The BEST Hiking Trails in Rocky Mountain National Park for Kids

Rocky Mountain National Park is one of my favorite Parks in the whole country! There’s just something about Colorado that fills my soul with peace. So, taking my boys to Rocky Mountain National Park was very high on my adventure list.

Before we visited RMNP, my boys had only done a few hikes here and there. This Park actually created a new love of hiking for our entire family. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I wanted to see picturesque scenery and I wanted some beautiful family photos of our adventures! We got all of that and more, so keep reading below to learn about the best hiking trails in Rocky Mountain National Park for kids!

Click here for my best tips for hiking for kids!

The Best Hiking Trails in RMNP

Most of our favorite trails are in the Bear Lake Corridor, I’ll touch on this more below.

If I only had one day in the Park, the next three hikes would be on my list!

Nymph Lake

Nymph Lake – To access this hike, the trailhead starts at Bear Lake. This trail is only about a one mile out & back hike and is generally considered a fairly easy route. The Lilly pads were our favorite feature at this lake! If you keep going along this trail around the lake, you will end up at Dream Lake, which is my next favorite stop in RMNP!

Dream Lake

Dream Lake – Dream Lake truly is a dream! It’s close to a mile past Nymph Lake, so a total of 1.9 miles out & back from the trailhead at Bear Lake. There are a lot of flat rocks around the lake, so we found a spot and had some snacks and a quick rest before venturing on to Emerald Lake, which is breathtaking!

The trail to Emerald Lake

Emerald Lake – This trail is the absolute best! It’s about three miles out & back from the trailhead at Bear Lake. If you plan to make this hike, you will see Nymph Lake and Dream Lake along the way! We actually combined all three of these trails into one day of hiking and it only took us about 3.5 hours to complete! I would rate this entire three mile trail as moderate, but it was definitely easy enough for my boys to hike without complaining! The views along the entire way are absolutely amazing!

Emerald Lake

Alberta Falls

Alberta Falls – Alberta Falls is a beautiful hike to a beautiful waterfall! You definitely don’t want to miss this one. The trail to the falls is 1.6 miles out & back and only takes about an hour or so. It’s a little harder on the way back in than on the way out. My boys not only loved the waterfall, but they loved all the chipmunks in the area around the falls. This one also starts in the Bear Lake Corridor. We hiked the first three trails (Nymph, Dream, and Emerald Lakes) on our first day in the Park and then hiked Alberta Falls on the second day. I’m not sure my boys could’ve combined all four trails into one day but it is an option if you have limited time here!

This is a great place to stop, rest, take in the falls, & have a picnic!

Lake Haiyaha – This is probably the most gorgeous lake I’ve ever seen in person, but the trail to get to it is super tough. It’s about two miles of walking up a mountain and then scrambling over large boulders to reach the water. The total trail is about 4 miles out & back and is considered a challenging hike. Currently, the water is this amazing shade of blue caused by a recent rock slide last summer! If your kids can handle getting to the top and like climbing on rocks, then you should go for it! The hike back down is very easy since it’s all downhill!

Lake Haiyaha

Easier Trails in RNMP

Sprague Lake around 4:45 pm in July

Sprague Lake Loop – If you want the chance to see a moose, then be sure to add a visit to Sprague Lake to your day! This is the easiest trail, it’s more of a loop around the lake. It’s on flat ground and is less than a mile. There’s even benches and different areas to sit down and take in the landscape! We arrived right around 4:30 and saw a moose and her baby within fifteen minutes! It was the highlight of the trip for sure! We hiked to Alberta Falls first and then ended our day at Sprague Lake. This area is also a great place to watch the sunrise or sunset!

Bear Lake

Bear Lake – This is the first lake you will encounter on the trails at Bear Lake. It’s also an easy loop around the lake and is less than a mile around. We only spent about fifteen minutes here before hiking on to Emerald Lake. If you want to see beautiful scenery without much hiking, then this is the place to be!

Colorado River Trail

Colorado River Trail – This is one of the only trails that we hiked that wasn’t in the Bear Lake Corridor. We definitely prefer the Bear Lake area, but if you’re unable to get a permit to enter (more info. below), then I suggest driving along Trail Ridge Road and then hiking this trail! The entire loop is about 4.2 miles, but we only hiked about half of that before turning around. The part we did was very easy and flat. The boys liked walking across the river on downed trees and we saw a lot of cool animal tracks in the mud here!

