My mom adventures in Fort Collins

Day Trippers: Let’s talk RMNP

A view of Lily Lake from a few weeks ago

I am ever so lucky to live very close to Rocky Mountain National Park. As a family, we try to get up to RMNP a few times a summer. The park is huge, but two of the main entrances are located in Estes Park, Colorado, only about an hour from Fort Collins. It’s truly a sight to behold, and we always seem to enjoy the adventure–even when it means hip-carrying a crying, obstinate child who refuses to sit in her Lexus-esque luxury-pack (AKA the REI backpack carrier) down the trail.

Our favorite plan for the day is to hike a short trail with the kids and eat lunch in the park. 

Don’t we look like we’re soaking up the sunshine and fresh air?

We’ve done a few hikes, and there are always plentiful options. We’ve done some more moderate ones and simply turned around whenever we needed to, but there are several hikes that have a small elevation gain and are relatively short in distance (i.e. perfect for small kids). Some are even paved. Two of my favorites are Bear Lake and Lily Lake. Bear Lake is nearly synonymous with the park. Even people who’ve only spent two hours in the park have probably been to Bear Lake. It’s very popular and incredibly scenic. The only drawback of Bear Lake is that parking can be kind of a drag, and it’s essentially a highway full of pedestrian traffic. (You can vary this hike by adding on Nymph Lake and other routes.) Lily Lake is outside of the park, very accessible and still very popular. You can find it six miles south of the town of Estes Park on Highway 7. There are off-shoot trails that will lead you up to overlook the lake, or the basic lake circumference route is fun, too.

Our girls do pretty well (methinks), and we do this simply: we carry their water for them, they wear pants and sneakers (and lots of sunscreen). We deal with whining by warning them about the bears who are always hungry for crabby, stubborn children.

If you’re going to eat lunch, why not picnic some place in the park in order to fully enjoy the majestic scenery? You can bring your basket full of prepared goodies or plan to cook your grub once you get there. We’ve done both. Hot dogs on the grill is clearly a more “authentic” meal for my beloved picnickers, but honestly both options are fantastic. Our favorite spot to picnic is at the Endovalley Picnic area. There are many different picnic options in the park (read more about that here), but Endovalley is a safe bet in the summertime. The scenery is fantastic (the sites are nestled in the woods along a stream), the tables are plentiful (32!), there are fire pits (so useful when the fire bans are not in effect… sigh), and there are restrooms and trash options (though the potties are not flush-toilets, they are usually well-tended).

A picnic with a firepit is great… unless there’s a fire ban, and then, of course, there’s always propane

In any case, a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park is absolutely worth the trip whether you can visit every year or only once in your lifetime. For a girl who grew up in Wisconsin along the shores of Lake Michigan, I have found the Rockies can be nearly as soothing to my soul as a big, beloved body of water. Ahh, it makes my shoulders relax just thinking about it. Oh, and P.S. if you think I sound like I love this, you should see my husband’s face when we’re in the park–constant grins.


4 Comments so far
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This looks so beautiful!

Comment by RFL

Right? And I should also mention it’s usually a bit cooler in the mountains. Ahh, a welcome reprieve from the heat, too! Thanks for commenting.

Comment by jaymers

ah, your little ones are ‘darlin’ – love their pink outfits!

i did visit Estes Park once (near Denver?) in a winter ice storm when my sister (also from the South) drove us safely out (yes, we do believe in miracles : ) Once again, your lovely pics invite a return trip (summer seems a bit better time to visit? 🙂

Comment by Virginia

Oooh, yes, most inadvisable during winter ice storms. Yikes! That drive is probably still a vivid one in your memory. And, yes, we are very very pink around here. Thanks for commenting.

Comment by jaymers

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