Nymph Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Today I wanted to share a short post about a short hike. Nymph Lake is located in the Bear Lake area of Rocky Mountain National Park. Known for the pond lilies that float on its surface, Nymph Lake is located only a half mile from the trailhead.

Nymph Lake is one of our favorite short hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park. You can find more short hike suggestions here. Continue the trail beyond Nymph Lake to amazing destinations including Dream Lake, Emerald Lake, Lake Haiyaha, and more.

A New Era in Family Hiking, The Best 3 to 6 Mile Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park

This summer we reached a turning point. Gone are the days of baby packs, kid carriers, and short strolls with preschoolers. We will look back on our early years of hiking with fond memories. But let’s be real, hiking with very young children is challenging!

This summer our seven-year-old and five-year-old daughters exceeded our expectations by hiking several of our favorite three to six mile hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park on their own.

Mills Lake

A hike to Mills Lake marked the first big trek of the summer. Mills Lake is in the Bear Lake Corridor of Rocky Mountain National Park. The hike begins at Bear Lake trailhead (9,475 ft elevation). The trail passes by the iconic Alberta Falls. The total distance is 5.6 miles roundtrip.

Looking Back: 2017 post, Seeking Serenity in the Mountains

Mills Lake

EMERALD LAKE

Hiking with best friends was the secret to our successful hike to Emerald Lake. Our group hiked 3.6 miles with an elevation gain of 650 ft. The hike to Emerald Lake is one of the best hikes in RMNP because you pass by Nymph Lake and Dream Lake on your way up. Like Mills Lake, this hike also starts at the Bear Lake trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park. We didn’t get to enjoy the views at Emerald Lake for long before a sudden hail and rainstorm had us heading down the mountain. By the time we reached the parking lot, the sky cleared, and we saw the most spectacular double rainbow.

Looking Back: 2018 post, Breathtaking Hike to Dream Lake

Young Families in Rocky Mountain National Park

gem lakE

Gem Lake is in Rocky Mountain National Park’s Lumpy Ridge area. The hike is 3.6 miles (1.8 miles each way), gains 1,000 ft of elevation, and features unique rock formations like ‘The Boot’. Rock steps lead to the small mountain lake. These steps are moderately challenging for me. For the girls and their shorter legs, the climb required an extraordinary effort.

Looking Back: 2015 post, Rocky Mountain Tot Goes to Gem Lake

Ouzel Falls

Ouzel Falls is located in the Wild Basin area of Rocky Mountain National Park where abundant wildflowers bloom beside rushing waterfalls. This area is often less crowded and is lower in elevation compared to the Bear Lake area. The hike to Ouzel Falls begins at 8,500 ft of elevation and gains 950 ft. The total distance is 5.4 miles (2.7 miles/way). Before arriving at Ouzel Falls, the trail passes Copeland Falls and the Calypso Cascades which are both beautiful destinations on their own.

Looking Back: 2015 post, Into the Wild Basin in Rocky Mountain National Park

Deer Mountain

The trailhead for this summit hike is located off of Deer Ridge Junction, a few miles west of Rocky Mountain National Park’s Beaver Meadows entrance. The 10,013 ft. summit features sweeping views. The hike is 6 miles total distance (3 miles/way).

Looking Back: 2017 post, Deer Mountain – a Family-Friendly Summit Hike In Rocky Mountain National Park

Deer Mountain, good spring summit hike for families in Rocky Mountains

Blue lake in indian peaks wilderness

Unlike the other hikes in this post, Blue Lake is located in the Brainard Lake Recreation Area rather than Rocky Mountain National Park. The recreation area is located approximately 1 hour 20 minutes from Denver, 50 minutes from Boulder, and 50 minutes from Estes Park. The hike is 6.2 miles round trip and gains 1,250 feet in elevation. The trail passes several mountain lakes including Mitchell Lake. We spotted several moose along the trail.

Looking Back: Post from 2016 hike, Add This to Your Hiking Bucket List, Blue Lake in Indian Peaks Wilderness.