General Information About RMNP

Timed-Entry Permit Details

Rocky Mountain National Park now requires a timed-entry permit to enter the Park from May 26, 2023 through October 22, 2023. Always check out the NPS websites, which include valuable information, closures, webcams, etc. There are two separate areas of the Park, Bear Lake Corridor and “the rest of the Park”. Kind of confusing right, especially for first-timers! So, hopefully I can break this down for you in an easier way. Timed-entry permits are available on the first of the month for the following month, so I got our permits on June 1st for our July trip. They are $2 for each day that you want to enter, plus you have to pay the park entrance fee once at the gate & I believe this is $35 for the week. The Park only releases a certain amount of permits each day and hold a couple hundred that go live at 5:00 pm for the following day. So, for example, if I wanted tickets for July 15th I could go online (on the Park’s website) on July 14th at 5:00 pm and TRY to get tickets for the following day. But these tickets go fast, so you need to be online and logged in to your account for a quick purchase. Click here for the website to get your timed-entry permit! Bear Lake Corridor is the area of the Park that we enjoyed the most. I highly suggest getting your timed-entry reservations for this area as soon as they are released!

There are a couple of different entrances to get into the Park, we always used the Beaver Meadows entrance coming in from Estes Park, it is very close to the Bear Lake Corridor Entrance. You will need timed-entry permits for all entrances. When you enter here, you can drive along Trail Ridge Road from one end of the park to another, roughly 45 miles I believe. The views are stunning and there are several different areas to pull over and park to check out views or hike trails. You can get a Park map at the entrance and everything is nicely marked off with signs. I highly recommend driving this road at least once on your visit! We found so many neat places to stop for photos and some really great trails with short hikes! Make sure you have a full tank of gas if you plan to drive this road!

If you have any questions about visiting RMNP, please don’t hesitate to reach out! I am happy to help you plan an epic adventure, just leave a comment and I will get back to you!

Happy Trails, my friends!

Hiking for Beginners: Tips for Finding Trails, What to Pack, and More!

Have you found yourself wanting to explore more of the great outdoors, but you aren’t sure where to start? I was in the exact same place as you just a few years ago! Now, I’m so much more confident when it comes to planning epic hiking trips and we’ve clocked over 85 miles of hiking over the past year alone! Keep reading to discover how I find the best trails and learn more about the hiking essentials we never leave behind!

Emerald Lake Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park, about 3 miles out & back.

Hiking Trails

Are you capable of making the climb on this trail?

Tips for Finding the Right Hiking Trails

Finding the best hiking trails for you and your family involves some planning ahead. You definitely need to assess your abilities and should never choose a trail that is too challenging or too long. I highly recommend starting out with shorter hikes first, especially if there will be any elevation changes.

Most trails are very well marked!

When we first started hiking, I wasn’t really sure where to go. I looked on Pinterest, read other blogs, and followed hikers on Instagram for inspiration. This led us to hiking in different National and State Parks across the country! If you aren’t sure where to start, then look into hiking at the closest National or State Park near you. These Parks are pretty remarkable, which is why the land has been protected for all of us to enjoy. Most of these Parks have trails for just about any skill level and the trailheads are well marked. Plus, you can chat with the Park Rangers stationed at most of the popular trailheads for more tips and guidance!

The AllTrails app logo

I exclusively use the app AllTrails to help find the best hiking trails for my family once we’ve chosen our destination. Jereme and I are able to hike more strenuous and longer trails, but our kids are not quite there yet. When all of us are hiking, we choose trails that range from one to three miles and are rated as easy or moderate. I really like using this app because it includes detailed information about the trail, photos from other hikers, driving directions to the trailhead, and even a map so you won’t get lost while you’re hiking!

This is an example of the information about a trail in the AllTrails app!


When you decide on your destination, I recommend checking out their website for any permits you might need to park or enter the trailhead. Several places, including some National Parks, require timed-entry permits during the peak summer months. Others require you to pre-purchase a parking pass. So, always visit the website to learn more about where you’re going and to ensure that you are prepared for your visit!

What to Pack

Glad we had our raincoats on this trail!

Adult Hiking Gear

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I have had my Hiking Back Pack for years & still love it!

Having the right gear is also essential when you’re hiking. We don’t have much, but what we do have really makes a huge difference in how enjoyable our hiking trips are.

