I like to joke that hiking with young children = 1 hour of packing, 1.5 hours driving, 20 minutes eating snack, 15 minutes whining and 3 minutes hiking.
We take the boys hiking as often as we can, hoping one day our love of hiking rubs off and they enjoy it. Or, at least one day they'll get old enough to do other things while my husband and I hike! Colorado has tons of family-friendly trails with creeks, waterfalls and rocks to explore. Luckily, many are within a 45 minute drive of Denver. Here's a list of some nearby hikes we like to do with the kids - whether they like it or not!
Upper Maxwell Falls is easily my favorite hike with kids. Evergreen is about 40 minutes from our house in Highlands Ranch. The drive is short and scenic. The one-mile round-trip hike is mostly wooded and follows Maxwell creek to a trickle of a waterfall. Don't go for the waterfall -- go for the creek and shade. This is one of the few easy hikes we've found with lots of trees. The kids love exploring the creek. The only downside is the small parking lot, so make sure to get there early on weekends.http://dayhikesneardenver.com/maxwell-falls-evergreen-colorado/
The spring wildflowers and fun bouldering / rock climbing make Alderfer/Three Sisters one of our favorite spring hike with kids. You can make it as hard or easy as you want. Parking is limited and fills quickly on summer weekends.
Kids love exploring the 1.3 mile trail and creek at lair o' the bear in Morrison. The trail is flat, with plenty of spots to explore the creek. This bike-free trail meets up with tother trails that allow mountain bikes, so be aware of others on the trail. The trail leads to a "castle" where events are held. There are several picnic tables near the parking lot. If you don't pack lunch, stop by nearby Morrison for ice cream or lunch. This easy trail is also good for visitors to Colorado who haven't adjusted to the altitude. It gets them outside with little effort.
It's easy to imagine dinosaurs roaming the earthy when you visit the red rock formations at Roxbourough SP. There are several trails, one of which is perfect for children. The visitor center has clean bathrooms, a gift shop and knowledgeable park rangers. The rock formations are as beautiful as Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, but without the crowds. There's plenty of parking. Keep your eyes out for mule deer, foxes and bears!
5. Castlewood Canyon - Franktown
The trail winds down to an old dam and creek. This is one of the few trails where you climb down, down, down at first. Save your energy for the uphill climb back. There are spots for older kids to explore, and easy trails for the little ones. Checkout the playground near the parking lots -- if the kids have energy left. There is plenty of parking, and areas for large events -- family reunions, weddings, etc. The views from the top of the trail encompasses the entire front range, from Pikes Peak to Longs Peak. Gorgeous! It can be muddy or icy in spots, so careful. We love this hike in the summer!
Mt. falcon park is part of the JeffCo park system. The trails are well-marked, the bathrooms are clean, and there is plenty of parking. (Summer weekends can get crowded.) Make sure to stop by the castle ruins from a visionary's failed bid to build a summer White House for US Presidents. The tower trail leads to a lookout with amazing mountain views.
Colorado provides endless opportunities for family adventures. These are just a few of our family favorites.