Kruger Rock with Kids

Last year my husband wrote about his solo hike to Kruger Rock near Estes Park, Colorado. He enjoyed the trail so much that we decided to try hiking up to Kruger Rock as a family this year. I was blown away that my 5-year-old daughter hiked this on her own. My husband carried our younger daughter. We all enjoyed the challenge and appreciated the amazing views.

hermit park open space

Hermit Park Open Space is located Southeast of Estes Park, Colorado on highway 36. There is a daily entrance fee of $9 per vehicle. We went to Hermit Park to hike to Kruger Rock. Additional activities include camping, biking, and horseback riding.

Kruger ROck Trail

The hike to Kruger Rock is 1.7 miles each way. The starting elevation is 8,444 ft and gains 878 ft. Dogs are allowed on a leash.

This is a popular attraction, so plan to arrive early to get a parking spot. During our visit, we practiced social distancing by pulling on face masks when we were unable to keep 6 ft distance between us and other hikers (which was not often).

Kruger Rock in the distance

The hike begins through a meadow where we enjoyed seeing a variety of wildflowers. You can see Kruger Rock peeking above the trees in the distance.

views – Lake Estes and Estes Valley

We stopped several times on our hike for quick snack breaks.

I believe this purple flower is a pasqueflower. According to the national park’s website, it is one of the earliest flowers to bloom.

When I think of aspen trees I typically imagine the golden aspens of autumn, however the new green leaves in springtime are also stunning.

More views of Estes Valley

The hike uphill can get tiring, so we were thankful for the lookout points where we could stop to take in the expansive views of the Rocky Mountains. These spots are rewarding on their own for anyone who wants to cut the hike short.

The final ascent up Kruger Rock is a scramble. This was the first time our daughter attempted a summit like this, but we felt that the rock walls on both sides made this fairly safe from a serious fall. For extra caution, my husband walked behind her and guided her to the top.

I staid back with our 3-year-old (and snacks) then went up on my own once my husband and daughter came back down. At the top, I enjoyed the cute chipmunks and the surrounding mountain views.

360 views from Kruger Rock

This video shows the 360 degree views from the top of Kruger Rock. We really enjoyed this hike. I’m eager to head back to Hermit Park to explore more trails in this area.

Kid’s Review

I was reading what other hikers have said about Kruger Rock on AllTrails and someone pointed out that they passed kids around age 5 on the hike, but the kids were whining and parents had to help carry them. I was wondering, is she talking about us!? Haha, that would definitely be a good description of the reality of hiking with young children sometimes. So, I thought I’d ask my daughter her thoughts:

Did you like the hike? Yes!

Do you want to do it again? No.

Why? Because it’s really long.

Are you proud that you did it? Yes, because it was really hard.

Advice for other kids? You should keep on going until you reach the top!

I believe the comment I read suggesting that this hike might be better for older kids is valid. I’m also glad we pushed ourselves. I think the overall topic of when to turn around when kids are complaining on a hike vs. when to encourage them to keep going, is something we can continue to explore in future posts.

Helpful Links:

Hermit Park Open Space – Larimer County website

Kruger Rock – A Dog Friendly, Early Season Trail just outside Estes Park, Colorado – Eric’s post from last year

Wildflowers – Rocky Mountain National Park, National Park Service.

More Dog Friendly Hikes Near Estes Park, Colorado

More Early Season Hikes

Alltrails Reviews

Hike to Arch Rocks and The Pool in Rocky Mountain National Park

The hike to The Pool in Rocky Mountain National Park is one of our favorite early season hikes. It’s lower starting elevation (8,150 ft) typically means there is less snow than other areas of the park.

The hike begins at the Fern Lake trail head. There is a small non-paved parking area. The road is narrow for two-way vehicle traffic. There is shuttle service and some additional parking .8 miles away from the trail head.

On our late-May hike we enjoyed spotting spring wildflowers, a busy humming bird, and a garter snake.

Arch rocks

40 foot vertical rocks called Arch Rocks are a main attraction along the way to The Pool. The rocks are 1.2 miles from the trail head.

Arch Rocks

big thompson river

Walking along the Big Thompson River is another highlight of this hike.

The Pool

A wooden bridge crosses over the river. This video shows the water gathering and powerfully flowing into the Big Thompson River. The Pool is 1.7 miles from the Fern Lake trail head. If you turn around at this point, the hike is a total of 3.4 miles. On this trip, we chose to turn around at this point.