  • Hiking Boots – I cannot stress the importance of hiking boots enough! Make sure that you purchase a pair that are waterproof and sturdy around your ankles. Another important tip is to break these hiking boots in before you hit the trails to prevent blisters!
  • Hiking Poles – Jereme really enjoys hiking with poles. I feel like they get in my way, but that might be because I’m always trying to take photos while we’re hiking.
  • Large Hiking Back Pack – Jereme carries a larger hiking back pack that holds more items, like raincoats, a towel, and my camera stand.
  • Cooler Back Pack I carry a smaller hiking backpack that holds plenty of food, snacks and water along with the first aid kit.
  • Layers – You can hike in just about clothing, but we try to stick with layers. Often, we will start hiking early in the morning and it can be quiet chilly, so we bring along sweatshirts, gloves, and hats.

Kids Hiking Gear

The boys with their Hiking Boots and Hiking Poles

I have found that making sure that my boys have the right gear is also extremely important in ensuring that the day goes smoothly. All bets are off if they get cold, wet, and miserable! Below are the things that I make sure my kiddos have before we leave for a hike!

  • Kids Hiking Boots – My boys love to explore and climb and these hiking boots have done the job! They’re also waterproof, which has been amazing since they love splashing in water.
  • Dry Fit Clothes – I like to have the boys in dry fit clothing, just in case it rains or they decide to get into water along the trails.
  • Gloves – I always pack thin gloves when we go hiking. We got really cold one summer hiking in the mountains in Colorado. Sometimes at the top of a mountain, or when a pop-up rain shower happens, it gets cold quick!
  • Raincoats – We always bring our raincoats, too. We don’t let a little rain stop our fun!
  • Kids Hiking Poles – The boys really like hiking with these hiking poles and have said that they are actually helpful when they are tired and have to walk up and downhill.
  • Cooling Bandanas – This was also a great purchase a few years ago! The boys love bringing these along on summer hikes. We usually put them in the freezer the night before we hike and they stay pretty cold!
These Cooling Bandanas were a great purchase!

In My Backpack

This is why you need Bear Spray!

I really try not to weigh our hiking back packs down with too much, but there are several things that everyone should bring along with them when hiking. This is what we pack in our back packs before we hit the trails!

  • First Aid Kit – This is another must have! It never fails, my oldest always end up with a cut, scrape, or splinter on our hikes. This travel first aid kit goes along with us on hikes, road trips, and even to the beach!
  • Bug Spray – If you’re going to hike in the forest, or really anywhere outdoors, then don’t forget to pack the bug spray! You’ll thank me later!
  • Bear Spray – We had our first bear encounter last summer in Grand Teton National Park! It was amazing to see a bear in nature, but a little scary at the same time. We felt a lot more secure having bear spray with us! Remember to open the bear spray and clip it somewhere with easy access instead of packing in your back pack!
  • Sunscreen – It’s so important to pack the sunscreen, no matter the season or temps!
  • Binoculars – We love taking along our binoculars! Sometimes the boys get a little bored during certain parts of a hike, so having these on hand is useful for many different reasons!
  • Cell Phone – I take along my cell phone for photos, but also in case of emergencies and to have a map/GPS. I suggest bringing it along at all times in case you need to call emergency services for assistance on the trails.
  • Camera Stand – Obviously not everyone will want to bring a camera stand along, but I don’t go many places without mine since I use it for our family photos! The one I have even fits in my smaller hiking back pack and isn’t too heavy to hike with!
  • Biodegradable Wet Wipes – I won’t mention any names, but my little one always has to use the bathroom when we’re hiking! These wipes really come in handy when nature calls!
  • Extra Cell Phone Battery Pack – Don’t forget an extra battery pack! My phone dies quick as it is, but especially when I’m taking photos and videos and using the GPS.
  • Head Lamps – I am so happy that we purchased these headlamps a few years ago! So far, we’ve used them for sunset/sunrise hikes, crabbing at the beach, and also at Carlsbad Caverns!

