Easy kid hike: Lair o’ the Bear
This is one of our favorite places for an easy kid hike. Since it’s just barely in the foothills, the drive from downtown (or most of the metro area) isn’t too far. But because it IS in the foothills, you’re still out in the woods, with streams and animals, and it feels like you’re out of the city and the suburbs. There have been times I brought the kids here and we walked from the parking lot to the closest picnic table, had lunch, the kids played around in the clearing, and we went home. Whatever you can manage for the season of life you’re in – do that.
If you DO stay longer than just to eat, I’d suggest starting your easy kid hike by heading east on the Bear Creek Trail. In other words, if you’re facing the river from the parking lot, head left. There is a path that goes by the bathrooms, and also one down near the river – they both head east and they both end up at the same spot less than half a mile later. A bridge. And a glorious climbing tree.
Plan on spending some time here. You can pack a lunch and eat it at the picnic tables, or you can eat at tables right next to the parking lot – it all depends on how far you’re willing to cart your food! Let the kids look at the river, clamber around the benches in the outdoor classroom area, and make some time for the climbing tree. We like to stand on the bridge and play Pooh Sticks for a bit. You may see people fly fishing in the creek. Take your time exploring – when you have kids, sometimes it’s not about the distance you cover on a hike as much as it’s about just getting out and poking at stuff and finding bugs and throwing snowballs and things.
After you cross the bridge, you can go one of two ways – the left will take you on a fairly flat, meandering trail and follows the creek. You can head that way for a bit, then turn around and come back the way you came. Or you can head to the right. That trail is definitely steeper, with a few switchbacks. It makes about a 2-mile loop that ends back at the parking lot. It’s manageable for kids, but you’ll have to stop and let them rest because there’s quite a bit of uphill walking at first. The good news is that you get the hill out of the way, so the end of the hike is downhill and then flat.
There are lots of other hiking options at the park, but those two are our favorite trails and are easy ones to try on your first visit. The trail is good year-round – we wear snow or waterproof boots in winter and spring because there’s often snow…and if not, there’s probably mud. Lots of mud. If you’re particular about your car, you’ll want to have everyone take off their boots before they get back in at the end. In the summer we wear sturdy water shoes like Keens or Tevas, because there are lots of spots to stick your feet in and stomp around in the creek. The fall often has beautiful foliage and might be my favorite. Keep in mind, it will likely be colder here in the foothills than it is in the metro area, so bring extra layers and hats and mittens in winter or spring.
Also – there’s no cell service. The park is easy to spot from the road, so you’ll be okay without a working GPS, but you may want to tell someone where you’re going beforehand.
Lair o’ the Bear Park
From I-70, take C-470E toward Colorado Springs. Exit at Morrison Rd and keep right at the fork. Follow Bear Creek Ave/Morrison Rd. through the town of Morrison, past Red Rocks Park, and wind up the hill on Hwy 74 for 5 miles. Once you pass through Idledale, look for the large sign for Lair o’ the Bear to the left and follow the sign to the parking lot.
Parking Fee: no fee
Bathroom situation: Clean, well-maintained pit toilets; there is no running water
Dogs: dogs are allowed on leashes; don’t forget to bring bags to pick up after them
Other things to know: snowy or muddy trails can be slippery, especially in shaded areas; if you’re looking for a treat afterward, continue west on Hwy 74 to the town of Evergreen where you’ll find a Baskin Robbins and the Java Groove coffee shop on the left – either one makes a good after-hike pick me up!