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Family-Friendly Itinerary Help Please!

Des Moines, Iowa
Level Contributor
2 posts
3 reviews
Family-Friendly Itinerary Help Please!

Hello, my family of 4 is traveling to Estes Park in late June. I have a 6 year-old who is a very good sport and loves dinosaurs, and a 3 year-old who is not such a good sport and needs shorter hikes (he can definitely do a mile one way maybe 1.5 miles one way). Last year we went to the Smoky Mountains and they loved being outside so I'd like to create the same thing for them this year.

I have never been to Colorado before and am finding the things to do overwhelming. We will be there for 5 days. I'd appreciate any suggestions on scenic drives, good walking/hiking trails appropriate for my younger children, any cool wildlife spots, and any fun, tourist-y kid-type things (dinosaurs are extra points!).

I'd also love restaurant suggestions, particularly anything fun for kids or that is gluten-free friendly. My 3 year old is super picky and I can't eat gluten so it is hard to feed us while traveling!

Thanks in advance for ANY guidance you can give me!

Level Contributor
12,958 posts
16 reviews
1. Re: Family-Friendly Itinerary Help Please!

Then you must go to Dinosaur Ridge - your 6 year old will love it :) http://www.dinoridge.org/

Windsor, Colorado
Destination Expert
for Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park
Level Contributor
12,950 posts
136 reviews
2. Re: Family-Friendly Itinerary Help Please!

Stop at any RMNP Visitor Center and get the free booklets so the kids can become Junior Rangers. The Moraine Park Visitor Center is Junior Ranger Headquarters.

#1 scenic drive for Rocky Mountain National Park is Trail Ridge Road. Plan much of a day to drive and explore along Trail Ridge Road over to Grand Lake and back. Getting an early start reduces crowds and improves wildlife viewing.

Grab a picnic lunch in Estes Park (Country Market or Safeway Grocery) and drive into the Fall River Entrance to RMNP. With an early start, it is possible to have lunch in Grand Lake. I don't know much about gluten free options in Grand Lake. Along highway 34 in RMNP, look for bighorn sheep at Sheep Lakes and elk in Horseshoe Park. Turn onto Trail Ridge Road. There are numerous overlooks and short trails along this route. Eleven miles of the road travel above 11,500 ft. The views are just amazing and you have great chances to see elk, bighorn sheep, moose, deer, marmots and pikas plus other little critters. Since the kids may get tired, these are the stops I would make. You will see these on the RMNP map you get at the entrance station.

Beaver Boardwalk at Beaver Ponds - very short walk to meadow with a stream and nice views and kids like boardwalks

Hidden Valley - 1/2 mile loop nature trail and real restrooms and nice picnic areas along a cascading creek plus wildflowers in late June

Many Parks Curve Overlook - kids love to climb on the rocks.

Rainbow Curve Overlook - critters are here but it is illegal to feed them

Forest Canyon Overlook - short trail to amazing views and marmots hang out on the rocks and elk graze in the area

Rock Cut Overlook - the Tundra Communities Trail is a do not miss! It is mostly paved, 1 mile round trip, tundra flowers, wildlife, views, mushroom rocks.


Alpine Visitor Center and Trail Ridge Store and Café (real restrooms, nice gift shop, small café, amazing views)

Lake Irene - nice picnic area if needed

Far View Curve Overlook

Holzwarth Historic Site - just walk as far as the Colorado River (level and less than 1/2 mile round trip) as elk and moose frequent this area

Kawuneeche Visitor Center - real restrooms

If you have the time and energy, go to Adams Falls. It is only .3 miles to the waterfall. You do have stone steps to climb. Above the waterfall, there are areas where the creek leaves its channel and the water pools. It is often shallow enough for the kids to play in. That depends on snowmelt and runoff. Use caution as the clear water is deeper and swifter than it appears.


From the Top Questions in the RMNP forum, here is a Trail Ridge Road timeline that will help you plan this day.


Family friendly trails under 3 miles in RMNP

Bear Lake Nature Loop


Bear Lake TH to Nymph and Dream Lakes


Glacier Gorge TH to Alberta Falls


Sprague Lake Nature Loop


Lily Lake/Lily Ridge


Twin Owls Loop (kids love the giant rock formations along this trail)


Copeland Falls


Fern Lake TH to Arch Rocks and The Pool (a little over 3 miles total). At the Cub Lake TH which you will pass, the Big Thompson River is often shallower and slower with sandy areas to play in.


Kids in Estes Park love the Aerial Tram.


The Riverwalk in Estes Park is very pleasant.


At the Lake Estes Marina, you can rent paddle boats or the pedal cart for the ride around the Lake Estes Trail.


Horseback riding is fun. The 3 year old rides double with an adult (within weight limits and advance reservations to insure a double saddle is available).


Jackson Stables at the YMCA has hayrides with a campfire marshmallow roast.


Check the Estes Park Calendar and the Estes Park Happenings under the Events tab at this link for other fun things to do during the time of your visit.


Because over 3 million people visit RMNP each year and most come through or stay in Estes Park, many restaurants have gluten free options. Family friendly ones to check out.

Notchtop Bakery and Café

Poppy's (outdoor seating on the Riverwalk), Mama Rose's

Peppers (like Qdoba or Chipotle but better where you build your own meal - roof top dining available)

Village Pizza

Grubsteak (outdoor patio)

Ed's Cantina (outdoor seating)

If you are staying in lodging with a kitchen, there is a full service Safeway Grocery Store (major chain) in Estes Park. Sign up for the free shopping card for best prices.


On your way to Estes Park, you can take the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway and stop at Nederland for the Carousel of Happiness.


Greeley, Colorado
Level Contributor
1 post
64 reviews
3. Re: Family-Friendly Itinerary Help Please!

This has nothing to do with itinerary but drink SO MUCH water. The altitude can be a doozy. Also if you might even think you could ever get carsick bring Dramamine or the pressure point bracelets for relief.

Des Moines, Iowa
Level Contributor
2 posts
3 reviews
4. Re: Family-Friendly Itinerary Help Please!

Thank you all so much for your help! I feel much less overwhelmed now. There are some great suggestions here and I am grateful!

Level Contributor
92 posts
7 reviews
5. Re: Family-Friendly Itinerary Help Please!

Thank you for posting this as it is very helpful. We are headed to RMNP in August. Are there different trails you would recommend for 20 something kids??

Level Contributor
12,958 posts
16 reviews
6. Re: Family-Friendly Itinerary Help Please!

Ruggedgem you should start a new thread to post your questions.

7. Re: Family-Friendly Itinerary Help Please!

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