The fact that we were able to experience six world-class hikes as a family fills my heart with gratitude. To celebrate, we purchased the girls’ hiking badges for each destination they reached.

I can’t wait to see which badges they will add to their collections next!

Outdoor Fun with our Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board and Kayak

School is back in session and tonight’s post is a bit of a ‘brain break’ for me. Starting a new school year is bittersweet because I love spending time with my girls during the summer, they are at such fun ages. One of favorite outdoor activites was taking out our new inflatable stand up paddle board and inflatable 2-person kayak.

SUP is short for Stand Up Paddle Board, but I don’t feel hip enough to use the term ‘SUP’.

I received an EvaJoy Inflatable Paddle Board as a gift for my birthday. The paddle board came with a hand pump, repair kit, fin, paddle, and dry bag. The paddle board is big (10’10″” long by 32″” wide) which means that I could paddle in the back and have one of my daughters sit comfortably in front of me.

I’ve heard that paddle boarding is a good exercise for core muscles, but for me, the workout starts before we hit the water. Inflating the board with the hand pump is a lot of work! After several uses, I’m having a hard time keeping the hose connected while I pump so it usually takes two of us to inflate the board. Once inflated, the board feels very sturdy.

We purchased a Star 2-person inflatable kayak similar to this one. We also purchased kid-sized paddles. Our girls are learning how to steer and turn. This kayak has worked well for our family on lakes this summer, but I think it will perform even better for floating the river next spring.

We took both the board and kayak to several lakes in Colorado including Lake Estes and Grand Lake. We’ve also enjoyed paddle boarding and kayaking on lakes in Arkansas including Beaver Lake and Greers Ferry Lake.

Amazing Rainforest Hike in Puerto Rico

This summer my extended family ventured to Puerto Rico for the first time. In Puerto Rico, we enjoyed beautiful beaches, delicious local cuisine, the history and culture of Old San Juan, and hiking in the rainforest. Today I’m excited to share about our rainforest excursion.

El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico

El Yunque is the only tropical rainforest in the United States’ National Forest System. There are several corridors into the forest. We chose to go to La Mina Recreation Area (via 191 North). Timed reservations are required. You can make reservations up to one month in advance through the recreation.gov website. A limited number of additional reservations are offered online 24 hours in advance. Only one reservation is needed per vehicle. The fee was only $2.00 when we went.

Hiking in El Yunque

My brother expertly maneuvered our rental van up the steep, windy road until we found Juan Diego Creek trailhead. We took the short (0.125 miles) trail to a waterfall and pool on Juan Diego Creek. This was my first hike in a rainforest so I could have spent the entire day looking at the spectacular variety of plant life. However, because this area has limited on street parking, the time limit is thirty minutes.

You don’t see plants like this in Arkansas!
beautiful pool and waterfall

Bano Grande

Our next stop was Bano Grande, this man-made pool was built in the late 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC). Swimming is no longer allowed, but we enjoyed a nice stroll around the pool.

Mt. Britton Tower

Last, our group climbed up the spiral staircase to the top of Mt. Britton Tower and enjoyed the inspiring views. ‘Constructed of stone, the tower was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1937-38, becoming the tallest of the Civilian Conservation Corp towers with stone masonry.  On a clear day the tower’s observation deck offers a panoramic view of the forest, the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea and the eastern coastal plain.’ – US Forest Service

Mt. Britton Tower looks like a castle in the clouds
Climbing the tower stairs
Ocean views in the distance

According to to Discover Puerto Rico’s website, El Yunque is a sacred place in Puerto Rican culture. I’m grateful my family and I got to spend time in such a special place.

Visitor Center

There is a visitor center called El Portal de El Yunque. It’s open 9am-5pm daily. The cost is $8 per adult and children under 15 are free. National Passes are accepted. We didn’t go to the visitor center and now I really wish we would have so that we could have seen the endangered Puerto Rican Parrot. You can find out more information on the park’s website.