The resort town of Estes Park, Colorado is a great spot for active families looking for some outdoor adventures. As a gateway city into Rocky Mountain National Park, it’s an easy stepping off point for a vacation filled with hiking, wildlife, learning, and more. Don’t let your kid miss out on these amazing adventures every kid needs to do when visiting Estes Park in the summer.
7 Best Things to Do In and Around Estes Park, Colorado
My girls and I recently took a road trip from Seattle to Estes Park, Colorado. The oldest was attending a youth camp, so the youngest and I decided to explore Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. We fell in love with this mountain town. Our activities were focused around enjoying the outdoors. Here are our picks for the best 7 things to do with kids in Estes Park in the summer.
This trip helped me discover that my youngest is quite the hiker. She absolutely loves to head out on a trail and see what new things she can discover. We headed along Old Fall River Road where we discovered a waterfall hike, plus visited the family-friendly Alluvial Fan. There are plenty of great hikes for families around the park. I love using All Trails to find hikes that are good for our family’s skill level.
Traveling Mom Tip: We had originally planned to do a waterfall hike in the Bear Lake area, but after arriving around 9:30 am we discovered all the lots were full and were advised at the gate that the road might be closed to traffic soon as well. So, if you’re set on visiting the Bear Lake region of the park, make sure you go super early in the morning.
2. Junior Ranger Program
One of my favorite National Parks programs is the Junior Ranger program. It’s free and it helps get your kids invested in learning about the local ecosystem. If you’re in Estes Park, stop into the Beaver Creek Visitor Center before the park entrance and get a Junior Ranger workbook. Then have your kids work on the activities as you drive and enjoy the park.
When kids complete the necessary number of activities that matches their age range, they can submit their workbook for review. If they completed the activities, they’ll be sworn in as a Junior Ranger. We were a little sad to see that they weren’t handing out the fabric patches any longer for the Junior Rangers. Instead my youngest earned a sticker and a plastic badge pin.
3. Wildlife Spotting
As you’re driving through the park, have your kids keep watch for wildlife. Our goal was to see bighorn sheep, but unfortunately they decided not to make an appearance that day. We did however see many ground squirrels, two skittish marmots, as well as a large herd of elk playing in the snow near the Alpine Visitor’s Center.
Traveling Mom Tip: consider buying/packing a small pair of kids binoculars so kids get a closer up view of the wildlife we spotted.
We signed up to participate in a geocaching adventure with the Rocky Mountain Conservancy. The organization offers a wide variety of educational classes and tours that help kids learn about the park while exploring outdoors. My youngest loved running from waypoint to waypoint to locate the hidden geocaches. Each clue was a lesson about the park and its inhabitants. Do you know what an elk EXclosure is? We do because of our Rocky Mountain Conservancy guide!
5. Pikas in the Park
This was a huge hit with my daughter and a family friend who joined us on some of our adventures. Pikas in the Park is a scavenger hunt organized by the Estes Park Visitors Center. Stop into the center and ask for a Pikas in the Park brochure. Now you’re ready to head out onto the main street of Estes Park to find pikas.
The brochure shows numbered locations where the small, bronze pika statues are hidden. Once you find a statue, you have to read the clues in the brochure to figure out which clue matches that numbered pika. Once you find all the pikas and number the clues you can turn the brochure in for a Pikas pin.
6. Rock Climbing
There is real rock climbing in Estes Park, but our novice experience had us heading to the YMCA of the Rockies for some climbing. We had a day pass to enjoy the huge Y facility, but did pay a small extra fee for the climbing wall. The kids mostly stuck to conquering the easy wall, but all of them gave the medium and difficult sides a try.
Lake Estes is the spot to head for a lovely family bike ride. It’s pretty flat with only one tough climb, which is pretty short. We rented bikes from Estes Park Mountain Shop, which is located right on the lake and has access to the lake path. The path is about four miles around and all paved.
Have you been to Estes Park, Colorado? What was your favorite thing to do?