In the Car

My boys will find any water to play in, which is why I recommend bringing towels & dry clothes!
  • National Park Pass – While not every hike will be in a National Park, you might be surprised at how many places will accept a NP Pass for parking! I keep mine in the car at all times!
  • Towels – I highly recommend taking some towels with you just in case you’re caught in rain, take a dip in a water source, or get muddy on the trails!
  • Change of clothes – A change of clothes, including dry socks, is also highly recommended. Most trailheads have restrooms, but we’ve also been known to change in the car!
  • Dry shoes – We like to take off our hiking boots when the hike is over. Sometimes they’re wet, dirty, and sweaty. The boys like to throw on their crocks when we get in the car.
  • Phone Chargers – Make sure you have your car charger, especially if you don’t have an extra battery pack.
  • Battery Charger/Jumper Cables – We travel with a battery charger/jumper cables just in case of car trouble! I highly recommend, especially since most trails are off the beaten path.

Leave No Trace Principles

So thankful I found this new love for hiking!

When hiking or recreating outdoors, always be sure to follow the seven Leave No Trace Principles.

  • Plan Ahead & Prepare
  • Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces
  • Dispose of Waste Properly
  • Leave What You Find
  • Minimize Campfire Impacts
  • Respect Wildlife
  • Be Considerate of Other Visitors

For more information, visit the National Park Service website!

Layers are also a good idea!

We have seen some of the most stunning landscapes and wildlife on our hiking adventures! The memories we’ve made along the trails are some that I will cherish forever. If you’ve been hesitant to plan a hiking trip, I hope this information helps! While hiking is not for everyone, hitting the trails and getting in some exercise and fresh air is never a bad idea. If you have any questions for me, please don’t hesitate to a leave a comment. Travel safe, my friends!

16 Tips for Hiking with Kids

Hiking with kids is not for the faint of the heart, especially if they’re young! We’ve been hiking with our boys for several years now and each hike seems to get easier and easier. Keep reading to learn my best tips for hiking with kids!

Hiking in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming

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1. Start Them Young –This is one of my biggest tips, start traveling and hiking with your kids when they’re young! If you follow along on our adventures, then you know that we are a road tripping family. I’m constantly asked, “How do you get your kids to ride in a car that long?” We started them out really young and they don’t know any different. I suggest this with all aspects of travel, whether that be driving, flying, hiking, snowboarding, etc. If you start them young, it will simply become a part of their muscle memory and will be a familiar activity.

Jett’s first hike, DeGray Lake State Park in Arkansas

2. Know Your Kids – You know your kids best, so make sure this is something that they will not only enjoy, but can also handle. Hiking is not for everyone and that is okay. I am all about pushing my kids to try new things and be adventurous, but I also want to have a great time on vacation! Hiking would be no fun for anyone if your kids were miserable the whole time. Know their abilities and their limits and ultimately do what’s best for your family. That might even be waiting until they’re older or hiking without them.

Hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado

3. Break in Hiking Shoes –This is a great tip for anyone hiking, even adults! There is nothing worse than having uncomfortable shoes or blisters when you’re walking. It can be even worse for kids. And if you have kids, then you know that they are going to outgrow their hiking gear just about every season. We purchase these sporty, waterproof hiking shoes for our boys and they play outside in them for several days or weeks before we leave for our next hiking adventure! Trust me on this, do not hike in brand new hiking boots before breaking them in!

Hiking in Maquoketa Caves State Park in Iowa

4. Fuel Up – This is another great tip for everyone in your group. Hiking can be strenuous. Make sure to eat a big breakfast or lunch, depending on what time of the day you plan to go hiking. There is nothing worse than trying to have a fun family day and one of your kids is in a whole mood because they’re hangry. This happened to us with our little one and I can promise you, it was not one bit of fun once he got hungry. We refuse to leave for the trails until we know that our kids are well fed and full!

The little one is hangry, just look at his face!

5. Bring Lots of Snacks, Food, and Water –We bring a whole hiking backpack full of snacks and water for the trails. Again, we’ve had a pretty tough experience with our youngest one and learned our lesson. We buy these hiking snacks, which my kids love. I also bring sandwiches and Lunchables and lots of beef jerky for extra protein. And we load everything up in our cooler backpack to keep all the food and drinks cool.

Image from

6. Start with Shorter Hikes First – Another really important hiking tip is to start with shorter hikes first. This allows you to assess your kids’ hiking abilities and see if they’re enjoying themselves. You can also practice short hikes or walks around your neighborhood or in a nearby park to see how long your kiddos can last before getting tired or bored! Once you’ve done some shorter hikes, then you can start adding longer trails to your itinerary!