Love loop hikes? From The Pool you can split off towards Cub Lake and head back around to the Cub Lake trail head. The final section of the hike between the Cub Lake trail head and the Fern Lake trail head is on a connecting road. This loop is 6 miles.

Fern Falls

Fern Falls

Another option to continue the hike is to make your way up to Fern Falls. To hike to the waterfall, you will add approximately 1 mile each way. Most of this section is uphill. If you are up for the challenge, the waterfall is worth the effort!

Fantastic Family Hike to Fern Falls

Fern Falls with a Fussy Baby

fern lake

The name sake of this trail is Fern Lake, which is 3.8 miles from the trail head. It has spectacular views of Notch Top mountain.

Fern Lake

The Fern Lake trail head is a launching point to many memorable destinations in Rocky Mountain National Park including Arch Rocks, The Pool, Fern Falls and Fern Lake.

on my mind: Ticks in Rocky Mountain National park

Well, it happened! After five years of living tick free, we found several ticks on my daughter during our most recent trip to Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park, Colorado. We were playing in some areas that had tall grass, so it’s not very surprising, but I just wanted to take this opportunity to remind everyone who is out enjoying the great outdoors to be checking themselves and their kids. Here is some additional information about ticks found in RMNP.

Make your reservations now: Trail Ridge Road is Open

Trail Ridge Road is a scenic highway that connects Estes Park, Colorado to Grand Lake, Colorado. The road is located within Rocky Mountain National Park, so a park pass and time-entry permit are required to travel on this scenic roadway which will take you above tree-line and into the alpine tundra. Trail Ridge Road opened on June 4, 2020. Here is an article from Estes Park News about the annual ribbon cutting celebration.

New! Visitors to Rocky Mountain National Park can obtain a time-entry permit through Recreation.gov

Kruger Rock—A Dog Friendly, Early Season Trail just outside Estes Park, Colorado

We love hiking with our kids, but it’s also a gift to go on a solo hike. On his birthday (May 30th), Eric took a more challenging hike without the girls – and where better to get a moment away than in a place called Hermit Park?

We are always on the look-out for new (to us) hikes in and around Rocky Mountain National Park, especially in the springtime when snow still covers many of the higher-elevation destinations. Rock Cut Brewery recently started a hiking club, and posted about their group adventure to Kruger Rock a month or so back, and it looked like just the right fit for a quick spring challenge.

The Kruger Rock Trail is located in Hermit Park, just outside of Estes Park on Highway 36. I’ve driven by Hermit Park hundreds of times, but had never stopped to check it out. Its maintained by Larimer County, and there are dozens of campsites, a nice pavilion, and a few other trails to explore. You can read more on their website, here.

Entrance for day usage (hiking) was $9, handled at an easy-to-use self-pay system just off the highway. The trailhead is a couple of miles back near the large pavilion—I found the trailhead locater in the AllTrails app to be helpful in finding it, as the official sign was down when I visited.

Kruger Rock Trail 2 miles each way

The trail is roughly 2 miles each way, steadily gaining just under 1000 feet of elevation. The first section of the trail isn’t spectacular, but is certainly pleasant, as you wind through the pine trees up towards the ridge line.

Kruger Rock Trail Colorado

Less than a mile in, you reach a junction with the Limber Pine trail.

Hiking near Estes Park dog friendly location
kruger rock trail

From here, things start to get more scenic, both looking back over the valley you are ascending, and soon, with views of the Estes Valley beginning to emerge.

views along kruger rock trail
views kruger rock trail of estes valley and rocky mountain national park

If you look closely, you may even spot our cabin 😊 (excuse the grainy iPhone-zoom photo).

solitude cabins

From this point forward, the views are truly wonderful, and the adventure culminates in a fun scramble to the summit. I’m not an expert, but I would put the brief climb at class 3, although its just a few moves and has zero exposure to be concerned about. Might be a little tricky with a dog, but even without the final scramble, the views are fantastic.

class 3 hike up to summit of kruger park trail in hermit park
great views at summit of kruger rock trail in hermit park near estes park colorado

I was back at the trailhead in a total time of just under an hour and a half, including a 5-10 minute stop at the summit. It was an awesome hike, with very few other people out that day (granted it was a Thursday, and I got a relatively early start). Nearly everyone else I encountered had their dog as a hiking partner, and as mentioned above, it seems like a great place to bring them, outside of perhaps the very end of the trail.  Given how close Kruger Rock is to Estes, and how early in the season the snow melts out, we will definitely be recommending this one to our friends, and visiting again soon!

Additional Dog Friendly Hikes Near Estes Park include Lily Mountain and the Homer Rouse Trail.