expect others on the road in the earlier morning and after 3 p.m. Make sure you pack rain gear, as there are often afternoon storms that roll through.
9. Colorado State Fair
Each August in Pueblo you can attend the Colorado State Fair. It has games, rides, animals and, of course, the most unhealthy food you can think of, but… it is a great experience for kids and gets you out of the city to experience something new. So, eat your veggies and fruits before sampling the "not so healthy food" and reveling in the fair atmosphere and experience.
These are only some of the fantastic outings in our beautiful state! Enjoy it all as the weather warms up and the sun shines. Have fun exploring!
Mom-of-two and healthy lifestyle champion, Julie lives in Denver, Colo., with her family.