5 Must-Do Fall Hikes Near Denver For the Whole Family
We love getting outdoors in the fall!
This year has been weird, I’ll admit. It’s been in the 90s for way too long, and it’s making me cranky. But things are finally cooling off, and the trees are turning, and it’s the perfect time to take fall hikes with kids in the Front Range. These five fall hikes are nearby – about 30 minutes or so from downtown. Most of them will take you through trees that change color…lots of aspen and other colorful beauties. Along with fall drives, I think fall hikes are the best way to get out and see the trees as they turn, and to just enjoy being here in Colorado.
1.) Meyer Ranch Park Trail
You can go up to 4 1/2 miles on this loop trail, but of course you can turn back sooner if kids can’t make it that far. This is a great hike through aspens that turn a brilliant yellow. You can bring dogs along on a leash as well. Meyer Ranch is also a great place for sledding in winter! To get to the trail, take 285 S toward Fairplay. Take the Meyer Ranch exit, go left under the freeway, and park in the lot next to the trail. There is one trail that heads out of the parking lot and that you can follow for the entire 4 1/2 mile hike. There are bathrooms near the parking lot but bring your own water!
2.) Lair o’ the Bear
This is an easy path along the creek, with very few hills. The trees in the area change color, and it’s a great place to walk with kids. There are several bridge crossings where we like to stop and float sticks and generally watch the water. It’s also fun to talk about the animals in the area that might be getting ready for a long winter’s sleep. Take C-470 to the Morrison Rd. exit and head west (through the town of Morrison). Continue following the road until you see the turnoff for Lair o’ the Bear on the left. There are bathrooms next to the parking lot, but no running water. There are also plenty of picnic tables so it’s easy to bring a lunch and stash it back in the car before heading off on a hike. Dogs are allowed on a leash.
3.) The Braille Trail
We tried this hike over the summer and really enjoyed the experience. The trees in the park, and the views across the mountains make it a great fall hike as well. It’s wooded and lots of the hike are shady, and while there is a little bit of a hill at the beginning and end, it isn’t too strenuous. It’s a loop, so you can do the entire thing or just turn back the way you came if the kids get tired. To get there, take I-70 west toward Genesee. Exit on Chief Hosa Rd. and turn right. Make the next right onto Stapleton Dr (it’s a dirt road), and follow it past the Buffalo viewing area to the trailhead parking lot. To hike – begin on the Beaver Brook Trail and follow signs for Chavez Trail. You’ll see the sign for the Braille Trail about 1/2 mile from the trailhead. The trail is a 0.7 mile loop, with a bench about 3/4 of the way along that has views of the Continental Divide.
4.) Roxborough Park
This is a state park with beautiful red rocks jutting out of the ground, and aspens and other changing trees. Since it’s a state park, you do have to pay a $7 entrance fee to drive in. Park at the visitor center and you can investigate the exhibits they have inside. There are animal horns and antlers to feel, and books to read, and papers to color. Then try either the Fountain Valley Loop Trail or the South Rim and Willow Creek Loop Trail – both are great for kids and have beautiful views of the rocks. The South Rim and Willow Creek Trail probably has better views of the changing leaves. To get there, take C-470 to Wadsworth Blvd, and head south. Follow Wadsworth and N Rampart Range Rd to Roxborough Dr. and on into the park. There are no dogs allowed in the park. The visitor center has bathrooms and drinking fountains – be sure to bring along water bottles and fill them up before hiking!
5.) Waterton Canyon
A relatively easy hike following a stream that flows down Waterton Canyon. You start at the bottom and hike uphill, though it isn’t too steep…and the nice thing is that you get the entire hike back downhill! Most of the trail is a wide dirt road, and there are plenty of spots for kids to explore including an old site of a schoolhouse. There are plenty of trees to watch turn colors, along with wild turkeys and Bighorn sheep you might spot in the rocks above (or in the middle of the road!). Keep an eye out – the trail is actually a road that’s occasionally used by Denver Water trucks. They go slow and watch for hikers but be aware. Also, because of the bighorns, dogs are not allowed on the trail.
What’s your favorite fall hike around Denver?