Hiking in Sedona, Arizona

7. Bring a First Aid Kit – I cannot recommend bringing a first aid kit when traveling enough! It never fails, my oldest son falls on every single hike and needs a Band-Aid for his scrapes and cuts. At this point it’s become a joke in the family, but I’m always prepared. We also include sunscreen, bug spray, and bear spray in our hiking backpack!

Image from

8. Go at a Slow Pace – When you start hiking with your kids, you should go at a slow pace. Don’t expect your kids to be able to keep up with adults. We follow all hiking rules, but on some trails there are fun places for kids to climb and explore! I highly encourage this, hiking will be a better experience if your kids are having fun! Take breaks when you see that your kids are tired or need snacks and water! You’ll be surprised at the memories you make when you’re surrounded by nature having a nice rest and talk with your kids.

Hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado

9. Be Flexible – Being flexible goes hand in hand with knowing your kids. If you can tell they’re struggling or not having fun, then you might need to stop more often for breaks or simply call it a day. Don’t expect for everything to go perfect, especially when you’re first starting out. I promise, it does get easier and easier the more trails you hike.

Hiking behind a waterfall in Twin Falls, Idaho

10. Plan Fun Hikes – One of the biggest hiking tips that I’ve discovered is to plan fun hikes! This not only adds to the excitement, but if you plan something fun the kids will be eager to make the hike to see it. For example, I usually plan hikes that will lead us to a swimming hole, waterfall, cave, or rocks to play on. When my kids know that something fun awaits, they don’t complain as much because they’re excited to make it to the end. Check out our Top 10 Hikes Across the US for ideas on great places to hike with your kids!

Hiking in Maquoketa Caves State Park in Iowa

11. Know the Weather – Depending on where you’re hiking, the weather can change quickly. When hiking in the mountains in the summer, chances of a pop up rain storm are pretty high in the afternoon. I suggest being prepared for any weather conditions and knowing the best time to hike at your destination. If you’re in Utah in the summer, you’re going to want to hike earlier in the day before it gets too hot in the afternoon. If you’re in the mountains, you might want to hike later in the day when it gets warmer.

Waiting out a thunderstorm in Ward, Colorado

12. Bring Extra Clothes – I highly recommend bringing extra clothes for your kids when hiking. Mine always seem to find water or mud to play in. And once they’re wet, they want dry clothes to continue hiking in. We bring raincoats, extra gloves and socks, and a change of clothes or swimsuits in case there’s a water feature. If I know there’s water to play in, I let my kids hike in their swimsuits and then they change into dry clothes once we’re back at the car.

Hiking in Redwoods National & State Parks in California

13. Keep it Engaging – We like to keep the kids engaged, especially when they seem tired or bored. We might come up with a scavenger hunt on the fly. Most of the times it’s as simple as looking for something a certain color or trying to be the first person to spot wildlife! My husband is the best at bringing small balls or a Frisbee for a quick game of catch. And once, my boys invented their own dodgeball game with a pinecone. That was pretty entertaining for all of us!

Hiking in Arches National Park in Utah

14. Let Your Kids Help Choose the Hike – I like to let my boys help decide which trails to hike once I have a destination in mind. I use the AllTrails App to find the best hikes for us. Once I narrow down a destination and a list of hikes that are easy or moderate, I will show the kids some photos and let each of them decide what trail they’d like to hike. They’re usually so proud of their choices and excited to hike the trail that they picked! And of course, Jereme and I hype it up and constantly point out how great their choice was.

Hiking in Redwoods National & State Parks in California

15. Give the Kids a Job – This is a great tip that has come in handy for us several times, especially for my youngest. If we’re hiking with our dog, we let him carry the leash and walk her. If we don’t have her with us, then he usually has the binoculars and is in charge of finding something cool to check out when we stop for breaks. Sometime, it’s the little things that make a huge difference!

Hiking in Crested Butte, Colorado

16. Have Fun – Finally, my best hiking tip is to have no expectations other than having a fun time with your family! It might all go as planned or you may have to end your day early. But being together and getting outdoors is so rewarding! Pack your patience, have a great attitude, encourage your kiddos along the way and enjoy every moment with them!

Hiking in Canyonlands National Park in Utah

Hopefully you find some of these hiking tips helpful! I really can assure you that it gets better and better each time. It doesn’t always go as perfectly as planned, but hiking is such a great experience for kids. What are your questions or hiking tips? I’d love to connect with you, so leave a comment if you have any recommendations, need help planning a hike, or have a question! Happy trails, my friends!